LEATHER & LGBTQ Cultural District
Dates and Facts
The LEATHER & LGBTQ Cultural District (“LCD”) was created by the City of San Francisco, by a resolution adopted by the Board of Supervisors and signed by the Mayor on May 9, 2018.
The District covers a portion of the South of Market neighborhood, roughly bounded by 7th and Howard Streets and the 101 and 280 freeway overpasses, plus a narrow extension out towards 5th and Bryant Streets.
The Articles of Incorporation of the LEATHER & LGBTQ Cultural District, Inc. were approved June 21, 2019, and 501(c)3 tax-exempt status was approved November 18, 2019. Bylaws were approved on July 17, 2019, and the initial Board of Directors was elected on August 21, 2019.
Board meetings of the Cultural District are held monthly, and are open to all. Minutes are publicly available after approval. Members of the public are also encouraged to participate on Board Committees, including Land Use, Arts and Culture, Diversity and Membership, and Communications Committees.
Key Achievements so far:
- Got organized:
- Incorporated, enacted bylaws, elected Board and officers, and obtained 501(c)3 status
- Hired District Manager (9/19)
- Contracted with fiscal sponsor SOMArts
- Obtained a non-profit GSuite account to host our email and provide essential support services
- Joined Techsoup, and acquired essential software for our District Manager and volunteers
- Approved a logo and branding guide (12/19)
- Developed new committee structure, recruited members, and held regular productive meetings
- Fulfilled obligations to City of San Francisco:
- Completed City training program for Directors and District Manager
- Held Board retreat to identify goals and objectives
- Selected and contracted with first CHHESS consultant
- Planned major free District Launch Event for the community
- Submitted monthly program and budget reports to City
- Publicized City programs and offerings
- Worked on Land Use Issues:
- Created “Projects in Development” database for Land Use Committee
- Negotiated successfully with several developers
- Reached developer agreements to notify buyers & tenants about District and events
- Created special “SOMA Action Network” for quick response to challenges to our neighborhood
- Reviewed real estate offerings and monitored market
- Did Community Outreach:
- Built and maintained a web site to keep public informed of activities
- Increased mailing list to over 450 contacts, and sent out monthly newsletters
- Developed membership database, and signed up full voting members
- Created and distributed informational brochures
- Publicized meetings and events via posters and social media
- Staffed informational tables and booths at numerous events
- Purchased and distributed “Keep SOMA Kinky” clothespins at 2019 UYA and Folsom Street Fairs
- Board President did interviews with KPIX, and presented at Commonwealth Club
- Held in-person Open House Events
- Participated in the OurTown SF LGBTQ Nonprofit
- Hosted the Leather Hub at Sunday Streets SOMA
- Marched in the Oakland Trans March and Oakland Pride Parade
- Held SOMA Bar Crawl with Supervisor Matt Haney
- Coordinated with Others:
- Met and worked with the other queer cultural districts
- Castro LGBTQ Culture District
- Transgender District
- Met and worked with
- American Indian Cultural District
- Calle 24 Latino Cultural District
- Japantown Cultural District
- SF African-American Arts and Culture District
- SOMA Pilipinas Filipino Cultural Heritage District
- Provided leadership and support to Friends of Eagle Plaza
- Coordinated with SOMA West Community Benefit District
- Coordinated closely with San Francisco Bay Area Leather Alliance and other non-profits
- Wrote and published a Statement of Solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement
- Celebrated second anniversary with contests as part of Bay Area Leather Lifeline fundraiser
- Board members lobbied for the reversal of the San Francisco Bathhouse ban
- Advocated for the passage of Prop E, to provide Hotel Tax funding for all the Cultural Districts
- Donated to local projects and funds to cope with special challenges.
- Met and worked with the other queer cultural districts
- Supported Art and Culture, and Promoted Leather Identity of Neighborhood:
- Provided fundraising and logistic support in development of Eagle Plaza
- Marched in the historic Leather Pride Parade and helped raise the flag at Eagle Plaza (6/19)
- Created Cultural Catalog to promote local and Leather and LGBTQ-identified artists
- Arranged to put leather and kink-themed artwork on Big Belly trash cans throughout District
- Inventoried potential lightpole banner and themed crosswalk locations
- Reviewed and selected designs to recommend for crosswalks, bike stands, and tree grates
- Developed Mural Slideshow to highlight local artwork and artists
- Created program to match businesses with artists to decorate boarded up windows
- Developed plans for Web-based self-guided Walking Tours of the Culture District
- Supported the Eyezen production, “Out of Site: SOMA”
- Created contest to design Leather Gateway sculpture
- Responded to COVID-19 (3/2020):
- Offered membership dues waiver to those affected directly or economically
- Created a COVID-19 information page with links targeted for our community
- Moved all meetings on-line
- Coordinated with, publicized, and donated to Bay Area Leather Lifeline and other funds
- Published and updated roundup of neighborhood business re-openings
- Assisted in “Masks for D6 Campaign”
- Created “Erotic Storytelling Hour” and weekly “Happy Hour” online events
- Postponed planned Launch Event
- Consulted to local businesses at risk of permanent closing
What is the District Doing Now? And how can you Help?
The Land Use Committee actively monitors all construction projects in the District, and reviews their impact on our community. We negotiate with developers to mitigate gentrification and promote support for our culture and people, and to assure that new residents know what to expect when they move here. This Committee also monitors the real estate market and does important groundwork for the acquisition of space for a future Leather Community and Cultural Center. Our current focus is on a major development project at 1560 Folsom, building community support to assure their responsiveness to our priorities. Have you signed the letter yet?
The Arts and Culture Committee is currently involved with projects to build a Leather Gateway, decorate boarded up windows, and expand our Cultural Catalog to a wider and more diverse roster of local leather and LGBTQ artists, artisans, performers, craftspeople and makers. Artists and Craftspeople: Sign up Here!
As the COVID-19 Shelter in Place continues, we will continue to offer special online events to support writers and bartenders, while offering entertainment and mutual support and connectivity to community members. Join the fun!
We are continuing to work for the inclusion of leather-themed place-making elements in the City’s Folsom and Howard Street renovation plans. We look forward to themed crosswalks, street signs identifying the district, and sidewalk plaques marking key locations.
We are developing a self-guided Walking Tour, to help locals and visitors uncover the history, and appreciate the special character, of our neighborhood. Attend our next meeting!
The Cultural District meets and works closely with the other Cultural Districts, supporting them, publicizing their events, and sharing techniques and opportunities to advance our different cultural and community goals. Check them out here.
The District’s Membership and Diversity Committee focuses on outreach to marginalized and under-represented populations within the larger kink/queer/leather communities, to learn their priorities and address their needs, and to encourage their participation with the District. This means you! Become a member! Or join our mailing list.
We continue to coordinate closely with the Friends of Eagle Plaza, the new Leather-themed public space that will soon become a cornerstone of our neighborhood.
Our Nominating Committee is actively recruiting for folks to join our Board of Directors in the upcoming elections. You can nominate yourself right now.
Our Communications Committee continues to refine our neighborhood’s brand and public image, to reach out to, and hear from, our diverse local community AND the folks worldwide who may consider visiting us. Send us your opinions.
Our Board and Committees meet monthly; meetings are free and open to all. Explore our calendar!
Our CHHESS Consultants are helping us collect and understand community needs and priorities, through focus groups, interviews, and our upcoming Town Hall. Be sure to attend!
What About the Future?
Once the need to Shelter in Place abates, we look forward to a resurgence of activity in our District, and a full recovery of the businesses and community life that have made it so special to us. This will need the energy of everyone who loves Folsom Street: their memories, their creativity, their commitment.
In time, “Leathertown” will again be a destination for kinksters from around the world. Folsom and Harrison Streets will be fun, safe, vibrant and kinkier than ever. And the important artistic, intellectual and even ethical contributions of our culture, ideas and values that we have nurtured here over decades, will be widely shared and appreciated.
One of our dearest goals, of course, is the creation of a Leather Cultural & Community Center. This may take a while, but we have begun work on many levels, public and private. And you can help.