Earlier this week, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted 11-0 to endorse a plan to commemorate over 50 locations that reflect local LGBTQ+ and leather culture. The project was expedited in order to coincide with a streetscape improvement project that would enable the plaques to be installed at the same time, according to a report in the Bay Area Reporter. Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman requested to be added as a cosponsor.
The project was first proposed back in September by the Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District, when it suggested recognizing both current and former queer and leather cultural landmarks by placing plaques on the sidewalk near their location (or former location). Leather district leaders, who are also seeking an estimated $120,000 to pay for the project, plan to file by this Friday, April 9, to have the city’s arts commission review plaque designs.
“Each one of these steps will determine whether it goes ahead and whether we can get the money or not,” the leather district’s chair, Robert Goldfarb, told the Bay Area Reporter prior to the vote, and added that the approval processes could take anywhere from nine to 18 months.
Some of the historical establishments that district leaders plan on commemorating include the Folsom Street Barracks, The Arena, Ramrod, The Brig, and the Club Baths of San Francisco. They also have plans to honor many existing businesses, such as the SF Eagle and The End Up nightclub, as well. In addition, the plaques will be accompanied by self-guided walking tours the cultural district plans to host on its website.
“I have been in discussion with DPW [Department of Public Works] about the Folsom Street project for approximately two and half years. They are finalizing the drawings and the plans at the moment,” Goldfarb told the B.A.R. “My understanding is they are going to start groundbreaking in the fall, so maybe October or November. The plaques would be part of that, but it is not entirely clear where we would fall in the project timeline.”
Beyond promoting the local queer history and culture, another goal of the project is to give local businesses a boost, since the pandemic has devastated leather and LGBTQ+ tourism in the area.
Race Bannon, who is active in the SOMA leather scene and community, told the supervisors’ land use and transportation committee earlier this week, “This is not only appropriate from a historical perspective but of tremendous interest to tourist visitors. It will drive visitors and helps not only our culture but our economy.”
At the same meeting, David Hyman, who is also involved with the SOMA leather district, added, “Many visitors who come for Leather Week and other special events ask about these places. They are not forgotten, but in most cases, they are invisible.”