Using the same rationale for , the city council voted Monday night that staff moves forward with changing massage parlor regulations to comply with the California law.
City Attorney Pamela Thompson said that more and more cities have been amending their ordinances to comply with state law to avoid any legal issues, the action that she recommended.
“Why would you not comply with state law?” said Councilmember Jeff Gee. “It makes the most sense. The higher law tells us what to do.”
Currently, 61 of Redwood City’s 77 massage business employees at the 22 locations in Redwood City already have state licenses, while 16 have city permits only, and two have a city permit and state license. To obtain a state license, businesses must only employ certified massage therapists. To obtain certification, massage therapists must complete 500 hours at an accredited school. View a map of the 22 locations in the attached pdf.
These standards are stricter, compared to the 250 hours required by Redwood City and 100 hours required by other cities.
“There’s a trend that most cities are moving towards,” Thompson said of the decision to align with state rules. “Employees obtain adequate education, and it provides consistency amongst businesses.”
Thompson noted that the state law on massage parlors was continually evolving, prompting Councilmember John Seybert to suggest automatically amending the ordinance to evolve along with state legislation.
“If we’re going to enact it, we’re going to need to keep up with it,” he said.
The state also rules that cities cannot enact laws if they are not applied in the same way to all other businesses like doctors, lawyers and architects. For example, cities cannot impose physical building characteristics or distance requirements specifically on massage parlors if those are not applied to doctors’ offices as well.
The has reported no enforcement problems or illegal activity from massage parlors within incorporated Redwood City.
“No criminal activity has ever been discovered,” said Interim Police Chief Chris Cesena.
He said that a street crime suppression team conducts massage parlor checks on a rotating basis, one as recently as two weeks ago.
However, the council alluded to potentially valid complaints that massage parlors bordering Redwood City, but technically on county property, have been engaging in other activities besides massages.
“What we have is legitimate,” Mayor Jeff Ira said. “We won’t tolerate that [illegal activity.] We will try to work with the county, but we keep our house clean.”
The council then directed staff to determine what would be a reasonable time to give massage parlors to obtain a state license.
Councilmembers also told staff that they were not interested in implementing regulations on outcalls for massages, or visits to the home. These people were often seniors or people with disabilities who need the services.
“If you forbid it, it will have an impact on the neediest clients,” said Beverly May, owner of Redwood Massage and Sauna, and the Director of Governmental Affairs for the non-profit California Massage Therapy Council.
She added that adding requirements like a doctor’s prescription would be enough to deter people from seeking the needed treatment. Other people often enjoy home massages for birthday presents or for a pregnant woman.