Sexual activity at massage parlors could be explicitly prohibited and other new regulations enforced under a new effort targeting such businesses in The City.
Supervisor Katy Tang, who represents the Sunset district, introduced legislation Tuesday that is meant to improve city enforcement amid persistent complaints about brothels fronting as massage parlors.
"For years our office has heard from the community about potentially illegal activity taking place in some of our massage parlors in our district," Tang said. "We have also seen blatant advertisements in newspapers highlighting some of the alternative services that one can receive at our local massage establishments."
Yet in many ways The City's hands are tied by a 2008 state law limiting the power of local jurisdictions in regulating the massage parlor industry.
Operating under these confines, Tang said her legislation seeks to improve enforcement by amending the health code to codify penalties and violations, which she said are currently "only recommendations." Regulations allowed under state law include having masseuses wear photo identification cards, denying massage permits to those convicted of certain crimes, and banning sexual activity and the consumption of alcohol and nonprescription drugs.
"Current state law regulating the massage industry has created many loopholes in terms of enforcement, and several other jurisdictions throughout California are also coming to this realization," Tang said.
She added that she was "careful about not putting potential victims of human trafficking in further harm's way and also to not negatively impact those establishments that are operating in compliance with local, state and federal laws."
Tang also said her legislation is part of a larger conversation with various city departments about addressing human trafficking.
The City's last foray into massage parlor regulations was in 2009 when it created a more extensive permitting process and mandated that such businesses close by 10 p.m.
The problems associated with massage parlors are prevalent in the Sunset because of the sheer number of such businesses there. Tang said an informal survey by her office staff counted at least 30. And she said while these may be operating legally, it's still an "enormous over-concentration."