Political Notes: SF supervisor candidates stake out plans to promote LGBTQ culture

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday October 24, 2022
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District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, left, D8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, D6 candidate Honey Mahogany, and D6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey were among those running in the even-numbered supervisorial districts who weighed in on the city's LGBTQ Cultural Heritage Strategy draft report. Photos: Courtesy the candidates
District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, left, D8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, D6 candidate Honey Mahogany, and D6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey were among those running in the even-numbered supervisorial districts who weighed in on the city's LGBTQ Cultural Heritage Strategy draft report. Photos: Courtesy the candidates

Candidates running for even-numbered supervisor district seats this fall in San Francisco told the Bay Area Reporter they back myriad proposals to preserve and promote the city's LGBTQ cultural heritage. Their ideas ran the gamut from landmarking LGBTQ historical sites to fiscally supporting LGBTQ entrepreneurs and small business owners.

It has been four years since the city first released the groundbreaking citywide LGBTQ+ Cultural Heritage Strategy in draft form that offered more than 50 suggestions for how City Hall could ensure the local queer community and its culture thrived and survived. In July, the Board of Supervisors held its first committee hearing on the 56-page report that at the time of its publication came with an estimated price tag of $10.2 to $15.7 million to fully implement.

As the B.A.R. has previously reported, a host of ideas laid out in the document has been funded or enacted by the city. For example, Mayor London Breed budgeted $12 million toward the purchase of a site for a new expansive LGBTQ history museum and archival center, while her administration is working on naming the city's first drag laureate tasked with promoting LGBTQ nightlife and the local drag scene.

With the cultural strategy meant to be a living document and advisory guide for city officials to use, the B.A.R. asked in its questionnaire for this year's crop of supervisorial candidates what proposals in the report they would work to enact if they win their November 8 races. Board President Shamann Walton, who represents District 10 and its historically Black neighborhoods of Hunters Point and the Bayview, expressed support for increasing the number of LGBTQ city landmarks and funding economic development programs targeted at the LGBTQ community.

Walton, a straight ally who is the first Black man to wield the presidential gavel in the board chambers, also noted his district running along the city's eastern shoreline has seen an influx of LGBTQ residents priced out of other neighborhoods that historically have been LGBTQ districts, such as the Castro and western South of Market. As such, he said he has tried during his first term to foster a sense of community among his LGBTQ constituents.

"There is a growing LGBTQ+ community in D10 and I have been supporting cultural efforts with the community such as through D10 Pride and the D10 Pride Ride," noted Walton.

Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the Castro at City Hall, had called for the hearing on the city's LGBTQ cultural strategy held this summer and took part in it. () He noted to the B.A.R. he has worked with Breed and gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), his constituent who formerly held the D8 seat, on finding a permanent location to house the GLBT Historical Society's museum and archives. Due to state funding Wiener secured, there is now $17 million toward the purchase of a property for the nonprofit.

The queer preservation group leases a small Castro storefront on 18th Street for use as its current museum location and also rents space in a downtown office building to house its extensive archival collections. For years it has sought a site, preferably in the Castro, to call home and contain its various operations under one roof.

"Funding for a new, larger, and more permanent museum of the GLBT Historical Society," noted Mandelman, is among the "hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual add-back funding" he has been able to secure in the city's budget "to expand a variety of LGBTQ+-friendly services provided by nonprofits."

He, too, pointed to the need to landmark LGBTQ historic sites, such as the one he instigated with the assistance of LGBTQ advocates and preservationists for the Noe Valley home of the pioneering late lesbian couple Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. He is now supporting an update to the landmark status for the Castro Theatre to protect its interior spaces and would like to see the late gay supervisor Harvey Milk's former camera shop and campaign headquarters at 575 Castro Street be granted national monument status by the federal parks system.

"I would love to find a safe way to bring back Castro Halloween and Pink Saturday. The festivities were iconic cultural experiences for queer people who came from around the Bay Area," Mandelman told the B.A.R. in terms of additional ways to maintain the neighborhood's LGBTQ identity.

Kate Stoia, a lawyer and straight married mother running against Mandelman, told the B.A.R. she "would hire and defer to a LGBTQ adviser or set of advisers on this issue." 

Joel Engardio, the gay married former journalist turned neighborhood organizer running against District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar, had a similar response as that of Stoia.

"I would work with LGBTQ community leaders and residents to get input on what they would like prioritized," wrote Engardio.

When asked about his response during an editorial board meeting with the B.A.R., in which it was noted an advisory committee of LGBTQ advocates had worked with city leaders to draft the cultural strategy, Engardio acknowledged he had not been aware of its creation or read the document.

As for Mar, he told the B.A.R. key components of the strategy that he would focus on are supporting LGBTQ+ cultural districts and LGBTQ+ historic preservation, and increasing access to affordable housing and workspace for LGBTQ+ artists.

"I am already working on similar efforts with the Sunset Chinese Cultural District and other District 4 stakeholders and am excited about opportunities to build alignment with the LGBTQ cultural heritage strategy," wrote Mar.

District 6 supervisor candidate Honey Mahogany, who formerly served as chief of staff to Matt Haney when he held the seat, zeroed in on the report's calls for affordable housing for LGBTQ residents, from youth and seniors to artists and nightlife workers. Part of the ownership group trying to reopen the Stud queer nightclub somewhere in the city, Mahogany had provided input early on toward the development of the cultural strategy due to her serving as director of the Transgender District in the Tenderloin.

"In all of our conversations, one of the most pressing issues was housing: many of my colleagues, friends, artists, performers, bartenders, working class people, could not afford to live in San Francisco. Many of them first moved to the East Bay before moving out of the area to Austin or New Orleans or even New York," wrote Mahogany. "To solve this issue, we need to not only build more housing more quickly ... but we also need to invest in Social Housing and Community Land Trusts."

Mahogany noted she early on supported the creation of the San Francisco Queer Land Trust and the San Francisco Community Land Trust. If elected as the city's first transgender supervisor, she told the B.A.R. she would direct city funding toward government-owned housing for working-class people and community-owned housing.

"As someone who was a part of the effort to save the Stud (don't worry, we're working on bringing it back!), I also know the power of cooperatives," wrote Mahogany. "I want to work with organizations like NoBAWC — Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives — to provide support for people who want to start a cooperative, especially around saving legacy businesses, or preserving some of the rich history and cultural institutions that make San Francisco so special."

Increasing city investment in its nightlife would be another priority for Mahogany on the board.

"For the LGBTQ community, nightlife is a place where many of us first come out, feel safe, and find ourselves," wrote Mahogany, who would be the first drag queen elected as a supervisor in San Francisco. "Nightlife is also a huge draw for tourism, San Francisco's number one industry, and is a driver for a large portion of our economy including transit, restaurants, theater, etc. I will invest in more ways to protect and empower nightlife so that San Francisco can have a thriving nightlife scene that will make people want to come to San Francisco, and hopefully, also, keep people here."

Gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, appointed to fill the vacancy created when Haney departed in the spring for the state Assembly, noted how he partnered with Mandelman and their board colleagues during the most recent budget negotiations to secure a record amount of city funding for LGBTQI+ services and programs. As the B.A.R. has previously reported, more than $17 million was allocated for various LGBTQ needs.

The money is funding services and housing assistance for transgender individuals and people living with HIV, while providing monetary support for the city's Pride committee and queer arts organizations. Much of the funding ties into the 50 proposals contained in the cultural strategy.

"The LGBTQ Cultural Strategy was developed after comprehensive stakeholder engagement and surveying. San Francisco must do all it can to fund and implement the strategies developed from this thorough and inclusive process," wrote Dorsey, the second HIV-positive person to serve on the board.

Should he remain the D6 supervisor, Dorsey told the B.A.R. he would continue to push for the city to enact the cultural strategy. He pledged to work with Black LGBTQ and allied leaders in creating "a physical community hub" for the city's African American community, as well as streamlining and eliminating "the red-tape" that minority- and queer-owned businesses and entrepreneurs face at City Hall.

A top priority for Dorsey would be seeing that the city meet its state-mandated goal to build 82,000 new dwelling units by 2030.

"If our housing affordability crisis continues to get worse, we will lose our diverse queer and trans communities to other cities and states," wrote Dorsey, formerly the top spokesperson for San Francisco Police Chief William Scott.

Lastly, District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani, who has a lesbian sister and is unopposed for reelection, noted that, "San Francisco's association with LGBTQ culture is core to our city's identity and serves as a beacon to the rest of the country." When she served as city clerk, Stefani oversaw hundreds of same-sex marriages that took place at City Hall and strived to make sure each couple was treated with respect by her staff.

"The best way to preserve LGBTQ culture is to ensure San Francisco remains the city where LGBTQ people can thrive," wrote Stefani. "I have supported every LGBTQ cultural district and history that has come before me and voted to expand health services for LGBTQ people including investing in the Lyon Martin clinic to ensure it can continue operating. Specifically, I allocated add-back money to preserve the Freshmeat dance Festival."

She, too, expressed her support for funding and establishing a permanent museum
of LGBTQ+ history and culture in the city.

"I am a co-sponsor of Prop F, which will expand the Library Preservation Fund for another 25 years. Our libraries are more important than ever today as we see politicians banning books and thus knowledge and history," wrote Stefani. "It would be amazing if San Francisco was the first museum in the United States that tells the history of LGBTQ+ people."

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Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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