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Sausage Factory building for sale

by Seth Hemmelgarn

The Sausage Factory building on Castro Street is for<br>sale. Photo: Rick Gerharter
The Sausage Factory building on Castro Street is for
sale. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

The Sausage Factory, an Italian restaurant that's welcomed LGBT diners in San Francisco's Castro district since 1968, will be closing, according to an ad that lists the eatery's building for sale at $4.1 million.


The potential sale of the building at 517-519 Castro Street could also mean changes for people associated with the Radical Faerie group who live in an apartment above the restaurant. One of the group's members is hoping to develop a community land trust to take over the property.


The ad from real estate firm DeRose and Appelbaum says, "This well-located asset is situated in the prime retail corridor of San Francisco's vibrant and historic Castro district," and the Sausage Factory space "can be delivered vacant at close of escrow."


The listing, which notes the 5,340-square-foot building has "vintage Victorian details," also says that the "spacious" apartments on the second and third floors, which contain seven bedrooms altogether, feature "high ceilings, hardwood floors, and abundant sunlight."


The projected monthly rental income is $12,500 for the commercial space, and a total of $5,900 for the two apartments, according to the ad.


Jesse Oliver Sanford, 39, who's lived in the building for 12 years, is a Radical Faerie and said his roommates are also members or "closely associated" with the group. (Radical Faeries " tend to be gay men who look for a spiritual dimension to our sexuality; many of us are healers of one kind or another," the website says.)


"We have no intention of moving in the foreseeable future," said Sanford, who identifies as queer and said he learned about the potential sale "within the last month."


He said he wants to see the building used in a way "that really is inspiring and wonderful for all of us who share the Castro."


A shift in the building's use to "formula retail and a bunch of condos can really affect the fabric of the neighborhood," he said.


Sanford talked about how many groups have used the Sausage Factory over the years, and he said people even prefer the space over the community room at the neighboring Bank of America branch, which "really speaks to the special role of the Sausage Factory in the neighborhood."


Sanford's been working on "what is obviously a long shot" effort to establish a community land trust for the building.


Such a trust would use "a nonprofit model of community ownership," where tenants would "pay rent just like they would to any other landlord," but it could be tenant-managed and there could also be "provisions for values-based housing" to make the space welcoming for artists and others whose access to the neighborhood is limited, said Sanford. The deal could also include "discussion around community management of the restaurant," he said. He estimated $500,000 to $1 million would need to be raised to get started.


Building owner Tony Azzolino couldn't be reached for comment. Calls to the restaurant weren't returned. Santino DeRose, whose firm is handling the building's sale, didn't respond to interview requests.


A note on the Preserving LGBT Historic Sites in San Francisco Facebook page says, "With its funky, old-timey decor, the Sausage Factory has long been known an establishment welcoming to Castro residents and visitors both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ. The menu offers reasonably priced comfort food in copious portions that kept diners on a budget well fed. Many an informal gathering of LGBTQ organizers has taken place in the large bar space at the back of the restaurant."


One gay group that's frequently used the space is Log Cabin Republicans. Jason Clark, former president of Log Cabin's San Francisco branch and ex-chair of the group's California chapter said in an email to the Bay Area Reporter, "Log Cabin is sorry to hear of the Sausage Factory's potential closure."


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