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Council Adopts Unpopular Ordinance for Adult Businesses

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Despite the vehement and visible protest of residents, the City Council approved an ordinance Monday night that sets aside a portion of the city’s west end where sexually oriented businesses such as strip clubs and adult bookstores may operate.

“Obviously I would prefer they not be located in our community at all, but we’ve got to move on with this and I think we’ve come up with a pretty good deal,” Councilwoman Barbara Williamson said.

The council’s vote allows adult businesses to be clustered on an 86-acre strip of land along Los Angeles Avenue near the Moorpark border east to Easy Street. The land, which is near a sanitation facility, is currently zoned for industrial and commercial use.

The emergency ordinance was adopted in response to a court ruling last year that judged a previous city ordinance so restrictive that it violated the constitutional rights of business owners.

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The city subsequently placed a moratorium on establishing adult-oriented businesses until this new, more accommodating ordinance was adopted. The moratorium was set to expire next month, which would have allowed such businesses to operate anywhere in the city.

Though none of the council members was particularly pleased with the ordinance, each said it was something that had to be done, and in so doing, has created a framework by which the city can regulate the adult-themed industry and the kinds of entertainment it provides.

“I certainly understand the reservations members of our community have, but what we’ve got is something that will restrict the kinds of things that are done in these businesses,” Mayor Greg Stratton said.

The ordinance establishes standards that must be followed to operate an adult-oriented business within Simi Valley, including:

* Prohibiting businesses from operating within 500 feet of one another and the nearby Oak Park.

* Requiring business owners to obtain a permit from the city’s Department of Environmental Services certifying that the business complies with the new ordinance and with sections of the Municipal Code pertaining to businesses.

* Specifying what type of entertainment can be provided--and limiting it to bikini-clad dancers.

While city officials are confident they have devised an ordinance that satisfies the earlier court decision requiring the city to make more areas accessible to adult-oriented business, prospective proprietors said the city still hasn’t done enough.

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Philip Young, the businessman who is currently suing the city about its former ordinance limiting adult business, said earlier that he also plans to challenge the new ordinance in court because it is still too restrictive and unfairly singles out a certain kind of business owner.

However, as evidenced by the attendance at Monday’s meeting, residents are still adamant about keeping their idyllic slice of neighborhood suburbia from becoming known as “Seamy Valley.”

Several dozen residents made an impassioned protest, waving placards that read “Strip joints breed crime, gangs, violence and AIDS,” and “X-rated businesses destroy a city’s property values.”

Several of the city’s religious leaders, including George Otis of High Adventure Ministries and Pastor Alfonso Perez of Church of Jesus Christ in the Americas, were on hand to express their revulsion of adult-oriented businesses in their city.

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“Once they open the door to one, it’s all over,” Perez said. “This is immoral. Our children deserve more.”

Otis, who labeled the city “My Own Jerusalem,” urged the council to put the issue to a citywide vote.

“This is a big decision and one that should be made by the people,” he said. "[The council] doesn’t have the right to say that we want this kind of corruption to come to Simi Valley.”

After the council’s vote, residents congregated outside City Hall to discuss the decision.

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Conservative activist Steve Frank vowed that the issue is far from settled. He said a group of people would meet during the next several days to draft an initiative challenging the council vote.

“This is just the beginning. This town has a right to say this is wrong,” Frank said.

Though acknowledging their concerns, council members labeled the ordinance as the city’s best attempt to find a middle ground that all parties could live with.


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