Phillip Pesola –
Citrus Heights City Council opted to delay a vote on a proposal to address the rapid growth of massage establishments in the city and curb abuse following public discussion and input at a town hall hearing Thursday. concerns about illegal activities of such businesses.
Senior planner Alison Bermudez briefed council on details of the proposed changes at its April 13 council meeting.
This presentation outlines a proposed amendment to Title 22, Title 8 of the Citrus Heights Municipal Code regarding massage establishments. Bermudez said the purpose of the update is to support legal massage therapists, implement operating restrictions to reduce illegal activity and reduce the city’s resources devoted to processing new permits.
Massage therapy, as a legitimate business, can provide health benefits such as stress reduction, pain relief and improved immune function, Bermudez said. However, she noted that some establishments were found to be engaging in illegal activities. Common indicators of such activity include locked doors, covered windows, no paperwork or pricing, and cash-only transactions, she said.
The main proposed amendments include a cap on the number of businesses, revising visibility requirements, allowing video surveillance and revising the application process. The cap is intended to address the city’s growing number of businesses, which has nearly doubled in the past few years — from 16 in 2019 to 29 in 2023.
The cap will be set at one establishment per 3,400 people, allowing 25 locations. Incumbents in good standing will not be affected by the cap and can continue to operate. The “public necessity” exception will also allow the council to grant requests that exceed the licensing cap on a case-by-case basis.
Citrus Heights currently has a much higher concentration of massage establishments than several nearby cities, Bermudez said. Citrus Heights has one massage parlor for every 2,978 people, while Elk Grove has one for every 13,613 people and Rancho Cordova has one for every 11,480 people, she said.
Other amendments include ensuring exterior doors remain unlocked (except in one-person establishments) and allowing video surveillance in non-treatment areas for security purposes. The proposal also includes provisions for evictions due to uncontrollable circumstances or lease terminations.
Community outreach efforts were undertaken and feedback from massage therapists, business owners and property owners was incorporated into the amendment. The changes proposed by city staff are said to be in line with the council’s strategic goals of enhancing community vitality, community engagement and maintaining public safety.
During a public hearing, a local massage therapist said she believed the new changes would harm local businesses and said she would like to see exemptions for individual practitioners, who she said were rarely located in shopping centers and engaged in Most massage places “do a different type of work” than others.
“Instead of attacking and blocking legitimate businesses, the city should enforce laws on prostitution and human trafficking,” she said.
Following the presentation and public comments, Assemblyman Brett Daniels asked questions about home businesses and received clarification that the amendment does not apply to them. He also expressed concern that the amendment might be too restrictive, saying, “I think we just have to be very careful not to interfere with legitimate business practices.”
Daniels also advocated that massage businesses owned and operated by only one person should be exempt from the cap, whether they operate outside or not.
Councilwoman Jayna Karpinski-Costa agreed with Daniels that there should be an exception for the self-employed.
Mayor Tim Schaefer summarized the council’s comments, sharing his concerns about the wording of the ordinance and how it is being applied.
“I would say that I’m still a little fuzzy about how and to whom, and I want to make sure that it applies to everyone equally,” Schaefer said. “So at this point, I’m not sure we’ve got the right The regulations … I want to do a little more work and then think about it.”
The committee deliberated on the proposal for 25 minutes and directed city staff to revise the proposal and resubmit it at a later meeting.