New rule proposes certificate, background check for massage spas

City Council moved closer this week to authorizing a new ordinance that would require massage spa owners who are not authorized by a state agency to pay for a $521 certificate and undergo a criminal background check.

The proposed ordinance would force spa operators who are not certified by the California Massage Therapy Council and who own at least 5% of the business to obtain a city-issued massage-establishment-owner certificate annually.

“It’s no different from any of the other permits issued throughout the city,” said Senior Asst. City Atty. Michael Grant during a City Council meeting on Tuesday.

The ordinance was drafted after police arrested a 34-year-old masseuse who allegedly offered sex acts to an undercover police officer in June at Ivy Spa in the 600 block of East Colorado Street.

City officials said the ordinance would give some control over massage owners or operators who are not certified.

The ordinance also proposes to increase window transparency from 65% to 75% for personal services and massage establishments.

The amendment would prohibit the use of drapes, blinds and shelving to block visibility inside the business.

Councilman Ara Najarian expressed concern about increasing window visibility because many different types of businesses have window obstructions, such as optometrists.

“I don’t want to go too far down this road because I think it’s going to be tough enforcing it,” he said.

If council members approve the ordinance next week, the Police Department will also be authorized to perform criminal background checks on massage business owners or operators.

City officials can choose not to issue a certificate to an owner for any number of disqualifying types of conduct.

The city can also revoke a certificate and impose fines for violations.

The new law “will empower the city and remove any ambiguity about the authority of the city to maintain control of such establishments,” said Ahmos Netanel, the state massage council’s chief executive officer.

Massage therapist Armond Khodaverdin, who owns PerfecTouch Therapy on Glenoaks Boulevard, welcomed the new ordinance.

Khodaverdin said he has seen many clients who have suffered physical injury from improper massages they received at other establishments in the city.

“They damage our presence,” Khodaverdin said.

City and counties were able to control massage establishments and therapists through a permit process until 2009, said Senior Asst. City Atty. Michael Grant..

The process, he said, was effective for regulating establishments where crimes had been committed.

But in 2009, the state passed legislation that allowed massage therapists to practice throughout the state without having to obtain a permit from a city or county.

That same year, lawmakers created the nonprofit state massage council as well as a certification process for massage therapists, who must undergo a criminal background check and submit fingerprints to obtain a certificate from the state council.

The council’s certification process, Netanel said, helps “protect the public from illegitimate massage providers and streamline the certification process for massage professionals throughout the state.

In 2011, the city adopted an ordinance that required massage therapists to show proof they are certified by the state council.

Massage establishments in Glendale must also hire only massage therapists who are certified by the council.


Follow Veronica Rocha on Google+ and on Twitter: @VeronicaRochaLA.


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