LGBTQ History in Hayes Valley

Although the Castro emerged as a gay neighborhood in the 1960s, the support it provided to LGBTQ people often was qualified by such limitations as socioeconomic status, race, age, and gender identity. Because Hayes Valley largely escaped the forces of gentrification into the 2000s, it offered less expensive housing and commercial spaces and retained a vibrant culture accessible to an LGBTQ population o[lesser means and greater diversity.

As a result, by the mid-1970s, a sizable contingent of gay people had moved into Hayes Valley, where they began developing local LGBTQ cultural practices and institutions. This visible presence occasionally produced tensions with other residents, yet gay people worked to negotiate a respectful place within the area’s diverse populations by forming personal ties with their neighbors and by contributing to the communal life of the neighborhood.

As early as 1966-1967, Hayes Valley already was home to the short-lived Sirporium, a second- hand fundraising shop at 525 Hayes Street run by the Society (or Individual Rights, San Francisco’s major gay-rights organization of the 1960s. The 1970s saw the opening of such establishments as Dottie’s Stardust Lounge, a gay bar at the corner of Hayes and Laguna Streets.

A particularly striking example of LGBTQ community engagement in Hayes Valley was the Lily Street Fair, held on a (our-block long alley in the neighborhood from 1981 to 1990, a period coinciding with some of the darkest years of the AIDS crisis. Part block party, part potluck, and part Easter parade, the fair was both a display of.fabulous drag and a festive celebration of the community created by residents of the street and their friends.

One of the organizers of the [air was the drag performer known as Lily Street, who was active in the San Francisco Imperial Court, a drag fundraising organization founded in San Francisco in 1965. She became the court’s Absolute Empress XXIII in 1988. Her Hayes Valley neighbor Simeon Traw, who performed at the fair, became Emperor XVIII A.N. in 1990.

One of the longest lived and most significant sites for LGBTQ enterprise in Hayes Valley is 488 Hayes Street, where the gay bar David’s House and its adjacent restaurant, David’s Garden Cate. opened in 1984. The bar became the Overpass in 1986, in turn becoming Marlena’s in 1990. For almost ’25 years, Absolute Empress XXV Marlena held court there, providing a particular welcome for older gay men and for drag culture. Marlena’s was a bastion of the Imperial Court, hosting events that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity.

Hayes Valley also was home to an important institution of the local LGBTQ media during an era when print publications remained a primary means of information exchange and community building: The editorial and business offices of The Sentinel, one ofSan Francisco’s major weekly gay newspapers published tram 1974 to 1995, were located at 500 Hayes Street for more than half of the periodical’s existence (1983-1992).

The neighborhood likewise supported one ofSan Francisco’s renowned queer photographers: From 1990 to 2000, Daniel Nicoletta created his work in a studio at 320 Fell Street. He not only produced portraits ofLGBTQ luminaries there, he also opened his doors for salons, fundraisers, and memorial services. Nicoletta ‘s work during this period notably portrayed activists, drag queens, the transgender and genderqueer community, punks, former prisoners, and others often marginalized by society and even by parts of the LGBTQ community.

In addition to creating uniquely queer cultural and commercial institutions, LGBTQ inhabitants ofHayes Valley have actively joined forces with non-LGBTQ residents to sustain and develop the neighborhood as a home for those whose experience reflects intersectionalities and inequalities due to their social and economic standing and their race, sexual orientation, gender, and age.

Notably, the former Oak Hill Neighborhood Association, and the larger and ongoing Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association (“HVNA “) included significant LGBTQ leadership since their formation. The HVNA took a groundbreaking position by stating a commitment to maintaining neighborhood diversity in its bylaws. LGBTQ people also had prominent roles in the campaign to demolish the Central Freeway after the 1989 earthquake and in the subsequent creation ofOctavia Boulevard and Patricia’s Green, as well as in advocating development of at least 50% affordable housing on parcels cleared by the freeway removal.

The boundaries of the District encompass only a portion ofHayes Valley, but this inclusion enables organizations throughout the neighborhood to participate in the benefits of the District. This Chapter 107B recognizes the historic importance ofLGBTQ people’s contribution to Hayes Valley and honors the neighborhood’s contributions to LGBTQ culture that have likewise benefitted the adjacent Castro neighborhood, the City at large and society as a whole.

Supervisors Mandelman, Brown, Ronen, Safai

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