Will fortunetellers and psychics be allowed to open shop in highly sought areas of La Cañada Flintridge?
The answer might require a crystal ball. For now, the city's Planning Commission has recommended that such businesses be treated as office spaces.
The state Supreme Court in 1985 ruled that fortunetelling falls under the category of free speech and cannot be banned. The practice of foreseeing events into the future or predicting information about a person's life, therefore, must be permitted somewhere within the city.
City staff would rather the practice not be allowed within the downtown area, where many restaurants and retail shops have recently opened along Foothill Boulevard.
Senior Planner Fred Buss said during a meeting of the Planning Commission Tuesday night that allowing fortunetellers or psychics to set up shop in the downtown area would take away crucial space from businesses. "We really want to keep that area open for retail," he said.
Buss said the city recently received an inquiry from a person interested in practicing fortunetelling and psychic readings, which motivated staff to create a policy. It's the first time someone has shown interest in the practice since a retail shop, which operated in the early 2000s near the current Town Center, offered palm readings.
Fortunetelling is usually considered a form of amusement or entertainment, Buss said. But members of the Planning Commission had diverging views on what category a fortuneteller should fall under.
"This could be viewed as a therapy, this could be viewed as a counseling. Because it definitely is a very elaborate science," said Planning Commissioner Arun Jain. "So I disagree with the amusement or recreation part of it."
Commissioner Herand Der Sarkissian disagreed.
"I don't think it's a science," he said. "I think it's pure entertainment, nothing more."
Sarkissian, however, objected to using the word "fortuneteller" in an ordinance.
"It's just ludicrous," he said. "I think we should just have an agreement that we classify it as an office and be done with it."
Terry Walker, another commissioner, recommended that the city classify it as "psychic services" and allow them to operate with the same rules and regulations as medical offices or veterinary clinics.
The Planning Commission unanimously voted in favor of categorizing fortunetellers with offices or business, allowed with a conditional use permit anywhere in the city. One commissioner, Jeffrey Scott McConnell, was not in attendance.