The city of Napa is easing up on restrictions for tattoo parlors.
Two weeks ago, the city council voted 4-1 to allow tattoo parlors to operate in buildings located within the residential office zoning district, so long as they receive approval from the Planning Commission.
Councilman Mark van Gorder dissented, saying he doesn’t think tattoo parlors are the same as other businesses allowed in these zones and would not fit.
The rest of the council saw it differently, saying today’s tattoo parlors can exist as high-end art studios that would be appropriate among other businesses allowed in residential office districts, which includes art, music, dance and photo studios; barber shops and beauty and nail salons; mail services, and travel agencies.
“There are some really high-end places where these services are available,” Mayor Jill Techel said. “I’m for giving them some flexibility.”
Residential office districts are meant to encourage residential uses, but also allow offices and some services. They are located along main streets, including Solano Avenue, Soscol Avenue, Lincoln Avenue and Fourth Street.
Aside from residential office districts, tattooing is allowed only on a conditional basis in community commercial and downtown commercial districts, following Planning Commission approval. The commission would decide whether the parlor was suitable for the proposed location and compatible with surrounding businesses.
“I think this is a good fit for residential office districting, particularly if it comes through our Planning Commission,” Councilman Peter Mott said. “Our Planning Commission will have plenty of discretion.”
Van Gorder said he once lived next door to a residence-turned-tattoo parlor and witnessed its comings and goings.
“I watched the people come and go on their Harley motorcycles, making lots of noise,” he recalled. “Frankly, it was a little unnerving. I wouldn’t want to have a tattoo parlor right next to the place where you’re taking your kids on a daily basis,” he said, alluding to some of the more kid-friendly businesses located in residential office zones.
“To me, a tattoo parlor is a very different business than a kids’ karate studio and a beauty salon and a (scuba) shop,” van Gorder said. “I see tattoo parlors as being very different and attracting a whole different kind of clientele and different kind of people.”
Two of the city’s five planning commissioners shared similar concerns when they reviewed the proposal in the summer. The commission voted 3-2 to recommend to the council that tattooing be allowed in residential office zones.
The proposal came after a tattoo parlor already existing in a residential office district approached the city about how it could come into compliance with zoning laws. Garage Ink Studios & Gallery, 1525 Lincoln Ave., first opened as an art studio and residence and expanded to include tattooing, according to the city.
To bring the business into compliance, the city determined the business could shut down or relocate, apply for a rezoning of the property or seek a change in what is allowed in the residential office district.