CITY HALL — The owner of a facility that once housed a massage operation suspected of Medicare fraud pleaded with city planners on Wednesday to grant a permit that would allow her to operate a day spa.
Hoping to change the reputation of the then-illegal medical massage operation at 125 W. Los Feliz Road, owner Lucy Artinyan requested that City Planner Kristen Asp approve a permit that would allow massage services at the same location, but in a newly renovated day spa.
"I am 59 years old, and I am not going to do any wrong things over there," she said at a hearing Wednesday. "I just want to have my own business. I dreamed of having my own business."
Artinyan was the facility's landlord while the illegal medical operation was open for business, but she said the ownership has been transferred to her son.
She said she wasn't aware of the old facility's illegal history.
The facility had operated from 2005 to 2007 as a medical office, which provided massages with the referral of a licensed doctor, Glendale Police Lt. Steve Davey said.
Suspected criminals were often seen at the facility and were running a Medicare fraud operation, he said.
Despite the Medicare fraud investigation at the former parlor, Davey said he wasn't opposed to allowing Artinyan run a day spa and granting an 18-month permit to ensure it was operating legally.
"The current model, if it was a day spa, would probably remove that criminal element because what had been suspected there was Medicare fraud," he said.
Project designer Garo Nazarian told Asp the facility, which was vacant for three years, will house a luxurious day spa offering massages from licensed professionals.
"The proposed use is a high-end, quality day spa facility that … will not be detrimental to the public health," he said. "On the contrary, it will provide a valuable service to it, and it will enhance generally the area and the neighborhood."
Facials will also be offered at the spa, which is proposed to operate from 9 a.m.to 9 p.m. daily.
But Margaret Hammond, an Adams Hill Homeowners Assn. member, objected to the spa, citing concerns about the facility's history.
"I just think this is not a good type of business to be open in that area," she said. "We have enough crime. We have the highest density — 40%, which means 80,000 people below Colorado [Street], and this just adds to our crime down there. This type of business is not what is needed in that area — if it is not medically connected, then why are we having it there."
Still, Planning Assistant Gevorg Nazaryan recommended that Asp approve the permit for a year only, which would allow the city to track the spa's operations.
If the day spa is operated properly, Nazaryan said the facility could benefit the neighborhood, which already has a hospital and a commercial business district.
"It could be a nice addition to the area," he said.
A decision on the store's permit application will be rendered later.