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A customer shows of their tattoo at Freddy V's American Tattoo in Oceanside. Photo via Facebook/Freddy V's
A customer shows of their tattoo at Freddy V's American Tattoo in Oceanside. Photo via Facebook/Freddy V's
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Oceanside council eases some zoning rules for tattoo parlors

OCEANSIDE — The city is changing some of its zoning rules for tattoo establishments after a new tattoo parlor was mistakenly granted a business license and another potential shop owner struggled to find a site that met city requirements.

The Oceanside City Council unanimously approved introducing an ordinance at its Aug. 18 meeting that would change some zoning rules on tattoo establishments.

The changes including removing the 500-foot separation requirement for tattoo parlors from residential districts as long as a freeway like Interstate 5 or state highways like Routes 76 and 78 are located in between.

The change would also delete Chapter 33 of the city’s tattoo parlor regulations, which dictates that parlors must obtain a permit from the city’s police chief, meet certain additional public health and safety requirements and limits parlors to one for every 50,000 residents.

The city hasn’t been applying Chapter 33’s rules since 2016 after the city approved a zoning amendment regulating First Amendment land use businesses like tattoo shops.

According to Planner Stefanie Cervantes, the applicant of 1413 North Coast Highway initiated the zone amendment proposal in February 2021 due to the applicant’s difficulty in finding a site for a tattoo parlor that met all the buffer requirements.

Then, in March 2021, the city received another business license application for a tattoo parlor at 3753 Mission Avenue, which was subsequently granted in April.

After Freddie V’s American Tattoo opened on June 3, owners Freddy and Jacque Von Musser were dismayed to hear from the city which informed the married couple that the regulated use permit that was previously issued to the site was rescinded after The Arcade tattoo shop located at 604 Mission Avenue was approved.

Now, Freddy V’s owners must apply for an administrative regulated use permit to be able to continue operating, but the permit can’t be issued with the current separation requirements in place.

Unlike cannabis businesses, which can obtain location waivers from the city for sites that fall outside of zoning restrictions, there are no provisions currently in place for tattoo shops to receive location waivers, which is why the zoning change is necessary.

The proposed zoning amendment change, which will go into effect after Council officially approves the introduced ordinance changing the rules, will affect five areas in the city. Three of the locations are unlikely to have tattoo shops anyway, while the remaining two areas each support the 1413 North Coast Highway proposed tattoo shop and Freddy V’s shop as well.

With a location in San Clemente and now one in Oceanside, Freddy V’s currently employs three combat veteran tattoo artists. Jacque Von Musser said she has had two other artists inquire about working there as well, but she is unable to hire them until the zoning situation is resolved.

Von Musser also told City Council about the added stress that the city’s mistake has caused her. If her business were forced to close, she and her husband would be out more than $200,000 after signing a five-year lease agreement and employing artists.

“It would be awful if my business is taken away and forced to close,” she said. “We’re a clean and sober business.”

City Attorney John Mullen explained that the error happened because the site’s previously rescinded conditional use permit was not recorded in the city’s development services tracking system, which is why it was missed by staff when Freddy V’s shop was approved for a business license.

Prior to Council’s unanimous approval to move forward with the zoning change, Mayor Esther Sanchez apologized on behalf of the city to the Von Mussers.

“Our deepest apologies,” Sanchez said. “Stress is a horrible thing.”