The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Zack Scrivner
Kern County Supervisor 

Massage Parlor ordinance

From our Supervisor

 

The Kern County Board of Supervisors receives feedback and responds to concerns raised by Kern County residents on a regular basis. We take our community's concerns very seriously, and evaluate the best actions to take on each issue presented to us. Earlier this year, our Board was presented with an issue from a local business owner regarding a massage facility adjacent to her business and suspected prostitution taking place. She asked us to look into the matter as she felt strongly that this was a larger issue affecting Kern County. Our Board requested that Kern County Public Health Services investigate the issue of massage establishments, how they are regulated and whether there was a potential threat to the health and safety of our community.

Many California county and city governmental jurisdictions have laws in place to regulate massage establishments, including the City of Bakersfield. While the County of Kern had a massage ordinance in place, State law has been amended multiple times since the ordinance's inception, and therefore, the ordinance needed to be updated to be consistent with the intention of state legislation and to align more closely with the language included in the City of Bakersfield's massage ordinance.

Public Health met with business owners and detectives with the Bakersfield Police Department, and spoke with other California jurisdictions about their approach to regulating massage facilities. Shockingly, the Bakersfield Police Department responds to massage facility complaints within the City, finding that more than 80% of the time the facility was engaging in acts of prostitution. In addition, they referred the Public Health Services Department to a fee-based website where reviews are posted about sexual acts in massage establishments, and local reviews indicate that there is a widespread occurrence of such acts in Kern County massage establishments. While there are many local massage facilities that conduct professional and valuable services to our community, the research done by Public Health also brings light to the significant amount of illegal and unsafe activities happening in many local massage establishments.

For these reasons, on July 18, 2017, Public Health presented at our regularly scheduled Board of Supervisors meeting and asked to consider changes to the Kern County Ordinance Code related to the regulation of massage practitioners and establishments with the overall goal of protecting the health and safety of our community. As is customary, a public hearing for the ordinance was scheduled at the Board of Supervisors meeting on August 22, 2017 to give residents an opportunity to voice their opinions. The hearing was announced through advertisement in the Bakersfield Californian and multiple other newspapers throughout Kern County. On August 22, 2017 the public hearing was held and the Board unanimously adopted the new ordinance.

The ordinance requires massage practitioners to obtain their massage practitioner certification through the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC). CAMTC was created by the California Legislature through the enactment of Senate Bill 731. The purpose of CAMTC is to certify massage therapy professionals consistently throughout the State, ensuring they meet specific educational criteria, to enforce regulations on massage therapy professionals.

Additionally, under the ordinance, Public Health regulates massage establishments to ensure they maintain a safe and sanitary environment as well as establish reasonable standards to reduce the opportunity for acts of prostitution and human trafficking to occur. They partner with the Kern County Sheriff's Office to investigate all complaints and reports of suspected or known prostitution and/or human trafficking activities in massage establishments.

Additionally, owners of massage establishments are required to apply for a permit with an annual cost of $1,600, which equates to about $133 monthly. Permitted facilities receive an educational class to review the requirements of the ordinance, receive a pre-operation site inspection to ensure compliance with Kern County Building Code, receive a background check (if the owner is not CAMTC certified), as well as an annual health inspection to ensure appropriate sanitary conditions and practices are maintained. After a year, the Department will re-evaluate permit fees and consider a risk based approach as used with other permitted facilities in Kern County. Facilities that are found to struggle with compliance with health and safety regulations would be allocated a greater number of inspections and for those that have a record of compliance, we would minimize our oversight and subsequently reduced permit fees.

 
 

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