Walking Tour Needs You

The LEATHER & LGBTQ Cultural District is moving forward on developing a Walking Tour of our special neighborhood, and we invite you to join in the project.

We want folks to send us photographs that evoke leather and queer life in South of Market San Francisco, past and present, and also to create for us original short written or spoken “essays”, to help us create a free Walking Tour App of Leathertown.  Send your items to Walking-Tour-Content@sflcd.org, or upload them here.  Please be sure to give us your contact info.

We will also need lots of volunteer help, including folks with special skills or life experiences. 

Full details below.      


How You Can Help

The easiest way to get involved is to attend a meeting of our Walking Tour Subcommittee.  The next meeting is set for Wednesday, March 3, 2021, from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.  Join via Zoom here or call 1-408-638-0968 US and enter Meeting ID: 835 7030 8076.  You can view the proposed agenda hereAll are welcome to participate. (RSVP, if you like, on the Facebook event. ) 

But if Zoom Meetings are not your thing, we can still use your help, in two important ways:

1. Contribute “content”.  Here are the kind of things we are looking for:

          • Photos from your personal archives.  These will be most usable if:
            • They show the interior or exterior of a significant SOMA location, business or event;
            • You have full rights to the picture and are willing to give us the right to use it;
            • There are few or no identifiable people in the picture who might be hard to contact;
            • You are certain of the date and location when it was taken
          • Brief audio or video clips
            • This could be just you telling what you know about a place or event;
            • Or it could be an interview with an important community figure;
            • Or audio or video capturing an important or interesting event that took place in SOMA.
            • Be sure to include names, dates, and any other info you can.
            • It will be most useful if we can authenticate it in some way, and/or obtain rights if applicable.
          • Written notes
            • Describe a particular location in your own words.
            • Offer a personal recollection, or a “little-known fact” about a place.
            • Ideally, it should all be information that can be verified or authenticated by our historians.
            • If it’s just your own recollection, we may still include it, in the “myths and memories” category.
          • Essays
            • We will have a lot of topics, both site-related and more general, that will need to be written.  A few of the topics which we have already identified as useful are listed below., but let your own imagination and experience inspire you.
            • We want essays that offer insight into Leather Culture to our wandering tourist, or will make someone want to visit San Francisco.
            • Keep it under 2 minutes — the time it might take to walk one block.
              • That’s very hard, of course.  If you submit longer items, we can help you edit and condense them.
              • Or consider creating separate or nested topics.
          • An unusual resource
            • We already have access to the main books and articles about SOMA.  Please do not just do a Google Search and send us the results.
            • But if you have – or stumble across — an unusual historical reference — a saved clipping of your performance at a long-closed bar, a program from the CMC Carnival, or a passing reference in a book we probably have NOT seen, please share it.
            • Provide any info you can that may help us authenticate it:  Titles, authors, dates, publishers, etc.

      Send your items to Walking-Tour-Content@sflcd.org, or upload them here Please be sure to give us your full contact information, as we may need to get in touch with you to obtain your written consent to our use of your materials.  

      Please understand:  Our final product will need to be carefully scripted, meticulously checked for historical accuracy and rights ownership, and professionally produced.    So what you contribute might not be used in the final tour.  We may ask you to rerecord the audio, for example, or give us permission to edit your material for length, etc.    But you might contribute a gem that brings our tour to life!  So thanks in advance.

      2. Volunteer or Refer Expertiise.  As noted above, we will need voice actors, video editors, copy writers, audio engineers, Augmented Reality experts, and a great many other trained and experienced folks to make this Walking Tour a reality.   If you are or know someone who might be willing to volunteer their talents (or give us a substantial discount), please get in touch.

          • Provide names and whatever contact info you have, and be clear about their area of expertise, experience, etc.
          • If using your name might be helpful when we reach out to them, let us know if we can do that.

      Where are we now in our process?

      We have selected a platform, oncell.com, and negotiated with (but not yet signed with or paid)  their rep.

      We have created a “proof of concept” tour, lasting about an hour, covering just under a mile, and including 9 stops, from Eagle Plaza to the edge of the Cultural District at 7th Street.   You can view it here, but please be aware that this is just a demo, has not yet been checked for accuracy, etc..

      The tour currently runs as a Web site, optimized for smartphone or tablet but viewable on your desktop too.  Standalone apps for IOS and Android will be created with OnCell’s help.

      At each of the nine Stops, the visitor is geo-alerted as they approach, shown a “reference picture” of the location, and can then click to listen to an audio file, or read the equivalent text.  Scrolling down will show additional pictures,  and buttons to open videos or additional supplemental audio/text “essays”.  Essays may describe a current or past business at or near the Stop, or may be identified as  “myths and memories” or “detours and distractions”.


      What do we need?

      • A lot more content:  pictures, video, and written or spoken passages I am calling “essays”, lasting under 2 minutes.
      • Folks to sign up as “collaborators”, to edit content.
      • Folks to sign up (free or paid) as content editors and voice actors.
      • One or more small-group walk-throughs, to test interface, usability, and content quality.
      • We plan to submit a partial or preliminary script to our Board Historian, to review.
      • We will then want volunteer researchers to fill in gaps and follow up on the Historian’s concerns.
      • Soon, we will need help reaching out to businesses to sponsor (or just advertise within) the tour.
      • Also folks to plan and implement marketing of the app.

      Suggested Essay Topics

      • Lesbian Bars in SOMA and Beyond
      • BIPOC in Leather and Onyx Northwest
      • Women in SOMA History
      • Filipino Community and SOMA Pilipinas
      • Gay Asian and Pacific Islanders in SF, Asia nightclub
      • The Trans Community
      • Cultural Districts in San Francisco
      • The Leather Menace
      • Publishers and Censorship, Drummer Offices
      • Sex Work
      • Motorcycles
      • Leather
      • Photographers
      • Safety on the Streets
      • Leather and Drag
      • The Importance of a Gathering Place
      • Auctions, Contests, and Other Leather Bar Antics
      • Safe, Sane and Consensual
      • What is Kink?
      • Clubs and Organizations in SOMA
      • Religion and Spirituality in SOMA
      • Community Organizing in SOMA
      • Gentrification
      • Starting a Business in SOMA
      • Folsom / Howard Street Upgrades
      • Architectural Styles on Display in SOMA
      • Neighborhood History
      • Rebuilding after COVID
      • Visiting a Leather Bar?
      • The Wicked Grounds Experience
      • An Anthropological View of Leather Sex
      • Consent
      • Bathhouses, Past and Future
      • Tenant Advocacy and Housing
      • Sleeping Rough
      • Do You Party?
      • Driving and Parking in SF
      • Memories from Specific Events
      • Memories from Specific Venues

        What are our goals?

        • Our goal is to create a powerful  but simple way for folks to use their smartphone to explore our neighborhood on their own.
        • It should run on a smartphone, either as an app (on both Android and IOS) or as a “Web app” (requiring just a Web browser).
        • It should appeal to both locals and visitors.
        • It should be worth using more than once.
        • Using it when elsewhere (e.g. before visiting San Francisco) should also be possible, and should make folks want to visit us.
        • It should be fun and interesting for the casual user, but offer greater depth for those with an interest in the history of the Cultural District, its current activation, and its future.
        • It should, explicitly or implicitly, help the user to understand and appreciate “Leather Culture”.
        • Ultimately, it should offer a variety of tours for folks with specific needs or interests; however our initial project focuses on a single tour, lasting about one hour, and requiring a walk of no more than one mile.
        • The tour will ultimately be tied in to the sidewalk plaques which we are hoping to install in many locations of historic interest.  (For more about the plaques, click here.)
        • It would be nice if the app could know where the user is, either by aiming the camera at a plaque, or by using the phone’s GPS.
        • Users will be encouraged to take the tour as presented, from start to finish.  Doing so should present users with a storyline or arc.  But users who find themselves in a particular location should be able to get info about that location.
        • We expect to offer the tour free of charge; it is therefore almost essential to be able to offer some kind of value to local merchants, through simple ads, sponsorships, coupons, tie-ins,  “passport stamps” or other marketing gimmicks.
        • We must be able to edit the content quickly and easily.
        • Including links to a local event calendar or other existing online resources would be excellent.
        • We are interested in “augmented reality” features, such as the ability to aim your camera at a building and see the historical location “superimposed” over the present one.  We are doubtful, however, that we have enough relevant content to make that feature worth the cost and effort.
        • We want our tour to be accessible to folks with disabilities; any spoken text should also be available in written form, etc.  The user interface should have basic accessibility features built-in.
        • We will assume that the typical user has earbuds and is capable of safely using them while navigating city streets.  Video clips should be short, and intended for playback only at specific locations, not while walking.
        • Ultimately, we will have a lot more content than a user can absorb in one hour.  So it would be great to have some easy way for the user to tell the app if they have specific interests, or specific time constraints (or lack thereof), or to simply offer “digressions” on topics of special interest.
        • It would be of value for the user to be able to select “family friendly” or “adult” versions, and/or require age verification for adult content.
        • Translation services to convert content to other languages might be valuable, if affordable.

        Tour Route(s)

        We have set a route for our first (“proof of concept”) tour, walking from Eagle Plaza to 7th and Folsom (or vice versa).  The exact route  is detailed here.  Consider taking that walk yourself, keeping your eyes open and making a note of any interesting details that might be worth mentioning, or that spark questions in your mind.  Or suggest an alternate route if you like, especially linked to a “special interest” topic or audience.


          How To Proceed?

            If you are inspired to do help us with any of the above, we are enormously grateful.