Residents, School Officials Protest : Arcadia OKs Adult Businesses Near El Monte

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Times Staff Writer

Despite protests by residents and school officials from neighboring El Monte, the City Council has restricted adult businesses to an area that borders El Monte.

“You are conveniently keeping the zone away from Arcadia residents and moving it to my backyard, and I resent that,” said Maryanne Powers of El Monte, who lives six blocks from the Chicago Park area, where the zone would be located.

The proposal, approved by the council on a 4-1 vote, will restrict the location of adult bookstores, adult movie theaters, massage parlors, topless nightclubs and other such businesses to the industrial area near Peck Road and Clark Street, in Arcadia’s southeast corner.


In an interview, Corky Nicholson, associate planner with the Arcadia Planning Department, said Chicago Park is one of the few industrial, non-residential areas in the city that would be suitable for adult businesses.

Interest in adult business zoning was sparked two years ago when police arrested several people in connection with prostitution in two downtown massage parlors.

The city closed the massage parlors and imposed a two-year moratorium on new adult businesses. During that time, it surveyed other cities that had found that adult businesses caused neighborhoods to deteriorate, lowered property values and brought about an increase in crimes such as prostitution.

The El Monte City Council was represented at the hearing by Harold Johanson, El Monte’s director of planning and community development. Johanson asked that the required distance between residential areas and adult businesses be changed from 500 feet to 750 feet.

“We ask that you keep it as far away from El Monte residents as possible,” he said.

Betty Lowes, a Baldwin Park resident whose family lives near the proposed adult business zone, said: “Since your own two-year study concludes that these businesses cause an increase in blight and deterioration of adjoining neighborhoods, we protest this proposal and feel that it is not right for Arcadia to burden El Monte by establishing undesirable businesses on our borders.”

School officials complained that the zone would fall within four blocks of Cherrylee Elementary School and within half a mile of Arroyo High School, both in El Monte.


Cherrylee Principal Michael Raymond said the Arcadia council was not considering the proximity of the zone to his school. John Robbins, assistant principal of Arroyo High School, said locating the zone in Chicago Park could have adverse effects on his students--but not on students at Arcadia High School, several miles away.

After hearing the complaints, Councilwoman Mary Young suggested that the distance between adult businesses and residential and commercial zones be increased from 500 feet to 750 feet. The council concurred.

Only Councilman Robert Harbicht voted no. He said increasing the distance requirements made the proposal too strict and increased the likelihood that the city could get involved in drawn-out lawsuits by the owners of adult businesses.

“I support the (proposal), but I don’t want our city to be a test case,” Harbicht said.

Several council members expressed a desire to ban adult businesses in the city, but Mayor Charles Gilb reminded them that such a ban would be unconstitutional.