Leather Daddies and Rainbow Crossings – welcome to San Francisco’s new-look Castro

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Leather enthusiasts at the 1978 San Francisco Gay Day Parade | San Francisco Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society | 14040

Writing in Mission Local, Daniel Hirsch is concerned that marking gay places as historic places is counter productive and diminishes or alters the history.

At a time when bars and other queer spaces are struggling to stay open, the approach some groups are taking to mark LGBT history also has the potential to forever alter, and possibly diminish, surviving spaces. The fear is that by marking a place as historic, its current inhabitants may get pushed out to make more room for all the memories.

In the Castro district, not all residents are happy with the redevelopment of their area.

The rainbow crossing designs | Castro Biscuit | 14041

In the Castro, there’s a current plan by the Department of Public Works and the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District to paint the district’s crosswalks in rainbow colors. It might seem at first glance like a whimsical way to celebrate the neighborhood’s queer history and culture. But for some, being somewhere over these rainbows represents further gentrification and worse, “Disneyfication.”

“How many more rainbows do we need, I mean, jesus,” said Waiyde Palmer, a contributor to the Castro Biscuit and Castro-resident since 1986. “I’m fine with a little bit of fey, but the rainbow crosswalks are the equivalent of a cheap souvenir T-shirt, like, ‘I went to the Castro, and all I got was this rainbow crosswalk.’”

Rainbow crosswalks date back to 2008, when efforts of the Castro Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District coalesced with the city’s plans to repave roads and improve sidewalks, in a large effort called the Castro Street Improvement Project. (The Castro CBD, one of many in the city, is a special business district funded by a special tax, made up of merchants organized to improve the neighborhood as they see fit.)

In conjunction with the Planning Department and Department of Public Works, the Castro CBD took on the task of “beautifying” the neighborhood. Through a process of public input and outreach, this means the improvement project will include the following decorative elements: 20 sidewalk etchings featuring highlights of Castro history, as well as decorative LED sidewalk lights, and those rainbow-colored crosswalks.


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