Grover Beach's city council has won a round in its often-contentious battle with Steve Diamond, owner of the Diamond Adult World chain of stores.
On Friday, a federal judge ruled the city could legally order Diamond to close the doors of his Grand Avenue store, which has been open since November 2003.
Diamond and his lawyer have long argued that the city's zoning ordinances - which limit the location of adult stores - violates the First Amendment because it doesn't allow him reasonable alternatives to his current location.
But Judge J. Cormac Carney, a Gray Davis appointee, disagreed. In his 22-page ruling, he wrote that the zoning ordinances were a legitimate way for the city to "protect the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens."
Of the 51 locations the city was suggesting for Diamond to move to, the judge only approved of 15 as reasonable alternative locations: "Not only do the 15 sites provide Mr. Diamond with a sufficient number to choose among, but they also represent a respectable number of sites for a relatively small city," Cormac wrote.
After ruling in favor of the city, Cormac directed Grover officials to write up what they would like the judgment to be and submit it to him in seven days.
"The city shouldn't try and close him while the appeal is pending because if we won the appeal, say, a year from now, the city would be liable in damages. It's in the city's best interest to allow him to operate while the court decides the case.'
Roger Diamond, lawyer
Ed Richards, the city's Irvine-based lawyer, said he was going to ask the courts to issue an order to prevent Diamond from operating at that location.
Diamond's lawyer, Roger Jon Diamond (no relation), said even if the judge accepted that ruling, it will still be several weeks before the city could actually try to shut the Grand Avenue store down.
First, the lawyer said he was going to file a "motion for reconsideration," asking the judge to reassess several key points. Next, he said he could challenge the judgment. After that, he'll take the case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
But even then, Roger Diamond said, "the city shouldn't try and close him while the appeal is pending because if we won the appeal, say, a year from now, the city would be liable in damages. It's in the city's best interest to allow him to operate while the court decides the case."
Grover's acting city manager, Gayla Chapman, said no one at City Hall was allowed to talk about the case and directed all question to Richards. But some city officials have been talking to other reporters: "I'm not supposed to be gloating, so I'm not," Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals laughingly told the Tribune last week after the verdict.
No one would be surprised if Shoals was gloating: His city council has been fighting Diamond Adult World for two years.
In March 2003, Steve Diamond signed a contract for a building at 984 W. Grand Avenue. Two months later, the city passed a temporary moratorium on adult stores. But by then Diamond was committed to buying, and in November, he filed a lawsuit challenging the temporary ban.
The two sides quickly came to a temporary settlement: Diamond Adult World could open but would still be open to litigation. And both sides agreed that just because he was allowed to open, Diamond wouldn't use that as a reason to stay open if the city decided to ban adult businesses in that area.
On March 1, 2004, the city's temporary ban ended. But the city's new zoning ordinance, which would ban adult stores from the downtown area, didn't go into place until April 15 because of a delay with the Coastal Commission.
"In my opinion, from March 1 to April 15 the city did not have a moratorium or a new zoning ordinance in place. So at that moment [Diamond Adult World] was legal," Roger Diamond said.
If he's correct, he said, Grover Beach can't make his client move under the new zoning ordinance.
Roger Diamond doesn't think the judge understood that in this last trial, one of the reasons he said he'll be filing a motion for reconsideration. Or if that doesn't work, an appeal.
"If we didn't have grounds to appeal, I wouldn't do it," Steve Diamond said. "[I wouldn't] waste another $100,000.
"If I would have won, they would have appealed. So they know where I'm going with it. And the 9th Circuit will make the decision. Hopefully we'll get the three right judges."
Staff Writer Abraham Hyatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.