A neighborhood near Skypark in Scotts Valley.
A sign marking the entrance to the city of Scotts Valley.
(Chris Fusco / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Scotts Valley adopts law banning ‘targeted picketing’ in residential areas

The ordinance is meant to prevent the kinds of disruptive protests that have sometimes occurred outside of elected officials’ homes, though it applies to all homeowners citywide.

If people are looking to express their displeasure with a Scotts Valley elected official — or anyone else in the city for that matter — they’ll now have to abide by new rules restricting exactly where and when they can picket.

City council members on Wednesday approved a “targeted residential picketing” ordinance that’s modeled on similar rules in other cities across the country. The ordinance is meant to prevent the kinds of disruptive protests that have sometimes occurred outside of elected officials’ homes.

In Scotts Valley, it bans picketing within 300 feet of any home, but it does not bar general protests and demonstrations in residential areas.

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Because the prohibition is specific to targeted picketing in neighborhoods, and because it is “content-neutral” — it applies no matter what the protests are about — similar laws have been upheld by various courts.

“The ordinance is narrowly tailored to protect the safety and tranquility of residents while leaving open ample alternative channels of communication,” a staff report said. “Adopting this ordinance will protect residents from being individually targeted while not prohibiting other lawful demonstrations.”

Scotts Valley Vice Mayor Jim Reed proposed the ordinance after protesters demonstrated at the home of his boss, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, the weekly newspaper Good Times reported earlier this month. Reed is Liccardo’s chief of staff.

“I don’t think for a second that the kind of activity we’re seeing in San Jose is likely to happen in Scotts Valley,” Reed said, according to Good Times. “At the same time, the quality of political discourse is seemingly degraded by the day. People can debate whether elected officials should have protests at their homes, but neighbors shouldn’t have to pay a price for that.”

Violation of the picketing ordinance is considered a misdemeanor, and those found guilty of breaking it could face up to a $1,000 fine, jail time for up to six months, or both. Each day of picketing would be considered its own violation, according to the law, which goes into effect on March 19.