Simi Recall Effort Misguided

It’s a grand weekend for flag-waving issues such as pure thoughts and wholesome communities. But the raw, nasty, uncensored truth is that the Simi Valley City Council didn’t have much choice last week when it held its nose and voted to zone a strip of land on the city’s west end for adult-oriented businesses.

Nobody wants strip clubs, table-dancing parlors or X-rated bookstores in their neighborhood--and most Ventura County residents would prefer not to have them in the hemisphere. But courts have repeatedly ruled that the entrepreneurs who run such businesses, and the lonely folk who make them profitable, have rights too. Decades of legal challenges have defined what a city can and cannot do to keep such operations out of town.

Simi Valley has resisted mightily. But to have voted otherwise might well have backfired, landing the city in an even more unpleasant fix.

The council’s vote came in response to a court ruling last year that judged a previous ordinance so strict that it violated the First Amendment rights of business owners. After that setback, the city placed a moratorium on establishment of sex-related businesses until a legally acceptable ordinance could be drafted. That moratorium was about to expire, opening the door for such businesses to locate anywhere in the city. So the council did what it had to do and passed a new ordinance (although the one it passed is still so restrictive that it may well land the city back in court).


Nonetheless, local activists are rallying to recall the council members who voted to adopt the ordinance. That makes a stirring battle cry but in this case it is a misguided one. All elected officials want to do the popular thing. Sometimes the law leaves no popular options.

If Simi Valley is as unanimously opposed to sex-oriented businesses as the vocal critics suggest, a lack of customers should close such operations down soon anyway.