11:06 PM PST on Sunday, February 27, 2011

By DUANE W. GANG
The Press-Enterprise

People looking to stand outside a Riverside County government building and sell their goods or services could soon be out of luck.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will discuss whether to draft a local law banning unauthorized solicitation on county property.

In a report to the board, Rob Field, an assistant county executive officer who oversees county buildings, said unauthorized solicitation may interfere with the intended use of a county property, such as those entering a court for official business.

The solicitation also may create a health or safety hazard for residents, Field wrote in his report.

Tom Freeman, a spokesman for the Economic Development Agency that oversees county facilities, said the proposed ordinance has been under development for several months.

“In part, its genesis comes at the request of the courts,” Freeman said by e-mail.

Court officials have expressed concerns about gatherings related to the sale of foreclosed properties in front of courthouses, Freeman said.

For instance, crowds regularly gather in front of the historic courthouse in downtown Riverside to bid on properties.

Freeman also said an ordinance would provide the county a tool to ensure vendors, such as food carts, are property licensed. Those also are a regular sight near county courthouses.

County spokesman Ray Smith said the proposal is aimed at regulating commercial solicitation and officials will take into account residents’ First Amendment rights.

Those passing out political fliers or protesting on county property will be allowed to continue, Smith said.

“You are welcome to be here. You just can’t block people from getting to or leaving a facility,” Smith said by telephone. “If you are here to make a statement, protest and hand out your leaflets, that’s fine.”

Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, said the devil will be in the details of any proposed ordinance. The county has not yet drafted specific language.

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