LOS ANGELES—Video productions are not the only adult activities being targeted by California politicians. In a proposal purportedly designed to target prostitution in parts of the San Fernando Valley but which also advocates for revisiting zoning laws while also seeming to create a new definition for what constitutes an "adult entertainment" business, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who represents District 6—which includes the neighborhoods of North Hollywood, Sun Valley, Arleta, Van Nuys, Panorama City and Lake Balboa—has proposed a new ordinance that would temporarily restrict certain new businesses from opening in certain sections of the Valley.
"Battling prostitution has been a major focus for Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who has pushed to bolster police patrols, increase enforcement against johns and pimps, and boost diversion programs for prostitutes in her San Fernando Valley district," the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday. "Now, in the quest to stamp out the sex trade in the area, Martinez is zeroing in on the strip clubs, massage parlors and liquor stores that line Sepulveda Boulevard, aiming to prevent new 'adult entertainment' businesses from opening along a nearly four-mile stretch of the street."
Specifically, the proposal, which was contained in a motion submitted to the council by Martinez on April 11, "would prohibit the issuance of demolition, building, grading, and any other applicable permits to prevent any future adult entertainment or adult oriented uses including strip clubs, topless bars, massage parlors, dancehalls, and liquor stores for properties fronting or abutting:
"* Sun Valley - Lankershim Boulevard, from Roscoe/Tuxford to San Fernando Road
"* Sun Valley - San Fernando Road, from Sunland Boulevard to Branford Street
"* Van Nuys - Sepulveda Boulevard, from Oxnard Street to Rayen Street"
In her motion, Martinez also states, "While traditional law enforcement and prosecution are critical components to addressing prostitution, these efforts, as well as the quality of life for residents, businesses, and industries, are often undermined by ill-located adult-oriented land uses such as strip clubs, topless bars, massage parlors, dancehalls, and liquor stores. Sun Valley and Van Nuys neighborhoods have long awaited land uses beyond those oriented towards adult entertainment."
If approved, the restrictions on new permits would be in place for 45 days, but could be extended for up to two years—similar, says the Times, to a past ordinance enacted by the city council "to put a hold on new billboards and automotive repair shops in parts of L.A. while city officials considered permanent regulations."
That raises the question of whether the city is considering similar permanent restrictions on adult entertainment businesses in Los Angeles, something that is not addressed in the piece by Times reporter Emily Alper Reyes, but which is mentioned in her motion by Martinez, who asserts, "Adult oriented activities are not consistent with the community needs and uses of these corridors. Zoning regulations in Sun Valley and Van Nuys should be examined to identify and implement appropriate land use controls that preserve the quality of life for area residents and strengthen opportunities for the use of appropriately located commercial, industrial, and manufacturing land to support and grow key industries for Los Angeles, and the quality jobs they bring."
Not everyone agrees. In the Times article, the chief executive of the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce, Nancy Hoffman Vanyek, questions "what 'positive businesses' might fall under the restrictions," and wonders what would happen if new massage parlors were barred, posing the question, "Does that affect a Massage Envy that wants to come in? It needs to be better defined."
On the flip side of that reaction, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Assn. of Club Executives told Reyes that he was not opposed to the proposal, despite not being fond of "broad brush approaches."
Pointing out to Reyes that only three or four of the association's members are located in the targeted areas of the Valley, and also that members are obliged to obey standards regarding discreet signage and providing contact information for local residents to use for complaints, he explained, "Responsible club owners should be good neighbors. The answer is putting pressure on businesses to be good neighbors—and working with neighborhoods to be certain to identify where the cause of the problem is."
In order to support the need for such an ordinance, the article offers a single anecdote about a local mom who, when she takes her 3-year-old daughter to school, "tries to distract her with paper to draw on so she overlooks the scantily clad women outside." The women are found on "the sultry billboard for La Perla gentlemen's club near their apartment window on Sepulveda Boulevard."
The mom tells Reyes, "They definitely need to do something. At the very least—not add to it."
She's not the first L.A. mom to be concerned for her child because of nasty billboards. In 2012, another mother sought to ban adult billboards because her 11-year-old son started crying one night because, "He thought the woman on the billboards was going to be hurt by men."
However, neither the motion nor the article cite statistics culled by Councilwoman Martinez, the city council or the police department to support Martinez's claim that "vice activities feed on each other." The only reference to supporting statistics found in the article states, "Aides to Martinez say data from police permits show there are at least 10 'adult entertainment' businesses, not including massage parlors, in the three stretches targeted by the proposal. A Times analysis of state data from 2012 tallied 15 businesses with licenses to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises."
But Reyes did speak with a local businessman, who told her that "the strip clubs and other adult shops serve as 'meeting places' for prostitutes and pimps," as well as with another supporter of the proposed ordinance, a longtime Van Nuys resident named Don Schultz, who also is one of the directors of Groups Against Street Prostitution, who told Reyes the area "already had more than enough liquor stores and massage parlor," and added of the initiative, "I think it's long overdue."
AVN contacted Los Angeles-based adult entertainment attorney Michael Fattorosi to get his impression of the proposed ordinance. "I would be very concerned with any legislation that begins to redefine traditionally non-adult entertainment businesses such as liquor sales as 'adult,'" he told AVN. "Where does that stop? Are gasoline stations an 'adult' business as well since they sell gasoline to mostly adult customers? Why does she feel the need to categorize such business in with adult entertainment?
"Furthermore," he added, "Ms. Martinez's proposal, in regards to massage parlors, may not be permissible. In 2008 the California legislature passed the Massage Therapy Law, which basically restricted local cities from regulating the massage business through zoning restrictions. However, that law is suppose to come to an end in 2014. Attacking any business with the intent to reduce illegal prostitution will always receive broad-based support, but this might be an overreach. It appears that Councilwoman Martinez is treading on a very slippery slope on this one."
A copy of Councilwoman Martinez's motion can be read here.
Image: Van Nuys adult businesses, courtesy of upinthevalley.org.