San Jose Considers Lifting Massage Parlor Moratorium

San Jose may lift a moratorium on new massage parlors after a year-long crackdown purged most shops with suspected ties to prostitution and human trafficking.

The City Council on Tuesday will consider the proposal by the San Jose Police Department, which in the past year has shuttered all but 45 of 191 massage parlors identified as hubs for transactional sex.

The heightened enforcement stems from a 2014 state law that gave cities more control over massage parlor regulation. San Jose enacted an ordinance in 2016 requiring such establishments to obtain licensing from the city and undergo thorough inspections.

When San Jose toughened its rules two years ago, police had identified 300 known massage businesses and issued warning letters to 100 suspected of illicit activity. The written notices, however, had little effect.

Source: San Jose Police Department

It wasn’t until the city hired new code enforcement inspectors and the police department beefed up its Vice Unit staffing last fall that it began making a dent, according to a report by Chief Eddie Garcia.

In January this year, anti-human trafficking nonprofit Polaris released a study based on open-source networks that cited Santa Clara County—and San Jose in particular—as a hotspot for illicit massage businesses with the third highest concentration of all counties nationwide. San Jose’s newly expanded Vice Unit created a list of its own based on complaints from residents and online reviews.

Within the next month, the city began reaching out to landlords to show them online reviews from sex buyers about their lessees while police ramped up undercover stings. Since the start of this year, the city has completed 114 landlord education meetings and 60 covert investigations that resulted in the closure of 107 illicit shops. Since July 2017, code enforcement officials conducted 463 inspections (with some businesses inspected more than once), issued 193 compliance orders and 106 citations.

Impact has been measured by the number of businesses applying for licensing, according to SJPD. The number of permit applications soared from just four in 2016 to 67 this year to date. By the latest tally, just 19 shops are permitted to offer massage services after seven lost their licenses because of illegal activity.

Source: San Jose Police Department

Another sign of success: the reaction from sex buyers.

“SJ police using info from reviews to shut down AMPs [Asian erotic Massage Parlors],” one client warned fellow users of a massage review website.

“SJ scene literally dead,” another lamented.

“The department has SJ on lockdown, better massage in Milpitas and Cupertino.”

Seeing San Jose’s success has prompted neighboring cities to ask SJPD for advice about how to curb the influx of illegal massage parlors in their jurisdictions.

The crackdown has been a boon for legal massage businesses, which have been able to charge more in response to higher demand.

Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and Councilwoman Sylvia Arenas authored a memo applauding the city’s success and requesting that SJPD expand its collaboration with anti-trafficking groups to make sure that sex workers get access to supportive services.

“We have made significant progress in weeding out illegal massage parlors and addressing illicit activities that are harmful to our community and harbor human trafficking victims,” they wrote. “These crimes are not faceless, they impact men and women who are extorted and abused. We hope that as we continue to close these establishments, we collaborate with our community partners and the County of Santa Clara to find resources for the victims and develop a successful path forward.”

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: Click here to read full agenda; City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. Carrasco is now for happy ending paper? No wonder Omar hid the donations. A very earnest fellow, Omar. Always willing to help laborers get there.

  2. > In January this year, anti-human trafficking nonprofit Polaris released a study based on open-source networks that cited Santa Clara County—and San Jose in particular—as a hotspot for illicit massage businesses with the third highest concentration of all counties nationwide.

    “human trafficking”?

    “San Jose in particular”?

    Really! And is there any connection between — oh, say — HUMAN TRAFFICKING and ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION and UNACCOMPANIED MINORS and PEDOPHILIA and the so-called “DREAMERS”?

    Wake up people! “DREAMERS” has got to be the slimiest and most deceitful euphemism that the nihilist left has come up with yet.

    Whose dreams are they fantasizing about? The poor, unaccompanied, familyless, child-slaves from central America? Or the conscienceless exploitive slavers and pedophile customers in San Jose?

  3. SJO Bubble,

    Will you please pipe down?! Can’t I just get a nice massage from a 25-30 year old Asian woman while I’m completely naked in a backroom somewhere after leaving $100 cash on the table and asking for the “special” without you blowing a gasket?!…..uh..,let me re-phrase that.

    • We already have legalized prostitution. It’s called marriage. A man sells his body to his employer (resulting in men having a higher rate of heart disease, hypertension and others stress related illnesses, as well as cancer, a higher suicide rate and a shorter lifespan than women) in exchange for a paycheck (“trick”) which he then turns over to a woman. Women control spending in almost every consumer category, manage the budget in over 90% of family households, and control about 60% of the personal wealth in the U.S.

      And like any good pimp, the wife shows the man just enough attention and affection to keep him “working”, turning “tricks”, also known as bringing home paychecks. Men are used to this though because all relationships work that way for men, they are only valued for what they can earn and produce. This may be the reason men tend to object less to “unmarried or so-called traditional prostitution” than do women. It’s more or less just a turf war between the two female factions. The former types just want a pre-agreed upon amount, upfront, (or some more sophisticated and selective ones might want a dinner and a movie instead) while the latter want the entire paycheck, house, car and complete loyalty and obedience. Disobey or fail to turn over the money and a man risks being “pimp-slapped” by a divorce attorney (enforcer).

    • > legalize prostitution

      I don’t think there has ever been a tribe, culture, or civilization that has looked upon women who serve as independent sexual utilities as being a good thing.

      Until the modern era of population control, women have always been looked upon as a SOCIAL institution responsible for the continuation of the tribe or the civilization.

      Prostitution strips women of social responsibility and their stature in the social order.

      And in the modern era of sex robots, prostitutes have been reduced to the level of machines. Full dehumanization has been achieved.

      Prostitution has always been a low status role for women and legalizing prostitution is just formalizing their low status. If it’s bad for women, it’s bad for society.

  4. the strategy of hiring independent inspectors was started by norcal counties including SF county. They were hired so that they don’t have to adhere to any of the city’s rules. Therefore those inspectors harass and intimidate both the owners and massage girls who are hard working immigrants. Each and every one of them trying to make a living in the most expensive area and state in the USA. This is all a BIG SHAM and a total waste of taxpayers money. The real crimes are left unnatended while they pursue this? And make up trumped-up charges! For what? Prosecuting victimless crimes left and right. There is NO shame with city council and they can’t stand to leave things alone that aren’t broken. After all, they don’t even take into account that each and every store pay their city taxes to pay city workers salaries and compensation. The state of CA have shifted from being a liberal state into a real fascist state!

  5. Jennifer,
    A year or so ago you had your panties in a bunch about the police interrupting gays having sex in public restrooms. Now it sounds like your against, human trafficking, prostitution, pedophilia, and good old fashion Bill Clinton type sex. This is a sanctuary city and state all manner of debauchery should be acceptable to the Liberal establishment.
    You haven’t gone all religious on us have you?

  6. Decriminalize prostitution and bring about legalization with common sense rules and regulations that make it safe for all parties involved. Enforcement will only drive it more into the underground where it’s much more difficult to find those that are being taken advantage of.

  7. Good news for local reprobates:

    More workers for San Jose’s massage parlors.

    “Honduran migrant caravan grows to 4,000 amid spike in U.S. border crossings”

    The Gavin Newsom Open Borders Caravan proceeds apace toward the U.S. border and the welcoming festivities in downtown San Francisco.

    Keys to the city along with drivers licenses, FREE health benefit cards and COMPETED VOTER REGISTRATION FORMS will be handed out by San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

    Refreshments and a special hospitality booth for unaccompanied migrant youths will be provided by the San Francisco chapter of NAMBLA assisted by retired Catholic Cardinal Donald Wuerl and retired Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

    • SJO Bubble,
      Well, I hope you’re happy. There you go again. Your spirit-crushing logic is probably 99% true (I don’t know what the 1% that isn’t true would be; I just threw that in just in case someone finds something). However, along with all those other hand-outs, I want just one more; Let’s call it the tax-payer relief aid. It consists of a stout rope, directions to the nearest ceiling rafter that will hold at least 200 pounds, and a flimsy stool.

  8. Hmmm. Have any serious journalists thought to ask former President Obama what he thinks of the Gavin Newsom Open Borders Caravan?


    President Obama says tens of thousands of Central American children flooding into the U.S. along the southern border have created a “humanitarian crisis,” and he appealed directly to parents to stop sending kids north.

    “Our message absolutely is don’t send your children unaccompanied, on trains or through a bunch of smugglers,” Obama told ABC’s Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview here. “We don’t even know how many of these kids don’t make it, and may have been waylaid into sex trafficking or killed because they fell off a train.

    “Do not send your children to the borders,” he said. “If they do make it, they’ll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.”

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