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November 01, 2002|Kristina Sauerwein | Times Staff Writer

The San Fernando Valley's pornography industry has no official stand on the secession question facing voters Tuesday. And the truth is, neither side in the secession debate is looking for the endorsement of the adult entertainment business, even if it is one of the biggest dollar-generators in the Valley.

But actors, producers, directors and health-care providers for the billion-dollar industry have seized on the secession campaign as an opportunity to demand more recognition -- and support -- from local government.

Some say they believe their industry will fare better under an independent Valley city, despite perceptions that a breakaway city would be more conservative than Los Angeles.

"We are the Valley," said Shayla Laveaux, 32, an adult performer and producer who runs Shayla Productions with her cinematographer husband. They live in West Hills with two dogs. "The Valley depends on what we do."

Laveaux said she has been studying her sample ballot, and secession looks like a way to get more respect for the industry.

Bill Lyon, executive director of the Chatsworth-based Free Speech Coalition, which represents porn companies, agrees.

"We would become more important to the swing of things," he said. "We might have a greater voice with elected officials."

Lyon is scheduled today to address the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn.'s annual conference in Woodland Hills. VICA, a Valley cityhood backer, will look at porn's increasing impact on the local economy.

Many workers for X-rated companies want city business-tax incentives for the industry and funding for a health clinic.

"Seceding may generate better return on our tax dollars," said Daniel Metcalf, a spokesman for Wicked Pictures in Canoga Park, one of the industry's biggest production companies.

According to the industry's estimates, porn employs 9,000 people in the Valley, and generates $30 million a year in state sales taxes. The Valley produces more than 80% of the nation's porn and 90% of its sex-related toys.

The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. lumps in porn with the mainstream entertainment industry, which employs about 227,700 workers in the area and generated more than $30 billion in gross revenues last year. Jack Kyser, the group's director of economic research, said the adult industry's contribution to the sector, while not specifically broken out, is substantial.

"Some people may turn up their noses, but, anecdotally, it generates significant revenues for the local economy," said Kyser, who will speak at today's VICA conference.

Moral issues aside, Valley secession leader Richard Katz said elected officials would be remiss to ignore the porn industry.

"The reality is that it is a huge industry, and while the rest of [mainstream] production is fleeing Southern California, the adult entertainment industry is staying here," he said. "It puts a lot of people to work."

No one can -- or wants to -- say exactly how secession might affect the porn industry, or the economies of a new Valley and the remaining L.A.

"It's never come up," said Kam Kuwata, anti-secession strategist for Mayor James K. Hahn. "In all honesty, I've done zero research.... I think I'll stay away from it."

Valley secessionists also shied away from the topic.

"I have no opinion," said Richard Close, chairman of the leading Valley breakaway group. "I don't know of any pluses or minuses."

Adult entertainers said such responses are typical.

"They'll take our money and watch our products," said Sharon Mitchell, 44, an ex-porn star who runs a Sherman Oaks health clinic specializing in the "special needs of a sex worker."

"But will they [help fund efforts to prevent] chlamydia and gonorrhea? No."

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