Briefing room: Anyone can stand on public space and express their beliefs

0
16
Logo courtesy of Seal Beach PD

Hi Seal Beach,

This week we received another email sent to several of our City Council Members.  I thought I’d use this email to help provide some additional information.  See below:

Our nice town is a great place to live, even though we do face both general (heat waves, homeless on the street/parks, catalytic converters theft, etc)  and unique (beach flooding, coyotes in the neighborhood, etc) problems.

What we absolutely need to prevent is incitement in town due to political beliefs and replacing rational discourse.

We already have regulations regarding the surface area of flags on private property, but content is a different matter. Just aside, it seems that at least at one corner In Rossmoor (I know, that is not part of SB) Is still unclear of the identity of the president (probably due to UPS delay). However, I (and many neighbors) have concerns about the seemingly unrestricted provocative messaging popping up.

Along these lines, please, advise what are the current rules/ordinances regarding the following situations:

1, A man who stood “perched” at the entrance to the pier, holding a Trump 2024 flag, for many weeks during the summer, and spreading his “wisdom” to bystanders. Can anyone just take on public property and spread his thoughts which some might find offensive?

2,  Of all days, on 9/11,  after 4 pm driving on SB Blvd a stand with a large number  merchandise and flying multiple flags (many provocative and aimed to incite) could be seen staged and kept in front of the gas station at the corner of Westminster and SB Blvds.

I do not know whether any of the individuals partaking in the above activities actually live here or are of the same group who positioned stands of similar nature on Los Alamitos Blvd (I am aware that is also not Seal Beach territory) , and even across Los Al high (the flag on what to do with the President of the United States nicknamed Brandon was particularly of “educational value “ for students who are supposed to learn about respect and democracy…).

Free speech is great but bullying should be discouraged particularly in sections of the city designed to unite (at the pier and parks, beach, etc.) rather than separate us.

We are a small town. We do not have a Hyde Park like in London, to “corner” speakers of whatever creed to express, orate, or spew their opinion. We should regulate the activities mentioned (or enforce regulations within the city limits if already in place) before our treasured place of living becomes even more polarized as we get closer to elections.

My wife has been a realtor in the area for a while and I recall that years ago, her signs (which were not blocking anything) were picked up by SBPD presumably because they were placed without permission, and she had to pick them up at SBPD.

I do not know whether there is a lack of ordinance regarding the use of city property/side walks currently, or such are just not enforced, but based on the recent displays I referred to (and with likely more to come)

I would  appreciate your addressing this issue.

Respectfully

George

Hi George,

First, thanks for your email.  Our Council Members forwarded this email to the Police Department, and I am happy to address some of your concerns.

I wholeheartedly agree that Seal Beach is a nice town and a great place to live.  I am supremely proud to work for such an incredible community.

To answer your specific questions,

1) – Yes.  Any person can stand on any public place and express their beliefs, political, offensive, or otherwise.  Speech, even swearing and using profanity, either out loud or in writing, is generally protected under the First Amendment.  Unless this speech is directed at you and it is threatening in nature, people can display political messages in public.

2) – Regarding selling merchandise on public property: The City of Seal Beach does require business permits in certain scenarios:

Seal Beach Municipal Code

§5.80.020 Permit Required:  No person, either for themselves or any other person, shall conduct or engage in sidewalk vending within the city without first obtaining a sidewalk vending permit pursuant to this chapter.

§5.30.010 Charitable Solicitation Permit Requirement.

No person shall conduct a charitable solicitation without first obtaining, and maintaining in full force and effect, a charitable solicitation permit. When a charitable solicitation permit has been issued, solicitors utilized by the permittee need not obtain their own charitable solicitation permit. (Ord. 1515)

§5.30.015 Exemptions.

The provisions of this chapter shall not apply to charitable solicitations conducted as follows:

A.     Upon premises owned or occupied by the person or organization making the charitable solicitation.

B.     For the relief of one or more specific individuals, provided that such beneficiaries are identified by name and the entire donation is tendered to them.

C.    Of persons who are members of the organization making the charitable solicitation.

D.    By mail. (Ord. 1515)

Regarding your wife’s real estate signs, they were likely placed in violation of our Seal Beach Municipal Code §7.20.075 Signs on Public Property:

A.     Purpose. The purpose of this section is to curb the visual assault on citizens presented by an accumulation of signs posted on public property.

B.     Prohibition. No person shall paint, mark, or write on, or post or otherwise affix, any handbill or sign to or upon any public right-of-way, sidewalk, crosswalk, curb, curbstone, street lamp post, hydrant, tree, shrub, tree stake or guard, railroad trestle, electric light or power or telephone or telegraph or trolley wire pole, or appurtenances or apparatus connected therewith, or wire appurtenant thereof or upon any fixture of the fire alarm or police telegraph system or upon any lighting system or public bridge, drinking fountain, life buoy, life preserver, life boat, or other life saving equipment, street sign or traffic sign owned or maintained by any public entity or public utility.

C.    Removal. Any handbill or sign found posted, or otherwise affixed, upon any property contrary to the provisions of this section is declared to be a public nuisance and may be removed by the city. The person responsible for any such illegal posting shall be liable for the cost incurred in the removal and the city manager may effect the collection of that cost.

If this was the case, her signs were likely returned to her, or booked in for safekeeping.

It goes without saying that politics is extremely polarizing, and George, I understand your frustrations.  However, suggesting that the City of Seal Beach should “regulate the activities mentioned” (i.e. that of free speech) goes against what the original authors of the Constitution envisioned for our great nation.

All that being written, we can and will enforce the Municipal Code sections regarding business permits requirements.

George (and other Seal Beach community members), I do have a simple request.  Instead of (or in addition to) writing your elected officials, next time just call our non-emergency number –(562) 594-7232- and we will dispatch an officer to check the scene and take enforcement action if necessary.

Keep your questions coming Seal Beach!  Email us at askacop@sealbeachca.gov today!

Briefing room: Anyone can stand on public space and express their beliefs