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Fate Of Lice Salon In The Hands Of The Planning Commission

Proposed business is not listed in the city's Municipal Code.

It’s in Martinez where even little creatures find themselves embroiled in controversy.

A couple of women want to open a lice removal salon on Main Street, in the spot where the quilt store used to be. They rented the spot, started preparing the space for their operation.

“Not so fast,” said City Hall. “We’d love to give you a business license, but. . .”

Turns out that lice removal salons are not on any list of businesses at all within the city’s municipal code, either as permitted or not permitted uses.

“They’re asking us to go before the Planning Commission,” said Sophia Deleuse, who has been in the lice removal business for years now. “They’re refusing us a business license.”

What Deleuse and her business partner want to do is offer a service. But since it’s not a service that is listed in the city’s zoning ordinance, it’s up to the Planning Commission to determine whether or not it should be, according to contract staffer Dina Tasini.

“While the City of Martinez Municipal Code does not identify lice removal salons as a permitted use, lice removal salons may appear to be consistent with barber shops and beauty shops that are permitted within the Neighborhood Commercial District,” Tasini said in a staff report. She noted that lice removal salons in Lafayette, Oakland and San Francisco have received no complaints from neighboring businesses.

“What we do is provide a service that helps children and mothers get rid of lice organically without chemicals,” Deleuse said. There are many businesses around that do this, just not many in the Martinez area. We just comb the lice out and do an organic treatment with a conditioner that repels lice, and that’s pretty much it. We also educate the parents on how to try and avoid it.”

Once the critters leave the head, she said, they die after 24 hours.

“It’s a very clean shop,” she said.

Deleuse said her original plan was to open the shop in Concord, but she liked the look and small town feel of Martinez. Until, that is, she ran up against a bureaucratic wall.

“I’m looking at Concord again. Their city hall is awesome,” she said. “They make the rules, and decide where things go.”

The Planning Commission will consider this item when it meets on Tuesday, March 13 at 7 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers, 525 Henrietta Street. 

Sally Morgan March 11, 2012 at 07:39 AM
As I mentioned earlier, perhaps this should be considered a medical facility or outpatient facility and have the same requirements applied to it as those facilities..no more or no less. If a facility that deals with other contagious medical conditions has no regulations or rules regarding their location , then this one facility should been treated equitably.
marian broadhurst March 11, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Embarrassment is a business viability issue. In cases I've read, except perhaps Chicago, these businesses acknowledge the client's need for privacy and discretion by placing their entrance where it will not further embarrass the client. As I stated before, many of these services make house calls. In Pacific Heights, they charge $1K a pop and people pay it willingly to have discreet treatment in their home. Low Profile is not the description for the 500 block of Main St unless a back entrance is planned. Speaking of price point - per the Laf. location, $90 an hour per person in a family, times 2 visits. Insurance may not pay due to lack of medical licensing per Cal HSC. This is about making the lice removal business viable, and maintaining the viability of businesses around it, because Martinez needs viable business. If the planning commission cannot find something in the California Health and Safety Code to challenge the opening of this shop, then the social experiment of whether this business and the ones around it, will survive is on. Unfortunately, the same thing that drew these people to open this business (the small town feel), is the same iceberg that may turn their shop into the Titanic. Only time will tell. As I recall the Medical Marijuana dispensary was completely turned away. In the case of the Lice Removal business, I think there is a much higher percentage of folks who would like to see the business stay, just at a more appropriate site.
Sally Morgan March 12, 2012 at 12:29 AM
The questions still remain..who determines the viability? Who has the responsibility and / or authority to make such decisions? What right or authority does the general public have to determine for a business its location or viability.? It may very well turn out to be a social experiment..but that may be the fairest means of determining this in the absence of hard fast rules or regulations. So be it.....
Adri Frick March 13, 2012 at 07:46 PM
It is interesting to see how people interpret the conversation as Martinez against business, or Main Street against greater Martinez, & how Deleuse perceives it as an affront. The fact is, service-based businesses often have to appear before planning & get use permits in many cities. It is a frustrating & time consuming process, but even if the business were not lice removal, on Main Street, or near eateries, it would probably have to do it anyway! General plans often include calculations for things like parking impact, expectations of tax revenue versus services used, noise & disturbance to people in the neighborhood, & whether a business fits into economic development goals, etc. If there is no entry for your type of business, the community needs to evaluate the environmental and economic impact before it allows you to open by giving those directly impacted a forum to voice concerns. That's also how the code rules & regulations were originally generated-- by public hearing & commission. I had to go through the same process in Pleasant Hill for my yoga studio, as do music schools, day spas, dance studios, & other service businesses. There is a finite amount of parking & they wanted to be sure I didn't push people to park in residential areas or scare business away from other businesses. It wasn't because people were afraid my yoga was going to infest local eateries, or PHill was insular & wanted to chase away small business. For the record Concord has use permits too.
Brenda Galvin March 14, 2012 at 06:47 PM
It is refreshing to finally find someone with knowledge on this topic.Thank you Sally:)

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