Video tour of the Center for Sex Positive Culture.
Sex center heating things up in Ballard
Sex. No other word like it captures the entire breadth of human experience from procreation to pleasure. In many circles it is a means to an end, to some an act of pleasure, however, to others it provides a platform for experimentation and expression. But just how far can experimentation go before it brushes up on taboo, and how does taboo sit in a community?
That’s just the case in Ballard as the Center for Sex Positive Culture moves into a warehouse near the Ballard Bridge. The new arrival to Ballard has some longtime neighboring business owners frustrated.
Dick and Kathleen Waller have owned and operated United Electric Motors in Ballard for the last 15 years. The Center for Sex Positive Culture (CSPC) has reported on their website that they are moving to at 1514 N.W. 46th St., which is next door to the Waller’s business. The space is around 9,500 square feet and was listed for around $1.10 a square foot a month.
“There’s a lot of conservative people around here, and now there’s this sex lounge moving in next door doing bondage and swinging and all kinds of weird stuff,” said Dick Waller. “It’s just not an area for that kind of business -- maybe in Capital Hill or another district. It doesn't fit this industrial part of the neighborhood.”
The area is zoned as Industrial General 2 Unlimited/65, which means activity at the space is “limited to heavy and general manufacturing, commercial (with some limits), transportation and utility services, and salvage and recycling. Institutional use is generally permitted in existing buildings; adult entertainment is prohibited,” according to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections.
Waller does not understand how the City would allow what he believes is adult entertainment to be operating at the site.
Other neighboring business owners are aware of the center moving to the neighborhood.
Tony Mazzarilla, has owned Mac’s Upholstery since 1992. His business is a block away from the center.
“I can understand more conservative people wouldn’t want that. I don't know if it will affect me in any way aside from more traffic to the area, but I guess what can you do? It’s Seattle. Everyone needs an outlet. It (the center) should be on the hill (Capital Hill) if anywhere,” said Mazzarilla.
Dale Newton has been operating Ballard Marine Services for last 30 years. His business neighbors the other side of the center.
“It’s shocking I have to say. They are right next door to us -- between us and Dick. It’s sad because it's an industrial area. … If it gets to the point of being higher profile type of thing it could certainly affect us as a retail business. I’d rather have a pot store next door honestly.”
According to the CPSC website they have already signed a lease for the Industrial warehouse, but are awaiting construction permits from the City.
“We take possession of the building in December and are already working on the permit process. Due to the volume the city is experiencing and the upcoming holidays, this may take longer than usual. We will start construction as soon as legally possible.”
However, Waller and Newton believe the Center is already making moves for construction. They report there was removal of concrete in the front of the building and fresh concrete poured.
“I see a van there with people coming in and out. … They need a permit to do just about anything anymore. You can’t just get these guys running around without a permit.”
The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections website shows there no permits issued to the address.
Incidentally, the Ballard News-Tribune stopped by the property on January 10 while fresh concrete was being poured in front of the building.
Concrete work being done at the site.
According to the SDCI, “You need a curb cut permit when you make a new driveway in an existing sidewalk curb. The curb cut permit is often part of a building construction permit. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) oversees curb cut permits, because curbs are on the City right-of-way. However, we review, approve, and issue the permits.” Curb cut permits cost $170 for properties other than single-family properties.
The City has not responded to the Ballard News-Tribune inquiries about what qualifies as adult entertainment and whether a permits is needed for concrete work at the site.
So what is the Center for Positive Sex Culture?
The Ballard News-Tribune emailed and called the Executive Director of CPSC several times with no replies, but according to the website they are a non-profit established over 15 years ago. They currently have 2,000 members.
“The term ‘sex positive’ can also be used to describe people who are comfortable with their own sexuality and sexuality in general. … Through an encompassing variety of events, created by and for its membership, the CSPC seeks to educate, to facilitate consensual open sexual expression and dialog, and to provide a venue for fellowship and community.”
These events include different types of “play” including rope, sex, dungeon, BDSM and masturbation along with potlucks, educational events like “skills instruction.” Other allowed but restricted types of play include suspension, breath play, knife play, blood play, take-down play and resistance and consensual “forced” sex play.
The center prioritizes “safer” sex and states in a video about their organization, “If you forget your condoms, lube or gloves, don’t worry because there are lots of little kiosks all around full of safer sex supplies.”
The center also offers the Pacific Northwest Library for Sex Positive Culture, which is made of over 10,000 pieces of literature and images.
CSPC also assert that they are part of a “ ‘sex positive renaissance’ as the world is shifting and seeing how different orientations, genders and sexualities can all co-exist. The Center is one of the leaders in this renaissance.”
Members pay $60 per year for lower level membership and as much as $10,000 is asked for lifetime memberships. Depending on memberships levels, event entry costs members $10 to $30. CSPC reports that once they are operational events will be offered daily.
Reciprocal membership access to events is offered to at least 10 other sex positive and BDSM organizations, which include the Sapphire Club in Seattle, Eulenspiegel Society, the Portland Leather Alliance, Bad Girls of Portland, the Citadel in San Francisco and the Indigeo Volo Society of Victoria.
Back at Ballard Marine, Newton says that he’s not so concerned with what is going on at the center, but more so what other people think, like his customers.
“I never really knew how much of a red neck I was until I started running into stuff like this. It’s kind of insane. I heard about things like this when I was younger… and it was fine because I didn't have to go or see it, but once you have an established place it changes things,” said Newton.
Newton expressed how Ballard as a whole has changed radically in the last few years, but more specifically how the industrial area night life has changed with more restaurants, bars and breweries taking up shop.
However, there are other opinions in Ballard. With no reply from the CSPC, the Ballard News-Tribune resorted to interviewing people on N.W. Market Street and found at least one person to quote in order to balance this article. Martin, a resident of Ballard who decided to not give his last name, said the center would be “some welcome spice into the mix.”
“It’s more European than anything. We Americans can be so prudish when if comes to sex, and I think we created some weird things by suppressing it instead of us just being open to our own human nature. … I think everyone should have a visit before they cast the first stone,” said Martin.
Even Newton softened his stance.
“It’s concerning (the center), but I guess if they keep a low profile they can do whatever they want. It's a free country. … I guess if people are going to do that where else other than an industrial area?” said Newton.
For more information about the center visit https://thecspc.org.
The Ballard News-Tribune is still waiting for a response from the City and CSPC.
Update: Find the followup to this article here www.tinyurl.com/j988wbx