Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Could a facelift for a sex shop help reduce blight in downtown Las Vegas?
It may seem counterintuitive, but Councilman Bob Coffin believes the answer is yes, and his fellow Las Vegas City Council members supported the idea Wednesday with a 6-0 vote to loosen restrictions on how adult bookstores and emporiums in the downtown core can expand or modify.
According to Coffin, the original ordinance was written 25 years ago and designed to tightly restrict adult shops in hopes they would all “wither and die.” But they haven’t, so he said the city would be wise to allow them to update their dated facades for modern standards.
“They were too restricted by the old code,” Coffin says, “couldn’t change appearance, couldn’t update the building.”
The revised ordinance applies to just six adult businesses, all of which are located within two blocks of Las Vegas Boulevard between Sahara Avenue and Alta Drive. Only one — Boulevard Books and Video, located at Park Paseo and the Boulevard — has announced plans to update, as it's part of a larger building the owner hopes to revamp. Those plans were approved by the council back in February but couldn't move forward until the issue of the adult shop's compliance was resolved, inspiring the change in regulation.
If any of the other adult businesses wish to do major updates, they'll have to go through the city’s planning process, and residents will have the opportunity to offer thoughts and concerns.
“There’ll be plenty of further discussions on this,” said Coffin, whose district includes all six effected businesses.
Coffin stressed that the ordinance does not green-light any additional sex shops in the area and that existing stores are still limited to their current size. Still, some people feel the businesses shouldn’t have been given any additional leeway.
Residents near an adult shop off Park Paseo have been vocal in opposition to its redevelopment efforts. None of them spoke during the public-comment portion of the meeting Wednesday. However, in a letter delivered to council, John S. Park Neighborhood Association President Dayvid Figler wrote that the code change “sets the area to be a sex business district” and that “tattoo shops, pawn shops, payday loan shops and bail bonds seem to be the natural companions.”
The letter argues that these adult businesses blight neighborhoods, which is why the city changed its code in 1992 to restrict them to industrial zones instead of general commercial zones located near neighborhoods.
“The major problem with these businesses is not necessarily what happens inside, but what bleeds out to the residential neighborhood,” the letter reads. “Like breadcrumbs to the cottage in the wood, our neighbors find condoms and needles strewn across our neighborhood that lead directly to the one sexual business in our neighborhood.”
Coffin wasn’t convinced by the invoking of used condoms and needles.
“Every $20 hooker has those things on them,” he says, “but they want to lay the blame on this business.”
The councilman noted that he lives “a couple hundred yards away” from the Park Paseo shop. He sees the need to allow that business and the other five affected to improve the look of their properties, which should help properties located nearby.
At the end of the day, he said, “It’s just a store. Retail. You can see worse things on the internet.”
Capt. Andrew Walsh of Metro’s Downtown Area Command says prior to their vote, council members requested data on service calls to the businesses affected by the ordinance. The Park Paseo store had more calls to service than its peers, but the numbers weren’t considered a drain on resources.
Walsh also noted that so far this year, violent crime is down more than 15 percent in the downtown area. He attributes that to stronger partnerships with community groups and elected officials.
“For me as an area commander, it’s about balance — between growth and development, regardless of type of business and the needs of people who reside there,” he said.