Cotati considers massage parlor ordinance

COTATI - Saying Cotati has too many massage businesses that are actually fronts for the sex trade, city officials are pursuing an ordinance that would regulate the massage industry.

"Our city has illicit massage parlors that are actually houses of prostitution and may be engaged in human trafficking," Assistant Planner Misti Harris told the City Council on Wednesday.

Harris named no specific businesses. But in an earlier interview, acting Community Development Manager Marsha Sue Lustig said the evidence has been gathered through police investigations and citizen complaints.

The ordinance would require state certification for massage therapists providing massages in exchange for compensation in Cotati.

It also would make both the property owner and the owner of a business found to be operating as a brothel subject to criminal penalties.

There are currently four prostitution parlors operating in the city, Cotati Police Sgt. Dave Houts said.

All of them are staffed by Asian women who either immigrated illegally or were forced into the trade under duress.

Houts characterized the parlors as "really ugly stuff," describing scenes of filthy hot tubs, condom-filled trash containers and "scantily-clad" women.

He said the ordinance — which would be approved July 14 — "is going to give us some teeth to get this abated."

The owner of a downtown business said she moved her location after 20 years because of a parlor that opened next door.

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