Law could keep picketers from homes

Not long after anti-abortion protesters gathered outside the home of a local doctor, Newport Beach City Council on Tuesday will discuss a proposed ordinance that addresses picketing at residences.

City officials said protests within residential neighborhoods have increased in recent years, and the ordinance would create a 300-foot "buffer zone" to ensure a reasonable distance between those protesting and their target, according to a city staff report.

The measure would allow the protesters to be close enough to their intended audience, while also preserving the sanctity of the targeted homes and preventing the residents from becoming "captives in their own homes," according to the report.

"These protests have an extremely adverse impact on the targeted residents," according to city staff. "The protests interfere with a person's right to privacy in their home, as well as their right to the enjoyment of tranquillity, well-being and sense of security in their home."

About 50 to 100 anti-abortion demonstrators wrote messages in chalk and shouted slurs outside the Dover Shores home of Richard Agnew, who is affiliated with Hoag Hospital, in late June.

Agnew was one of a slate of Hoag Hospital-affiliated doctors to oppose the institution's recent decision to eliminate elective abortion services in the wake of its affiliation with Catholic health system St. Joseph Health.

The proposal going before the council would both help the target of protesters and ensure the protesters' First Amendment rights, city staff wrote.

Other areas with similar residential picketing rules include Los Angeles and Riverside counties, and the cities of Huntington Beach, Santa Monica and Rancho Palos Verdes.

The seven-member council is scheduled to give the ordinance its first reading. A second reading is planned for Sept. 10.

The regular meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Civic Center's council chambers, 100 Civic Center Drive.

The agenda for a study session beforehand, which begins at 4:30 p.m., includes topics such as the maintenance of the city's nearly 30,000 trees and an "energy action plan" with Southern California Edison.

The partnership would include retrofits of streetlights, education efforts and solar energy.

Staff writer Jill Cowan contributed to this report.

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