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Case Basics
Docket No. 
City of Los Angeles
Alameda Books, Inc.
(Los Angeles, California argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
Facts of the Case 

Based on its 1977 study concluding that concentrations of adult entertainment establishments are associated with higher crime rates in surrounding communities, the city of Los Angeles enacted Municipal Code section 12.70(C), which prohibited such enterprises within 1,000 feet of each other. The city later amended the ordinance to prohibit more than one adult entertainment business in the same building. Alameda Books, Inc. and Highland Books, Inc., two adult establishments that openly operate combined bookstores/video arcades, sued, alleging that the ordinance violates the First Amendment. Finding that the ordinance was not a content-neutral regulation of speech, the District Court reasoned that the 1977 study did not support a reasonable belief that multiple-use adult establishments produce the secondary effects the city asserted as content-neutral justifications for its prohibition. In affirming, the Court of Appeals found that, even if the ordinance were content neutral, the city failed to present evidence upon which it could reasonably rely to demonstrate that its regulation of multiple-use establishments was designed to serve its substantial interest in reducing crime.


May a city rely on a study it conducted to demonstrate whether an ordinance serves a substantial government interest?

Decision: 5 votes for City of Los Angeles, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

Yes. In a plurality opinion delivered by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the Court held that the city of Los Angeles may reasonably rely on a study it conducted some years before enacting the present version of section 12.70(C) to demonstrate that its ban on multiple-use adult establishments serves its interest in reducing crime. Three other Justices joined in this holding. Concurring, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy concluded that Los Angeles may impose its regulation in the exercise of the zoning authority, and that the city is not, at least, to be foreclosed by summary judgment. Justice David H. Souter, with whom Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen G. Breyer joined, dissented. Justice Souter argued that the 1977 study, while pursuing a policy of dispersing adult establishments, evolved to a policy of breaking-up combined bookstores/video arcades, for which the study's evidence was insufficient.

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CITY OF LOS ANGELES v. ALAMEDA BOOKS, INC.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 28 August 2015. <>.
CITY OF LOS ANGELES v. ALAMEDA BOOKS, INC., The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 28, 2015).
"CITY OF LOS ANGELES v. ALAMEDA BOOKS, INC.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 28, 2015,