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Hollywood Adult Video Shop Joins Zoning Battle

January 04, 1987|REGINALD SMITH and NANCY GRAHAM | Times Staff Writers

A Hollywood shop has joined a number of other adult entertainment businesses in fighting a city law that severely restricts their operations.

Stan's Video and Book Store at 1117 N. Western Ave. is fighting a segment of the much-amended 1978 Los Angeles zoning ordinance that prohibits two adult entertainment businesses from locating under one roof.

Attorney Roger Jon Diamond of Pacific Palisades said the store's operating permit was revoked several years ago because the video viewing booths were enclosed. Diamond successfully argued in Municipal Court that the ordinance prohibiting enclosed booths violated the right to privacy. The decision was later overturned by the appellate department of Superior Court. The case has been returned to Municipal Court where the stores face charges of operating two adult entertainment businesses under one roof.

Most of the other establishments that cater to sexual fantasies through live strip shows and the sale of books and videos are rebelling against the ordinance forbidding such businesses from locating near schools, religious institutions, public parks and each other. Most of the businesses are in the San Fernando Valley.

Several other adult businesses--all in the San Fernando Valley except for Stan's Video and Books--have chosen to appeal citations from city Department of Building and Safety inspectors. The appeals to higher city authorities clearly are being made with an eye toward an eventual legal challenge.

And one other business, Le Sex Shoppe on Vanowen Street in North Hollywood, is in court fighting a criminal misdemeanor complaint filed by the city attorney's office.

"We think the ordinance at this point is shot full of constitutional defects," said David M. Brown, a Beverly Hills attorney who says he represents the owners of many of the adult entertainment businesses in Los Angeles, including Le Sex Shoppe.

"It's been made pretty obvious that the purpose of the law is to completely eliminate the bookstore industry," he continued. "But don't think the entire adult bookstore industry is simply going to pack up and leave."

But the city's legal minds and the officials empowered to enforce the ordinance are confident that it is on strong legal footing, especially since similar laws in other cities have successfully withstood court challenges.

"It's clearly not our intent to wipe out adult entertainment businesses," said Claudia McGee-Henry, a deputy city attorney who helped draft the Los Angeles ordinance. "The law is legally sound and perfectly appropriate."

For some time after the City Council unanimously adopted the restrictions, hardly a word was heard from the industry. The ordinance, modeled after a Detroit law, uses zoning regulations to disperse sex establishments rather than confine them to a single area. Like other cities throughout the country rushing to adopt a Detroit-type law, the Los Angeles City Council blamed the clustering of adult entertainment businesses for increases in prostitution, robberies, assaults and loitering.

Under the Los Angeles ordinance, businesses that primarily provide adult or X-rated entertainment are prohibited from being within 1,000 feet of each other and within 500 feet of any school, church or public park.

What Ordinance Covers

The ordinance includes within the definition of "adult entertainment" adult arcades (or peep shows), bookstores, cabarets, adult motels and theaters and establishments such as bathhouses and massage parlors.

Brown said most of the industry did not argue with the original law. "It was a pretty reasonable ordinance," he said. "If the city had left the ordinance the way they originally enacted it, my guess is that there would be no challenges to it."

In fact, Franklin Eberhard, the city's chief zoning administrator, said that, for years, not even one appeal of a citation issued to an adult business for a zoning violation came across his desk.

All that changed, however, as amendments were added to the ordinance, Brown and others representing the industry contend.

There were two significant changes in the past three years. One prohibits the fairly common practice of having two types of adult entertainment activities--a bookstore and a video arcade, for instance--operating under the same roof.

Second Change

The other prohibits all X-rated establishments, including those already in existence, within 500 feet of a residential area. Existing establishments have, for the most part, until March 10, 1988, to comply. Most will be affected by the residential restriction, city officials concede, though they insist there are areas of the city where the businesses can relocate.

"It is not our attempt to put anybody out of business," Eberhard said. "We did an extensive study and identified a number of potential sites where these businesses can go."

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