Antioch Council splits on approving tattoo studio amid neighborhood opposition

By John Crowder

At the February 24, 2015 meeting of the Antioch City Council, a presentation was given on Code Enforcement by Ryan Graham, Deputy Director of Community Development. Later in the meeting, an application for a business permit to operate a tattoo parlor on 17th and A Street was approved over the objections of residents living in the area.

Graham began his presentation by noting some of the areas that Code Enforcement is responsible for regulating, including public health, safety and welfare, building standards, and more. He said this work was accomplished through education, prevention, detection, investigation and enforcement of statutes or ordinances.

Graham then explained from where code enforcement officers derive their authority, citing ordinances in the municipal code. As Public Officers, recognized in the Penal Code, Graham said they have the authority to issue citations, to make some arrests, and to obtain and serve inspection warrants.

Graham presented a slide showing the decline in staffing of Code Enforcement from 2009 to 2015. He said that the total staffing for Code Enforcement was eleven in 2009, but is only five today, including two administrative city workers each spending half their time on code enforcement. He also said that, over those years, there was a period when he was the only person doing any code enforcement, but that three Code Enforcement Officers were brought on through a contracting agency. Graham said that the city was currently bringing code enforcement in-house, and that there were over 200 applicants for the three available positions.

Graham said that the biggest area his department has been dealing with recently is substandard housing. He presented slides showing photographs of sheds in which some people in the city were living, with no electricity or running water. Graham also said his department deals with squatters, illegal dumping, environmental crimes, consumer protection, and homeless issues.

One major accomplishment Graham talked about was the reduction in process time needed to bring a code enforcement case to completion. Graham said that the process that was developed in Antioch is now a model being used and considered for use across the state.

New Tattoo Studio Approved

The council heard an appeal from Juanito Valentine, owner of Ink’d Up Tattoo Studio, in which the applicant asked for approval of a use permit to operate in a commercial space located at 1614 A Street. The appeal was made after the planning commission was unable to secure the four votes in favor needed for approval.

Several residents, who all said they lived in the area in which the new tattoo studio would operate, spoke out against granting the use permit.

Sandra Kelly, of the C Street Area Neighborhood Watch Group mentioned a petition signed by 24 residents, along with several letters submitted separately, all in opposition to the business. She said that, while she supported business, she wanted it to be, “first, of use to local residents.”

We do not want to see businesses that attract only outsiders to our neighborhood,” she continued.

She then said that she wanted to see businesses adjacent to her community that are, “family friendly.” She complained that the tattoo parlor would be opened “directly adjoining a residence.”

It’s an adult business, it’s not family friendly, and it does not attract residents to Rivertown,” Kelly added.

Lori Cook also spoke against granting the use permit. She said there were already plenty of tattoo parlors in the area, and a business that would better serve the community, such as a restaurant or coffee house, would be a better fit.

Ron Nichols said, “We should consider businesses that can actually elevate the area.” He emphasized attracting more family-oriented businesses.

Other residents also spoke against granting the use permit, including Jean Nichols, who complained that such business were not the type that would draw people to the downtown area.

Two residents spoke in favor of granting the use permit. Fred Hoskins emphasized the need to be business-friendly. Ken Turnage, noting that he is a local business owner, said that it takes a lot of courage to open a business in Antioch.

That should be encouraged,” he said.

He concluded his remarks by saying that having a business there was better than leaving the property vacant.

In council debate, Council Member Mary Rocha said she was concerned about the hours the business would keep, potentially remaining open until 10:00 p.m. Council Member Monica Wilson said that she was concerned about over-saturation of this type of business. She also said that she did not think it was the right fit for the area.

Council Member Tony Tiscareno, also noting that he was a small business owner, said he wanted to encourage others to go into business.

Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock applauded Valentine for wanting to open his own business, and said that, although she had some concerns about the late hours, she felt the store being open might be a help to the community because they would be able to keep an eye on the neighborhood.

We have to be careful as a council. We don’t have a moratorium on tattoo parlors,” Mayor Harper said. “I don’t want to restrict the businesses that operate.”

He also noted that the police report did not indicate that other tattoo parlors caused any increase in crime.

Following Harper’s comments, Ogorchock made a motion to approve the use permit. The motion was approved on a 3-2 vote, with Rocha and Wilson voting against.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the City Council will take place on March 14. Meetings are held at the City Hall Council Chambers, located at 200 H Street, and typically begin at 7:00 p.m.

One Comment to “Antioch Council splits on approving tattoo studio amid neighborhood opposition”

  1. Rich says:

    I was so relieved when the council, albeit not unanimous, voted to approve the permit. I am dismayed that the council didn’t agree to pay the 4 months that Mr. Valentine has been paying rent and not be able to operate the business. Four months he has been subject to Antioch’s anti-business attitude.

    Had the city been the least bit reasonable, Country Skillet would not be opening a new location in Pittsburg and another in Brentwood. Maybe Antioch will wake up some day.

    I can only hope the addition of new blood into the city staffing will change that attitude and the city can finally quit complaining about the lack of revenues that they have been responsible for.

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