Although San Francisco has a self-image of a progressive wonderland, there is an overarching layer of sleaze that hovers over certain parts of the City. Among these are the City's many - as in 150 - "massage parlors" (smirk), which are well known to be fronts for prostitution, and yet can never seem to be shut down. There's always someone willing to make a new bid to crack down on these brothels, but nothing ever happens. So, in the land of equal rights and tolerance for all, there is also tolerance of a system that enslaves women, degrades neighborhoods, and undoubtedly serves as a profit center for organized crime. No one likes it, but the brothels seem to enjoy a kind of protected privilege.
Reading the linked article, one is struck by the sheer laziness of the relevant City officials. The police don't want to be bothered because prostitution is a low level crime. The Department of Health, which issues massage licenses, says that's all they do: issue licenses. Which is pure BS. Like they never have to inspect these joints? They also say revoking licenses is prohibitively expensive. More BS. In my practice, I have seen the City move Heaven and Earth to take property away from negligent landlords. It's not "prohibitively expensive" because the City gets its attorney's fees paid by the luckless property owner. So, the Dept. of Health can move on this if they really wanted to, but they don't. For Pete's sake, the mayor can't even get these guys to take an interest!
The real reason for all of this benign neglect is that the prostitutes, like everyone else in the City except the ordinary folks living here, have an aggressive lobby that doesn't hesitate to break out the signs and chants and march on City Hall. There's also a certain strain of post-modern feminism that is fascinated by "sex workers" in the same way that others have been fascinated by prisoners and heroin addicts. It's the Libertine Left at work. They may want to rigidly control the economy, keep the "wrong" speech off the radio, and make everybody sell trade their sedans in for Smart Cars, but when it comes to brothels flouting the law, then it's deregulation, baby!