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Changes To Massage Ordinance Fail To Pass
Status Quo
City of Oakdale

Massage therapists flocked to the Monday evening Oakdale City Council meeting, Aug. 5 to express their concern regarding the ongoing debate on how to prevent another “Island Spa” situation from happening in Oakdale. Ultimately, the proposed amendments failed, sending the issue back to the prospective agencies for further study.

The amendment failed 3-2.

In 2015, Oakdale Police arrested a woman suspected of soliciting prostitution at the now closed massage parlor after an undercover sting operation revealed the woman propositioning the operative for a sexual act.

Legitimate massage therapists who felt their own business reputations were being sullied by the bad apple in town had grumbled about the Island Spa for years but police were repeatedly hog-tied by an inability to connect the proprietors to anything expressly against the city’s municipal code.

The ramifications of their illegal trade continues to reverberate through the city for some business owners, such as Jan Noble, owner of The Holistic Life Institute, who told Council members that certifications were stolen from her business by Island Spa associates, which have caused a rift between her and CAMTC, making certification through their agency for her students, improbable.

Going forward, the city has tried to close the loopholes that enabled a business like Island Spa to squeak past the checks and balances.

However, the process has been fraught with pitfalls as evidenced by the crowd that assembled in City Hall on Monday night as a balance is sought.

According to Council documents, “…The recommended updates to the City Code bring the Massage Establishment Regulations current with best practices throughout the State of California. The amendment aims to enact massage business practice mandates that will reduce the occurrence of illegal activity occurring in and association with massage businesses including human trafficking. The proposed update is in accordance with current laws and best practices. The CAMTC certification requirement applies to those individuals and businesses obtaining a massage business permit after October 1, 2019. The remaining business requirements apply to all massage businesses.”

Prior to 2009, individual municipalities, not the State of California, were responsible for regulating massage businesses and massage professionals. In 2009, the California State Legislature passed the California Massage Therapy Law or Senate Bill 731. This legislation established the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC), a nonprofit entity charged with issuing voluntary permits to all massage therapists in the state.

By 2014, the state returned authority to cities and counties to regulate the massage industries within their sphere.

Key provisions within the amendment included:

Massage businesses must obtain a “Massage Registration Certificate” verifying that a massage business consists of only CAMTC State-certified massage practitioners. The CAMTC certification requirement applies to those individuals and businesses obtaining a massage business permit after Oct. 1, 2019.

All massage businesses in the City must comply with operating standards addressing issues as hours of operation, cleanliness, attire, and advertising, to ensure health and safety and prevent illegal activities, including but not limited to the following: time of operation (7 a.m. to 9 p.m.), written records of services provided, no curtains, blinds or blurred windows that obstruct vision from the street into the reception area, no residency allowed within the structure where the business is conducted.

For the massage therapists in attendance, the main sticking point seemed to be the inclusion of CAMTC as the sole regulating agency, which is a voluntary state accreditation for massage therapists.

The suggestion to include verbiage in the amendment of “and/or” would allow for certification at a nationally recognized massage therapy accreditation, such as the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), which would trump the state accreditation.

Oakdale Police Chief Scott Heller said part of the draw of having CAMTC involved is the state agency handles the burden of conducting the applicant’s background investigation and Live Scan, which presents a cost-saving measure for the local department.

Councilwoman Ericka Chiara, one of the dissenting votes, expressed her concerns, saying, “…It’s not fair to ask someone that’s been in massage therapy for 20 years that moves to California to be closer to their families to go back and pay hundreds, thousands of dollars to go through a new certification process just to come and work in town. I think it’s a little bit unrealistic.”

The amendment failure will keep the current municipal code verbiage status quo until Council can revisit the issue.