COMMUNITY RESIDENTS and local officials have been struggling for some time with the question of what to do about the pornography business. There have been studies, reports, protest demonstrations and commission hearings - all focusing on what should be considered the appropriate location, type and number of "sex shops" in the area. Until recently, there did not seem to be any clear answers. Now, however, the D.C. Zoning Commission has figured out how to tackle at least part of the problem. In a recent action, the commission came up with some well-defined and strict regulations about just where new pornography stores can be located in the city.

The Zoning Commission examined a number of proposals - including the Boston model of a special zone for these businesses - and developed regulations' that will require these shops to conform to some city standards. Newly established sex shops will now have to be located in a specific downtown commercial zone - an area between Massachusetts and Pennsylvania Avenues NW. But the regulations don't just stop there.The shops cannot operate within 600 feet of residential areas or so-called special-purpose zones, which are partly residential and partly commercial - a provision that would apply to 16th Street and much of Massachussetts Avenue and the Dupont Circle area. Nor can these businesses be located within 600 feet of a church, school, library or playground. In addition, "sex shops" cannot be located within 600 feet of any federal building - nor within 300 feet of a similar business.

The Zoning Commission's action is aimed at curbing the number of new pornography shops in the city. Massage parlors and theatres showing X-rated movies will not be affected.The regulations will also not get rid of the existing pornography places that now litter the 14th Street and 9th Street strips, nor do they touch some of the tougher questions about how these places display their wares - although this may come later. But the commission's action does strike us as a good way to begin dealing with a complicated and controversial problem.