Council: More work needed on proposed changes to public nudity, sexually oriented business rules

A majority of elected officials expressed support Monday for slight expansion of the area where sexually oriented businesses could open, as well as modifications to language contained in the current ordinance.
Times have changed in Palm Springs and elsewhere since the city last adopted rules that apply to what can be worn in public and where sexually oriented businesses can be located.

A lot has changed in Palm Springs since 1995, but one thing that hasn’t is headed for revision.

Driving the news: During its regular meeting Monday evening, most of the current Palm Springs City Council agreed changes are needed to regulations that govern sexually oriented businesses and public nudity. The topic has been under discussion for months but only recently made its way into a staff report with proposed changes.

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At issue: Looking to curb the city’s reputation as a spring break hotspot, city leaders nearly 30 years ago put strict rules on the books that made it a punishable offense to wear many pieces of clothing in public that today are commonplace. They also used terminology that is outdated by today’s standards and potentially discriminatory when describing what clothing is allowed in public spaces and private clubs.

  • On Monday, councilmembers discussed modernizing language in the rules and changing city zoning that would allow a handful of additional parcels to house sexually oriented businesses.

  • They also discussed whether existing businesses that sell sexually oriented merchandise should be allowed to display them in a larger portion of their stores.

Most of the elected officials expressed support for proposed changes that would allow slight expansion of the area where sexually oriented businesses could open – off West Sunny Dunes Road – as well as modifications to the language contained in the current ordinance. Mayor Lisa Middleton, however, said she had “grave concerns” about allowing any expansion.

  • “I do not want to mislead anyone,” Middleton said. “It is very unlikely I will vote in favor of this ordinance when it comes back. We are going too far, too fast.”

What they’re saying: Owners of businesses that sell adult materials and establishments that host events of a sexual nature expressed support for the changes both Monday evening and at a meeting earlier this month where the proposed changes were initially on the agenda.

  • “The gay community has fought hard for rights historically, and I worry that the rights will be taken away as a result of not having the municipal code changed,” said Robert Cole, owner of Tool Shed off East Sunny Dunes Road, during a Nov. 10 Council meeting.

Bottom line: Palm Springs Police Chief Andy Mills told councilmembers Monday that Cole and others shouldn’t be worried. Still, city staff was asked to work with Mills to modernize language in the city ordinance to ensure the concerns were addressed. Staff will present revisions at a future council meeting.

  • “The police aren’t arresting people, but it shouldn’t still be on the books,” said Councilmember Geoff Kors. “We shouldn’t have laws on the books saying it’s illegal when it really isn’t.”

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