By Nick Diamantides
In spite of strong opposition from some neighboring residents, The Palms, an adult club featuring partially nude dancers opened in Signal Hill last night (April 29), on Palm Drive near Willow Street. Signal Hill resident Maria Marino, who is spearheading opposition to the club, recently spent a few hours knocking on doors with a petition requesting that the Signal Hill City Council order the club to move to a different location. She noted that she was able to collect 80 signatures in a very short time. “I only knocked on doors of homes near the club,” she added.
Marino spoke at the Council’s April 20 meeting during the portion that invites public business from the floor that was not on the agenda, during which time she explained that residents fear that some of the club’s patrons will be sexual predators who could victimize women and children in the club’s vicinity. “We should not have to restrict our children’s freedom to enjoy their neighborhood for fear of encountering a sexual predator,” she told the council. “What are you thinking?”
Marino also noted that, in her opinion, parents should not have to explain to their young children what a nude dance establishment is. “This is a discussion most normal parents would prefer to postpone as long as possible,” she said. “When I went around collecting signatures, a lot of mothers complained that they were hoping their children were not going to ask what this club is.”
Marino said there was a third reason the residents who live near the club are opposed to it– the potential hazard to pedestrian and vehicular traffic at the blind intersection of Palm Drive and Obispo Avenue. “Making a left turn at this intersection is dangerous enough now without adding to it the additional traffic, which may include judgmentally impaired patrons coming from The Palms,” she said. “Are we safe? This will be the ever present question in our minds.”
Marino stressed that she is not hoping to stop the club from opening but wants it to be farther away from any residential areas. “I oppose the business being so close to our homes. I oppose the business so close to a community that has so many women and children, and I am very concerned about the traffic hazards it will create,” she said.
Signal Hill City Manager Ken Farfsing said that, although he and other city officials understand the residents’ concerns, the United States Supreme Court– over the course of several decades– has severely restricted the authority of local governments to regulate adult clubs. “The Supreme Court prohibited cities from banning adult businesses,” he said. “Cities can [only] require compliance with public safety conditions, such as providing security guards, security cameras and other mitigations.”
Farfsing also noted that the city cannot increase the required distance between such clubs and residences. “The Supreme Court set the standards for the location for adult businesses,” he said, explaining that in several court cases the court established the maximum distances that cities can require between adult clubs and homes, schools and churches. “Signal Hill is a small community, and this limits our flexibility,” he added. “The business is located in an industrial zone, over 1,000 feet from residences.” (The Court determined the 1,000-foot distance.)
Marino, who is a realtor with Century 21 Beachside Associates, acknowledged that The Palms is located 1,042 feet from the nearest residence, but she said that is not enough. “As a realtor, I can say that our property values will decrease,” she said. “Years ago, the people at City Hall were proud of what they were developing in our area and how Signal Hill was growing into a good place to raise families and invest in real estate, but now it seems to be going in the opposite direction when they allow a nude bar to open up so close to residential neighborhoods.”
Marino said she did not know what course of action the residents would take next, but they would keep pressing for the club to relocate.
Asked if relocation is a possibility, Nicole Lynch, a spokesperson for the club, said, “We are very good business neighbors, and we want to be good members of this community, and we are always open to listening to new ideas.”
Relocating the club, however, would not be an easy task. According to another spokesperson for the club, Steve Whitmore, the owners have invested more than $300,000 in renovations of the building on Palm Drive. “The reason why they picked the area is because they think it is one of the nicest areas in Signal Hill,” he said. “It was the most suitable for their purposes.”
Meanwhile, according to Lynch, club owners took the unusual step of inviting those opposed to it to come to its opening night. “We want everyone to see the environment we are offering, which is safe, secure adult entertainment,” she said. “We hope the community will come to the opening and see for themselves. The critics are very welcome.”
Contacted by phone Tuesday evening, Marino said she was not even aware that the club was opening on Thursday, and no one had invited her. She added that even if she was invited, she would not go.
When the owners of The Palms first proposed the club to the city more than
a year ago, their plan was that the club would not serve alcohol, feature total nudity and be open to patrons who were at least 18 years old. Several months ago, the owners changed the club’s planned operations to include the serving of alcohol, which would preclude anyone under the age of 21 from entering. The entertainment venue was also changed from total nudity to partial nudity.
“The whole idea is to have a nightclub that is elegant and that serves drinks,” Whitmore explained. “The owners want luxury and relaxation to be the
Once the plan changed, the owners were able to get an alcohol permit from the state Alcohol Beverage Control Department, which acts independently of municipal governments.
Lynch noted that, aside from the entertainment, during this time of economic recession the club will create 100 new jobs. “We are accepting job applications as we speak,” she said. “Jobs are for bartenders, waitresses and maintenance personnel, to name just a few of the openings.” Lynch can be contacted at (661) 510-5221.