City Councilman Uvaldo Martinez strolled Thursday into a 5th Avenue store called Pleasureland, walked past magazine racks covered with color photos of naked men and women, and entered a dimly lit room full of "peep show" booths inside which TV screens glowed with a parade of flesh while tinny music played in the background.
To his chagrin, he observed that each booth still had a door on it, in defiance of a new city ordinance --which he wrote and which took effect Thursday--that requires the removal of peep-show doors and curtains.
Police checked a number of the city's porn stores Thursday and found that some are disobeying the regulation, vice squad chief Sgt. Tom Giaquinto said. Additional checks were planned for Thursday night and this morning, he added.
No arrests had been made by late Thursday afternoon, although "arrest is an option that's available to us," Giaquinto said.
Martinez maintains his ordinance will allow police to prevent prostitution and drug use inside peep show booths. "I don't think downtown San Diego deserves a reputation for being 'sin city,' " Martinez said.
The penalty for lack of compliance is the loss of the license to operate a peep show.
Art Skolnik, executive director of the Gaslamp Quarter Council, estimated the district has "about a dozen peep shows."
Skolnik said, "This whole business of taking doors off is a Band-Aid. It's an important step, but the real issue is getting rid of the (porn) businesses here. Our goal here is to get rid of the adult entertainment businesses before the convention center opens in 1987."
Porn "brings that massive young male flesh down here, and that brings other people who abuse them: pimps, people who roll them (for money)," Skolnik said.
A man who identified himself as the manager of Pleasureland declined to talk to a reporter, except to refer all questions to store attorney Tom Homann.
Efforts to reach Homann were unsuccessful.
Homann, who represents a number of porn stores, has appealed the ordinance to the California Supreme Court, according to attorney Tony Shanley of the city attorney's office. The Supreme Court hasn't decided whether to review the case, Shanley said.
Both Martinez and police said they lacked statistics about allegations of prostitution and drug activities at the peep shows.
But Martinez also insisted that he pushed the ordinance through because of concern over such activities there, not to speed the cleanup of downtown before the opening of developer Ernest Hahn's $140-million Horton Plaza shopping complex in August.
"It really had nothing to do with the Hahn plaza," Martinez said. "A lot of it had to do with the fact I'd walk by these places on my way to breakfast, and I'd see young kids in the area . . . (The stores contain) absolute trash. There are healthy sexual attitudes and unhealthy ones, and this doesn't promote a healthy one. It's destructive to the health and safety of the community."
Pleasureland has 28 peep shows, according to an employee who insisted on anonymity. The employee, who said he inserts video cassettes and films inside booths at Pleasureland and two other porn stores, said he likes his work "just fine. It's a job. I have to pay $340 a month for my apartment and $80 a month to pay for my car, so why not? I work 8 to 4."
The employee said he had never seen drug use or prostitution inside the store: "They could deal (drugs or sex) as easily on the street as they can in here."