The city ordinance that prohibited the establishment or maintenance of more than one adult entertainment business in the same building. The ordinance defined adult entertainment business as an adult arcade, book store, motel, theater or a place for sexual encounters. Essentially any type of adult activity was considered to constitute a separate adult entertainment business even if operated in conjunction with another in the same building. The ordinance was challenged.
While a city bears the burden of providing evidence that shows a link between concentrations of adult operations and alleged secondary effects, it need not provide evidence that rules out every theory for the link between concentrations of adult establishments that is inconsistent with its own.
The City of Los Angeles enacted a law that imposed density limits on adult “establishments” restricting the placement near preexisting adult stores or near schools or parks, worrying that concentrations of adult businesses are connected to higher rates of prostitution, robbery and theft in surrounding neighborhoods. Several years later, the city amended its law to also proscribe the establishment of more than one adult entertainment business in the same building.
Does the city ordinance that prohibits the establishment of more than one adult entertainment business in the same building violate the Constitution?
No, because the city of Los Angeles has provided evidence that shows that areas with high concentrations of adult establishments are associated with high crime rates and that areas with high concentrations of adult establishments are also areas with high concentrations of adult operations. It was reasonable for Los Angeles to assume that a concentration of adult establishments is correlated with high crime rates because of the findings and thus, the ordinance shall be justified.
Adult speech refers not only to sexually explicit content, but to speech reflecting a favorable view of being explicit about sex and a favorable view of the practices it depicts. Restricting adult content is thus a restriction turning on a particular viewpoint, of which the government may disapprove. The risk of viewpoint discrimination may be justified if combating secondary effects of property devaluation or crime is truly the reason for the regulation. However, the city has failed to empirical justification for its rationale. The harms that the city has concerned about can be shown by police reports or crime statistics, all of which are within a municipality’s capacity.
The plurality’s analysis does not address how speech will fare under the city’s ordinance. The proper rationale for applying the plurality’s scrutiny is the promise that zoning ordinances like the one here may reduce the costs of secondary effects without substantially reducing speech. For the city ordinance to be lawful, it must make concentrations disperse, not shut down. Because dispersing two adult businesses is likely to reduce secondary effects substantially, the city ordinance shall be upheld.
The Court in Renton held that a municipality may rely on any evidence that is “reasonably believed to be relevant” for demonstrating a connection between speech and a substantial, independent government interest. While this does not mean that a municipality may get away with shallow data or reasoning, if the evidence fairly supports the municipality’s rationale for its ordinance, it shall be lawful. The plaintiff must demonstrate that the municipality’s evidence does not support its rationale. Otherwise the municipality’s ordinance is deemed constitutional.