Supes to vote on Grubstake's fate after appeal

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Monday September 27, 2021
Share this Post:
Empress Juanita MORE! speaks about the importance of Grubstake Diner's housing proposal during a rally September 27. Photo: Christopher Robledo
Empress Juanita MORE! speaks about the importance of Grubstake Diner's housing proposal during a rally September 27. Photo: Christopher Robledo

The latest chapter in the Grubstake Diner saga was written at noontime Monday, as drag queens Juanita MORE! and Donna Sachet appeared at the Polk Gulch neighborhood late night eatery expressing LGBTQ community support for a construction project that would save it.

"As your empress, I implore you to say anything you can, as loudly as you can," said MORE! — recently elected the Imperial Court empress of San Francisco. "Unlike the building next door, we want to build a space people can afford to live in."

That building next door at 1545 Pine Street is a condominium complex called The Austin, which has dwellings in the million dollar range.

B.A.R. readers may have thought that the controversy over whether Grubstake owners Jimmy Consos and Nick Pigott could build 21 units (reaching 79 feet high) above the diner over the objections of its neighbors had ended July 22, when the Planning Commission approved the project in a 4-2 vote.

But subsequently, some residents at the neighboring 1545 Pine Street building appealed that decision to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which will vote October 5 at 3 p.m. to grant the appeal or reject it.

Consos claims he is pursuing the project to make the salvaging of the historic LGBTQ+-friendly venue financially feasible. The appeal from Patricia Rose and Claire Rose, among other residents, gives many reasons why the project shouldn't go forward: including that demolishing the existing building would necessarily mean the diner couldn't be preserved as a historic resource, impacts to vehicular traffic and public transportation, and the negative impacts of shadow on The Austin property and its residents.

"It is noted that there are proposals within the proposed project that attempt to replicate the Grubstake within the proposed new building by removing and incorporating specific features in the new project," the appeal states. "Curiously, though, these specific efforts are not mitigation measures. These efforts are insufficient to mitigate the loss of the historic resource. ... The treatment of this historic resource is embarrassingly inadequate."

At the September 27 rally, Consos urged people to call during public comment at next week's supervisors meeting to voice their support for the project.

"It means so much to us here at Grubstake that we are not alone," he said, flanked by MORE!, Sachet, and Gary Virginia, a former board president of both PRC and SF Pride.

Speaking to the B.A.R., Consos, a straight ally, said that the purpose of the rally was to "inform the community as to what's going on and the importance of this place."

Virginia reminisced about the historic importance of the diner.

"I moved here in 1987 and have lived in the Castro district most of those years," he said. "I've always felt welcome and safe at Grubstake as an openly gay man, a longtime AIDS survivor, as a young man, as an older man whatever I was wearing — or wasn't."

Sachet told the B.A.R. that Consos is "quite a historian, and his love of this place reignited mine."

"You think I wanted to be up at noon after Folsom Street weekend?" Sachet asked, rhetorically. "None of us should be here. You know who should be here? U-Hauls moving people into affordable housing. We who live here in the Bay Area know we need new housing yesterday."

MORE!, a Polk Gulch neighborhood resident, said that the LGBTQ community still needs spaces like Grubstake just as the city needs more affordable housing.

"I've stayed in this place many nights — way after they closed — hanging out, talking, and having a good time," MORE! recalled. "Unlike the building next to us, we want to build a space people can afford to live in."

Sister Roma, of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, out of face, also made an appearance.

"I've been eating here forever," Roma said. "I love this place. I 1,000% support building affordable housing here."

David P. Cincotta, an attorney who filed the appeal on behalf of the Roses, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, the only LGBTQ member of the board, stated to the Bay Area Reporter that "I have a policy of not taking positions on appeals that will be heard by the Board of Supervisors because if I do I will be unable to vote."

But the rally and the "many emails my office has received supporting the project make clear that the queer community loves Grubstake and wants to see it preserved," Mandelman concluded.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who represents District 3, where the Grubstake Diner is located, did not respond to a request for comment.

Updated 9/28/21: This article has been updated with comments from Supervisor Rafael Mandelman

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.