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Bellflower Adopts 45-Day Moratorium on Massage

By Tammye McDuff

An urgency ordinance of the City of Bellflower was passed at the first Council meeting of 2015 approving a 45 day moratorium on the issue of any new permit or business license to massage establishments within the City.

In 2008, Senate Bill 731 (“SB 731”) was adopted by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor to become effective on January 1, 2009, and was to sunset on January 1, 2015.

This significantly shifted the laws to local regulations of therapist and practitioners, creating the California massage Therapy Council [CAMTC]. Certificates were issued to the CAMTC to qualified applicants to practice massage therapy anywhere within the State, without having to comply with local rules or regulations.

In 2011 Assembly Bill 619 and in 2012 Senate Bill 1238 amended various provisions of Business and Professions Code, further limiting the City’s ability to regulate massage establishments. In September 2014, the Governor signed Assembly Bill 1147, which returned to authority to strictly regulate massage establishments.

According to staff reports, a new State law took effect on January 1, 2015, which changes how a City can regulate massage establishments.

Reports from other California cities show the enactment of prior State laws has had an unintended consequence of the proliferation of illicit massage establishments that are fronts for prostitution and may also be involved in sex trafficking.

The proposed ordinance would impose a 45-day interim moratorium on the issuance of any permits, licenses, tax certificates, approvals, or entitlements for new massage establishments or the relocation of massage establishments as defined in the Bellflower Municipal Code.

Staff stated it was urgent the City undertake a review of current massage regulations in order to determine how current City regulations may need to be revised in order to be consistent and compliant with State law, while still providing local control with ample regulations for the establishment, use, and operation of businesses offering massage services.

The City of Bellflower had two massage establishments in 2008 and currently has 20 such establishments. The City regularly receives complaints of illicit activity occurring at some of these establishments, therefore requiring a higher level of examination and enforcement.

The City has found that a number of local massage establishments have advertised or received online reviews of adult entertainment which strongly suggest illegal and illicit activities.

The City has initiated action through the citation process against these establishments, owners and operators. The over-saturation of these establishments have been found in violation of the law, changing the character of the neighborhoods and impacting surrounding businesses.

Staff was directed to study appropriate modifications to the City’s massage and zoning ordinances in order to mitigate any negative effects from these massage establishments.

Pending the completion of these studies, Staff will establish appropriate operational and zoning regulations. This was met with a unanimous agreement from the Mayor and City Council.