Hermosa Beach raises fees, lets tattooing stand

The City Council on Tuesday passed a balanced, $27 million budget, approved about $750,000 in fee increases, and rejected pleas to further regulate tattoo parlors, which are opening in Hermosa with the protection of the courts.

The city budget for the upcoming fiscal year, balanced in part by permanently eliminating 17 employee positions, was approved on a 4-1 vote with Councilman Kit Bobko dissenting. He told his colleagues that cost-cutting measures, such as outsourcing some city jobs, were not discussed “until the 11th hour” of the budget process.

Under the fee changes, businesses and residents will pay higher costs for inspections, permits, and a wide array of recreational and other services.

The increases were recommended by a private consultant who conducted the first Hermosa fee study in five years, aiming to determine what it costs the city to provide a service and how the costs can be covered. The study initially recommended a $929,000 net increase, but the council nixed some increases, bringing the figure down to about $700,000.

Among big ticket items with the largest proposed increases, the study recommended a 200 percent increase in the fee for a conditional use permit application, required for some businesses, to $4,800, and a 191 percent increase in the fee for a parking plan application for a business, to $5,100.

On the tattoo front, the council rejected recommendations to ban body piercing and impose earlier closing times on the parlors, which have flocked to town following a court ruling that they cannot be kept out.

The city’s Planning Commission had recommended the restrictions, and a number of residents asked the council to go farther in the regulation of the parlors, which stand near homes in the small, closely-packed town.

Three parlors have opened, and a fourth has received a permit to open. City officials say a total of seven could exist in town under the council’s tattoo-parlor ordinance, which came in the wake of a federal appeals court ruling that protects tattoo inking as a form of “pure speech” guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The council considered imposing a 9 p.m. closing time to replace the current 10 p.m. closing, banning body piercing for any new tattoo parlors, and further restricting where parlors can be placed. But Councilman Kit Bobko, a municipal attorney by trade, argued that changing the rules for new parlors could invite another successful lawsuit against the city.

The council voted 4-1 to reject the Planning Commission’s recommendations, with the dissenting vote cast by Mayor Peter Tucker, who said a 9 p.m. closing would be more acceptable to neighbors of the parlors.

Meanwhile, the tattoo parlors themselves have been named as defendants, along with the city, in a lawsuit by a citizens group aiming to overturn the ordinance that governs the parlors.

Gene Smith of Hermosa Ink, which recently opened at Hermosa Avenue and Eighth Street, called the lawsuit “baseless” and “a big waste of everyone’s time.”

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