Power Exchange plugs along

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By Megan Gordon

The situation at Power Exchange, the San Francisco venerable sex club that has been battling with city officials and their neighbors, hasn’t changed much since we last wrote about it. “We’re bogged down in the mire of bureaucratic red tape. No one’s doing anything but a professional job, but it’s taking forever,” owner Michael Powers said.

If anything, the past few weeks have brought about changes and developments that seem to be slowing things down even further. “Planning just needs to send a letter to the Fire Department saying we’re not prohibited from being in there. The Fire Department is ready to put it in our hands,” Powers said. But Lawrence Badiner, planning inspector who was dealing with the situation, recently handed over responsibilities to fellow inspector Dario Jones. At press time, Jones was not available for comment.

In addition to a shuffling of responsibility within the Planning Department, on Oct. 13, Powers filed for a new building permit that would change the assembly definition from a nightclub to a social hall. When asked why he did this or what it will mean for the business, Powers replied, “The permit is based on Badiner’s interpretation—it’s the closest thing they have to match what our business really is. It’s just a matter of interpretation of language: a nightclub implies there’s activity like amplified music or organized entertainment. We don’t fit under all of those code sections. The idea with a social club is we’re no different than, say, an Elks Lodge.”

Powers is referring to the fact that his business is just a building, a space for people to gather and do what they will, whether that’s chat about a long work day or engage in consensual sexual activity. The tone of what happens inside the building is set by the patrons, not by anything Power Exchange provides.

When asked about Powers’ statement that they’re just waiting for the Planning Department to give the green light, Badiner replied that was simply inaccurate. “They just filed a permit to change occupancy to a social hall. It’ll come through our department and we’ll issue it,” he said.

Regarding how long that usually takes, Badiner couldn’t say for sure. But Powers is getting anxious. “I’m getting ready to go elsewhere. I’ve had enough. It’s like I said, I’m about ready to make some money and have some fun. This just takes the wind out of your sails.”

“Very soon I’ll be able to say this is now adversarial,” Powers said. “The longer they draw this out, the more they think they show their value and worth for the city. The reality: this should be a very simple thing.”