SF leather district deals with vandalism

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday July 5, 2023
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An image of May vandalism to the leather monument on Ringold Alley was sent to the Bay Area Reporter. Photo: Brian Bringardner
An image of May vandalism to the leather monument on Ringold Alley was sent to the Bay Area Reporter. Photo: Brian Bringardner

An impromptu street party in the South of Market neighborhood over Pride weekend left thousands of dollars in damage in its wake — including to an LGBTQ historic site. But even before Pride, leaders of the Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District have been dealing with vandalism to monuments along Ringold Alley.

In the Pride weekend party, the plaque commemorating Ringold Alley was covered in graffiti and trash until it was cleaned by the West SOMA Community Benefit District.

"We contacted the CBD first thing this morning and it appears they've been out there ... all the trash has been cleaned up and some of the graffiti has been cleaned," Robert Goldfarb, a gay man who is executive director of the Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District, told the Bay Area Reporter on June 29. "There was no physical damage per se. There's a granite plaque on the top of the monument — there was graffiti on that. The monument itself is physically intact."

The West SOMA CBD confirmed to the B.A.R. that it cleaned the site, but declined to comment further.

A reader sent the B.A.R. a photo of vandalism from late May of the monument on the alley.

As the B.A.R. previously reported, Ringold Alley was a beacon of sexual freedom for gay men in the 1960s, who'd cruise the dark, industrial alleyway looking to get lucky. In 2017, a monument was installed by the developers of the LSeven apartment complex adjacent to the roadway commemorating the historic nature of the site.

There are two images on the plaque — one is of the Leather David statue, which is at the GLBT Historical Society Museum in the Castro. A decidedly kink take on the Michelangelo original, it was created for Fe-Be's, the first leather bar on the bygone "Miracle Mile" of leather bars along Folsom Street, along with S&M clubs and bathhouses in the area.

The other image is a picture of the wall art of the Tool Box, an early South of Market gay haunt, that was featured in a 1964 Life magazine article "Homosexuality in America" that proclaimed the City-by-the-Bay the "gay capital" of the United States, drawing even more LGBTQ people to San Francisco.

KGO-TV reported that on June 24, four cars were vandalized and half a dozen buildings were sprayed with graffiti during the impromptu party. No arrests were made. The monument was tagged as well.

When asked if graffiti is a regular occurrence at the monument, Goldfarb said, "In SOMA it's not uncommon for graffiti to crop up almost anywhere at any place. Because we're aware of the monument and keep an eye on it, perhaps we are more cognizant, but it does get graffiti from time to time."

Goldfarb said he became aware of the graffiti after someone reported it to San Francisco's 311 non-emergency line. The person reported that the graffiti was "hateful" in nature, but Goldfarb said he had "not seen it and cannot verify that." An image of the May graffiti states 'ONEREV,' followed by an incomprehensible series of interconnected letters.

The damage to the monument was mild compared to what some residents of the neighborhood experienced — one man had been planning to drive to Canada but his car was totaled, KGO reported.

"Things are much improved," Goldfarb said. "There's still graffiti in the street and on the sidewalk and we hope to get that addressed."

Goldfarb said he does not know who held the party; he added there's no camera footage of the Ringold Alley incident. The San Francisco Police Department did not return a request for comment.

Cal Callahan, the leather district manager, declined to comment for this report, deferring to Goldfarb.

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