At a recent meeting of about 30 workers and city officials, including Acting City Attorney Don Larkin, the city rolled out a draft of the new ordinance. It was the first of several such meetings planned to share the new law with practitioners before a final version is prepared and sent to the City Council sometime in the fall.
Although much of the draft ordinance is simply carried over from the existing law and most newly reworked portions are welcomed by many local massage therapists, some at the meeting were rightly incensed at the record-keeping provision, which is a major change from current practice and is not included in SB 731, the 2008 law that the city is using as a guide for the new ordinance.
But Larkin said this week that his department is rethinking the record-keeping provision that would allow police to view detailed client lists at any establishment whenever they decided to inspect the premises.
This is certainly the right reaction to a provision that in our view had no business being in the ordinance in the first place. We can't see any need for police to be snooping into the records of massage establishments, which must obtain their operating permit from the police in the first place. As even a cursory look at the proposed regulations show, the massage industry already is heavily regulated and if police have any concern at all about an operation they have plenty of tools at their disposal to investigate.
Other provisions of the proposed new ordinance should help local establishments, such as a substantial reduction in fees, regulating sole practitioners, an increase in the education requirements and a requirement that all massage businesses carry a minimum of $100,000 in malpractice insurance.
We are looking forward to seeing a revised ordinance that will drop the record-keeping requirement and give massage establishments the same considerations enjoyed by other small businesses in Palo Alto.