Paul Wellman

Goleta has plenty of massage parlors to choose from, but which is the right one? A new ordinance making its way through the City Council’s review process is aimed at making sure that massage therapists with their doors open for business in Goleta are not only legal, but know what they’re doing. Coming on the heels of SB 731, signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last November to provide certification guidelines for massage therapists, Goleta’s proposed regulation provides certification for those in the profession who don’t yet have the state license. However, any regulation put in place by Goleta could be superseded by state law. Some practitioners expressed concern to the Goleta City Council that there wouldn’t be enough transition time for estheticians-lower level skin therapists with many hours of localized massage experience focused on the face, neck, hands, and feet-to gain a valid license under the city’s tiered certification system. “If the ordinance stays as it is [in the first reading], I would have to take a lot of time off work to meet the requirements,” said Auriel Cochran, an esthetician at Cutting Edge Hair and Body Salon in Goleta.

<strong>THERE'S THE RUB:</strong> Cindi Sundberg, owner of Cutting Edge Hair & Body in Goleta, expressed concern that some of her technicians would have trouble meeting the city's new requirements.
Paul Wellman

Although they indicated that the language of the proposed ordinance needed to be cleaned up by City Attorney Tim Giles before the second reading, the council voted 4-1 on Tuesday evening to accept its first reading, with Councilmember Michael Bennett dissenting due to what he said was the document’s excessive specificity. “Why are we supporting something when the state law says it can be circumvented?” he said, pointing out a part of the city ordinance that called for the use of 60-watt incandescent bulbs in certain applications.

“This is an opportunity for the police to weed out those who have been involved in criminal acts under the guise of massage, or would otherwise pose some level of risk to the public,” said Giles.

Aside from the licensure side of the ordinance, the issue of curtailing illegal operations masquerading as massage outfits also seemed to be a major part of it. “This is an opportunity for the police to weed out those who have been involved in criminal acts under the guise of massage, or would otherwise pose some level of risk to the public,” said Giles, adding that the Goleta Police Department views massage therapy regulation as a valuable tool in accomplishing their goal of curtailing prostitution.

While most of Goleta’s several massage parlors are purported to be legitimate establishments, a simple Google search turns up the Web site, which names four of them as places to go for more attentive service. “Stop wasting time and money on services you don’t want, and get all the information and reviews on massage parlors right here,” the Web site’s banner exclaims. At the very top of the first page of the same Google search for “massage parlor Goleta” is the site, a forum in which users share information that appears to be about the best spots to pick up women for hire. While a difficult-to-read vernacular is used in much of it, the most recent entries-from August 21 and September 2-make unabashed references to specific locations on upper State Street, and in Old Town Goleta.

“Those people are not coming from our schools,” said Katie Mickey, owner of the Santa Barbara Body Therapy Institute, one of a handful of area schools aimed at furnishing graduates with state licensure. Addressing the Goleta City Council on Tuesday, Mickey said that if people interested in massage careers were put through state-recognized training programs such as the one offered by her school, being licensed by one jurisdiction as opposed to another wouldn’t be as much of an issue. “The system isn’t broken; we already have a process in the state for approving schools.”


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