In Fullerton, Churches Are No Longer a Bar to Adult Businesses

FULLERTON, Calif.—As AVN readers probably already know, since selling adult material is legal, it's unconstitutional for a city to totally eliminate adult businesses from within its borders, although the famous case of City of Renton v. Playtime Theatres, Inc. allows municipalities to place restrictions on where such a business may be situated and advertised, and what hours it can be open.

That fact left the city of Fullerton with something of a dilemma. While it has three industrial and commercial zones within the city limits where adult businesses could technically locate, it also has an ordinance prohibiting those businesses from locating within 750 feet of residential areas, schools, parks... and until last week, churches.

According to an article in the Orange County Register, it seems that there's been a proliferation of churches opening in the same zones where adult book and video stores and adult nightclubs are allowed, and under the previous anti-adult zoning ordinance, once such a church had established itself in the zone, if an adult business were within 750 feet of the church, it would have to move. But the recent number of church openings has had the effect of "zoning out" all adult businesses from the city.

"It [selling adult material] is considered a First Amendment activity," said City Attorney Dick Jones. "We run the risk of being legally challenged if we don't craft an ordinance to allow for adult-use businesses."

The issue came to a head when an adult business applied for a business permit for a location in the 2400 block of East Orangethorpe Avenue, an industrial complex that from 2002 to 2009 was home to an adult cabaret, The Erogenous Zone. But in considering the permit application, zoning officials discovered that the Loving Jesus Grace Church had located with the 750-foot "set-back" that The Erogenous Zone used to have, thus technically putting the address out of the running for a new adult business—and apparently would have amounted to a "zone-out" for any adult businesses in the area.

Hence, on October 18, the City Council voted unanimously (though one councilmember was absent) to remove the word "churches" from the city's anti-adult ordinance. The change will go before the council again on November 2 for final approval.

"While it is not a comfortable decision, it is perhaps the best alternative before us," said Councilman Bruce Whitaker of the amended ordinance.