By Hannah Fry
2:32 PM PDT, October 4, 2013
The Costa Mesa City Council this week repealed a law that banned day laborers from actively soliciting work on city streets.
The council unanimously agreed Tuesday night to scrap the ordinance without discussion.
Costa Mesa's anti-solicitation law, which was passed in 2005, prohibited job-seekers from attracting drivers' attention by waving arms, making hand signals, shouting, jumping up and down, and waving signs. The law also rendered it illegal for a driver to hire someone standing in the street.
The law subjected day laborers and other solicitors to a $1,000 fine and imprisonment of up to six months, according to the municipal code.
The repeal comes after the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in 2011 that a similar ordinance in Redondo Beach violated free-speech rights. The court found that the law curtailed more protected conduct than was necessary to achieve the city's goals, according to a Costa Mesa staff report.
Civil rights groups said the decision was a victory for workers' rights and free speech in Costa Mesa.
"Day laborers deserve our thanks for advancing constitutional rights for all Americans," Jessica Karp, staff attorney for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, wrote in a news release. "Anyone who's ever felt the uncertainty of unemployment should rest assured that the right to publicly express your availability to work and provide for your family is once again protected in Costa Mesa."
Costa Mesa has taken issue with job solicitation in the city for years. In 2005, the city shuttered a job center, which some residents said attracted illegal immigrants. The center opened in 1988 in response to complaints about loitering and traffic problems when workers searched for employment while on city streets.
The city hasn't enforced the law since 2010, when civil rights organizations sued on behalf of the Asociación de Jornaleros de Costa Mesa, whose members had been restricted from expressing their need and availability for work in the city's public areas, and Colectivo Tonantzin, an organization dedicated to protecting the interests of immigrant workers and their families in Orange County.
Costa Mesa at the time of the lawsuit agreed to stop enforcing the ordinance pending a decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on a challenge to the anti-solicitation ordinance in Redondo Beach.
Day laborers haven't been an issue in the city for several years, said Rick Francis, the city's assistant CEO.
"We really haven't had the problem that a lot of other communities have," he said.
Costa Mesa still has laws, like prohibiting stepping into a roadway to get someone's attention, that could address the day laborer issue if it becomes a problem, Francis said.
"It was made simple by the Redondo Beach ruling," he said. "We thought it just as well to take it off our books since it hasn't been enforced."
Francis said he is unsure why it took the council two years to remove the law from Costa Mesa's municipal code.
City Attorney Tom Duarte did not immediately return an email seeking comment.