A proposed massage ordinance has been put on hold after some therapists criticized portions of the plan and said the city failed to alert them about the changes.
The Petaluma Police Department has been working on a way to regulate massage establishments in an effort to root out prostitution and human trafficking they say has been found at several locations.
At Monday’s council meeting, massage therapists told the city they welcomed a plan to weed out bad operators, but were concerned about several provisions including a requirement to obtain a doctor’s note saying they are healthy, restrictions on what clothing could be worn and a requirement to obtain a permit from the city.
“It’s unfortunate and true that the adult entertainment industry has been overlapped with the legitimate massage work, so we recognize there is a complexity and a challenge to developing an ordinance that will create a healthy community,” said Tiahna Skye, a Petaluma campus manager for the National Holistic Institute, a massage school.
But, she added, making therapists obtain a permit from the city was a mistake. Instead, said Skye and many others who spoke, the city should require all therapists to show proof of certification through the California Massage Therapy Council, which requires 250 hours of training at the same school.
There is currently no oversight of the massage industry and all CMTC certification is done on a voluntary basis.
Another concern is over a requirement that therapists show a “clean bill of health,” which many therapists say is offensive because it equates massage with sex work.
“What diseases are you concerned about?” asked Shannon Leslie, a Petaluma massage therapist. “Doctors, dentists, acupuncturists and chiropractors don’t have to show it, so why do we?”
Leslie, Skye and many others said the police department did not notify them of the proposed changes nor seek their input with an ordinance that had the potential to put some out of business. About 85 percent of massage therapists in Petaluma are women.
“Women-owned businesses are a vital and emerging part of the economy and deserve to be involved in the regulation that impact their livelihood,” said Stacey DeGooyer, a Petaluma therapist.
She added that older therapists have just 150 hours of training from one school and would be forced to obtain additional hours or risk having to close their practice if the requirement went into effect in just 30 days as was proposed.
The council agreed to table the issue to give the police department more time to obtain feedback from massage businesses.