Worried that porn industry may migrate, Simi Valley takes action
Simi Valley is a quiet suburban community and wants to keep it that way: No lights, no cameras, no porn studios.
Not that adult-film producers are flocking over the hill from the porn-rich San Fernando Valley, but the fear is that they might. Angered by a recent L.A. requirement for on-set condom use, producers have made noises about leaving, and officials next door in Simi Valley are trying to thwart an invasion before it gets started.
“The bottom line is we don’t want to be known as the porn capital of the world,” said Mayor Bob Huber, who is pushing for a local condom measure similar to one the L.A. City Council approved in January.
In Los Angeles, enforcement of the ordinance, which takes effect Monday, hasn’t been worked out, but it could rely on surprise visits from law enforcement or health officials.
Spokesmen for the multibillion-dollar adult film industry call the new rule classic government overreach, but that hasn’t stopped Simi, a usually conservative town, from coming up with a twist of its own.
Under its proposed law, the city would require producers to hire on-set medical professionals, who would attest to appropriate condom use. At the end of a shoot, the producers would have to send their unedited video to the Police Department, where employees would scrutinize it — for compliance with Simi Valley Municipal Code Title 5, Chapter 32, as amended.
Civilian employees, not officers, would do the heavy lifting, scanning films for possible violations. Last year, there wouldn’t have been much to view; of 59 filming permits granted in the city, just one was for an adult film, city officials said.
The city’s preemptive strike is pointless, said Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, a porn industry trade association based in Canoga Park.
“Very little filming is done in Simi Valley, and I doubt that the production studios are planning any increase at all in the area,” she said. “However, I am amused at the thought of Simi Valley hiring people to sit around and view porn on taxpayer dollars. I wonder what the training for that would look like.”
Not every City Council member is so amused.
“We should let the porn industry know it’s not welcome in Simi Valley,” said Councilman Steve Sojka, “but to pass an ordinance requiring them to police themselves to wear condoms is a waste of tax resources.”
Running afoul of the law would bring a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail. However, some council members at a meeting last month expressed doubt that many judges would incarcerate producers for condom violations.
“Five years and a million-dollar fine would get their attention,” said Councilwoman Barbra Williamson. “I’m sorry we can’t do that, but I wish we could.”
The condom issue is not the talk of the town in Simi Valley. A wave of heroin deaths has shocked the upscale community, triggering a march, a task force and public meetings packed with concerned parents. The city now features a listing of drug resources in a prominent spot on its home page.
Even so, the specter of the porn industry on the doorstep should not be ignored, said Huber, an attorney and former prosecutor. He said the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases is his prime concern. But there’s also what he cast as an assault on family values, citing “block after block after block” of porn studios with “blacked-over windows” in the San Fernando Valley.
“The key reason people love to live here is that we’ll stand up to protect the sanctity of our families,” he said.
Ged Kenslea, a spokesman for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said the group didn’t anticipate the Los Angeles ordinance producing a ripple effect in places like Simi Valley.
Other restrictions could be in the works. Kenslea said the foundation has gathered half the signatures required for a November ballot measure that would mandate health permits for adult film producers in most of L.A. County.
Meanwhile, Moorpark, just down the road from Simi Valley, is considering the possibility of its own condom measure. At a recent meeting, he asked for research on whether Moorpark should draft an ordinance or rely on state regulations.
“I’m sure we don’t want the porn industry looking at Moorpark, with lots of vacant commercial and industrial space,” he said. “We need to promote business, but there are probably some businesses we probably don’t need to promote that well.”