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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 4, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 18
San Francisco proclaims 'Leather and LGBTQ Cultural District'
Section One
ALL STORIES
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San Francisco proclaims 'Leather and LGBTQ Cultural District'

By Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors unanimously proclaimed a 'Leather and LGBTQ Cultural District' on May 1.

The new Cultural District takes in several blocks on either side of Folsom Street in the South of Market area of the city.

Site of the world-renowned Folsom Street Fair, the area is also home to a number of iconic bars, including the Eagle SF, Powerhouse, Hole in the Wall, the Stud, Oasis, Lone Star, and Driftwood.

Once a sleazy low-rent district populated by transients, sailors, and drag queens, the South of Market area has experienced rapid gentrification, driving up rents and prices.

San Francisco has taken steps to protect the heritage and atmosphere of certain neighborhoods, including Proposition J, passed in 2015. This measure gave grants to so-called 'legacy' businesses, and financial incentives to landlords renting premises to long-established businesses that might otherwise be priced out of the area.

The decision to recognize a new Cultural District South of Market would give landlords and businesses in the area access to public money and some negotiating rights when confronted with future development plans.

Besides the Leather LGBTQ District, the city is also considering two other LGBTQ cultural districts, including the Transgender Cultural District in the Tenderloin area to the north, and the Castro Cultural District to the west.

Marke Bieschke, co-owner of The Stud bar, curator at the GLBT History Museum, and publisher of the website 48 Hills had mixed feelings about the city's action.

'On the face of it, these are welcome,' he explained. 'Each of these traditionally queer neighborhoods is being rapidly gentrified, their character is changing and LGBT people and longtime businesses are being pushed out.

'It's a reassurance from our city government that it supports us and wants to protect our culture.

'On the other hand, there is a danger of 'pink washing' this rapid gentrification, by letting luxury condo developers do as they will, as long as they throw queer people a bone by, say, courting a gay ground-floor business or creating a gay history display.

'There also isn't an established process yet around who gets to decide what's historical and what's truly 'queer' in individual cases. So far the cultural districts idea is encouraging and makes for great press releases but the mechanics remain murky. I think a lot of public outreach and explication will have to be the next step.'

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