Online Extra: Opening of SF leather parklet pushed back

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday December 11, 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 of the world's first public parklet dedicated to the leather community was hoped to have wrapped up by the end of 2019. But after a spate of recent rainstorms that hit San Francisco this fall, that deadline has now been pushed back to early 2020.

Delays are nothing new for the $1.85 million project, which is turning a portion of 12th Street in the city's South of Market neighborhood into a community gathering space celebrating the leather and kink communities. The owners of the Eagle gay bar after which the plaza is named first broached the idea six years ago.

After city officials and neighborhood leaders signed on to the concept, bureaucratic disputes over the design of Eagle Plaza led to a lengthy stalemate in the project proponents being able to secure the necessary permits. As the Bay Area Reporter noted in February, Mayor London Breed stepped in at the start of this year to push the project forward.

Work on the plaza broke ground in June, and one of its signature features, a flagpole bearing an oversized leather flag, was dedicated at Eagle Plaza's Harrison Street entrance in late September. The ceremony coincided with the kick off of the city's annual Leather Week ahead of the Folsom Street Fair.

Local development firm Build Inc. is constructing the approximately 12,500 square foot 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. The 136-unit housing development at 1532 Harrison Street cannot open to residents until the Eagle Plaza is built.

Asked this week if work on the public parklet would finish this month, the company told the B.A.R. that it is now planned to open in stages throughout the first quarter of 2020.

"Weather permitting, we expect the southern sidewalk and road to open in mid-January and the rest of the plaza to open in mid-March," wrote Carlos Vasquez, the project manager with Build, in an emailed reply December 11.

Place Lab, started by Build and now part of the nonprofit San Francisco Parks Alliance, oversaw the design of, and permits for, Eagle 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.

While it will allow for adequate access for fire trucks and other safety vehicles, it resulted in a scaled down proposal for the plaza. Bollards will be used to close off the street at both ends for special events.

In addition to the flagpole, the 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. There are also plans to install various historic markers and an entry sign at the plaza honoring the neighborhood's importance to the leather and LGBTQ communities.

Eagle Plaza is situated within the boundaries of the LGBTQ cultural heritage district city officials created in western SOMA to celebrate its being the home of the city's leather community. The parklet will serve as a focal point and main gathering spot for the LGBTQ district.

The Friends of Eagle Plaza group is aiming to raise $150,000 by this spring to pay for furniture and other decorative elements of the parklet. It had raised $123,000 toward that goal as of November 1.

For more information, and to donate, visit