The Mission District-based pornography studio Kink.com is under fire from neighbors as it attempts to get an entertainment permit that would transform the Armory and its 40,000 square foot interior court — capable of holding 4,000 people — into one of the largest music venues in the city.
Neighbors say Kink has violated its current permit at the Armory — the studio’s headquarters at 14th and Mission, near houses and apartment buildings — and cannot be trusted to abide by a new license that would allow late-night shows every day of the week.
Such a permit, neighbors said, would exacerbate existing problems with noise and unruly patrons.
“Families said that there were people having sex in their doorways, throwing bottles at their windows. A port-a-potty was tipped over, someone said a security guard threw a cone at her car,” said Sandra Davis, who lives across from the Armory on Woodward Street, in reference to an unpermitted event in February.
Davis attended a meeting held last Monday between representatives from Kink and some 25 concerned neighbors. The meeting was an effort at outreach in anticipation of a Tuesday hearing in front of the Entertainment Commission.
At that hearing, Kink will ask for a full entertainment permit that would allow the Armory to hold events seven days a week until 2 a.m. The commission could add stipulations to the permit such as requiring an earlier closing time.
However, neighbors say, the Armory already has plenty of parties. In February alone, they said, the Armory held four late-night music events — two of them without permits.
“The gist of [the Armory’s plan] was ‘I want to rival the Bill Graham Auditorium and the Masonic,’” Davis said. “That was a little shocking. I don’t know if I could handle that on a regular basis, that sounds a little crazy.”
Kink representatives apologized for the unpermitted February shows at last week’s meeting and pledged to soundproof the Armory and increase after-hours security.
Davis isn’t satisfied. The Armory’s transformation should be postponed until Kink demonstrates that it will abide by city rules and control its sometimes drunk and sexually aroused clientele, she said, and Kink should pay for its past transgressions and follow current permit rules.
“I think they need to be fined, they need to be cited,” Davis said. “I don’t know that they should be allowed to have an altered permit at this point. They’ve pretty much blown the trust of the neighborhood.”
Gitanjali Denley, another Woodward Street resident, said that after the February shows, someone tipped over a port-a-potty near her house and vandalized her mailbox. “All four of those shows were complete disasters.”
The concert noise, she wrote, “escalated to deafening levels” until well past midnight. Calls to the police were unsuccessful because officers believed the Armory had a valid permit for the shows.
It did not, confirmed Maggie Wieland, deputy director of the Entertainment Commission. She said the Armory’s current permit allows one show a month and that the commission issued a one-time permit for an additional show, but that any other events were violations.
“It came to our attention after the last week in February that they had had an event without pulling a permit from us,” Wieland said. “We caught wind of it and our inspector went out.”
Despite the evident violations — which Wieland said were clear to the commission — no notice of violation was issued because Kink was scheduled to appear at a commission hearing in March, a step that would otherwise be taken only after multiple citations following a violation.
“In a way it was like ‘Hey we’re bringing them to hearing anyways,’” Wieland said, a step the director of the commission took to speed up the process of addressing neighborhood concerns.
But that step also has some neighbors riled up. Audrey Joseph, the events director for Kink, is one of two industry representatives on the Entertainment Commission who has faced allegations of ethics violations in the past for communicating with city staff on behalf of Kink. Joseph denied those allegations then and could not be reached for comment for this story, but neighbors said her past makes them skeptical Kink will follow rules in the future. Joseph has recused herself from these negotiations.
“She’s leading them into willingly violating their own permit — how much is the public supposed to trust them at this point?” said Davis. “If they can’t be responsible with that temporary use permit, how are they going to be responsible with one that gives them more latitude?”
Kink representatives said they would soundproof the Armory’s doors, possibly add another layer of glass to its windows, and limit the noise level that could be projected from its sound system.
They also promised to post a security guard on Woodward Street — where many of the concerned neighbors live — and said it already hires one security guard per 100 patrons.
That has not been enough for nearby residents in the past, however. Besides the bottles thrown at windows and door stoop sex, Davis said there are often mounds of trash left behind by patrons who loiter on her street and talk loudly late into the night.
Kink, for its part, said that porters are hired to clean sidewalks of litter after events and that its security guards are told to move people from residential streets like Woodward and Julian onto transit corridors like Mission and Valencia.
Mike Stabile, a spokesperson for Kink, said he was not surprised by the opposition. A large music venue coming into a relatively residential area was sure to raise concern, he said, and Kink would work its “hardest to make sure that those are going to be unfounded.”
“Anytime you have a change like that there’s going to be a neighborhood concern,” he said. “The burden is really going to be on us to prove that we’re going to be a responsible neighbor.”
When asked why they held the earlier parties without permits, Stabile said Kink anticipated having a full entertainment permit by February and would have been in violation of its contracts to host the shows to the tune of “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
“It’s a less than ideal situation for all involved,” he added.
Supervisors David Campos and Scott Weiner are supportive of the Armory’s planned permit — which has been in the works for months — though Campos wrote a letter to the Entertainment Commission stressing that the Armory must make the soundproofing and security changes it promised at last week’s meeting.
“I hope that these conditions will allow the Armory to operate an exciting event venue in my district,” he wrote, adding that his office reserves the right to change his support “if the Armory does not abide by these conditions.”
Davis said she was surprised at the supervisor’s support given the Armory’s past violations and said those should be addressed before a new permit is issued.
“The venue really needs to demonstrate to the neighborhood that it can abide by the current permit,” she said.
Kink is scheduled to appear before the Entertainment Commission on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at city hall, hearing room 416, where the seven-member commission will decide whether to grant the porn studio its entertainment license.