Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Politics & Govt
Published on June 02, 2023
Neighborhood Group Votes to Fully Support APE's Castro Theatre Plans Ahead of Board of Supervisors MeetingPhoto: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

On Thursday, the Castro Merchants voted to fully support Another Planet Entertainment's (APE) proposed changes to the 100-year-old Castro Theatre ahead of next week's Board of Supervisors meeting.

The vote comes after a shakeup in leadership at the organization with Cliff's Variety co-owner Terry Asten Bennett becoming the group's new president.

Castro Merchants members voted 32 in favor, one against, and three abstentions to remove conditions put in place two months ago, including an economic impact report approved by District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman.

"The Castro Merchants Association believes in the commitment of Another Planet Entertainment to continue hosting events which highlight LGBTQ+ performers, promote local businesses to event-goers, and dedicate at least a third of their programming to showing movies and hosting film festivals," said Asten Bennett in a letter to the board.

The Board of Supervisors votes on Tuesday. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline


"These community benefits will not only empower and provide an influential platform for the performing arts, but also create a viable source of revenue to help keep this iconic theatre’s doors open," added Asten Bennett.

After a three-week delay, the Board of Supervisors is set to vote on the Castro Theatre landmark designation update. Mandelman previously told Hoodline that he plans to propose removing the contentious 'fixed theatrical seating' language from the landmark update. The language was amended by District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston at the Land Use and Transportation Committee.

"I will be offering an amendment at the full board to restore the language forwarded by the Historic Preservation Commission," Mandelman previously told Hoodline.

It's been nearly a year and a half since APE took over programming at the historic Castro Theatre.

APE has proposed much-needed renovations of the neglected Castro Theatre, along with removing the orchestra-level seating and replacing them with four-tiered sections of platforms with removable seats.

Four of the proposed seating options at the Castro Theatre. |Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline


"Another Planet is honored by today's overwhelming vote of support by the Castro Merchants for our plans to restore, renovate and revitalize the Castro Theatre," said APE spokesperson David Perry.

"Our plans have greatly benefited from their wise counsel and input. Thank you," added Perry. "We are committed to being good neighbors, and look forward to not only providing a rich, diverse and sensitive mix of programming, including a robust schedule of film and LGBTQ content, but to making sure our fellow Castro businesses benefit, economically, from those events."

APE's plans are supported by the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, Frameline Film Festival, SF Gay Men's Chorus, Castro Organ Devotees Association, Movies For Maniacs, and Neighbors for a Restored Castro Theatre (NRCT).

"The near unanimous support from the Castro Merchants Association, without conditions, is yet another signal of the strong support for APE's proposal from those most invested in the success of the Castro Theatre," said NRCT co-chair Mike Murray. "We urge the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission, and HPC to move this project forward without further delay."

APE's latest rendering of the proposed standing-room-only floor plan. | Image: Castro Theatre


The Castro Theatre Conservancy (CTC), Castro Theatre Coalition, Castro LGBTQ Cultural District (CQCD), SF Heritage, Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, and the recently formed San Franciscans to Save the Castro Theatre have opposed APE's plans to remove the orchestra-level seating. [Full disclosure: Steven Bracco, Hoodline's Castro reporter, is a board member of the CQCD and member of the Castro Theatre Coalition.] 

Earlier this week, the newly formed group hosted a town hall in partnership with CTC, SF Heritage, and the Milk Club.

In April, the CTC proposed either buying the 100-year-old Castro Theatre outright or signing a long-term lease if given the opportunity. Last week, the Nasser family released a letter rebuking the proposal.

Members of the public at the April 17 Land Use & Transportation Committee meeting. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline


CQCD co-chair Stephen Torres attended Thursday's Castro Merchants meeting and addressed the group.

"We felt it was important to make sure that the Castro Merchants Association, who are members of the coalition, understood the full breadth of APE’s proposals on the 8th, including re-zoning the neighborhood for nightclubs, bars, adult entertainment, etc. on the 2nd floor of commercial properties," Torres told Hoodline. "[A]s well as the understanding that the time to add enforceable conditions to those approvals was now."

"They voted to endorse without conditions, however," added Torres.

Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting will be followed by a joint meeting of the Planning and Historic Preservation Commissions on Thursday to consider a Certificate of Appropriateness along with a planning code change to allow bars on the second floor and a conditional use permit in the Castro Neighborhood Commercial District.