There are currently six designated cultural heritage districts intended to minimize the displacement of the tech boom, and we may soon see another in the form of the Castro Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Cultural District.
It’s kind of surprising that San Francisco already has two designated LGBTQ Cultural Districts, but neither of them is the Castro. SoMa’s Leather and LGBTQ Cultural District just broke ground last week on its new Eagle Plaza centerpiece, and the Tenderloin Compton's TLGB District became a more noticeable reality at the 2017 Trans March when then-Sup. Jane Kim unveiled the sign to rename a block of Taylor Street as Gene Compton’s Cafeteria Way (in honor of the 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria riots.)
Sup. Rafael Mandelaman, who represents the Castro, wants to change the historically gay neighborhood's not-recognized status. In a “just in time for Pride” measure he’ll introduce at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the San Francisco Examiner reports that Mandelman is proposing making the Castro an LGBTQ cultural district.
“I thought it was important to try and get it done in time for this year’s Pride,” Sup. Mandelman said at last Monday’s Board of Supervisors Rules Committee hearing “The Castro has been recognized worldwide for half a century as a symbol of queer liberation and an enclave for queer people to find safety, acceptance and chosen family.”
The Bay Area Reporter was there at that Rules Committee meeting where the measure advanced by unanimous 3-0 vote after comment from a number of Castro community figures disturbed by the neighborhood’s rising rents and declining gay culture visibilty. "The Castro still remains a mecca for LGBT visitors from around the globe,” said Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District executive director Andrea Aiello. “People come to the Castro expecting to see this incredibly vibrant LGBT community. Oftentimes it is a little disappointing because there is not the vibrancy they are expecting."
Aiello is echoing what many residents have felt about the area losing some of its luster in recent years, in light of increased homelessness and vacant storefronts.
The designation could give the Castro access to the some half a million dollars each year split between these cultural districts, with money siphoned from last year’s Prop. E hotel tax. The support could come in the form of grants to artists and creators, housing subsidies, or funding for pop-ups to enliven empty retail spaces.
The designation of these cultural districts may seem merely symbolic, but the pop-ups may be particularly effective in addressing, or at least temporarily concealing the Castro’s ongoing retail vacancy problem. Should Mandelman’s proposal pass Tuesday, Mayor Breed could issue final approval before the end of the summer.