Business

Law prevents regulation of illicit massage parlors, officials say

SACRAMENTO — Cities, counties and law enforcement officials across California are bristling at a 6-year-old law that they contend prevents regulation of massage parlors they suspect offer more than therapeutic bodywork.

A profusion of massage parlors, often near schools and neighborhoods, creates blight, they complained at a legislative hearing.

Local government officials told lawmakers last week that they're frustrated by a 2008 law that sought to regulate illicit massage parlors and support legitimate spas and other businesses.

The law created a state-sanctioned nonprofit organization, the California Massage Therapy Council. It provides certification for California's 45,000 massage therapists, sets professional standards and disciplines wayward masseuses by revoking their certificates.

The council is scheduled to disband at year's end, unless reauthorized by the Legislature and governor.

Supporters of the council say statewide coordination of the massage business is needed to avoid a hodgepodge of differing local laws.

The statute may be well intended, but it prevents cities and counties from using zoning and other laws to control illicit massage parlors, whose workers sometimes are victims of human trafficking, mayors and police chiefs said.

The legislation "created loopholes that have left our city unequipped to regulate massage establishments," said Capt. Kelly Mulldorfer, a vice commander at the Los Angeles Police Department. She estimated that the city has more than 400 storefront massage businesses suspected of engaging in prostitution at the same time they pose as legitimate council-certified massage therapy operations.

The hearing convinced one panel member, Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), that "the law is not working" and has led to an increase in prostitution and human trafficking.

San Onofre

Ending months of analysis, state utilities regulators have unanimously endorsed a plan to fill a giant need for electricity in Southern California created by the permanent closure of the San Onofre nuclear plant near San Clemente last June.

The Public Utilities Commission on Thursday ordered Southern California Edison Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. to find and buy up to 1,500 megawatts of power by 2022.

The plan calls for at least 40% to come from non-fossil-fuel renewable sources, energy efficiency efforts and demand-response programs that reduce strain on the system during peak consumption periods. The balance of the power could come from modern, efficient gas-fired plants.

The plan "is prudent and necessary," said Commissioner Michael Picker. It will replace the San Onofre power as well as the output of "many of the very old, dirty and faltering natural gas plants" in south Orange County and San Diego County.

Environmental groups split on the merits of the PUC decision. The Natural Resources Defense Council lauded it for emphasizing clean energy. The Sierra Club decried the plan, saying it relies too heavily on natural-gas generation.

marc.lifsher@latimes.com

Twitter: @MarcLifsher

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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