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San Francisco

Activist Fighting Major 6th & Market Development Over LGBTQ Historical Significance

On October 27th November 3rd, the Planning Commission is set to consider the approval of Group i's 12-story development project at 950-974 Market St. (at Sixth). Current plans call for a 120-foot-tall building with 247 condos, a 232-room hotel, approximately 16,000 square feet of retail space, and 82 below-ground parking spaces.

At the hearing, the Planning Commission will also consider the appeal of the Preliminary Mitigated Negative Declaration (a.k.a. Neg Dec) filed by housing activist and Q Foundation president Brian Basinger, formerly of the AIDS Housing Alliance.

Basinger is appealing the project on both historic and contemporary grounds. As proposed, the project would demolish five existing structures, including the former locations of the The Old Crow, one of the first gay bars in San Francisco, as well as other now-closed gay bars like the Pirate's Den, The Landmark Room and The Silver Rail.

The Old Crow bar (c. 1942) at 962 Market St., now closed. | PHOTO: William lipsky/FACEBOOK

"Bulldozing these buildings would have substantial environmental impacts to the LGBT historic resources in the neighborhood," says Basinger, who's applying for the area to become an LGBTQ Historic District. He said he's worried that the neighborhood will be unable to obtain that designation if the whole block is bulldozed, removing many of the historic sites.

The block today. | Photo: Brittany Hopkins/Hoodline

Basinger is requesting that the developer be required to complete a detailed Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which he hopes will confirm the historical significance of the buildings and stop the demolition altogether. 

"Why on earth should we expect that we have to accept the bulldozing of our historically significant LGBT sites?" asks Basinger. "We should not be treated like second-class citizens who must be happy for crumbs."

A rendering of the proposed building. | Image: Courtesy of Group i

Group i spokesperson Jessica Berg told us that the developer has "worked with the city and community on a multi-year collaboration to analyze and develop a dynamic housing, hotel and retail project at the intersection of Mid-Market and the Tenderloin."

As we reported last month, Group i has offered a free-of-charge space in the building to the nonprofit Magic Theatre, for "its community-serving Magic Lab program at the corner of Turk and Taylor, along with many other community benefits," Berg said. 

As for Basinger's assertion that the storefronts are of historic value and should not be destroyed, "the Planning Department concluded that although three of the storefronts at the property had at certain times in the past been occupied by gay bars, none of the three storefronts retains physical features associated with those long-closed establishments (they lack 'integrity') and thus are not able to convey historic significance," Berg said. "The city has concluded that the buildings to be demolished are not historically significant."

Berg said that Group i has conducted a "thorough review of the recently adopted Citywide LGBTQ Context Statement," and "is working with the author of the statement on a LGBTQ interpretive display and programming which will be incorporated into the project."

Should his request for an EIR not be approved, Basinger said he hopes that the developer will consider giving space to a community-supported, LGBT-owned business instead of Magic Theatre. Tomorrow, we'll have details on a new LGBT-oriented restaurant that's being proposed for the site.

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