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Encinitas, ACLU heading to court over campaign sign ordinance

The Encinitas City Council on Aug. 26 emerged from closed session and directed legal counsel to defend the city’s campaign sign ordinance against an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit.

A lawsuit filed July 30 by the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the law firm Morrison Foerster argues that Encinitas’ campaign sign ordinance violates the right to free speech.

City rules forbid property owners from posting more than two temporary yard signs, except for 30 days before an election and three days after, when an unlimited number of signs are allowed.

The lawsuit seeks to declare the two-sign cap and enforcement of it unconstitutional. And it’s looking for the recovery of attorneys’ fees and costs.

The ACLU has argued this two-sign cap is unconstitutional, in part because of the numerous federal, state and local candidates whom residents might wish to support in an election.

Limiting the number of signs to two also prevents newcomers from getting their names out there months before Election Day, the lawsuit contends.

Mayor Kristin Gaspar said in an email after the meeting she can’t comment on the matter since it’s under litigation. City Attorney Glenn Sabine didn’t return a request to comment.

The city’s prior sign ordinance only allowed yard signs 30 days before an election, and three days after. The council last year approved the current ordinance with the goal of reducing litter and visual clutter.

But the ACLU has said the ordinance, while not as restrictive, is still unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of resident Peter Stern, who previously said he has complied with the city ordinance, but wanted to post more than two signs in his yard months before the 2014 election.


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