Massage Parlor Ordinance A Work In Progress
City claims to be working on potential fixes to municipal code.
Massage parlors are often lumped into a seemingly nefarious category of businesses, mostly due to the fact that over the years several of them have been found to provide certain sexual services in addition to their massages.
The act is not legal, even despite what some City code might suggest. Under chapter 11.70 of the Santa Clarita Municipal Code, a massage parlor is listed under "adult businesses" and is defined:
"Massage parlor" shall mean any place where, for any form of consideration or gratuity, massage, alcohol rub, administration of fomentations, electric or magnetic treatments, or any other treatment manipulation of the human body which occurs as a part of or in connection with "specified sexual activities," or where any person providing such treatment, manipulation, or service related thereto, exposes "specified anatomical areas."
While the Code seems shocking at first, Sgt. AJ Rotella with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department says that it doesn't affect any local massage parlors, because none of them are licensed under the adult business provision.
"There are two different ordinances that are in the City Code," he said. "There is an ‘adult business' ordinance which would classify a massage parlor as that which has sexual activity. That is obviously not what the City wants or condones within it. That's why we have no massage parlors that are licensed as an ‘adult business' in Santa Clarita."
The other ordinance, located in Title 5 of the City Code, adopts Title 7 of the County's Code, which classifies massage parlors outside of the adult-related businesses. That ordinance is more specific, requiring all massage technicians to be licensed. That licensing process includes revealing character references, previous employment and criminal history.
Therefore in the case of massage parlors, the County actually works as an agent of the City by issuing the business licenses, Sgt. Rotella says.
He went on to say only that particular Code applies to our local massage parlors, and is the basis of recent enforcement.
In September of 2009, two women who offered massage services inside L & V Massage in Valencia were arrested for illegally providing sexual acts (full story).
Then in November, local Sheriff's investigators joined city and state officials in a sweep of 24 massage parlor locations, in which 17 were found to be out of compliance with some laws. These infractions included insurance, code and license violations, and in some cases prostitution. The sweep was reportedly in response to a request by the City Council prompted by dialogue with local residents (full story).
Of course, even despite what any City or County code says, conducting a sexual act for money or other consideration is illegal in California, according to Penal Code Section 653.20.
Some, however, still question why the City code reads the way it does. City Communications manager Gail Ortiz says that City employees are currently working on several options to modify the code with regard to massage parlors. She went on to say that these options are intended to come before the City Council for action.
Since any action won't change the fact that prostitution is illegal, the biggest effect of new municipal code language would likely be the prevention of ill-intentioned massage parlors from opening. By further tightening the restrictions and licensing requirements for massage parlors and technicians, the City might be successful in keeping those willing to break the law, or at least those with a history of doing so, out of the area. The precise effects depend entirely on whether or not the City Council takes action to break from existing County code, and if so, to what degree.
Until then, Sgt. Rotella says that he will continue to work with the City in battling illegal massage parlors.
"We've been working on it over the last six months, and we're continuing to work on it," he said. "We are doing a number of compliance inspections and enforcement actions. We have had several of the massage parlors close down, we've had a couple of them just completely vacate their property, and we'll continue to work on that."