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SFHC Article 29 (Massage Code)

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Massage Licensing Program Ordinances

San Francisco Health Code, Article 29


In December 2003, the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance repealing Article 27 of the San Francisco Police code and amending the San Francisco Health Code, Article 29, to allow the Department of Public Health to license and regulate massage practitioners and businesses. The Ordinance mandates that every individual wishing to practice the art of massage or to operate a massage establishment in San Francisco must be licensed by the Department of Public Health.


Article 29 recognizes that massage is a healing art and that regulation and enforcement of health and safety standards for massage is most appropriately conducted by the Department of Public Health.


2015 Laws for Massage Establishments

In January 2015, amendments to state law regarding Massage Establishments went into effect. Subsequently, San Francisco updated San Francisco Health Code Article 29 so that local requirements conform to state law as follows:

  1. Human Trafficking Poster - Massage Establishments must comply with the requirements of California Civil Code Section 52.6. The required notices of human trafficking information and telephone hotline numbers shall be posted in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and other appropriate languages as determined by the Department. Your Health Inspector will provide you with a poster during your next inspection. You may also obtain a poster by visiting the Permit Center at 49 South Van Ness Avenue.
  2. External door locking - Doors are to remain unlocked. Massage Establishment interior and exterior doors shall remain unlocked while the Massage Establishment is open. Exterior doors may remain locked if the Massage Establishment is owned by one individual with no more than one employee or independent contractor. Additionally, obstruction or interference with an inspection is a violation of the Health Code.


Additionally, the Health Department added measures within the amended legislation to help prevent illicit activity at the businesses. The Health Department has the authority to close down businesses that are found to be operating illegally. Grounds for denial include:

  1. Being convicted of, or currently charged with criminal acts, including those related to human trafficking;
  2. Any suspensions in another jurisdiction that would qualify for revocation and a current disciplinary process on another massage permit that could result in suspension or revocation;
  3. The revocation or suspension of any permit by the Public Health Director in the last 12 months;
  4. The revocation to operate a massage business at the same location within the last 12 months;
  5. The endangerment of the health and safety of the employees or clients, or coercion of any employee to engage in illegal conduct.


2015 Changes to Laws for Massage Practitioners

  1. Require massage practitioners to complete 500 hours of instruction. Practitioners who applied before June 27, 2015 with 100 hours (the previous requirement) are exempt from the 500 hour requirement. Those that file on or after June 27, 2015 must have 500 hours.
  2. Removal of tiered General and Advanced Practitioner permits.
  3. Practitioner Attire - Practitioners shall remain fully clothed while administering massage or when they are otherwise visible to clients on business premises, including premises designated by the client through an Outcall Massage Service. The Massage Practitioner’s attire shall not include: (1) attire that is transparent, see-through, or that substantially exposes the Practitioner’s undergarments; (2) swim attire, unless the Practitioner is providing a water-based massage modality that has been approved by CAMTC; or (3) attire that exposes the individual’s breasts, buttocks, or genitals.
  4. Require the Health Department to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate educational materials regarding labor laws, sanctuary city status, and information that provide linkages to health care and other social and community resources needed.
  5. Practitioner permits must be made available upon the request of a Health Inspector. Establishment permits must be displayed.


2015 Changes applicable to previously exempt massage establisments

Under the 2015 changes to Article 29, Massage Establishments that previously had a permit exemption because the business employed all CAMTC (California Massage Therapy Council) massage practitioners are required to obtain a Health Department Permit and are subject to all of the same requirements as other massage businesses in the City. A previously exempt business was allowed to continue to operate without a permit until its application for a permit was determined. The Owner had to submit a completed application within 90 days of the effective date of the ordinance (effective date is 6/27/2015). Any Massage Establishment operating without a Health Department permit which did not submit an application by September 25, 2015 was subject to an administrative fine up to $1000 per day of operating without a permit. Furthermore, the business location and owner were ineligible for a new permit from the Health Department for 180 days.


San Francisco Planning Code, Sec.204.1

No use shall be permitted as an accessory use to a dwelling unit in any R or NC District which involves or requires any of the following:

  1. Any construction features or alterations not residential in character;
  2. The use of more than ? of the total floor area of the dwelling unit, except in the case of accessory off-street parking and loading;
  3. The employment of any person not resident in the dwelling unit, other than a domestic servant, gardener, janitor or other person concerned in the operation or maintenance of the dwelling unit;
  4. Residential occupancy by persons other than those specified in the definition of family in this Code;
  5. In RH-1(D), RH-1 and RH-1(S) Districts, the provision of any room for a roomer or boarder with access other than from within the dwelling unit;
  6. Addition of a building manager's unit, unless such unit meets all the normal requirements of this Code for dwelling units;
  7. The maintenance of a stock in trade, or the use of show windows or window displays or advertising to attract customers or clients; or
  8. The conduct of a business office open to the public.

Provided, however, that Subsection (h) of this Section shall not exclude the maintenance within a dwelling unit of the office of a professional person who resides therein, if accessible only from within the dwelling unit; and provided, further, that Subsection (g) shall not exclude the display of signs permitted by Article 6 of this Code. (Amended by Ord. 443-78, App. 10/6/78; Ord. 69-87, App. 3/13/87)

Complaints may be made to the Planning Department in writing or by calling (415) 575-6863.