Confidential Email Shows Kink.com Trying to Recruit Mission Latinos to Fight Prop. I [Updated]

It’s no secret that Kink.com is opposed to Prop. I, the so-called “Mission Moratorium” that would freeze construction of new Mission housing projects larger than five units for 18 months. The porn studio wants to convert its 40,000-square-foot Drill Court into an entertainment venue and events space that could buoy its sagging revenue.

But if Prop. I passes, that plan hits a roadblock, and the the building's future is in doubt. That's because in addition to muzzling new construction, Prop. I also prohibits the “demolition, conversion, or elimination of Production, Distribution and Repair (PDR)” buildings, which include many industrial, automotive, storage, and wholesale businesses. 

Kink is headquartered in the historic Armory, which one housed the National Guard and is the largest building in the Mission.

“We need this in order to make the building affordable,” Kink CEO Peter Acworth told the Chronicle this month. “If we don’t have this and the sales continue to slide, the building starts to look in jeopardy and I start to have to look to rent it out to other uses.”

In an all-staff email with the subject line “Confidential/Internal – Need a Mission Latino Resident,” Eric Paul Leue, Kink’s director of sexual health and advocacy, proposed that Kink recruit a Latino Mission resident to speak out against Prop. I. He also urged the staff to keep the memo “internal.”

[jump] Here's a screenshot via Twitter:

“We’ve been working on a No on I video looking for employees and others who live in the Mission, and that people would otherwise assume to be Yes on I: artisans, blue collar workers, Latino residents, etc., but who are actually opposed to it,” Leue said via email. “While we have a pretty diverse workforce, I wasn’t sure who lived in the Mission specifically, or how they felt about the proposition.”

Gabriel Medina, policy manager at Mission Economic Development Agency and president of S.F. Latino Democrats, calls the email “a casting call,” and accuses Kink of trying to engineer a “fake grasssroots campaign.”

Medina brought 10 young Latino men to Kink today at 1:00 p.m., where he (sarcastically) offered them as token spokesmen for Kink’s “cheap PR campaign.”

“Kink hasn’t been involved in the Latino community before,” Medina says. “Over the past 10 years, I can’t think of a single time they’ve reached out to the community. If they had Latinos on staff, maybe they wouldn’t have to hire ones to speak for them.”

(Mike Stabile, a spokesman for Kink, confirmed that Latino employees are among the company’s 100-plus staffers in San Francisco.)

Leue says that not only does Prop. I limit Kink’s revenue opportunities, it would also chase jobs out of the neighborhood. If the company can’t open its new events space, they can’t hire new staffers, either. Last month, Acworth made his case in an editorial for Huffington Post.

What is 'gentrification' if not the killing of a community and the loss of our culture? What is gentrification if not the elimination of living wage jobs? The Armory Drill court will generate hundreds of such jobs, part on-site, part by those promoters renting the space, and part as a result of spill over of positive effects to the local small business community.

Medina is unimpressed with the job rhetoric. “They’re already moving jobs out of California to Nevada,” he says, alluding to the high taxes, high cost of living, and stricter California condom regulations that are pushing many porn companies out of state.

Stabile said that a Latino Kink staffer will be featured in the upcoming video, and that the company just wanted to widen its net to find others in the community who don’t support Prop. I.

SF Weekly reached out to Peter Acworth for comment and will update the story when he responds.

Update: Peter Acworth, CEO of Kink.com, issued the following statement:

I love the Mission. I have lived and worked here for 9 years. I buy my child clothes at Thrift Town and my favorite playground is kidpower park (near 16th and mission). Were it not for the unintended consequences of Prop I, I wouldn’t be in this fight.

Indeed, in 2012 I worked with Aaron Peskin, Christina Olague and Arriba Juntos to defeat a market rate condo construction project adjacent to the Armory (this battle ultimately cost me a great deal of money and succeeded). Kink.com even held a fundraiser for Supervisor David Campos at our Armory Club. I don’t like the way the Mission is changing either, but ultimately I’m concerned that Prop I makes things worse.

Despite the fact that kink.com's occupancy of the Armory was bitterly fought at inception, we have worked tirelessly to make our presence a positive one for the community. We hire locally where possible, and have dozens of Latino and Hispanic employees at all levels, from production staff to VP. We support numerous local non-profit organizations to aid our home city and neighborhood.

I reached out to political leaders to alert them that a valuable event space (certainly the largest in the Mission, if not the city) would be lost. My requests were ignored. 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?

I would like to make my desire to be involved going forward publicly known, so that we can all work together on the best plan for the neighborhood. Unfortunately Prop I isn't it, at least not from my perspective.

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