City leaders move ahead with massage ordinance

The Huntington Beach City Council on Monday approved changes to a proposed massage parlor ordinance that would crack down on illicit businesses but maintain state-established regulations.

Passing on a 6-0 vote, with Councilman Joe Carchio absent, the multiple changes include tweaks to operating hours and outcall massages, occasions when the therapist travels to the client.

City Attorney Jennifer McGrath worked with Ahmos Netanel and his staff from the California Massage Therapy Council to ensure the city's ordinance abides by state laws.

"After the last meeting, they wanted to give us their input," McGrath said. "We implemented probably 90% of what they wanted because a lot of it is covered by state law and we're really hyper-focused on taking care of the human-trafficking incidents."

According to the staff report, some changes include modifying operating hours from between 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. to between 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and removing the requirement that employees wear their Massage Therapy Council identification card while working.

Police Capt. William Stuart added an additional amendment that night, allowing certified massage professionals to perform outcall massages at a customer's private home so long as the location isn't the employee's residence and the visit doesn't occur between 11 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Netanel and the Massage Therapy Council, an organization that has overseen most of the licensing and monitoring of massage parlors since 2009, said the ordinance is close to being complete and that the city is on "the right track."

"We have finally gotten away from the rhetoric and gotten down to the idea that we can write an ordinance that protects the legal rights of certified massage professionals but at the same time goes after the bad apples," Netanel said.


Sunset Beach Junior Lifeguards

Also Monday, more than two dozen people representing the Sunset Beach Junior Lifeguards gathered at the council chambers to ask council members to consider keeping the program open.

"With all the bad that occurs in the world, it is important that we allow such good things to continue, and that is the Sunset Beach Junior Lifeguard programs," director Larry Jacklin said.

Seventeen other representatives, including instructors and 10-year-old junior guards, also beseeched the council.

"The skills I have learned in this program have greatly impacted my school and leadership skills," guard instructor Ashley Standish said. "I would not be where I am if I did not have these skills today."

Mayor Pro Tem Matthew Harper said during council member comments that he has talked with the junior lifeguard program officials and wants to be proactive about the situation.

"I don't think we should be silent on this issue. I think this merits some discussion at the council level," Harper said. "I think there's a high threshold in terms of going against the memorandum of understanding with the community of Sunset Beach, and I think there's a way to be able to accommodate this program being able to continue, especially with the adjacent state beach just south of Warner [Avenue]."


OCTA Update

Harper and Orange County Transportation Authority representative Sarah King updated the public and council about upcoming closures on the 405 Freeway that are part of the West County Connectors project.

OCTA will close portions of the southbound 405 that connects to the eastbound 22 Freeway to demolish the bridge currently used by commuters. The demolition is scheduled to happen sometime this summer and will take about 20 hours to complete, King said.

"Some may think that we're premature with our outreach efforts, but we really want to make sure that your council and community knows that we're here as a resource to you," she said. "This is not Carmagedon. So many people have already started sharing that message, but this is not Carmagedon" — a phrase born of fear over the shutdown for construction purposes of a piece of the 405 in Los Angeles County in 2011.

Closures include the eastbound 22 connector from the northbound 405 and daytime closures of eastbound 22 to the northbound 605.

The $277 million project that started in 2010 links the carpool lane on the 405 Freeway to the 605 and 22 freeways and is expected to finish by late 2014.


Pinball Ordinance Repealed

Also, council members approved the introduction of an ordinance that would repeal the city's regulation of pinball machines.

Written in 1959, the law was put in place because lawmakers at the time believed that pinball machines were used as gambling devices, according to a staff report.

City Manager Fred Wilson said Harper and Councilwoman Jill Hardy stumbled upon it as they were doing research on other ordinances. He said other provisions are in place to address gambling and the pinball law had never been enforced.

Some ordinances appear to be outdated or obsolete, Harper said. "Maybe they were addressing an issue that may have been important at the time in the 1950s but may not be relevant today," he said.

Before the vote, Shaw commented: "Pinball machines are not a crime!"

Twitter: @acocarpio

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