City spanks Power Exchange - Page 2

Sex club grapples with bureaucracy and opponents to open in the Tenderloin

Instead of a conditional use permit, Powers was issued a "cease all operations" citation.

"Apparently the Building Department had an issue with Powers. They never called to say they did everything on the list. Normally we could issue them a conditional public assembly permit. However, the Building Department issued a cease operations permit, and they supercede us. We can't overrule that," Talmage said. So the party was over before it had much of a chance to begin.

A frustrated Powers went ahead and opened Sept. 18, but city officials showed up to shut it down. He's convinced that this is about more than a few building improvements or filing a change of use document for the appropriate permit. "It's not about whether that building is safe. It's safe as safe can be right now," he claims.

Tenderloin Station Police Capt. Gary Jimenez disagrees. "We want to prevent them from opening up because the location is dangerous. It's a fire hazard, we're not sure the sprinkler system is hooked up, and they don't have an occupancy permit from the Fire Department. Nor will they be able to get one until they clear the building inspector violations."

Yet city officials seemed OK with the club until neighbors and the Chronicle turned up the heat.

"The feeling most residents have is that they're already dealing with significant crime and quality of life issues. This is the last thing that they wanted to move into this largely residential neighborhood," says Daniel Hurtado, executive director of the Central Market Community Benefit District.

Patrons say the discreet club has gotten a bum rap. "Power Exchange has always had good security, a good relationship with its neighbors and customers, an open-door policy on concerns, and a sense of giving back to the community," Dori, a longtime Power Exchange patron, told us.

Powers, who ran for mayor in 2007, remains defiant: "Currently I look like I'm closed down because I'm defying the law. The reality? You're not going to prohibit me from being open because of paperwork. If I need to file a new document, fine. Let's move on."

But after failing to get the green light during an Oct. 1 inspection, Powers is feeling frustrated. "The Planning Department, again, is doing their hocus-pocus over their interpretation of the business. If you're going to say we're not restrained from going in there, what does it matter what type of business we are? If Badiner would just say we're not prohibiting them from opening, the Fire Department will let us kick the doors open."

Devoted patrons of Power Exchange echo this frustration. "We all want a safe club and appreciate the need for inspections related to safety and expect the city to work quickly and fairly with the PE to remedy any safety issues so it may reopen for business soon for me and the whole community," Robin said.

Powers describes his "complete and utter frustration with the finger pointing of the different bureaucracies" as maddening. But the ball is rolling. When they do reopen, it remains to be seen if residents of San Francisco — known to be open-minded and accepting — will allow Powers to just settle in. For now, neighborhood groups wait with watchful eyes as Power Exchange patrons prepare to play once again.

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