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Spa owner points to unprofessional practices

OCEANSIDE — Alicia Wright, co-owner of Massage World, spoke to City Council on June 11 about unprofessional practices she observed at a dozen Oceanside massage parlors.

She said she is angry that 12 businesses offering massage are allegedly practicing prostitution, and added some of the businesses are located near schools.

“It’s criminal and a public nuisance,” Wright said. “The city needs to do something now to prevent these sort of businesses.”

Wright said telltale signs that prostitution is occurring are 24-hour operations, covered storefront windows, customers purposefully parking off site, table showers being offered and online advertising that includes scantily clad women and suggestive wording.

“It’s pretty obvious what they’re doing,” Wright said.

“The way they advertise they’re trying to get men in, and definitely offering them sex. I read the (online) reviews of people who had sex there. It’s disgusting. Enough is enough.”

Wright has been working as a massage therapist in Oceanside for 10 years. She said 99.9 percent of customers who come in to Massage World understand that it is a therapeutic massage spa.

However, the recent surge of massage parlors opening in Oceanside has led a small percent of customers to “test the waters” and harass massage therapists.

Wright said fellow spa owners are also feeling a backlash from massage parlors’ illegal practices.

Wright said she has contacted the California Massage Therapy Council, which issues massage business certificates, and the FBI about the alleged illegal practices in Oceanside, without much response.

“I want to see these places closed,” Wright said. “For places like these, there needs to be a zero tolerance.”

Oceanside Police Chief Frank McCoy met with Wright immediately following the meeting and said the police department would look into the 12 Oceanside businesses she listed.

Police investigations entail undercover operations and online research, which then lead to arrests.

City Attorney John Mullen said the boom in massage businesses is due to SB 731, which overrode cities’ regulations that helped curtail problems.

SB 731 was passed in 2009, and allows massage businesses to open with a voluntary certificate from the California Massage Therapy Council.

Prior to SB 731 massage businesses required city certification.

Oceanside regulations required massage business permits to be reviewed by the police department, and put restrictions on businesses’ proximity to each other.

Mullen said where one massage business would previously be allowed to open; dozens are now popping up statewide.

More businesses increase the likelihood of violations.

City police and code enforcement still actively investigate and pursue criminal charges, but there are fewer upfront regulations to ward off violations and more businesses to oversee.

Mullen said SB 731 is set to sunset Jan. 1, 2015, and return land use authority to California cities. He said if the bill successfully sunsets it would allow stricter city regulations to be enacted.