Construction workers build out the Communal Bath inside the 466 Eddy Street building in the Tenderloin neighborhood that will soon be open as Onsen Holistic Spa & Tea Room. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/ Special to S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco could relax massage rules in Tenderloin

A proposed ordinance that would relax requirements for businesses with massage therapy components in the Tenderloin will go before the Planning Commission today.

Currently, businesses in much of the Tenderloin cannot offer massage treatments unless they are connected to establishments like hospitals, care facilities or gymnasiums, according to city planners.

The ordinance would loosen requirements to allow businesses that offer other services, like grooming or steam rooms, to offer massages as well, planners said.

Such businesses would also need conditional use permits from the Planning Commission before opening.

The ordinance to amend the planning code was introduced by Supervisor Jane Kim on Dec. 15, 2015, after business owners seeking to open a health spa in the Tenderloin found they were restricted from offering massages as part of their therapeutic services under current planning codes, according to Kim’s
office.

Construction workers build out the Communal Bath inside the 466 Eddy Street building in the Tenderloin neighborhood that will soon be open as Onsen Holistic Spa & Tea Room. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/ Special to S.F. Examiner)
Construction workers build out the Communal Bath inside the 466 Eddy Street building in the Tenderloin neighborhood that will soon be open as Onsen Holistic Spa & Tea Room. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/ Special to S.F. Examiner)

The business, Onsen Holistic Spa and Tea Room, plans to open at 466 Eddy St. and provide hot water baths, a steam room and massage therapy if the planning code amendment is approved, city planners noted.

“This is an opportunity for us to support businesses that have massage and spa as part of their business plan,” said April Ang, a policy director at Kim’s office.

Included with planning documents that will go before the commission today were nine letters of support for the Onsen Holistic Spa and Tea Room from business owners and community organizations in the neighborhood.

Many letters highlighted the positive benefits and increased business activity that the health spa would generate in the neighborhood.

That included a letter from Katherine Looper, owner of the Cadillac Hotel, located a block from where the new spa would operate.

“We must support business like this to keep this neighborhood safer and more habitable,” Looper wrote in the letter. “We must support businesses like this to keep changing and improving the neighborhood.”

City planners acknowledged potential controversy regarding massage parlors in The City, citing Department of Public Health findings that suggest increased incidences of prostitution-related crimes at locations with massage establishments. Planners, however, recommended the commission support the planning code amendment.

“The conditional use is important because it gives the business flexibility but it also allows the neighborhood to weigh in on the type of businesses that are seeking this permit,” Ang said.

The planning code amendment must also be approved by the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Transportation Committee before being finalized, Ang said.

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