Owners of a Canoga Park business, which city authorities say poses as a health club but is really a massage parlor, missed a public hearing Friday to determine whether they will have to stop operating at their current location.
In fact, other than the presiding zoning administrator, only one other person attended the hearing at the Sherman Oaks Woman's Club--an angry adjacent neighbor.
"Because of that business next door, I can't even rent offices in my building at 50 cents a foot," Mike Afari said. "People look at them next door and they leave."
Since nobody appeared to represent the New Image Professional Health Club, Leonard S. Levine, associate zoning administrator, went ahead and ruled the city Department of Building and Safety had not erred in calling the club an adult entertainment business.
Levine said the designation means the business, owned by Charles and Jean Crail of Woodland Hills, would have to close down because it is an adult entertainment business operating within 500 feet of a residential area. The other option is for the business to conform to the commercial zoning standards for that area, Levine said.
"We did communicate with the applicant that somebody needed to be here representing them," Levine said. The zoning administrator's decision is appealable to the Board of Zoning Appeals.
Building and Safety Inspector Dave Vaccaro said he issued the order for New Image to comply with zoning regulations as an adult establishment in January. He said Los Angeles Police Department vice detectives had run a sting and discovered it was an adult business fronting as a health club.
Massage therapy can be offered at a health club, according to city code. But New Image's services seemed to be more in line with an adult entertainment business, Vaccaro said.
"They only had three pieces of 1950s health equipment as their claim to being a health spa," Vaccaro said. "That's what we call a negative secondary effort. In essence it is just a massage parlor."
Neither the Crails nor their attorney could be reached for comment Friday.