The petitioner challenged the city provision that prohibits theaters from be located within 1000 feet of any residential zone, church, park or school.
The First Amendment requires only that a city refrain from effectively denying an individual a reasonable opportunity to open and operate an adult theater within the city.
The zoning ordinance in Renton seeks to regulate the location of adult theaters by concentrating them in certain areas in the city. The ordinance provided that theaters may not be located within 1000 feet of any residential zone, church, park or school.
Does the city ordinance that prohibits adult theaters from being located near residential zones, church, park or school violate the First Amendment?
No, while the ordinance at issue treats theaters that specialize in adult films differently from other types of theaters, the ordinance is not aimed at the content of the films shown at adult theaters, but rather at the secondary effects of such theaters on the surrounding community.
Renton was interested not in regulating the secondary effects from adult theaters, but in discriminating against adult theaters based on the content of the films. Also, Renton never reviewed any of the studies conducted by other cities. Moreover, the ordinance does not provide for reasonable alternative avenues of communication. Respondents only asked Renton for a reasonable opportunity to operate adult theaters in the city. Renton denied and effectively banned a form of protected speech because the ordinance left 520 acres in the city available for adult theater sites.
The Renton ordinance is designed to prevent crime, protect the city’s trade, maintain values of property and “protect and preserve the quality of the city’s neighborhoods and the quality of urban life. Even though the ordinance discriminates adult theaters from other kinds, it does not seek to suppress the expression of unpopular views. Renton’s reliance on the experiences of other cities in enacting its adult theater ordinance is justifiable. Renton conducted substantial studies and the First Amendment does not require a city to conduct new studies or provide evidence independent of that already produced by other cities. The First Amendment only requires that a city may not deny one a reasonable opportunity to open and operate an adult theater. That is not the case here.