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Citrus Heights extends ban on new massage permits thru 2015

Updated Jan. 27, 2:58 p.m.–
City council members voted unanimously last week to pass an “urgency ordinance” that extends a 45-day temporary ban on new massage permits for another 10 months, citing continued concerns about prostitution in Citrus Heights massage parlors and a need to give staff additional time to revise regulations.

Massage sign, stock photo. //Citrus Heights Sentinel
Massage sign, stock photo. //Citrus Heights Sentinel

The wording of the council’s ban declares a “current and immediate threat to public health, safety and welfare,” and prohibits relocating, expanding or opening new massage establishments for 10-and-a-half months, in accordance with California’s Government Code section 65858.

During a public hearing just prior to approving the moratorium extension, council members heard from several local massage therapists who expressed support for cracking down on illegal activity, although one owner was critical of the effect she said the temporary ban has already had on her business.

“Nobody wants the illicit acts that are going on under the guise of massage,” said therapist BJ Pitts, telling the council she was willing to help revise the City’s massage ordinance. “We have to get them out.”

“We are licensed; we are not prostitutes,” Certified Massage Therapist Susan Langley told the council Thursday night, saying she’d opened a new massage business on Auburn Boulevard several months ago — before the initial 45-day moratorium was passed December 11. Having no idea about the ban, she expressed frustration when she found out the provision barring “expansion” meant she can’t rent out rooms or hire additional therapists in her new facility.

Council members expressed support and sympathy for law-abiding establishments affected by the moratorium and welcomed the offer for massage therapists to aid the City in crafting a new ordinance.

“By no means are we trying to limit or punish legitimate businesses,” council member Steve Miller said during his comments. “Unfortunately, a few bad apples spoil it for everybody.”

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Involving the City attorney’s office, police and several other departments, City staff have already formed an inter-departmental team to work on proposed massage ordinance changes, according to Community and Economic Development Director Rhonda Sherman. She said any changes will be presented to the council at a work session later this year, before being taken up for a vote on final adoption.

Revisions to the City’s code are expected to reflect additional discretionary and regulatory power granted to cities under recently passed Assembly Bill 1146, which came into effect January 1, 2015. According to City Attorney Ruthann Ziegler, the legislature had taken away this regulatory power with the passage of SB 731 in 2008, and city leaders across the state have blamed the law for the proliferation of massage parlors in recent years.

As passed, the extended ban is set to expire in December of this year, although council members expressed hope that a new set of comprehensive massage regulations could be passed before then.

<<For more background and police perspective, see prior story:Citrus Heights bans new massage permits; cites prostitution“>>

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