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02.25.09

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The Kids Aren't All Right?

By Gabe Meline


Though Santa Rosa's general plan calls for city policy to "consider the diverse cultural needs and talents of the community," the city council will soon consider a report that would ban tattoo shops and smoke shops downtown and would place added restrictions on all-ages clubs. The 11-page report on the proposed zoning amendments, containing an additional 31 pages of maps, council minutes and emails, will go before city council on March 17. Those interested in the line between legality and morality are encouraged to speak at the meeting.

In November 2007, the city council asked staff to draw up policy to "limit or prohibit" tattoo parlors and smoke shops in the downtown area. Though council membership has changed since then, the recently released staff report proposes reclassifying tattoo parlors and smoke shops in the zoning code and barring new shops from opening downtown. Existing smoke shops and tattoo parlors would be allowed to stay open.

However, on Jan. 22, the planning commission reviewed the report, heard comments from the public and recommended instead, in a unanimous vote, that the city council allow smoke shops and tattoo shops in the downtown core with a minor use permit. Currently, there are only two tattoo parlors and four smoke shops listed in the affected commercial downtown core. Nowhere in the report is any study cited linking tattoo shops or smoke shops with criminal activity.

The report also proposes loosening citywide restrictions on nightclubs that serve alcohol while actually strengthening restrictions on all-ages clubs that do not serve alcohol. Currently, nightclubs involving both alcohol and entertainment require a conditional use permit subject to a planning commission review, a public hearing and fees totaling $13,215. The proposal would allow nightclubs to operate with only a minor use permit, a far less lengthy process with a tab of only $2,390.

But the kids would have more hoops to jump through. Entertainment and recreation facilities that don't serve alcohol—in other words, all-ages clubs—would go from current permitted status to requiring a minor use permit not just in downtown, but citywide. A minor use permit would place conditions of approval in the hands of the city's police and fire departments, who in the past have appeared to selectively target all-ages clubs. The report specifically lists fire and police department approval of hours, occupancy, noise, emergency exits, security and lighting in order for an all-ages club to open.

The public is invited to the city council meeting scheduled for 5pm on Tuesday, March 17, at the Santa Rosa Council Chambers, City Hall. Those wishing to speak should arrive early to fill out a speaker's card. A link to the full report can be found at [ http://www.bohemian.com/bohoblog ]www.bohemian.com/bohoblog.


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