Armory scores concert permit despite neighbor opposition

The San Francisco Armory won a permit to begin operating as a full-time event and concert venue from the Entertainment Commission Tuesday night despite protests from neighbors rattled by noise and rowdy patrons at recent events.

The Armory, a historic city building and headquarters for Kink.com, contains a 40,000 square foot event space known as the Drill Court.

The Mission District facility, which has had a permit to hold one show or event a month since 2013, now plans to become a full-time entertainment venue with a capacity of up to 4,000 people.

Neighbors turned out in force tonight to speak against the plan following a series of loud electronic dance music concerts held in recent months that residents said shook walls, broke windows, kept them up late and drew unruly crowds.

Resident Sandra Davis said:

“I don’t think anyone in this room wants to deny private nonprofit events. … It’s the raves, the electronic dance music events that are problematic.”

Supervisor David Campos, previously a supporter, also came out against the permit application Tuesday after learning that the venue had held concerts in February without a proper permit, his aide Hillary Ronen told the commission.

Peter Acworth, Kink.com’s CEO and founder, said two concerts went ahead without permits because he and others had thought they would have the permit in hand by then and risked losing $300,000 if they canceled. He said two particularly loud events in February were due to a promoter who refused to turn down the volume when complaints started coming in:

“Those events were too loud, we apologize for that. … That will not happen again, you have my word on that. I’m committed to being a good neighbor.”

The Armory’s owners committed to soundproofing work on the facility including the construction of a second set of inner doors to help seal in sound and the addition of double-paned windows. No new concerts will take place until that work is completed. In addition, they are working on installing a sound system that will let them control the volume even on promoters using outside equipment, Acworth said.

Supporters of the venue argued that the city urgently needed an event space of this size, and pointed to the more than 150 jobs generated by the facility and its support of local nonprofits as reasons to back the permit application.

Ultimately, the commission approved the permit application 4-2 with conditions including additional security and traffic management and hours limited to 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, midnight on Thursday and 2 a.m. on Friday, Saturday and on the Sundays before public holidays.

The decision disappointed many neighbors, some of whom had hoped for earlier hours or additional limits on the days of operation or the number of events allowed. Acworth said he thought the hours could work for the facility and said he would work to repair his relationship with the neighbors and with Campos’ office.