Recent reports of illegal sex businesses in the Richmond District

The Richmond District’s dirty laundry has been aired out recently in the news, with startling signs that this sleepy neighborhood may be the ideal place for human traffickers to operate illegal businesses.

You may recall in 2013 when the Department of Public Health revoked the operating permits of two Richmond District massage businesses due to allegations of illegal activities and unsanitary conditions.

One was the Clement Service Center at 311 12th Avenue, the other was Warmer Massage at 505 8th Avenue.

The businesses were cited for a variety of infractions including having unlicensed practitioners, unsanitary conditions, being open past permissible operating hours, and operating without a permit.

At the time of the investigations, inspectors were told of sexual conduct between the practitioners and patrons, and condoms were found on the premises, but nothing was witnessed. The businesses were closed, but eventually reopened.

Michael Tarbox, the owner of the market next to Warmer Massage summed up how the neighborhood feels about these businesses.

“We don’t want this business here. We know what it is. We know what’s going on there,” Tarbox said.

The situation is not going away. This past weekend, a Chronicle reporter accompanied a public health inspector and the SFPD on their visits to several city massage parlors.

“Each and every massage parlor was cited for at least one violation – and many of them showed clear evidence of human trafficking,” the story reported.

One of the businesses mentioned in the story was Ai Rose Salon, located at 4004 Balboa near 41st Avenue. The evidence was obvious upon their arrival.

“As the group rushed in, a young patron tried to hurry out, holding up his pants with one hand. The police stopped him for questioning – it turned out that he had a previous arrest.”

And as of this morning, it appears the sex trade is not just limited to massage businesses.

The Chronicle reported on the arrest of two sisters in the Richmond District on allegations of operating a sex-trafficking ring here in the neighborhood.

“Qiao “Judy” He, 37, and Gaineng He, 36, both of San Francisco, were booked into County Jail on suspicion of pimping and pandering. Investigators said the women ran two brothels out of residences at 385 7th Ave. and 4719 Geary Blvd., where they charged men up to $200 to have sexual intercourse with young women.”

The two women are being held on $25,000 bail and are also under investigation for potential tax fraud and conspiracy violations.

Sarah B.


  1. Warmer massage is still there and now there’s the ultra creepy Paradise Massage on Balboa at 3rd. I miss Movie Crazzzzz.

  2. We need to put pressure on the city to close these places and not let them reopen. Maybe letters to the building owners as well.

  3. IMO, this problem is created by the way that commercial districts operate in the Sunset. In many cases, massage parlors are located in smaller, quieter commercial clusters that don’t get lots of foot traffic and the storefronts don’t comply with transparency requirements. We should either offer property owners incentives to convert garages into storefronts to give these commercial clusters a better chance at succeeding, or phase them out if they aren’t desired. Jane Jacobs famously spoke of the importance of having “eyes on the street” and that certainly applies to this situation.

  4. A new one just popped up on Balboa at 36th. My first thought turned to sex trafficking. I have no idea whether this new one is a legitimate business or not, but every “massage parlor” should be regularly checked, which is hard to do in a city with one inspector who has no authority to actually do anything about it. That is too bad considering the Bay Area is one of the worldwide hubs for human trafficking.

  5. It’s the human trafficking that bothers me most about this story. Many of these women are forced into it and aren’t free to escape it. My heart breaks for them. Maybe it’s time to make prostitution legal so there is more transparency and less demand for these shady operations.

  6. Considering there are elementary schools and playgrounds so close to Ai Rose and the like, are there any zoning regulations that would prohibit massage parlors from being nearby?

  7. Amy, legal prostitution and human trafficking have little to do with each other. In fact, there is at least as much human trafficking that happens in countries and cities where prostitution is legalized and regulated. The average starting age of being prostituted (whether being forced or for survival–for example with runaways and throwaways) is 12-14. When someone turns 18 and is still being forced, he or she doesn’t suddenly change from victim to voluntary prostitute. Certainly not every sex worker started off or is a trafficking victim, but up to 90% of all “voluntary” prostitutes suffered sexual abuse, and most (I can’t remember the stat, but somewhere in the 60ish percent range) were raped before the age of 10.

  8. I actually sent a letter to planning when the 12th Ave. place was getting permitted, letting them know how many other massage places (legit or otherwise) there were in the hood and how this one seemed dodgy, and was basically told they had already been green-lit and my letter was useless.
    That said, I’d do it again. It is plain wrong to treat other humans this way.

    A real health center and spa wouldn’t need heavy black out curtains nor would there be folks loitering outside at all hours smoking and acting suspicious (as I’ve seen in front of the 12th Ave. location).

    I guess we should just keep our eyes open and report suspicious activity as we see it…

  9. Amy, if you are talking about Sunny Spa, they are legit. I have been in there for a full massage. They are very professional and kind. It is also one of the few places in the neighborhood that does Swedish. I cannot tolerate other types of massages that use greater pressure. The whole back area is designated for foot and reflexology. And, I believe Yuka of Cassava gave them a rave review on Yelp. I know I went into Cassava for lunch after my massage and recommended Sunny Spa.

  10. the older one on Balboa next to Chinos is definitely sex. why do I know this? my back was F’d up real bad one time–this was maybe 4 years ago– I broke down and went for a massage. surprise to me it turned into the lady sexually assaulting me (from my POV) with aggressive prostitute stuff. I guess I should have not been surprised but I was pretty shocked at the hard sell to someone clearly wanting a regular damn massage. I didn’t call the cops or anything. but since then I have been asking myself, how are they still in biz not busted. I guess they pay off the right people. on the one hand if it is consenting I dont think it is a priority crime for the cops. but plainly a lot of these girls are imported slaves

  11. If anyone reading this has any power over the matter, please shut these down once and for all! The story gets old, ya know?

  12. All it takes to shut them down is for organized individuals to stand on the public sidewalk near the door and take photos/videos of those entering and leaving. Sure, some customers may still go in but it will discourage many and when business declines they’ll go elsewhere. Likely would have to do a bunch of them at the same time to be effective.

    If the businesses complain the SFPD could station an officer near the door to ensure that the customers are free to enter and exit as they please without being hindered by the photographers.

  13. The only problem with “shaming” customers through photography, is that you can’t just do it based on a hunch. It is unfair to legit businesses and those who are truly seeking and receiving therapeutic massages. Not all are doing illegal activity.

  14. I guess we’ve got to take up a collection and investigate these places ourselves. Time for the men of the Richmond District to take action. How does 10 pm Saturday night sound to everyone?

  15. @ Man With A Plan
    You could also check and see if they also sell Happy Meals with toys or if they advertise on billboard trucks that park near a school….*Those* nefarious activities have drawn the attention of one particular supervisor.

  16. @ Derek
    It seems the problem is that they are probably formula operations of some kind in disguise, high likelihood of common ownership and similar operations probably engaging in the oldest profession, undoubtedly not unique to San Francisco. About the oldest formula there is.

    Lets give our supervisor recognition. Maybe he was the reason that Burger King closed in the La Playa neighborhood. Give credit where credit is due. We can all rest easies knowing that that damn Burger King is no longer there to tempt our kids to eat fries with their burgers.

  17. What about the place corner of 26th and Geary? It doesn’t take an expert to suspect something odd about that place.

  18. That place at 6201 Geary (26th and Geary) looks shady, at least on Google street view. That bilingual sign

    I’m not a fortune teller, but I can guess that this story isn’t necessarily going to have a happy ending.

  19. Fellow Amy, good point about legalized prostitution leading to more human trafficking. I just looked it up and you’re right. I thought perhaps it would result in more oversight and protections, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

  20. 26th and Clement always looked legit–but in browsing one of the free weeklies in a coffee shop a couple of weeks ago I realized it’s a prostitution place. Walk by it nearly every school day with my son and had no idea. I used to live in Holland, and it was sad that even most of the working girls {and guys!} there were not mostly Dutch, but Eastern European refugees {at the time, sure they’re some other disenfranchised group by now}. I can deal with consenting adults, yada yada. But if you have any idea what human trafficking is, and what one of those girls’ days consists of…and how they got there, it is an evil situation.

  21. Not a doubt in my mind that most of these places are populated with trafficked women. Prostitution is a vexing problem because given the mores of civilization there seems a never-ending “demand” for sex without commitment and/or sex for sheer varietal pleasure – accompanied by a shortage of “supply” – thus, prostitution.

    I would love to see all these parlors closed down, and their owners fined up the wazoo or jailed for YEARS, depending on the degree of their complicity in trafficking their “employees”. It’s mind-numbing to consider that in the 21st century we still encounter indentured slavery (that’s what this is) all around us. It’s also angering to consider that the people who make money trafficking continue to get away with it, with seeming impunity. It’s maddening to know that so many parts of our globe are filled with millions of desperate persons who will risk life, limb, and personal values to escape their current condition, only to be taken advantage of by traffickers.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but in this little corner of the world we should work to help these women to get free of their indentured servitude and punish those who would so cynically use another human being’s life to enrich one’s own.

  22. @ Man with a Plan

    You may be joking, but for those establishments that are clearly nefarious, it might not be too crazy to have a webcam set up by a neighbor directed on the business. Then put up a sign or post flyers alerting patrons that they are on a live feed. In fact, you could just put up the sign even if there is no webcam.

  23. We talked about this very issue not a week ago in the article about the Alexandria theater being blighted. Notice how quick Eric Mar or his rep are to claim credit when there is an opportunity to be on TV or get interviewed? But when there is something that seriously affects the quality of life of both Inner and Outer Richmond District residents? Nada. If anyone needs to know how media hungry (while still yet being utterly clueless) this putz is need only watch the interview he did on “The Daily Show” after the Happy Meal ban.

    Just a guess. But I think one of the reasons he hasn’t been more vocal about the proliferation of massage parlors in our neighborhood is that he knows that if he were to crack down on them, there’d be even MORE empty storefronts and he’d look even worse. Contrast his attitude with that of Katy Tang in the Sunset. She sees a bunch of sketchy businesses open up in her district, she tries to do something to get em out of there. Eric Mar sees a bunch of sketchy businesses open up in his district, he goes on TV with a plan to ban E-Cigarettes in adult-only places because his daughter saw a person smoking an E-Cig at a playground.

  24. Maybe Mar can bring up a resolution condemning Happy Endings to massages within city limits.

    Then he can bring up legislation banning any happy endings of any sort in San Francisco. After all, the hoi polloi are too stupid to make their own personal decisions.

    #banhappymealtoys #banecigarettes #banbatkid #busyourkids #mandatoryantiwarrally #supportcopkillers #DailyShowpunchline #whateconomy

  25. @ Mike

    “Note: Click on the photo of Supervisor Mar to open high resolution copy. After opening, right click on the photo to save image.”

    The above is from mar’s very own page linked from the list of links listed here on richmondsfblog!

  26. I can’t wait until Mar is finally termed out of office. I hope our next Supervisor is:

    – Someone who will work on issues that truly affect our neighborhood even though that’s harder and more important than creating a non-binding resolution (i.e. something that doesn’t actually mean anything, is easier to do, and gets me in the media) that has no effect whatsoever.
    – Someone who cares more about making the neighborhood better and paying attention to the concerns of residents over what gets him on TV.
    – Someone who creates legislation because it is what his constituents actually want and care about rather than because he thinks people are too stupid to teach their kids how to eat healthy.
    – Someone who doesn’t tweet his thoughts about what a feel-good publicity event (that actually cost the city no money and in actuality brought in a whole buttload of cash in tax revenue from all those happy people spending money) cost.
    – Someone who gets ideas for legislation from someone other than his 12-year-old daughter.

    I really don’t think that is too much to ask from our elected neighborhood representative.

  27. @ MIke
    Adding to your list
    -Someone who won’t take money from special interest whore Rose Pak to pay his campaign staff
    -Someone who won’t give tax breaks to dot coms like Twitter after saying he supports small businesses and when asked about it said, “It’s complicated.”
    -Someone would actually use the $100,000 slush fund that he and every BOS has to do something useful with instead having parklets. Which then take away the revenue the parking meters they’d replaced would’ve generated to always bleeding SFMTA. http://www.sfrichmondreview.com/archives/richmondreview/2014Editions/June14/lettereditor.html

  28. Mike, we had a candidate like that during the last election. He may have had a narrow set of issues that he addressed, but D’Silva was one that actually looked at remediating some of the the bad and creating improvements in our District. Alas, his budget was tiny, and he was not as greasy as Mar and Lee. The latter two candidates were more focused on their next steps up the political food chain or how they could gain from real estate ventures. Their broadboards, gladhandling, and glossy junkmail seemed to work during the last election. Sadly, such is politics.

  29. @Mel He wasn’t quite together enough, though I liked him as a candidate. If he proved himself in other ways, say by some sort of visible coordinated community effort, I think he would be a really good pick. He seemed sincere.

  30. District elections have entirely shafted districts that are not heavily populated by newly-arrived political activists. Things were at least looked at in the days before McGoldrick.

  31. Bennett, I think the biggest issue was that D’Silva was a grassroots candidate that came in late into the election with a tiny budget. Also, unlike Mar and Lee, he was not politicky full time since he actively runs his business. I knew he did not have much of a chance to win, but it was good to see a non-career politician throw his hat into the election.

  32. D’Silva would definitely been a step up from either candidate. But like Mel said, he really had no chance of winning against an incumbent and a guy who set a record for campaign spending in a district election. I seriously dislike Mar but I don’t know if Lee would have been any better. He refused to do any interviews with any media and his whole campaign was based on ads and door hangers to the tune of one-a-day that basically said: “At least I’m not Eric Mar”. I’m sorry, but there is no way I could vote for someone like that.

  33. I think the place on 7th is back open again. I was driving on Anza today and could have sworn I saw the “Open” sign on..

Comments are closed.