“My only business is the art business,” said Guevara, who comes from a family of artists. “The only reason it is an adult business is because you have to be 18 to get a tattoo.”
Guevara proposed setting up the skin art studio in the back of True Fate Galley at 1936 S. Coast Hwy. The view from the street is of the art gallery, with a wall separating the two uses.
In Guevara’s opinion, the skin art studio would have no more adverse effect on the neighborhood than liquor store, car wash or the tanning, nail, and hair salons and massage businesses operating near his gallery and should not be considered as an “adult” business.
Councilman Kelly Boyd was the lone vote in favor of the permit.
“I am willing to give him a chance,” Boyd said. “I don’t like him being lumped in with adult businesses.”
Retired Cal State Northridge art instructor E. J. Velardi testified that Guevara was an artist, on canvas and on skin, sincere and dedicated.
“He just wants to practice his body art in order to make enough money to sustain himself as an artist in Laguna Beach,” attorney Gene Gratz said in support of Guevara’s application.
Gratz said opposition to skin art, including his own, is a generational bias.
“We need to get over it,” Gratz said.
Velardi said body art has power and the younger generation is beginning to understand it.
Athletes and actors have embraced it.
But tattoos can backfire, Councilwoman Toni Iseman said.
“As an educator, I saw young people turned down for jobs because of tattoos,” Iseman said.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson said she would not necessarily oppose the business at another location, but she was not comfortable approving it in the commercial/local business zone.
Advised that was the same business zone throughout town with the exception of downtown, Pearson said she still opposed the location.
One other tattoo studio is open in Laguna.
“It is in the same zone and only about a half mile from my location,” Guevara said.
If the permit had been granted, the use would be locked in at that location.
“I can’t remember an item that generated more mail,” Iseman said. “[Neighbors] are concerned that the approval goes with land, not with the owner.”
However, verbal testimony at the meeting in favor of Guevara’s proposal outnumbered opponents seven to one.
“Neighbors believe there is a saturation of adult businesses in our area,” Woods Cove resident Greg Slevcove said.
Council members credited Guevara’s application as the trigger for the city to adopt an ordinance to govern tattoo establishments in Laguna Beach.