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Service organization flees from kinky Mission neighbor

San Francisco Business Times - March 23, 2007

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Sometimes it takes more than strong walls to make good neighbors.

Kink.com bought the Armory in the Mission in December for $14.5 million, seeing the abandoned building, with its dungeon-like basement, underground stables and atmospheric interior as the perfect setting to film scenes for its pornography and fetish web sites.

Next door, La Casa de las Madres' community office has quietly been helping victims of domestic violence since 1999.

Both groups avoid publicity. Indeed, the location of La Casa's shelter is a closely guarded secret. So when Kink.com bought the Armory, it wasn't merely the collision of two very different organizations, but the attendant media frenzy that convinced Kathy Black, La Casa's executive director, to break a lease that doesn't expire until January 2009.

Jumping early

La Casa de las Madres always planned to move when its lease expired.

"This has been a tough block to live on," Black said of Mission Street between 14th and 15th streets. La Casa has doubled the number of people it serves in the past five years.

La Casa's new space costs almost the same amount per square foot, but at 5,000 square feet is nearly twice the size of the space La Casa is vacating, and has six counseling rooms versus two. La Casa will move by April 30.

Because she's accelerated the move, Black won't be able to secure capital grants to fund it. La Casa also just rebranded itself, so it will have to reprint again all its stationery, letterheads and business cards, which will add to the cost.

The media attention directed at Kink.com was the deciding factor. Black told stories of battered women, scared but seeking help, having to walk past video cameras and news vans to enter La Casa's office and their terror of being caught on camera.

"The first and foremost issue is to stay close enough so as not to disrupt our client base," Black said. "But at the same time, (it is) to be in a place where we will not be sharing a common wall with Kink.com."






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