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Rule not stopping knocks

New anti-solicitation ordinance is proving hard to enforce, and some sales people are pushy or ignore signs, officials say.

July 14, 2010|By Joanna Clay, Special to the Daily Pilot

Approved in April and made official in May, a new ordinance aimed at reducing unwanted solicitation at residential homes is receiving mixed reviews in Newport Beach.

The city requires that registered commercial solicitors, such as door-to-door salesmen, take a look at list of residents who registered requests not to be solicited and pay attention to "Do Not Solicit" signs dotting many local lawns.

California requires solicitors to leave alone those who post a sign asking not to be solicited, according to Newport Beach's reading of First Amendment case law.

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However, some residents feel solicitors are turning a blind eye to their signs and a lack of enforcement makes the ordinance more of a recommendation than a citywide rule.

City Councilwoman Nancy Gardner said the issue is particularly troublesome to women and people living alone, because solicitors have the legal right to go door to door until 9 p.m. under state law.

It was an incident one night at her home that made Gardner really pay attention to the issue. Approached at her door by a salesman, Gardner told the man she wasn't interested in what he was selling. He walked away but not without shouting expletives at her door.

"I was startled by how angry he was," Gardner said.

Amy Senk, whose online newspaper Corona del Mar Today is a media partner of the Daily Pilot, added her name to the list this spring and puts her sign up in plain view. Though she said a local drycleaner once saw her open garage door as an opportunity and didn't mind crossing the invisible line to promote his services.

Even while Senk was packing up the car and getting ready to take her daughter to a swim lesson, the man wouldn't stop trying to sell to her and even walked into the garage.

"When I said I would go to the cleaners later to learn more, he said the deal was only good by finding him in the field," Senk said in an e-mail. "I felt intimidated and that made me mad."

However, some homeowners believe their "Do Not Solicit" signs are working. Karen E. Tringali, a CdM homeowner, has only had one solicitor ignore her sign.

However, that doesn't mean he took the dismissal well.

"He wasn't all that happy to be shooed away," Tringali said.

The ordinance has only been in place for a few months, and, according to City Manager Dave Kiff, the city needs time to assess its effectiveness.

"It's too early to tell if it's working well or not working well," said Kiff.

Because the city can only enforce commercial solicitors, others fall through the cracks.

"If it's nonprofit or otherwise, we'd have to catch them in the act," Kiff said.

That's the hard part. The only way a solicitor can be penalized for violating the ordinance is if law enforcement is there to present a citation.

The best bet for anti-solicitors is to call the police right when they see canvassers hit their street. Once they're caught, they'll receive a $100, $200, or $500 administrative citation.

Both Gardner and Kiff said the ordinance is a difficult one to enforce, but Gardner said that it offers another level of protection for residents.

"Two very good things happened out of it," the councilwoman said. "One, there was an awareness about things you can do to stop solicitors. You can put up anti-solicitation signs. The second part is our registry. Those two things gave people a solution."

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