After weeks of protests, Atherton might limit picketing outside of homes | January 20, 2023 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

Almanac

News - January 20, 2023

After weeks of protests, Atherton might limit picketing outside of homes

A series of demonstrations on Carolina Lane spurred the proposed law

by Angela Swartz

After weeks of protests in front of an Atherton home on Carolina Lane in November and December, the town is considering an ordinance that prohibit picketing within 300 feet of a residence.

During the last two weeks of November and the first two weeks of December, organized protesters demonstrated in front of a residence on Carolina Lane in Atherton, according to a Jan. 18 report written by Atherton Police Chief Steve McCulley.

A person involved in a business-related dispute with the resident on Carolina Lane hired the protestors to picket and target the resident and his family, McCulley told The Almanac. He said protesters were holding signs, but he doesn't know what the signs said.

"The resident feared for his safety, the safety of his family, and temporarily moved from their residence during these protests," the report states. The protests took place daily for up to eight hours per day, according to the report.

The order is aimed at "protecting the peace and tranquility" of Atherton residents in their homes, McCulley wrote.

"This is a content-neutral, narrowly tailored time, place, and manner restriction on picketing in a limited public forum that will preclude picketers from targeting individual residences by remaining at least 300 feet from any individual residence, while leaving open ample alternative channels for communication available to picketers," according to the code amendment. "It also enables people targeted picketing to bring an action against any person who violates the code to recover an award of a civil penalty of up to $1,000, as well as costs and reasonable attorneys' fees."

McCulley said the homeowner is trying to stay out of the media out of fear of further protests.

Similar laws

Atherton is not the only California city to consider such restrictions.

The Los Angeles City Council approved a similar law in 2021, which also limited protesters from being within 300 feet of a private home and also includes a $1,000 fee for violations of the rules.

In the Bay Area, Los Gatos passed an ordinance in October 2021 after anti-LGBTQ groups protested outside of Mayor Marico Sayoc's home. The 300-foot buffer and $1,000 fine also apply.

The San Francisco Chronicle noted that the leading case for restrictions on residential protests in California came in 1995 when an appellate court rejected a challenge by abortion opponents to a San Jose ordinance that limited demonstrations within 300 feet of residence targeted by the protests.

The Atherton council was set to vote on the code change at a Wednesday, Jan. 18, meeting taking place after The Almanac's Wednesday press deadline.

Email Staff Writer Angela Swartz at [email protected]

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