At June 18’s City Council meeting, Councilmembers discussed repealing and replacing existing Milpitas massage regulations so as to align with California law.
California has only had massage regulations since 2009, at which point the nonprofit California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC) started certifying massage therapists on a voluntary basis. Notably, California’s massage laws inhibited local communities’ ability to form city-specific regulations, which led to challenges in terms of legally pursuing massage parlors suspected of engaging in human trafficking and/or prostitution.
As of 2014, however, the tides have turned, putting authority back in local hands. Since ‘09, though, the City of Milpitas has not taken up the matter. By the most recent count (in 2016), Milpitas is host to 42 companies providing massage services, only 4 of which are legally permitted. Here and elsewhere, trafficking and prostitution concerns are widespread, and our local police and code enforcement officials are well-accustomed to receiving complaint calls.
Fourteen Milpitas massage businesses have been subject to Milpitas Police Department enforcement activity within a two-year period. Their problems weren’t limited to trafficking and sex crimes; massage establishments were found to have illegal physical alterations (so as to carve out massage rooms), unauthorized workers, illegal plumbing, and people dwelling onsite. In addition, authorities found contraceptive devices, along with workers in inappropriate, revealing clothing.
“Working towards stricter massage parlor regulations has been an ongoing effort for approximately 2 years,” said Mayor Rich Tran in an interview with The Milpitas Beat. “It’s a proposal I led after we had an incident here of prostitution in Milpitas. So it was really sweet to have the support of the Council in beginning to enact a policy that would prevent prostitution and human trafficking in our little town.”
Two summers ago, in June of 2017, Teffanie Spa on Hillview Drive was shut down following an undercover police investigation which uncovered prostitution on the premises.
Continuing the crackdown on illegal massage parlors was a stated goal of Mayor Tran as he entered his second term.
Our police and city attorney’s office have since worked to prepare a new ordinance to ensure stricter massage establishment permitting and massage worker certifications, stricter control over massage facilities and operating conditions, stricter permitting enforcement, and stricter dressing requirements, along with fresh provisions relating to advertising, alcohol and drugs, and sexual acts.
City Attorney Christopher Diaz said at the meeting that he knew upon beginning his work in Milpitas in 2015 that “This is one of the items in your municipal code that I knew was very needed in terms of an update.”
The City will absorb no budgetary impact as a result of the proposed ordinance’s approval. The City Council indicated support for the ordinance, though they will revisit it for a vote following their summer recess.