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Zoning: Tattoo Artist Challenged City's 'Unbridled Discretion' Under First Amendment

Friday, May 05, 2017

The owner of a tattoo shop had standing to bring both as-applied and facial challenges to a zoning ordinance that placed hard-to-meet zoning restrictions on tattoo shops.

Facts: James Real owns a tattoo shop in Huntington Beach, California and has long wanted to open one in nearby Long Beach. But the City of Long Beach has a restrictive zoning ordinance when it comes to tattoo shops. They are forbidden in most parts of Long Beach, and where they are permitted, they require a conditional use permit to operate. The conditional use permit application requires the applicant to rent a location and pay a significant, nonrefundable application fee. Moreover, a tattoo shop can’t operate within 1,000 feet "of any existing adult entertainment, arcade, fortunetelling, tattoo parlor, or tavern" and its hours are limited to 7 am to 10 pm.

Real obtained permission from several potential Long Beach landlords to open a tattoo shop at their properties. He did not apply for a conditional use permit, though, because the locations weren’t zoned for tattooing so he knew his application would be denied. Instead, he sued the City in federal court. He argued that the ordinances violated his First Amendment right to tattoo because the City had too much discretion to issue or deny a conditional use permit and the location restrictions for tattoo shops were excessive.

After Real presented his evidence at a bench trial[...]

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Prev: Zoning: Fraternity Not Protected As Nonconforming---or 'Grandfathered'---Use
 
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