Representatives voted 74 to 30 in favour of the new development in Alstetten to the west of the city, Tages-Anzeiger newspaper reported.
Ten garage-like booths will be erected on derelict land in an industrial area in Alstetten, complete with parking spaces and alarm buttons. The so-called "performance stalls" will be the first of their kind in Switzerland if the project goes ahead.
The city council agreed last week to sanction the 2.4-million franc ($2.8m) loan for the development pending parliamentary approval.
Most parties voted in favour of the loan, but the project met with resistance from the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the Evangelical People’s Party (EVP) and the Swiss Democrats (SD).
All politicians agreed on one point, however: kerb-crawling at the Sihlquai red light district in the city centre must come to an end.
In a lively debate, Marcel Savaroud of the Social Democratic Party (SP) thought that the district in Alstetten would allow for better oversight.
SVP politician Hedy Schlatter countered that the construction of copulation booths was outside the remit of the authorities, asking rhetorically:
“Is it really the role of the state to organise a drive-in prostitution area at the taxpayer’s cost?”
Christian Traber of the Christian Democratic People’s Party (CVP) acknowledged that “sex stalls are not a universal remedy” but argued that the drive-in brothels would help improve the current situation.
Martin Waser, the Social Democrat head of the city's social department, concurred:
“We must take a chance with this experiment,” he said, citing the urgency of the situation and the lack of a viable alternative.
The Free Democratic Party (FP) referred to the German city of Cologne, which it said had a positive experience of similar sex stalls.
However, the SVP responded that equivalent “shagging huts” in Dortmund had to be shut down when the area became a magnet for criminals from Eastern Europe.
The solution was a “quick fix” that only shifts the problem elsewhere, according to the EVP, who feared that the taxpayer would effectively end up subsidising pimps.
Opponents in the Swiss Democrats (SD) took a different tack, expressing doubts that the new red light district would be accepted by punters.
Zurich city council plans to open the new district in Spring 2012, while at the same time ending prostitution on Sihlquai in the city.
There has been resistance in Alstetten with residents saying they do not want to become the “dump of the city”.
Around 20 locals have requested copies of the relevant documents approving the project but a formal complaint has not yet been made. They have until the end of November to submit objections, which could hold up the project.