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LYRIC gets go-ahead from SF planning panel for renovation project

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The Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center, or LYRIC, received the go-ahead from the planning commission to move forward with a renovation project that will create more usable space for staff and clients. Photo: Matthew S. Bajko
The Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center, or LYRIC, received the go-ahead from the planning commission to move forward with a renovation project that will create more usable space for staff and clients. Photo: Matthew S. Bajko  

The Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center has big changes in store for its famous purple house in the Castro, and on Thursday the LGBTQ youth nonprofit got the go-ahead from the San Francisco Planning Commission for the project.

The 6-0 vote October 8 on a conditional use authorization and a variance allows the queer youth center at 127 Collingwood Street to make major changes, which are scheduled to be completed by summer 2021, according to LYRIC's capital renovation program website.

As the Bay Area Reporter reported last December, the current configuration of LYRIC's house requires clients and visitors to climb a set of stairs to the first floor in order to gain access to the building.

Aiming to create a more accessible and visible access point, LYRIC is proposing to enclose a portion of the building's driveway by pushing out the ground floor facade to bring it flush with the rest of the building. In front would be a courtyard area.

According to the nonprofit agency, the renovation will result in a slight alteration to the front portion of LYRIC's building that improves its look and access.

Interior remodels of the main building's first floor and the rear building will allow the agency to provide expanded space for its youth programs, a new kitchen area, and additional spaces where staff can meet privately with clients. The rear yard patio between the two structures will also be reconfigured to provide better access and use of the space.

The conditional use authorization will also "expand the hours of operation, eliminate organized meal programs and neighborhood advisory council meetings, increase the number of clients served to 75, eliminate the age restriction of clients served, [and] increase the number of organized activities held at the subject property to 10 per year," according to a copy of the proposal.

LYRIC Executive Director Jodi Schwartz laid out the proposal in a statement to the commission.

"As it exists now, the LYRIC facility is not meeting the needs of our youth, staff, and LYRIC programming. Youth arriving early to appointments or programming must often wander the neighborhood until their counseling session or group activity begins. Youth with urgent needs sometimes need to wait days to be seen as there are only two private meeting rooms," Schwartz said. "We are here today to ask for your support. LYRIC's proposal allows for a modest expansion within the same current footprint of our facility."

The proposal will create 44% more usable space in the building.

"These additional spaces will allow us to offer our youth the privacy they need," Schwartz said. "This is essential since so many of them have experienced violence, homelessness, and mental health challenges."

Several community members spoke in support of LYRIC, such as Terry Asten Bennett of Cliff's Variety on Castro Street, who said the organization is a good neighbor by shopping locally and giving queer youth a place "to be themselves, to learn, and to grow."

"We've had a relationship with LYRIC since it opened its doors in the early 1990s," she said. "LYRIC has been an important member of our community, created as a safe space for LGBTQ youth to get the services they need."

A neighbor called in to support the project, but to clarify he wanted LYRIC to pay for any damages to his house with its insurance.

"We don't want to delay the project. We don't want to stop the project," he said. "We just don't want problems with our house."

The project is also supported by the Castro Merchants, the Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), and the GLBT Historical Society.

LYRIC needs $2 million for the capital renovation, according to Schwartz. As the B.A.R. reported last month, the organization received $200,000 in this year's city budget in the form of an add-back from gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman's office.

"LYRIC is an anchor, they are embarking on a capital planning process, and so we included $200,000 for them," Mandelman said at the time. "They need a lot and this is a modest city contribution to that effort, which is for more than $200,000."

In an email to the B.A.R. October 8, Schwartz stated that LYRIC still needs permits from the Department of Building Inspection and that they are almost done raising the required funds.

"We are very close to being half way to raising the $2M goal of our capital campaign and have both institutional funders and individual donors in the queue to get us to our goal," Schwartz wrote in an email. "We hope to complete construction by summer 2021."

Updated, 10/8/20: This article has been updated with additional comments from Jodi Schwartz.

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