Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Online Extra: Political Notes: Historians note SF ballot measure could benefit LGBT businesses


Cafe Flore in the Castro district, which opened in 1973, is one of the city's older LGBT businesses.
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A local ballot measure San Francisco voters are being asked to support in Tuesday's election could bolster efforts to protect longtime LGBT businesses, note the authors of an LGBTQ historic context statement set to be adopted by the city later this month.

As the Bay Area Reporter reported last week, the city's Historic Preservation Commission at its November 18 meeting is expected to sign off on the report, officially titled "Citywide Historic Context Statement for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer History in San Francisco." The 381-page document is aimed at assisting efforts to landmark, through city, state, and federal programs, properties of historical significance to the LGBT community.

The reports authors, Donna Graves , a public historian based in Berkeley who is straight, and Shayne Watson, an architectural historian based in San Francisco who is lesbian, in their recommendations section point out that one critical tool for preserving the city's LGBTQ heritage is to assist LGBT legacy businesses in staying open.

"Places of business that provide goods and services create some of the critical elements in any social or cultural community," they wrote.

Yet in recent years the city has been losing its gay nightlife venues, LGBT-owned eateries, and more traditional brick-and-mortar retail shops in the gay Castro district. The pace of gay-owned business closings, as well as LGBT nonprofits relocating across the bay to Oakland, seems to have increased of late due to growing economic pressures.

In response to these factors that many longtime businesses in the city are confronting, gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos is pushing for passage of Proposition J, which would create a Legacy Business Historic Preservation Fund. It would allow the city to provide grants to legacy businesses and to building owners who lease space to those businesses for terms of at least 10 years. (Currently there is a Legacy Business Registry, but it does not include funding.)

Prop J would define a legacy business as those that have operated in San Francisco for more than 20 years. It would also include nonprofits that have been operating in the city for at least two decades.

To benefit from the measure, a legacy business would have to show it had "significantly contributed to the history or identity of a neighborhood." And it would need to show that, if excluded from the city's Legacy Business Registry, it would risk being displaced "because of increased rents or lease terminations."

If Prop J passes – it needs only a majority vote to be adopted – legacy businesses would be eligible to receive an annual grant of up to $500 per employee. The city controller has estimated the program could cost the city between $2.1 million to $3.7 million annually to begin with and grow to $54 million to $94 million by 2040.

All 11 members of the Board of Supervisors support Prop J. They argue the costs amount to less than 1 percent of the city's budget and point to a city report that says the expense of Prop J would be recouped from the economic benefits of having the local businesses remain open.

"San Francisco just wouldn't be San Francisco without our legacy businesses," they write in the voter guide.

The measure has drawn opposition from the local Republican and Libertarian parties, as well as the San Francisco Taxpayer's Association. Its president, retired state Judge Quentin L. Kopp , wrote in the group's argument against Prop J in the voter's guide that the measure is "a characteristic City Hall stunt, always with taxpayer money, to thwart the inevitable flow of successful businesses and no longer successful businesses."

In their report detailing the city's LGBT history, Graves and Watson point out that, in 2013, local preservation group San Francisco Heritage created the Legacy Project, which is "a registry of important, long-time businesses whose retention is important to the preservation of San Francisco's culture and history."

Among the registry's 100 establishments, which have been operating for 40 years or longer, are a number of LGBTQ businesses, the women note, such as the Bernal Heights lesbian-oriented neighborhood bar Wild Side West, the Gangway Bar in the Tenderloin, and the Castro neighborhood restaurant Cafe Flore.

"In recent years, several factors, including a dramatic rise in commercial rents, have led to the closure of long-standing queer institutions, such as Latino drag bar Esta Noche (3079 16th Street) and the city's last full-time lesbian bar, the Lexington Club (3464 19th Street)," wrote Graves and Watson in their report.

They point out that the Board of Supervisors has already tasked the city's Small Business Commission with compiling a list of recommendations of what City Hall can do to help retain legacy businesses. And they highlight the fact that the city needs to do more than just compile a list of legacy businesses in order to ensure their survival.

Efforts to keep such businesses open, suggest Graves and Watson, could include tax breaks and campaigns to encourage the public to shop, eat, or drink at them.

They also point out that Prop J "proposes creation of a Legacy Business Historic Preservation Fund to support some of these strategies."

They recommend having more LGBTQ businesses take advantage of the programs offered to legacy businesses, "especially as a way to stave off closure of important queer places that cannot compete with rents as they escalate in San Francisco's hyper-speculative real estate market."


Election night parties

Several candidates are hosting parties for their supporters to celebrate the end of the 2015 campaign season and watch election returns roll in once the polls close Tuesday night.

Gay City College of San Francisco board candidate Tom Temprano will be joining mayoral candidate Stuart Schuffman, better known by his pen name Broke Ass Stuart, and the proponents of Prop J beginning at 8 p.m. at Mission bar El Rio, located at 3158 Mission Street. DJ Such n Such will be spinning between 10 p.m. and midnight.

In the closely watched battle for the District 3 supervisor seat, former occupant Aaron Peskin will be waiting to see if his campaign to oust Supervisor Julie Christensen, who was appointed to fill a vacancy in January, was successful at Club Fugazi in North Beach. The event, at 678 Green Street in the theater of long-running show Beach Blanket Babylon, will go from 8 p.m. to midnight. Admission is free but restricted to 21 and over with a cash bar.

As for Christensen, she will be gathering with her supporters from 8 to 11 p.m. at North Beach nightclub Monroe, located at 473 Broadway Street.

From 8 to 11 p.m. sheriff candidate Vicki Hennessy will be at South of Market Mexican restaurant Don Ramon's, located at 225 11th Street.

Gay incumbent City College board member Alex Randolph , who is running to retain the seat he was appointed to earlier this year by Mayor Ed Lee, will be joining the mayor and the backers of Proposition A, the $310 million affordable housing bond, at events space Social Hall, in the lower level of Regency Hall, located at 1270 Sutter Street. Doors open at 8 p.m.


Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail

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