Controversy arose today over a leaked email that showed Kink.com put out a call for a “Latino Mission resident” to speak out against the Mission moratorium, or Proposition I.
The staff-wide email, leaked last night, was sent yesterday as part of a plan by Kink.com to create a campaign video of people not normally associated with opposition to Proposition I, like working-class or Latino residents.
“We just put that email out and said ‘Hey, is there anyone who is opposed to Prop. I and do you want to speak to it?’” said Eric Paul Leue, the director of sexual health and advocacy at Kink.com, who sent the email. Leue said he hoped to find Latino Mission residents “who would be willing to say something and would be willing to speak to their opposition” to the moratorium.
“I think there is something to be said for looking for a specific person if we think that specific person is underrepresented” in the debate, he added.
Community organizers disagreed.
“I think this is really typical of what the opposition is doing to promote itself as being part of the community without really being part of the community or understanding the community,” said Erick Arguello, co-founder of the Calle 24 merchant’s association. “It’s not just bringing someone who has a brown face.”
“Over the past 10 years, I can’t think of a single time they’ve reached out to the community,” said Gabriel Medina, the policy manager of MEDA, who also heads the “Yes on I” campaign. “If they had Latinos on staff, maybe they wouldn’t have to hire ones to speak for them.”
Mike Stabile, a spokesperson with Kink.com, refuted that claim, saying the company has “an extremely diverse workforce.”
“There was some discussion that Kink doesn’t have Latino employees, which is ridiculous,” Stabile said. Kink.com founder Peter Acworth added in a statement later that the firm has “dozens of Hispanic and Latino employees.”
MEDA held an impromptu press conference Wednesday afternoon in front of Kink.com’s headquarters at the Armory to voice their dismay. Participants pretended to apply to be the Latino Mission resident sought in the email.
“I’m here to apply for the Latino poster boy position” said activist Chirag Bhakta outside of the Armory. Six Latino men queued up, fake resumes in hand, to “apply,” while five women stood behind them raising “Yes on I” signs.
“What are you looking for in the job?” asked Medina, pretending to be an applicant.
“A willingness to speak for the 1 percent,” answered Peter Papadopoulos, pretending to be the interviewer. The Cultural Action Network spokesperson asked “applicants” why they would be good “Latino poster boys” and accepted their resumes in front of the Armory’s steps.
The historic brick building contains a 40,000 square-foot court that Kink hopes to convert into an events space, a move that would be blocked if Proposition I passes in November. In addition to stalling all market-rate housing the Mission for 18 months, the measure halts the conversion of production, development, and repair spaces, zoning that currently applies to the Armory’s interior court.
“We’re in a position to create something like 50 jobs that are living-wage jobs, and we think the PDR conversion is having an unintended effect for us,” said Mike Stabile, a spokesperson for Kink.com. “I don’t think the ordinance as it was written intended for this consequence.”
The Armory is in dire straits. The internet pornography company has found it difficult to stay solvent in the age of free internet porn, and its founder, Peter Acworth, told the Chronicle earlier this month that converting the court to an events space is necessary to “make the building affordable.”
Acworth even has a backup plan to abandon the building and rent out office space, possibly letting tech firms move into what is a coveted brick-and-timber space, though the company’s spokesperson said that the current plan was to stay in San Francisco.
Acworth issued a statement to San Francisco Weekly, saying he had reached out to political leaders about the fate of the Armory under a moratorium.
“If Mr. Medina is upset by my lack of contact, I don’t understand why he and these leaders didn’t reach out to me, instead of drafting Prop I behind closed doors,” Acworth wrote.