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45-Day Ban Outside PCH Strip in Hermosa : New Video Outlets Are Limited

Times Staff Writer

In its effort to confine the sale and rental of adult videos to stores on Pacific Coast Highway, the Hermosa Beach City Council has placed a 45-day moratorium on new video outlets elsewhere in the city regardless of the type of movies they stock.

The emergency ordinance, passed Tuesday, says building permits and conditional-use permits will not be issued to any new or existing business that offer or plan to offer videotapes for sale or rent. It applies to all commercial areas except for the major commercial strip along Pacific Coast Highway.

In addition, the moratorium bars “all video rentals and sales regardless of the content of the materials,” City Atty. James P. Lough told the council in a memorandum.

The city took the action against all video outlets--even those that stock no adult movies--because Lough advised that it would be unconstitutional to regulate the content of what a video store sells. The only exception would be businesses whose predominant trade is in adult material.

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The vote was 4 to 1, with Mayor Jim Rosenberger opposing the ordinance. A four-fifths vote is required to pass an emergency ordinance.

In a brief discussion before the council vote, Rosenberger questioned the need for such urgent action.

“I don’t see where a problem comes up that make it an urgency,” Rosenberger said. “There’s a lot of what sounds to me like fear-mongering.”

But Lough told the council that it was an urgent matter because additional businesses could open in areas where the zoning is changing.

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The dispute over adult videos began when Councilwoman June Williams and other members of the Hope Chapel, a local church, objected to the sale and rental of such tapes in neighborhood commercial areas. Their attack was centered on Hermosa Video, a store on Hermosa Avenue downtown, which has about 85 adult videos among its stock of 1,000 movies.

Draws Attention

The city issued Hermosa Video a business license in April, 1988, then last month placed restrictions on the store through a conditional-use permit. The permit limits the number of adult tapes to 20% of the store’s stock, prohibits their advertisement in the store’s windows and bars showing X- or R-rated videos on the store’s monitor.

The Hermosa Beach debate has attracted attention from other residents who say the council should not restrict freedom of choice, and from conservative groups including the Phoenix, Ariz.-based Center for Decency Through Law Inc., which urged the council to restrict X-rated video outlets.

Business as Usual

Hermosa Video owner Scott Gallagher, who did not attend Tuesday’s council meeting, said his business will not be immediately affected by the emergency ordinance and that he will continue to operate as usual.

“I guess that means now I’m free of competition, basically,” Gallagher said.

Williams said the ordinance will give the city time to study the issue for 45 days.

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“If we made changes, it would be better for businessmen to be put on notice,” Williams said. It would be unfair, she said, “to allow someone to come in now under our present ordinance, and then change it.”

The city has allowed video sales in neighborhood commercial areas such as Hermosa Avenue for about two years, Planning Director Michael Schubach told the council. In addition to Hermosa Video, two chain stores and an adult bookstore, all on Pacific Coast Highway, stock adult videos.

The moratorium could be extended for up to 22 months if, after a public hearing, the council votes to extend it, Lough said.

The issue will go before the Planning Commission for a recommendation on whether video outlets in neighborhood commercial zones should be banned permanently and whether existing video stores there should be given time to comply, Lough said.


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