LGBTQ HCS Cover Image

From the recently completed Citywide Historic Context Statement for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) History in San Francisco, which was funded by a grant from the City’s Historic Preservation Fund:

“When the RedLight Abatement Act shut down the city’s brothels in 1914 and forced the sex trade onto the streets, prostitution moved into the Tenderloin. Gay and transgender prostitution and hustling became popular when some of the Tenderloin’s first gay bars appeared: the Old Crow at 962 Market Street (extant) around 1935 and the Silver Rail at 974 Market Street (status unknown) about 1942.”

And behind the aforementioned Market Street bars, between Mason and Taylor, Turk Street became one of the main drags for cruising and hustling in the city from the 1940s to the 1980s, dubbed “the Meat Market.”

But in order for the proposed 12-story building to rise at 950 Market Street, a modern mixed-use development which will cover half the triangular Mid-Market block bound by Market, Turk and Taylor, the buildings which housed the historic bars will have to be razed.

950 Market Rendering: Market Street

And while the 950 Market Street project was granted a Preliminary Mitigated Negative Declaration with respect to its expected environment impact earlier this year, helping clear the way for the development to rise, the co-author and co-director of the LGBTQ Historic Context Report has officially appealed the Planning Department’s declaration.

From the appeal:

I am requesting an appeal of the Planning Department’s determination that the 950-974 Market Street Project could not have a significant adverse effect on the environment, and that the buildings at 950-974 Market Street are not historic resources, as outlined in the preliminary mitigated negative declaration (PMND). This request is based on two primary issues: 1) the City of San Francisco’s lack of due diligence required by CEQA laws related to cultural resources; and 2) flawed and inadequate analysis in the 950-974 Market Street Historic Resource Evaluation Parts 1 & 2 (Page &Turnbull, July 17, 2015), as summarized in the PMND section on cultural resources (pages 77-106).

To the first issue, the City of San Francisco is out of compliance with CEQA by not taking into consideration the documentation and guidance provided in the recently adopted Citywide Historic Context Statement for LGBTQ History in San Francisco (Donna Graves & Shayne Watson, October 2015). Likewise, the City of San Francisco is out of compliance with CEQA by not requiring a reevaluation of the buildings at 966-970, 972, and 974 Market Street in light of new information provided in the LGBTQ Historic Context Statement. Nor did the Planning Department request an evaluation of the buildings at 950-964, 966-970, 972, and 974 Market Street as contributors to a potential LGBTQ historic district. In its current form, Page & Turnbull’s HRE evaluates 950-964 Market Street in a vacuum, failing to place the property in the larger context of San Francisco’s LGBTQ history.

To the second issue, Page & Turnbull’s HRE presents an exclusive, inaccurate, and at times offensive picture of LGBTQ history in San Francisco. It would be irresponsible to allow Page & Turnbull’s July 2015 HRE to be adopted into the public record and cited by future researchers as fact. It would be equally irresponsible to allow Page &Turnbull to develop an interpretive exhibit based on the history they have outlined inaccurately and incompletely in the HRE. Additionally, Page & Turnbull’s determination that 950-974 Market Street is not a historic resource under CEQA boils down to an analysis of integrity that prioritizes physical fabric over intangible aspects of history. This method of integrity analysis has been superseded by guidance in the LGBTQ Historic Context Statement.

And from the appellant’s second to last paragraph, which requests that Planning consider ordering a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the 950-974 Market Street project, which would likely take a few years to complete: “I believe that the proposed project would cause a substantial adverse change to LGBTQ historic resources in San Francisco.”

A more generic appeal of the development’s Preliminary Mitigated Negative Declaration has been filed by Sue Hestor’s ‘San Franciscans for Reasonable Growth’ movement as well.

63 thoughts on “SF’s LGBTQ History Could Hinder Mid-Market Development”
    1. No comment on the lgbt discussion, just an observation on the building. I love it! For this area especially.

      But I have to say, it looks like s beehive, and the implications of the bees that will go out in the city each day to earn their honey….which overlord behind this wishes to make the symbolism so obvious? Better than rats in a maze I suppose.

      But I do quite like this building, bees rats and masters aside, and I love that part of the city as well. It’s got character. I hope it doesn’t fully get lost, regardless if they raze s few old shacks ( like I said no real opinion on that part)

  1. I’m gay and I don’t see these buildings as that historically significant. Maybe if the businesses mentioned in the article still occupied them… maybe then, MAYBE. But as they stand they’re just bland 2 story run-down structures, and this is a more-interesting-than-average building that would help that entire block immensely. This is a piece of history that the community has effectively already let go of; it’s time to move on.

    1. Agreed—incorporate some sort of artwork and explanation into the streetscape or new building. But the shell(s) of these former “historic resources” aren’t worth retaining.

    2. No “maybes” about it. This project is hugely important to the vitalization of the entire Mid-Market area and a great development in its own right.

    3. came here to say the same – I was even a “professional gay” for a while, working at a gay newspaper in the early 90s, and I’m decently connected to LGBT politics… and after 25 years in S.F. (minus a couple stints back east), I had no idea that there was supposedly LGBT-historical buildings here. Let this new project go forward!

      1. Your own failings to become aware of the history, despite working within the community don’t make the history of less value.

  2. Is this a joke? I’m 100% for LGBTQ rights, but do we really need to preserve something related to prostitution?

  3. This has nothing to do with LGBT rights. As Jason said the gay community at-large moved on years ago. It’s more about colusion between neighborhood activists against gentrification and people who are obsessed with preserving history (even if there’s nothing really left to preserve.)

    1. Right was probably not the correct word, I didn’t want to sound like I was blowing off something that has to do with the LGBTQ community.

    2. This is about getting a big check for the LGBT Center. I know all the developers in that area have had to write checks to get their projects approved. Some developers have been approached to put a museum in their project but it ends up $$$. The fun life of a developer in SF.

      1. No, they’re not looking for money. There’s a process that the City is supposed to follow, and it wasn’t followed.

    3. “Gentrification” no longer applies in SF sorry, that’s when the middle class pushes out the working class. Maybe you could argue that is happening in the Bayview. But everywhere else, it’s the upper class pushing out the middle class, or aristocratification. I applaud any initiative to stem the tide, however small and quixotic. And no, building more housing will not remedy the situation at this point.

    1. I may be a little gayer, but I agree with you.

      This is a ridiculous idea, with no merit. These buildings are not architecturally significant, and the former “historic” gay bars and clubs that used to be there are long gone. Certainly we can preserve their memories and important history in other ways. That’s what the LGBT museum is for.

      1. Ooo ooo! I’m jumping in. ‘Cause I’m a big ol’ girl and see no reason to save derelict buildings. Build the new (cool) building and let’s get on with life.

  4. I’m a LGBTQ person. I’d rather see a historical installation in the proposed pedestrian pass-through documenting the buildings and area’s significance than the buildings themselves.

  5. The old Compton cafeteria sight is on the same corner. Tons of history there as it pre-dates the stonewall riots. As a gay man and as someone who has studied LGTB(Q) history in San Francisco I find no offense in the demolition of theses buildings. Where was the concern for theses building when they were left to rot and become housing for pigeons? We need to stop this insanity and spend our recourses on better things. End rant.

    1. They’re playing catch up. The report on LGTB history was just voted on. Maybe it’s not of importance, but there’s a process, and just because they neglected to acknowledge the history before doesn’t mean there aren’t buildings of importance…unless you would argue that buildings cultural importance has no value.

  6. I’m gay too, and I see no reason to preserve a building because some male hustlers strutted their stuff in front of…Flagg Bros. shoes.

  7. “…the Old Crow at 962 Market Street (extant) around 1935 and the Silver Rail at 974 Market Street (status unknown) about 1942.”

    What does that mean? “Extant” means existing, which the bar isn’t.

  8. Just to add my voice to the chorus – this is another gay man who sees marginal or small side note historical value being presented here. This appeal needs to be declined and the development approved to go ahead. Not a fan of gentrification in power mode as now either, but this tack is just wrong.

  9. At least the Crazy Horse survived the renderings….now about that check cashing place, stereo store, and liquor stores.

  10. A good test for the sincerity of this historical resource claim would be to measure how these resources were discussed, celebrated, and honored before the project proposal came to the planning department. How prominent is this block in LGTBQ literature? Compared to Harvey Milk’s camera store for example?

    If this is a sudden upsurge in interest then it appears to be more of a opportunistic grab than a sincere desire to preserve history.

    This before/after test could be applied to any historic claim, not just this location.

    1. A lot of neglected and lost history.. you can’t weight historical merit by popularity. Maybe these sites should be more prominent in history books.

      1. There’s history everywhere. Every building has a history. If not gay history, perhaps this is where a new accounting practice was invented. Or the first Laotian Catholic church. Or the childhood home of Willy May’s mother.

        Should every building be preserved? Certainly not. Historical preservation should be limited to significant cases. Those will be known long beforehand and don’t need a researcher to exhume during a planning inquiry.

        So, yes, popularity is an indicator of historical importance.

        1. Yes, we live in a city full of history. That’s the challenge. It doesn’t give license to disregard the history. Much of the city has been torn down, so yes, a portion of what’s left deserves to get preserved. The city is supposed to weigh the historical findings, and they did not. I hate to tell you, but a lot of important history isn’t popular history. Apparently Gay history didn’t start in the 80’s. Go figure.

          Willie May’s mother was born in the South…. see how knowing SF history helps? Clearly what you personally think is significant isn’t the qualifier.

          1. “Yes, we live in a city full of history.”

            We don’t though. The city is only 150 years old, and really, not much of significance has happened here. This is evidenced by the fact that we are talking about preserving a gay hustler bar. If important things happened in SF, we wouldn’t even be discussing gay hustler bars and preserving the building they occupied.

  11. Ridiculous. I agree with timtucker. This will be a prelude to getting $ for the LGBT Center up the street.

  12. I’m also a gay boy (Man) and agree. put up a plaque, take some photo’s and move on with the revitalization. the idea of saving an old crappy building because some gays cruised there years ago is absurd

  13. The real problem here is the “Historic Context Statement.” These documents, always authored by a fanatic on their particular cause de jure, set up what the author and a couple of buddies at the Planning Department decide is “important”, and then guess what, when they find that there, we have a precious important resource that can’t be touched.

    This is a serious structural problem that goes way beyond this particular travesty, and will affect projects all over the city, that some special interest group or another will insist be saved.

  14. Does this mean that none of the bars in the Castro could ever be renovated or torn down? Certainly, it is more relevant to gay history than this area.

    1. There’s are landmarks in the Castro…but bars from the 30’s predate the Castro existing. The neighborhood even had a diff. name.

  15. Every new building helps! 247 additional luxury condos to push up the price point a bit higher in San Francisco, so that even upper middle class folks can’t buy a 900 sq foot condo. Lop off 40 of these luxury condos for the sake of LGBT history – the developer will still skip out of San Francisco with bundles of cash, especially since the building was up zoned from the 4-8 stories all around it to 12 stories of luxury living!

    1. You really *do* think supply and demand works that way, don’t you. Housing where there was no housing, and you think that takes something AWAY from you, or raises someone’s rent.

  16. I think we can all agree it’s important for us to preserve the historic MetroPCS and wig store that are currently operating in this location.

  17. As a resident of San Francisco for over 40 years, I was going to comment on the issue, but I can’t because I don’t have a gay license.

  18. Put up a plaque. Build the new building. Saving historical buildings like the Castro theater? Great! Saving a couple of old bars? You have to be kidding. We should let the young people today build a better tommorow while writing their own history’s. Not constrain them to reliving in the past.

  19. as a gay man who’s well-connected in the community and well-aware of the obnoxiousness of the self-serving identity political groupies and wanna-be prats, I say tear down the blight and build (but make it twice as tall!). This is a power/money grab by one person only…

    from the propaganda ‘newsletter’ of Brian Bassinger (ok, officially, it’s his vanity project the ‘Q Foundation’):

    “The history of a once thriving queer scene at and around the 950 block of Market Street may be permanently erased if the current development plans are allowed to proceed. The site once housed The Old Crow, one of the first gay bars in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, as well as Pirates Cave, The Landmark Room, and The Silver Rail.

    These bars and businesses were instrumental in their roles of fostering queer safe spaces as they were often the only places available for queer people to meet one another within the larger, often threatening society at the time.

    Before the famous riots occurred at Stonewall, two nights of civic unrest took place in San Francisco at Compton’s Cafeteria, right around the corner from The Old Crow. While real estate speculation and development demands continue to deprive the city of vibrant cultural resources, this opportunity for preservation cannot be wasted.

    The history of these formative years of LGBTQ community building and liberation could be lost without proper mitigations to preserve the queer historical resources represented on the site. Whether through error or omission, the pending project approval fails to adequately preserve the cultural resources and overlooks the issue of what could qualify to become an LGBTQ Historic District. To adequately protect the resource, a full environmental impact report is required.

    I have witnessed first-hand the effects of development on LGBTQ’s sense of community, health and well being. We are still in a vulnerable time when we can still lose everything if we don’t fight to keep the legacy that has brought us all the liberties we cherish today. I urge you to let your voices be heard in saving trans and queer history by preserving it rather than burying it with commercialism.”

    1. Brian Basinger is a lunatic that thinks we need to house everyone in the city for FREE .. After all he points out, we have a 9.6 Billion dollar budget. Lets spend it to make everyone a lazy bum housed at public expense.

      1. Housing is a human right. That discussion has been settled a long time ago. When we signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Here in San Francisco. In the Tenderloin.

        That is the determination of a plurality of nations around the globe. To me, it is reasonable. To you, lunacy.

    2. We have worked our tails off for 13 years preventing or ending homeless for 2500 households. Instigated the creation of Jazzie’s Place LGBT adult shelter, created Marty’s Place the first HIV housing cooperative, championed the effort to make Openhouse 100% affordable. Passed significant legislation to help curb evictions. Got federal housing discrimination protections for the LGBT community in the Equality Act, curbed millions of dollars from the very difficult HOPWA cuts that are coming to SF.

      While on disability. Battling AIDS and cancer. Earning a few hundried dollars per month for our labor of love.

      It feels like the hardest job I ever loved. It feels like the most profound sacrifice.

      If it is ‘vanity’ then I am thankful that my personality flaw has benefitted so many.

  20. a broad coalition of LGBT leaders, organizations, and our allies – centered by those of us who are long term residents of the Tenderloin, are putting forward a vision for the Compton’s Cafeteria LGBT Historic Cultural District. We oppose any development that interferes with that vision, and will only support projects that substantially move that vision forward.

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