Porn purveyor seeks to reassure Mission 

The abandoned historic building once at the center of gentrification wars, failed development projects and much controversy has been sold — and the porn distributor who is moving in wants to assure the neighborhood that his business will bring positive change to the community.

Built in 1912 to house members of the California National Guard, the 190,000-square-foot armory building at Mission and 14th streets remained abandoned — except for occasional usage — since the Army left it 1975. A private developer purchased the American Gothic-style building, which belonged to the state, in 1986 with the intent of creating housing. However, proposals for the empty building never came to fruition because of community opposition. The massive building became a centerpiece for Mission district gentrification fights during the dotcom boom, with angry residents opposed to a server farm and office space, as well as market-rate housing.

On Dec. 29, it was announced that Web-based porn distributor Kink.com purchased the property for $14.5 million with the intent of using it as a studio for fetish films.

At the Mission Merchants Association meeting Tuesday, several members expressed outrage as to why they were not notified about the "porn palace," being that the building is a block away from a school and in a family-oriented area. Those familiar with the building’s history were also baffled at how quickly the process was completed — within two months.

"First of all, the owner sold it out from under those that wanted the armory for housing — and I don’t think this business is conducive to the family community in the Mission distinct. It came out of the blue and nothing was discussed, " said Chuck Ayala, who owns the Centro Latino de San Francisco senior center a block away from the armory.

Peter Acworth, founder of Kink.com, told members at the meeting that he was confined to a verbal confidentiality agreement and could not come forward to the community until the private sale was finalized.

The private status of the sale allows Acworth to do anything he wishes with the space that includes a drill room, dungeon-type basements and countless rooms.

Acworth also insisted at the meeting that his use of the building will include an upgrade to the abandoned building with new windows, lights and security to combat crime and the possibility of an assembly permit so that public events may be held in it.

"I think that generally cleaning the outside windows, having an absence of graffiti and lighting up the building will bring a positive effect," Acworth said.

Colleen Meharry, member of the Mission Merchants Association and restaurant consultant, said failed proposals for the building go back as long as she can remember and that the new influx of people to the building might help to deter crime in one of the Mission’s most dangerous areas.

"I don’t know why the armory never sold before this. If you find Jimmy Hoffa, then you alsoknow what happened to the armory. Any use of the space is better than empty," Meharry said.

E-mail Eleni Economides at eeconomides@examiner.com.

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