Lampposts and street poles in the Castro have long been plastered with images of half-naked men and drag queens on posters promoting gay events in and around the neighborhood. There's good reason for this: Outside of Facebook, where drag queens and promoters can only reach their existing fan bases, capturing the attention of all the foot traffic in the neighborhood is a tried-and-true way to get people to come to an event. But now a concerted effort, apparently being driven by the Castro and Upper Market Community Benefit District (CBD), is being made to remove all party posters as soon as they go up. And local drag queen and Oasis co-owner Heklina, for one, wants everyone to know this is illegal, and she's tired of having all her posters ripped down.

"The DPW (Department of Public Works) and CBD are currently sweeping through the Castro and ripping down every poster, even the ones that are legally posted (like mine)," Heklina tells SFist, pointing to the DPW's own published guidelines for postering. People are allowed to promote local events using taped-up posters so long as the signs are less than 11 inches high, conform to the shape of the pole, and have a clear posting date in the lower right hand corner. Posters are allowed to stay up for 10 days after any event date listed, and if they don't pertain to a specific event they can remain up for 70 days. The only limitation is that they're not allowed on traffic signal poles, or historic light poles — of which there are none on Castro or 18th Street, however there are several on Market Street in the neighborhood.

I reached out to Andrea Aiello of the Castro CBD to learn about the details of this clean-up effort, and to see if she was aware of the legal guidelines; I also sent a note to the director of the DPW, and will await responses from both.

Heklina admits that "there are a TON of promoters who post illegally with the 11x17-size posters," but the DPW workers doing the tearing down don't discriminate by size or location. "When the workers are confronted about this, they are either unaware of our rights, or they insist that what we are doing is illegal," says Heklina. "I'm not frustrated at the workers (who aren't given the proper info), but more the higher-ups who we try to contact and deal with but who blow us off."

Are Castro business owners really that concerned with how the poster-covered polls look? Certainly the bar owners in the neighborhood who promote their own events this way aren't objecting. On Valencia Street, where a sidewalk beautification effort not unlike the Castro's recent one took place several years ago, specific cork-covered poles were installed labeled "Public Post" allowing for the consolidation of such posters, but no such poles were included in the Castro design.

But tensions over postering in the neighborhood go back a while, with many assuming that the practice is illegal, and some taking it upon themselves to police the situation — there was one, rather eager and unpleasant gentleman dubbed "the poster Nazi" whom promoters actually got a restraining order against a few years ago, banning him from the neighborhood.

It does seem insane that the DPW is devoting time and energy to this task — which, by the way, would have to be performed multiple times a day in order to be effective, because promoters aren't going to stop anytime soon. Heklina says that yesterday one of her employees was putting up posters when he was confronted by a DPW worker named Thiet Mguyen who started ripping down her legal posters, screaming at her poster guy and saying they were going to start citing event promoters, even though this contradicts their own policy, and wouldn't be legal (unless the posters were oversized, that is).

We'll update you if we hear back from the DPW or the Castro CBD about this dust-up.

Update: Andrea Aiello of the Castro CBD responded saying, she's aware of the issue and "we will not be tearing down posters that comply with San Francisco's legislation. 8.5x11, taped, and dated."

She adds, though, that the posters do tend to mar the new poles in the neighborhood, and "There are many residents who are on their own private campaign to take down every poster... we have no control over them."

She also says that they do not have "much control" over the DPW worker who takes down "all and any posters." I'll await a response from DPW about that.

Update 2: The DPW's Rachel Gordon responded saying, "We have had a big uptick in public complaints about illegal postings in recent months, and our crews have been taking them down. That said, we regret if any legal postings were removed erroneously. Our staff had been trained on the guidelines, but starting today we are reminding them."

Previously: Retail Report On Castro District Says No More Coffee, Maybe Enough With The 'Adult' Stores