By Daniel Correia

Where in Watsonville do you go for a rocking tattoo or a shiny new bong? Trick question: nowhere.

Watsonville zoning laws currently prohibit smoke shops, medical marijuana clinics and tattoo parlors. However, the Watsonville City Council passed a 45-day moratorium Jan. 9, thereby upholding the current zoning laws while giving city officials time to consider revising them.

"Certainly we’ve had parties interested in locating here, which has led us to take a closer look at our laws," said John Doughty, city development manager of Watsonville.

"There hasn’t been a huge groundswell of support by the police or even the community, but the city council took an appropriate step in saying that there are issues with the current laws that need to be addressed," he said.

Watsonville Mayor Manuel Bersamin elaborated on the Council’s decision to enact the moratorium.

"The council imposed a moratorium to give us time to review the current laws, study their effects on the community and come back with definite laws," Bersamin said. "I think it is to the benefit of business owners to have a clear, updated understanding of the laws."

The city of Watsonville will use the 45-day period to examine the town charter and research the negative effects of tattoo parlors, smoke shops and medical marijuana clinics in similar cities, though Bersamin said that Santa Cruz is not an adequate comparison.

"Even though we’re so close together, Watsonville is like another world," Bersamin said. "Santa Cruz is a college town. Watsonville is a working-class town. It would be like comparing San Francisco to Fresno." According to Doughty, Watsonville’s current laws are in need of revision because they were created 20 years ago and have since become outdated.

"It was a different world when these laws were adopted," Doughty said. "They were in response to issues like unclean [tattoo] needles."

Because of the 20-year ban, many Watsonville citizens have been making the 15-mile journey northward to Santa Cruz to procure their bongs and tattoos. Greg Nelson, an employee at Pipeline smoke shop on Pacific Avenue, notes this trend.
"We get a lot of people from Watsonville. It would make sense that they would come to Santa Cruz," Nelson said. "But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pipe shops or tattoo parlors."