Adult store near high school can stay

An embattled adult bookstore located across the street from Sequoia High School will be allowed to remain in its location, according to a settlement between city officials and the bookstore chain.

After years of trying to force Secrets Adult Bookstore to relocate, city officials have agreed the store can stay put under certain conditions. The store at 739 El Camino Real must reduce its hours of operation, agree not to expand its business, prohibit anyone under 21 from entering the store and remodel its front façade to remove sex-related advertisements, according to the settlement.

Redwood City adopted an ordinance in 1998 forbidding adult-oriented businesses such as Secrets to operate within 1,000 feet of a church, park or school, and anywhere within a residential zone, according to Planning Director Tom Passanisi. A 2000 amendment would have forced Secrets to move by Jan. 12, 2006, but when Secrets attempted to relocate, it found that the city’s rules made relocation almost impossible.

“Under the First Amendment, the city is required to make reasonable accommodation for these types of businesses,” said Tom Willis, the San Leandro attorney who represented Redwood City in settlement talks. When Secrets couldn’t find a new home within city limits, store representatives threatened to sue, Willis said.

Secrets is part of a chain of adult stores that sell sexually explicit books and videotapes, whose parent company is called Eddie’s Bookstores Inc. Eddie’s owner David Sturman did not return calls for comment Tuesday, nor did the chain’s attorney, Roger Diamond.

Although Sequoia High School District officials did not sit in on the settlement talks, Superintendent Pat Gemma is comfortable with the agreement.

“I think it’s fair, given all the particulars,” Gemma said. Sequoia High School Principal Morgan Marchbanks has reported to him that some high school students were permitted inside the store, and that its management made little effort to prevent them from coming in.

Under the settlement, Secrets will be allowed to remain in its downtown Redwood City location through July 31, 2008. At that point, the agreement can be renewed for another two years, and again beyond that if both the city and the store’s owners want to do so.

If Secrets violates the conditions, the city can shut it down, according to the agreement.

Secrets remains Redwood City’s only adult-oriented business, and the 1,000-foot rule applies to all newcomers, according to Passanisi. If someone wanted to find a site for a new store, “their choices would be limited,” he said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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