2012-03-30 / Front Page

Condom law needs tweaking

Becerra believes ordinance has to ‘have teeth’
By Carissa Marsh

City leaders aren’t ready to seal the deal on a law mandating condom use on adult film shoots due to concerns that the ordinance as written might not go far enough in deterring porn producers from coming to Simi Valley.

“If we’re going to create a law, the law has got to have teeth,” Councilmember Glen Becerra said.

The Simi Valley City Council first discussed the possibility of adopting the law on Jan. 30, less than two weeks after the Los Angeles City Council approved its ordinance mandating condom use by porn actors on any adult set requiring a film permit within L.A. city limits.

The decision in L.A. sparked local concern that the adult entertainment industry—the hub of which is located in the San Fernando Valley—might pick up and move over the hill from Chatsworth to Simi, just outside the L.A. County line, to escape the new rule.

While there is disagreement among Simi leaders as to whether or not that shift would actually happen, the council moved forward with the ordinance, which was scheduled to have its second reading March 26—the final step in the adoption of a new law.

Simi native Keith Mashburn is one resident who supports the law, saying it is more than a health issue—it’s about maintaining local control and quality of life.

“It’s really about the degradation of our community,” Mashburn said. “If we allow an industry like this to take over the city, we will see our property values drop, business community be hurt, industrial community be hurt, and soon we will have a bigger roadblock to the recovery that we look forward to.”

But with Mayor Pro Tem Barbra Williamson’s motion and Councilmember Mike Judge’s second to give final approval to the law Monday night, Becerra said he wanted more discussion on the proposed ordinance.

To protect the community’s quality of life and to fully address the concern that there will be a “ wholesale movement” of the porn industry from Chatsworth to Simi, Becerra said, the ordinance must be revised to apply not just to single, isolated filming events but also to productions that happen inside movie studios.

“If that’s what we’re really worried about here, this ordinance is empty, it is worthless, it doesn’t do anything,” he said. “This would have no impact on the industry at all.”

Simi’s ordinance is modeled on L.A.’s, which only applies to adult film shoots requiring a permit, and permits are not needed when filming on a soundstage or studio backlot since those locations are already specifically permitted for filming.

With the fear of Simi’s ample vacant industrial space being turned into adult film studios, Becerra said the ordinance must be rewritten before it gets a stamp of approval.

But Mayor Bob Huber, who’d brought the issue to the council months ago because he wanted to be proactive in keeping the porn industry out of town, didn’t want to wait to vote.

“I’m not in favor of delaying this any longer. It’s time we stand up and be counted on this issue,” the mayor said. “You’re welcome to vote against it; I’m going to vote for it.”

Becerra said he’s not against the law, he just wants to make sure it does what the council has intended it to do.

Judge said the ordinance as written has merit even if it addresses only single-location filming.

As an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, Judge knows firsthand that “flyby night agencies” will film in vacant houses they rent without going through the necessary regulatory channels and without concern for the surrounding neighborhood.

“I’ve watched them film with 48 actors next to a daycare center with a 4-foot-high wall with all the kids looking over the wall at them,” Judge said.

“What happens is the police get called, they roll out, see what’s going on. First of all they’ll get slammed for not having a film permit and now they’ll get slammed for violation of this ordinance if they catch them doing it without the condoms. And trust me, they don’t stop when the cops walk in. . . . They don’t care.”

Councilmember Steve Sojka isn’t convinced the council should be passing any ordinance.

“ This ordinance is just a message saying, ‘ You’re not welcome.’ And I’m all for that. I’m not for the porn industry; we don’t want it in Simi Valley,” Sojka said. “But to pass an ordinance like this is just a poster child for bad government.

“We are basically considering an ordinance that is purely political and in my opinion a waste of taxpayer resources. We have bigger issues to be focused on.”

In addition, he doesn’t like the idea that the law puts enforcement on the porn purveyors themselves.

As outlined in the draft law, the permit holder would have to secure the services of a healthcare professional who would oversee all filming and then submit an affidavit that the rules were followed. The producer would also submit an unedited copy of the film to the Simi Valley Police Department for review.

Sojka said the council should make a statement against the porn industry’s setting up shop in Simi instead of spending staff time drafting, revising and implementing an ordinance that he believes is unenforceable, especially when it is “yet to be seen” if producers and performers will really leave L.A.

Ultimately, the council decided to have the city attorney rewrite part of the ordinance so that studios are included and the only exception to the condom rule is filming for personal use. City leaders will revisit the issue April 9.

“I want to make sure we do it right. If we’re going to pass a law, there should be no exceptions,” Becerra said.

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