Enough is enough: City files suit against Balboa’s Paradise Health Center for operating covert brothel

The Paradise Health Center at 242 Balboa. City Attorney Dennis Herrera is suing to shut them down for operating a covert brothel.

Back in March, we wrote about Paradise Health Center (242 Balboa) being shut down temporarily for lewd conduct after inspectors walked in on a female practitioner completely nude and engaged in a lewd act with a male client, also nude. According to the report, “the practitioner was straddling her customer and it clearly appeared they were engaged in a sex act”.

The Paradise Health Center was fined $1,000 for the incident and in November 2016, was forced to close for 60 days when their massage establishment permit was suspended.

The late 2016 incident wasn’t the first offense by Paradise. In December 2012 an employee was warned for a first offense of “improper attire by massage practitioner”. In February 2014 the business was cited again for the same violation.

When Paradise appealed their closure, neighbors on Balboa wrote letters opposing the reinstatement of the massage business’ permit. Across the street from Paradise is Peter’s Place Nursery School, who routinely deals with the massage parlor’s patrons that come and go, and sometimes eat at nearby Uncle Boy’s.

“I am appalled that illegal activity of a lewd nature has occurred within a stone’s throw of our children’s school,” wrote Kristen Villhauer, a parent and Board Member at the school in her letter that was included in the 2017 appeal protest.

“We cannot trust that the Paradise Health Center will change its approach to business and all of a sudden become an upstanding neighborhood business.”

City Attorney Dennis Herrera agrees. On Monday, he filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court against Paradise Health Center for operating a covert brothel and engaging in illegal behavior. After the 60 day closure, Paradise reopened and according to the City Attorney’s filing, the illicit activity started right back up again.

“It is completely unacceptable to have a brothel across the street from a preschool,” Herrera said.

“The Department of Public Health gave notice that this had to stop but were ignored. Paradise and its landlord have no respect for the law or this community, and they have made a business out of exploiting women. With this lawsuit I aim to shutter them once and for all, and to hold this business and this landlord responsible.”

Herrera’s suit comes on the heels of his settlement with Queen’s Health Center, a well-known Financial District covert brothel that will have to shut down and pay the city $295,000. In addition, owner Jie Qin Zhou is prohibited from opening, managing, investing in or working in any massage parlor or other personal service business, like a barber shop or nail salon, in San Francisco for 10 years. The injunction also prevents the space from being used as a massage parlor or similar business for at least 10 years.

The photo taken by an inspector and submitted as evidence of the practitioner and client on May 10, 2016.

Herrera hopes to reach the same outcome with Paradise. The lawsuit (City and County of San Francisco and People of the State of California v. Paradise Health Center et al., San Francisco Superior Court case no. CGC-17-561648) alleges that business owners Tian Yi Zhao and Chiu Hung Paul Tam; the family trust that owns the property; and its trustee, Lisa Tang, are in violation of the California Red Light Abatement Law (Penal Code sections 11225-11235) and have engaged in unfair and unlawful business practices.

The complaint, alleges that Paradise has been advertising its brothel services since 2012 on websites like backpage.com, with ads featuring “scantily clad women in provocative poses and highlight the ethnicities of the women available to choose from for a “massage.”” Paradise has continued to regularly post these ads, even as recently as September 29, 2017.

The complaint also notes steps that Paradise took to hide their illegal activity including locking the front entrance during business hours and using a buzzer system to control entry – both in violation of the Planning Code and the Health Code.

As recently as September 15, 2017, an undercover police investigator conducted an operation during which a massage practitioner at Paradise Health Center solicited an officer for sex.

Herrera is asking the court to do several things: close Paradise Health Center for a year; sell the business’ fixtures and movable property at auction, with proceeds going to fund enforcement; grant a preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting the property from being used as a massage establishment and the owners from operating one; and levy monetary penalties against the property owner and business owner. Those penalties include up to $25,000 for allowing prostitution to occur on the premises; at least $200 for each day in violation of the Planning Code; and $2,500 for each unlawful business act.

Read the full complaint (PDF)

Thanks to reader Kate L. for the tip. We’ll keep you posted if we hear more on this lawsuit.

Sarah B.


  1. enough is enough?
    to me it sounds like this establishment just forgot to pay off the right people.
    or are the two massage parlors that can be found just a few more blocks down, or the many places on geary and clement…all legit?
    why are there so many massage parlors in this district?
    why is sf so small biz unfriendly?

  2. So it’s a brothel. If the women aren’t underage or being trafficked, who cares? Regarding the preschool: our kids are safe – why wouldn’t they be? People are having sex all over and our kids are just fine.

  3. I have to agree. If the women are not being trafficked, who cares? Consensual sexual activity between adults should never be illegal. These operations are “sitting ducks” for cops that generate easy revenue (fines) and make the cops look like heroes for doing basically nothing.

  4. It’s obvious these massage parlors are brothels. They have no place in the Richmond District. More needs to be done to get rid of them.

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