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Dana Point Ban on Curb Job-Seeking Condemned

Times Staff Writer

A new program by Dana Point designed to help day laborers find work but at the same time keep them off city streets was both praised and condemned Monday by an American Civil Liberties Union attorney.

The ban on street solicitation, contained in an ordinance that will go into effect in early August, is simply a “health and safety” law designed to protect residents and dayworkers alike, city officials said.

The city will also sponsor a bilingual phone bank that dayworkers can call for job opportunities. At the same same, the ordinance will bar workers from congregating along Doheny Park Road, where dozens often gather in search of work.

Rebecca Jurado, a staff attorney with the ACLU, said her organization applauds Dana Point for coming up with the phone bank concept to help dayworkers but believes that the city should not bridle free speech by outlawing job-seeking and job-hiring from the streets.

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Other Cities Have Acted

In taking up the issue, Dana Point joined a growing list of county cities--including Costa Mesa, Orange and Laguna Beach--that have tried to regulate street-side job-seeking.

“This situation with dayworkers is a problem we’ve faced ever since we became a city last Jan. 1,” Mayor Eileen Krause said, “and the ordinance came after a task force studied the problem for several months and got input from all sides.”

Krause said many residents and businessmen had complained that dayworkers were posing a traffic hazard and public nuisance along Doheny Park Road. She said some dayworkers drank alcoholic beverages and urinated in public.

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“We needed to give the police some tools to work with,” she said.

“We’re going to study the ordinance,” said the ACLU’s Jurado, “but I’m not sure right now if we’ll take this into court.”

‘Speech and Thought Police’

But she said that the city’s action appears to be “an attempt to have speech police and thought police” and that people have the right to talk to anyone as long as traffic is not blocked.

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The new ordinance reads: “It shall be unlawful for any person to stand on the street or highway and solicit or attempt to solicit employment, business or contributions from an occupant of any motor vehicle. It shall be unlawful for any person to stop, park or stand a motor vehicle on a street or highway from which any occupant attempts to hire or hires for employment another person or persons.”

Jurado said the latter provision makes it unlawful “for anyone legally parked in a car from talking about job opportunities with another person.”

Pose Traffic Dangers

John Donlevy, assistant city manager, said Monday that the ordinance is needed because of traffic dangers posed by job-seekers along the streets.

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“Large groups of men go charging out (into) the streets after cars,” he said.

He estimated that up to 100 job-seekers gather each weekday, usually from 7 to 9 a.m., along Doheny Park Road, near Coast Highway.

“Some of them flag these cars down out the blue,” Donlevy said. “And a lot of them have been urinating out in public, and that has become a big problem.”

The city’s phone bank will have people who speak both English and Spanish, he said, to provide information about day jobs or other short-term employment.

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