March 05, 2001 08:00am
Court Reviews Adult Businesses Law
by: Laurie Asseo
(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court agreed Monday to take on a free-speech case and clarify what evidence of harmful effects cities must have to justify regulating the location of adult bookstores and video arcades.
The court said it will hear Los Angeles' argument that it provided enough evidence to warrant upholding an ordinance that banned adult bookstores and video arcades from operating at the same location.
Two adult businesses won a lower court ruling that barred enforcement of the law.
``There is no evidence that a combination adult bookstore/arcade produces any of the harmful secondary effects'' identified in a city study, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (news - web sites) said last August.
Los Angeles enacted an ordinance in 1978 requiring adult establishments to be at least 1,000 feet away from other such businesses and 500 feet away from any school, religious institution or public park.
The ordinance was based on a 1977 study that said concentrating adult businesses in a particular area led to increased crime, lower property values and other negative effects.
The law was amended in 1983 to prohibit operating more than one type of adult business in the same building, even if they were part of the same establishment. Adult bookstores and video arcades were to be considered separate businesses.
That ordinance was challenged in federal court by Alameda Books and Highland Books, which each operated adult bookstores and adult video arcades in the same location.
A federal judge ruled for the two businesses in 1998, and the 9th Circuit court agreed. Los Angeles has a ``substantial government interest'' in reducing crime in its neighborhoods, but it did not provide enough evidence that the restriction would serve that goal, the appeals court said.
``There is nothing in the case to indicate that the same type of behavior that occurs in viewing booths in combination bookstore/arcades would not occur in an establishment that only furnishes an arcade,'' the court said.
In the appeal granted Supreme Court review Monday, the city's lawyers said a 1984 Supreme Court ruling ``does not require a city council to independently investigate or corroborate each potential problem when it acts in furtherance of the public interest.''
The bookstores' lawyers said a zoning law like the Los Angeles ordinance ``would allow the absolute destruction of any adult bookstore business'' by defining each type of product as a separate business that could not occur in the same store.
The case is Los Angeles v. Alameda Books, 00-799.