Luxury Condos Could Threaten Leather & LGBTQ Community In San Francisco
This past weekend, over 250,000 leather and kink enthusiasts converged on San Francisco’s South of Market (SoMA) district to enjoy the annual Folsom Street Fair.
The eagerly-awaited festival hosts hundreds of exhibitor booth for fetish gear and toys as well as a MainStage featuring top-name indie, electronic and alternative acts plus a huge dance floor.
And yes, nudity is allowed.
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Begun in 1984, the FSF capitalizes on the adult-themed interest in BDSM to raise money for charity and celebrates the spirit of SoMA.
But that original fair wasn’t a leather event, says Gayle Rubin, a leather historian and anthropology professor who was there.
According to LGBTQ website them, Rubin shares that back in 1984 the point of Folsom was protesting redevelopment in the neighborhood.
And as housing and real estate prices continue to soar in the Bay City today, gentrification efforts in SoMA have become an even bigger threat to SoMA today.
For instance, back in the 1980s there were over three dozen leather bars, bondage gear stores and sex clubs. Now, only a handful exist thanks to new luxury condominium buildings and urban renewal.
This past May, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors established the LGBTQ and Leather District as a cultural district in SoMA.
The goal of the district is to "honor and commemorate the people, places and institutions that gave South of Market its distinctive culture and appeal, and would also help protect the remaining businesses and spaces, and sustain the people who live, work and recreate there."
But no language exists in the ordinance in regards to long-term resources to stopping further commercial and housing displacement.
For instance, a new 410-unit building of one-bedroom rentals recently opened with rents starting at $3,600 a month. If you go by the “one-third” rule when considering how much of your annual income should be spent on housing, that comes out to an annual income of $130,000.
Now, there are a whole lot of people who will not be able to afford those units. And there are more higher-income housing projects in SoMA on the way.
One project called “Eagle Plaza” aims to turn the block next to the Eagle Bar (a cornerstone of the leather community) in to a “family-friendly,” “G-rated” area says one urban planner, Brooke Ray Rivera of PlaceLab.
A group of supporters of Eagle Plaza, “Friends of Eagle Plaza,” advocates for promoting an “Eyes on the Plaza” strategy to avoid "unhealthy behaviors in public space.”
Who gets to determine what "unhealthy behaviors" are?
As these projects proliferate, low-income residents businesses are forced out.
Many SoMA activists say the government has failed to invest in affordable lower income housing for the city’s residents.
In an attempt to address housing issues in San Francisco and across California, ballot initiative Prop. 10 aims to keep landlords from massively increasing rent costs each year.
And local initiative Prop. C would place a small tax on businesses that make more than $50 million a year. The funds raised would go to build affordable housing and shelter beds.
Terra Heywood, co-owner and manager of The Stud, San Francisco’s longest continuously running gay bar, says at the end of the day she just wants “queer and leather people to be able to stay in the neighborhood."
Exactly. Because who would want to see events like the Folsom Street Fair go away?