SF leaders OK Eagle Plaza permit

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday February 13, 2019
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An artist rendering of Eagle Plaza looks north along 12th Street toward Bernice Street. Photo: Courtesy Build Inc./Place Lab
An artist rendering of Eagle Plaza looks north along 12th Street toward Bernice Street. Photo: Courtesy Build Inc./Place Lab

Construction on a public parklet honoring San Francisco's LGBT and leather communities in the South of Market neighborhood is set to soon start now that city leaders have granted the project the street closure permit it needed.

Named after the gay-owned bar it will front on a portion of 12th Street, Eagle Plaza is seen as a focal point for the LGBTQ cultural heritage district city officials created in western SOMA. The aim is to see the landscaped open space built in time for this year's Folsom Street Fair, held annually the last Sunday in September.

To help meet that deadline, Mayor London Breed last month took the lead in introducing the permit request to the Board of Supervisors in order to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that had stalled the project since first being proposed five years ago. District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents SOMA, and gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation.

The supervisors, without any discussion, voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the street encroachment permit. It was submitted as a resolution rather than an ordinance so that it did not require being voted on twice by the board.

Breed planned to sign it into law once she received it, likely as soon as Wednesday afternoon.

"Our LGBT and leather communities have a long history in San Francisco and western SOMA and they will now have a permanent home in the neighborhood," stated Breed following the supervisors' vote February 12. "The new Eagle Plaza will celebrate our diversity and the pride we all have in these communities, while also creating a much-needed new open space for all of our residents."

[Friday, February 15, the mayor's office announced she had signed the resolution. In a statement, Breed noted, "While our federal administration is attempting to erase members of the LGBTQ community, we in San Francisco take pride in celebrating all those who bring diversity to our city."]

Local development firm Build Inc. will construct the plaza as part of a $1.5 million in-kind agreement with the city for approval of its mixed-use development across the street from the Eagle bar on what was a surface parking lot. Construction began last summer at 1532 Harrison Street on three seven-story buildings consisting of 136 rental homes.

Place Lab, started by Build and now part of the nonprofit San Francisco Parks Alliance, is overseeing the design of, and permits for, Eagle Plaza. It will be approximately 12,500 square feet in size.

"The SF Parks Alliance is thrilled that the Board of Supervisors and the mayor's office have approved the resolution that will allow Build to deliver Eagle Plaza, a new public gathering space that celebrates the LGBTQ community and leather culture of the neighborhood," wrote Place Lab Director Brooke Ray Rivera in an emailed reply to the Bay Area Reporter. "We look forward to continuing our work with the community and the other city agencies involved in the process to move this important project forward."

A main issue had been ensuring the plaza's design allowed adequate access for fire trucks and other safety vehicles. As the B.A.R. noted last fall, the concerns voiced by public safety officials led to a scaled down proposal for the plaza.

Rather than completely shut down the block of 12th Street between Harrison and Bernice streets to traffic, it will remain open to vehicles in both directions via a curving, 28-foot-wide two-lane roadway through the plaza. Bollards will be used to close off the street at both ends for special events.

The Eagle bar's flagpole sporting the leather flag will be moved into one of the plaza's planting areas in front of it. Sidewalks at both entrances into the plaza will sport the colors of the leather flag, which features a red heart and blue, black, and white stripes.

It is unclear when work on the plaza will officially begin. There are currently no plans to hold a groundbreaking ceremony with city and community leaders so as not to further prolong the start of construction. A ribbon cutting is instead being planned for when the project is complete.

The parklet's estimated cost is $1.85 million. In addition to Build's contribution, the city awarded $200,000 in grant money to the plaza. The Friends of Eagle Plaza is aiming to raise $150,000 by this spring.

For more information, and to donate, visit http://www.eagleplaza.org/.

UPDATED 2/15/2019 to note Mayor London Breed had signed the resolution.