By Alene Tchekmedyian, alene@firstname.lastname@example.org
3:41 PM PDT, October 9, 2012
Colorful vans advertising topless maid services for $99 and hour-long Thai massages for $40 have infiltrated Burbank streets in recent months, peeving local residents and garnering national media attention.
One person who isn’t complaining? Hot Topless Maids spokesman Sami Ammari.
“Oh my God, it’s been great,” Ammari said. “The phone does not stop ringing.”
The company, he said, had to turn down 100 clients last weekend because the maids were booked. Angelenos, he continued, have flocked to his office asking for his autograph and picture, as he’s been the subject of numerous media reports across the nation.
But local residents aren’t amused, so Burbank officials are brainstorming a possible regulatory response to the roving advertising vehicles.
“These are not attractive vehicles,” said Deputy City Manager Joy Forbes, adding that the vans began popping up in Burbank over the summer. “We think that coincides with the time that the Los Angeles ordinance became effective.”
She was referring to a Los Angeles ordinance prohibiting the mobile billboard ads on public streets, with violators subject to seizure. Burbank officials believe that ban has pushed the vans into Burbank.
In May, Ammari filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Los Angeles ordinance.
“We’re not sure if [the ordinance] will withstand a legal challenge, so we’re carefully doing that research,” Forbes said.
In his lawsuit, Ammari alleges that the “irrational government interference” restricts him from engaging in “otherwise lawful and protected speech and commercial speech activity within the city,” and causes “irreparable injury to his liberty and property interests.”
Los Angeles denied the allegations in June.
“Assuming that a ruling one way or another comes out, it’ll likely provide some insight and guidance for the city of Burbank,” said Ammari’s attorney, George Wallace.
The advertising vehicles can now be found parked in major commercial intersections in Burbank, such as Olive Avenue and Riverside Drive.
“It’s been all over,” Forbes said of the Thai massage van.
Frustrating the city’s efforts is the fact that little is known about who owns the company, which makes bringing the vans into compliance difficult. City officials, though, say the vans are almost certainly not operated by a local company, and that they are not properly permitted.
In Burbank, advertising vehicles must obtain a permit. City officials have reportedly received seven permit applications since 2007. Only two advertising vehicles are currently licensed — one for a Burbank business, another for a business in North Hollywood, according to a city staff report.
“Violation of municipal code can result in prosecution, but we generally try to get compliance before we resort to that,” Community Development Director Patrick Prescott said.
Once city officials determine who owns the company, they’ll send a notice to the owner detailing the code violations. Burbank Senior Administrative Analyst Carol-Ann Coates said she anticipates the initial notice to be sent out this week.
The city gives violators 30 days to respond, unless the violation relates to health or safety, in which case they get seven days to respond.
Parking for any vehicle on any Burbank alley or street is limited to 72 consecutive hours.
But the advertising vans in question are usually parked outside all day and picked up at night, so at this point, there’s not much the city can do to rid itself of the parked vans, Forbes said.
“The problem is the parking — that’s where the issue lies,” Forbes said. “They don’t typically park for three days.”
Ammari said the company that owns Hot Topless Maids has a business license in Burbank, but declined to reveal the name.
He estimated that the company has about 200 vans in Southern California.
“We’re not criminals, we work hard,” Ammari said.
The City Council is slated to review the matter at a meeting in November, Forbes said.