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Mandelman proposes enhancing Castro Theatre landmark status

Assistant Editor

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman introduced a resolution May 10 that would enhance the city landmark status of the Castro Theatre. Photo: Scott Wazlowski
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman introduced a resolution May 10 that would enhance the city landmark status of the Castro Theatre. Photo: Scott Wazlowski  

The Castro Theatre, which was designated City Landmark #100 in 1976, may see an enhancement of that status later this year if a resolution by gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman is approved.

Mandelman submitted the resolution during the May 10 meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. It seeks to amend the historic theater's landmark status by broadening the designation to include "the full historical, architectural, aesthetic and cultural interest and value of the Castro Theatre" as opposed to the current designation that only covers the building's elaborate California Churrigueresque revival style facade.

The theater, which was built in 1922, came under new management in January when Another Planet Entertainment, a live-music promotion company based in Berkeley, announced it would assume management of the site. That announcement prompted much hand-wringing and anxiety among those who feared that APE's focus on live events would spell the end of LGBTQ-oriented programming at the cinema.

Another Planet management has sought to assure the public that it is very sensitive to those concerns. At the May 5 meeting of the Castro Merchants Association, APE project manager Margaret Casey stated, "The Castro is a crown jewel for that kind of programming."

There has been much concern, too, about the impact of proposed renovations to the theater's elaborately decorated interior, which Mandelman's resolution seeks to address.

Jacob Bintliff, a gay man who's a legislative aide to Mandelman, told the Bay Area Reporter that "APE has not signaled opposition to this update of the designation, with the understanding that the plans they have already submitted will trigger [Historic Preservation Commission] review and approval of their proposed work."

Mandelman's move has plenty of support at the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District, as well.

"Yes, we are very happy about the request to commemorate or, rather, to expand the landmark designation," said cultural district manager Tina Valentin Aguirre, who identifies as a genderqueer Latinx person.

"The cultural district requested this to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the landmark and to ensure the cultural and queer heritage of the landmark is incorporated into this important document," Aguirre said.

The proposed resolution, however, only starts a multistep process.

"The next step after today will be a hearing at the board's land use committee to approve this resolution (tentatively May 23)," Bintliff wrote in an email to the B.A.R., "and once the resolution is passed by the full board (tentatively May 24), the planning department will prepare a report that will inform a Historic Preservation Commission recommendation on whether and how to update the existing historic landmark."

The HPC hearing will probably happen in late summer, Bintliff added, "and based on their recommendation, the supervisor would then introduce an ordinance to officially amend the existing landmark designation that would also go to the land use committee and full board for approval, as soon as September."

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