PLEASANT HILL -- A month after police arrested the owner of a local massage parlor on suspicion of prostitution, the city has yanked the establishment's permit, ensuring it will close.

On Oct. 3, police arrested Youyan Feng, owner of the Healing Garden Spa, during an undercover sting at several Pleasant Hill massage parlors. According to police, Feng allegedly offered to perform a sex act for a detective in exchange for $40.

In a Nov. 12 letter, Feng denied the allegations.

"I did nothing wrong. However, I am no longer interested in operating a business in Pleasant Hill. I wish to voluntarily surrender my minor use permit," she wrote.

In February 2012, the city approved the permit for Healing Garden Spa to offer spa, massage and skin care services. The business required a use permit because it's located in an office building at 200 Gregory Lane.

In light of the criminal charges pending against Feng, the Planning Commission on Tuesday revoked the spa's permit.

"I think this is really sad and unfortunate that this happened at this establishment," Commissioner Robert Abbott said. "I hope we don't have this type of problem grow."

There are between 35 and 38 massage businesses in Pleasant Hill, according to Lt. Dan Connelly. However, Connelly said he doesn't believe the city has a serious problem with prostitution at massage establishments, and police don't conduct regular stings. Most investigations, including the October operation, are prompted by tips from customers who have been propositioned, he added.


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During last month's sting, police also arrested a therapist at the Happy 8 Massage Parlor and a woman working at Kai's New Life Spa. Although the city hasn't taken any action against those two establishments, Connelly said the landlords have indicated they may do so.

Under rules the City Council adopted last year, only massage therapists and practitioners certified by the California Massage Therapy Council can work in Pleasant Hill. The Legislature created the California Massage Therapy Council, a private nonprofit organization, in 2008 as part of a law that established statewide standards for massage professionals.

To earn state certification, applicants must provide proof of training and pass a rigorous criminal background check through the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Although Feng was certified, she wasn't keeping a daily log of clients and Healing Garden Spa hadn't registered with the police department, as required by the city's massage ordinance, Connelly said. During the investigation, officers found credit card receipts with tips equal to or greater than the massage fee, according to police.

Commissioner David Mascaro pointed out that Healing Garden Spa isn't visible from the street because it's tucked into a suite at the rear of an office building's courtyard.

"Maybe in the future we should be a little more careful about (massage parlors) in an office park as opposed to a retail center," he said.

Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.