Oakland city council has decided to consider regulation on nail salons and possibly a moratorium on these businesses in the city. Most of the nail salons employ Vietnamese immigrants who would be severely affected economically by a moratorium. The city’s business leaders stated a high concentration of one kind of business can be fatal for a neighborhood and there are also worries about health and safety hazards at nail salons.

Vice Mayor Ignacio De La Fuente states, “Right now we have absolutely no controls or regulations over nail salons, which have proliferated and, I think, become a problem. I wouldn’t be surprised if Oakland has 1,000 of them.” Pamela Drake, director of the Lakeshore Business Improvement District, adds “A neighborhood shopping district only works if it serves the neighborhood. A proliferation of nail salons is not serving the neighborhood.

The city also wants to crackdown on health and safety hazards as workers often suffer from respiratory and reproductive problems because of the toxic chemicals in nail polish, polish remover and cleaning supplies. Meanwhile, the nail salon owners want to assist with the writing of regulations that would be implemented. They hope the new rules are not too burdensome and that Vietnamese immigrant workers are adequately informed.

Dana Paredes, organizing director of Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, reminds us that “Nail salons are the cornerstone of the Vietnamese community. People are already feeling pinched by the economy. Workers don’t want to have to choose between their health and a paycheck.”

A customer of the nail salons, Michelle Robinson, tells the San Francisco Chronicle, “It’s tranquil. It’s relaxing. And they work with integrity. There’s so much competition, they’ve raised the bar. Why would you go anywhere else? It’s not the same. You’re wasting your money.” For now, the nail salons will continue their business as the issue has been referred to the Planning Commission and will return to the council in a few months.

by Tran Le


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