Federal appeals panel strikes down L.A. adult-business ordinance
A Los Angeles ordinance prohibiting “multiple use” adult businesses
violates the First Amendment, a federal appeals court panel has ruled.
In 1983, the city amended a zoning ordinance to prohibit more than one
adult-entertainment establishment from operating in the “same building,
structure or portion.”
The law specifically provided that an adult bookstore and adult arcade
in the same establishment constituted separate businesses.
In 1995, city officials discovered that Alameda Books, Inc. and
Highland Books, Inc. operated video booths in addition to selling adult
magazines and videos. Thus, city officials classified the businesses as illegal
“multiple use” businesses.
The businesses sued in federal court, contending a violation of their
First Amendment free-expression rights.
In June 1998, a federal district court agreed with the businesses and
halted enforcement of the ordinance.
On appeal, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals unanimously agreed in Alameda Books, Inc.
v. City of Los Angeles.
The city had argued that the ban on “multiple use” businesses
addressed the city’s concern with harmful secondary effects associated with
The city adopted its primary zoning regulation on adult businesses in
1977, supporting its ordinance with a study showing that a concentration of
adult businesses leads to an increase in crime.
However, that study did not address the effects of a business that
served as both an adult bookstore and an adult arcade.
In its July 27 opinion, the 9th Circuit panel analyzed the 1983
ordinance under the U.S. Supreme Court’s three-part test for
adult-entertainment restrictions. That test provides that municipalities can
impose reasonable restrictions on the time, place or manner of protected speech
as long as the restrictions are (a) content-neutral (b) narrowly tailored to
serve a significant governmental interest and (c) leave open ample alternative
means of communication.
The 9th Circuit ruled the Los Angeles ordinance unconstitutional
because it was not narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental
The court found that the city’s secondary-effects study “did not
identify any harmful secondary effects resulting from bookstore/arcade
combinations as individual business units.”
The judges also found that the city’s 1977 study “contains no findings
that an individual combination bookstore/arcade produces any of the increased
crime the study found resulting from a concentration of adult businesses.”
The attorneys who handled the case could not be reached for