Mission Control has been a hub for alternative sex culture in San Francisco since 2001. We were recently, without warning, evicted from the space that has been our home for thirteen years. It wasn’t “rising rent prices” or “a rowdy party” which ended us, as has been reported. Our demise was one phone call from the City Attorney to our landlord, telling us that the building was not zoned for use as a private club. The landlord, who had no idea of how we used the building, was shocked to discover our purpose, and served us a 30 day notice immediately. When the reporter from the Chronicle called the City Attorney to find out why we had been evicted he denied making the phone call. After persisting, he said it was because of a “rowdy party”, but that was a lie. Our events never disturbed our neighbors and no report of a disturbance was ever made. Although we will never really know what happened, the whole thing seems fishy. As that particular block of Mission Street is currently under construction with multimillion-dollar condos, the most likely answer in my mind is gentrification. They wanted to clean up the block, they knew we existed, and decided it was time for us to go.
Despite losing our much loved home, we are thriving. Membership is higher than ever, and teams of dedicated volunteers are working hard to ensure the events continue in temporary spaces. Against all odds, we are flourishing because people want Mission Control to exist! San Francisco is not just a tech town; it has a rich history of counter culture, and it has always been a forerunner in sexual liberation. San Francisco was the first city in America to allow the distribution and exhibition of porn. At the Condor in Northbeach topless dancing was another first for America. The sex workers of the Barbary Coast were taken care of with public health plans that would be progressive even by today’s standards. Mission Control is not a one-off; it’s a stepping-stone in a long lineage of our cultural history. We are part of San Francisco’s soul.
There’s a commentary in San Francisco that’s been active since I arrived here in 1999: The real culture is being pushed out by Silicon Valley, tech workers are taking over everything, and soon it will all be over. This continuing US vs THEM story is damaging our city. People who work in the tech industry aren’t soulless robots. Many of them are creative, progressive, inspiring people. They go to Burning Man and build amazing things; they support Kickstarters; they help to keep the counter culture of San Francisco alive, in spite of the battle against our city’s greedy politics. Please don’t fall for the hysteria you are being fed, that tech workers are the problem in this town. Having said that, the idea that Mission Control is a private, exclusive playground for rich tech people is absurd. Mission Control’s members come from many different walks of life, and our membership fee, at just $10 a month, makes our events extremely accessible.
Mission Control is neither a victim to the changing financial landscape of San Francisco, nor is it a beneficiary of the wealth of the tech industry. Not everything in this town fits into that neat story, no matter what the internet might say.