Residents Rally Against Tattoo Shops

The debate over ink returns as a group of residents presses the City Council to strictly regulate tattoo businesses.

Dozens of residents sat tensely before the Hermosa Beach City Council in a meeting at City Hall on Tuesday night to protest the number of tattoo parlors planning to open in town.

After listening to residents' concerns, the council unanimously agreed to direct the  to review city code that specifically addresses tattoo establishments.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in September that tattooing is a form of expression protected by the First Amendment.

The court decision required that Hermosa Beach overturn its ban on such businesses—and now some locals are not happy with the result, staging a war against tattoo design within city limits.

Residents first expressed concern to the City Council on March 8 about what they saw as a recent proliferation of tattoo studios in Hermosa Beach.

Since then, residents have formed a Facebook group, Twitter account and online petition to "keep tattoo parlors away from our Hermosa Beach schools, playgrounds and neighborhoods," the petition reads. The petition also lists that there could soon be a total of six tattoo parlors in town at the following sites:

  • Hermosa Tattoo Co. on Pier Plaza is licensed and open;
  • Eighth Street and Hermosa Avenue is licensed with an under construction logo;
  • Third Street and Pacific Coast Highway is licensed and reported to be coming soon;
  • Aviation Boulevard and 10th Street is licensed and reported to be coming soon;
  • PCH near Artesia Boulevard is reported to be coming soon;
  • Hermosa Avenue near 16th Street is reported to be coming soon.

As of noon Wednesday, the petition had 262 signatures.

The group that gathered at the City Council meeting Tuesday criticized the council for not keeping residents better informed about the city’s decision to allow tattoo parlors in the downtown and PCH-Aviation areas.

If local families had known when the council planned to change its complete ban on tattooing last year, they would have protested then, some residents said.

"You need to give people who are residents of this community adequate time to respond," said Carolyn Petty, who lives in town but added that she has considered moving next door to Manhattan Beach.

Other protesters asked the council to listen to their concerns now, and adopt tighter restrictions for tattoo businesses by requiring conditional-use permits that would ensure, among other things, that tattoo studios don’t stay open later than a certain hour.

Hany Fangary, who lives on the Strand, wrote a letter to City Manager Steve Burrell last week requesting that the City Council "immediately adopt a moratorium on permitting any new tattoo parlors" in Hermosa.

Fangary also spoke before the panel Tuesday, reading parts of his letter aloud and requesting that studies, evaluations and reports be conducted so the council can review and adopt appropriate "time, place and manner" restrictions on tattoo parlors.

The council decision to send this issue to the Planning Commission reflects "an important part of dialogue," said City Councilman Jeff Duclos at the council meeting.

Mayor Peter Tucker served on the Planning Commission 16 years ago and voted against tattoo shops when the subject arose then, he said.

"It has been a long process," he said.

But many council members were concerned about spending more time and resources on this issue.

"What concerns me is that in doing this we set a ridiculously false expectation that somehow there’s not going to be parlors here or within 250 feet of somebody’s home," said City Councilman Michael DiVirgilio.

Earlier in the council meeting, Hermosa Beach resident Greg Maffei questioned whether the council would acknowledge that mistakes were made when handling this issue.

"I don’t mind addressing this mistake. It was the single worst vote I’ve made on this council… back in 2007," DiVirgilio said.

In 2007, tattoo artist Johnny Anderson sued the city after he was denied a permit to open a tattoo studio near PCH and Aviation, sparking years of litigation that led to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals requiring Hermosa Beach to overturn its prohibition on tattoo parlors.

"[The city] thinks it's going to attract the wrong element into their city, the undesirables," Anderson told Patch in an interview before the court decision. "Tattoos are not just for sailors and fallen women. The class of people they're worried about can't afford the going rate."

Anderson charges $150 an hour, within the range of industry standard, and added that tattooing is a form of service and work of art.

"I feel confident that we have exhausted our options in terms of establishing the zoning for this, but we have options moving forward in terms of enforcing," Councilman DiVirgilio said Tuesday. "If this brings certain mayhem to the area, we’ll then have evidence to then tighten the code."

Council members Kit Bobko and Howard Fishman agreed.

"The route to this is not to tempt fate with more litigation, but is to enforce the ordinance we have and to proceed," Bobko said. "I think that the 9th Circuit has boxed us in… but as bad as it might be, it could be worse."

"Nobody wants tattoo parlors next to their homes, or some say in the city itself, but that ship has sailed, according to the court," Fishman added. 

Earlier coverage of the Anderson vs. City of Hermosa Beach lawsuit, and City Council decisions, on Hermosa Beach Patch:

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