The Sacramento region will soon have its first Hustler Hollywood store associated with the pornographic magazine, based on a “coming soon” banner that recently appeared on an Arden Way storefront.
Will it be a lingerie shop that sells some sex toys, or an adult store that happens to sell lingerie?
Sacramento County’s answer has flummoxed neighborhood activists who worry that Arden Arcade is becoming a hub for less-desirable businesses.
Hustler Hollywood is a fast-growing chain of stores that sell lingerie, apparel, sex toys, bachelorette novelties, oils and Hustler-branded items. Its association with controversial publisher Larry Flynt and his pornographic magazine has sparked protests as stores have rolled out in Bakersfield, San Jose and Fresno.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
Sacramento County officials this fall granted a general business license to “HH Sacramento LLC” to operate a lingerie store at 2285 Arden Way. The business license specifies that “adult novelty items shall not exceed 25 percent of the display area.” That allowed the business to avoid facing a separate public review process that would have required additional approvals and allowed residents to voice their concerns.
Critics contend the business should actually be considered an “adult novelty” shop, defined in county code as a business that “as one of its principal business purposes, offers for sale or rental for any form of consideration instruments, devices or paraphernalia that are designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs.”
“It’s ridiculous. The county doesn’t seem to know what is going on in the neighborhood,” said Mike Seaman, an Arden Arcade energy consultant and board member for the local Fulton-El Camino Recreation and Park District. “They seem to think anything is better than nothing.”
The county made the determination the business was not a novelty store based on the amount of floor space devoted to adult toys, said Laura McCasland, a county spokeswoman.
Fresno agreed this year to pay Hustler $15,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging the city violated the company’s First Amendment rights by changing the city code in an attempt to block the retailer from entering the market. The Fresno location opened in September. Hustler officials were not available for comment.
Hustler Magazine has long been considered more hardcore than nude publications Playboy and Penthouse. Flynt has a storied career – celebrated by the 1996 movie “The People vs. Larry Flynt” – of fighting the government entities that have sought to censor his magazine.
The planned Hustler Hollywood in Sacramento County has drawn pointed commentary online. Advocates for Arden Arcade, in a critique dripping with snark, said it will add “to our community’s growing array of fine commercial enterprises like X-rated massage parlors, usury lenders, bong shops, liquor stores, hookah bars and other similar businesses.”
Some members of the unincorporated community have long held that under county leadership, their concerns get short shrift. Recently released census data point to a sharp increase in poverty among Arden Arcade neighborhoods – a patchwork of mansions, car lots and aging apartments situated between the city of Sacramento and Carmichael.
Another Arden booster group, the Greater Arden Chamber of Commerce, did not share the concerns raised by Advocates for Arden Arcade.
“The Greater Arden Chamber of Commerce is supportive of the new investment and jobs created by the choice of any legal and duly licensed business to operate in Arden Arcade in accordance with the local zoning and development code,” the organization said in an emailed statement.
Resident Jennifer Drayton wrote Supervisor Susan Peters, who represents the area, to voice her concerns.
Drayton wrote that “poor” Leatherby’s Family Creamery would be sandwiched by Hustler Hollywood and Kiss N Tell, another lingerie shop. The letter exaggerates the proximity of the three businesses – each are separated by a busy Arden Way intersection.
Seaman said he believes Peters had the power to intervene and force the store to undergo further public review.
“You wouldn’t see this two blocks from Susan Peters’ house,” he said. “This wouldn’t go in a community where Susan Peters returns their phone calls.”
In a statement, Peters said she’s no fan of Hustler Hollywood but suggested that she had little power given current law.
“As a resident of the Arden Arcade area, I am disappointed about this store planning to open on Arden Way,” Peters wrote in an email to The Bee. “It is unfortunate that adult related businesses have learned to work around the legal restrictions and thresholds in place by designing their stores to the extent permitted by law to operate.”
Her chief of staff, Howard Schmidt, went further in explaining the supervisor’s position to Drayton.
“Supervisor Peters has worked to place greater restrictions on adult entertainment businesses to the extent allowed by law and when doing so was told how court case law interpreting the First Amendment has hamstrung local government’s abilities to regulate,” Schmidt wrote in an email obtained by The Bee.
“While this store’s opening cannot be barred as a matter of law,” he added, “I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that Code Enforcement will monitor to ensure the establishment complies with regulations so as not to expand into an unlawful adult entertainment business.”