San Francisco votes to recognise gay ‘leather’ district

Woman complains to police over men wearing leather harness and thongs

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors have voted to recognise the city’s gay ‘leather’ district.

The city that was once home to pioneering gay lawmaker Harvey Milk is well-known for its thriving LGBT community, but gaybourhoods and queer venues have been feeling the pinch as the city’s tech bubble rapidly transforms the area.

In a bid to combat the effects of gentrification, the city’s Board of Supervisors this week voted to recognise and protect a “Leather and LGBTQ Cultural District”.

Leather is a gay subculture heavily associated with kink and BDSM community, with leather bars typically frequented by ‘bears’ and older gay men.

The annual Folsom Street Fair takes place in San Francisco, California (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

San Francisco voted to defend the area of the city around iconic leather bar The Eagle in the city’s South Market district.

The district is home to the annual Folsom Street Fair leather event, with thousands of leather-clad men descending on the city for the celebration.

The Supervisors agreed “to preserve, advance, and promote San Francisco’s Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District as a local, national, and international resource, and as a culturally and commercially enriched neighborhood and district [and] to preserve and strengthen the Leather and LGBTQ communities of San Francisco by bringing together our diverse histories and cultures at and within the District for all persons to enjoy and share”.

The May 1 vote gives the district access to public money and some protection against future redevelopment.

The annual Folsom Street Fair takes place in San Francisco, California (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Plans were previously unveiled for a ‘leather-themed’ plaza at the heart of the district.

In 2016 the San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously voted in favour of allocating $1.5 million in funding towards Eagle Plaza’s design, raised primarily from an in-kind agreement with property developers.

The Leather Pride Flag will reside in the centre of plaza.

A statement explained: “Eagle Plaza is a unique pedestrian plaza concept proposed for 12th Street at Harrison in the Western South of Market (SoMa) neighbourhood of San Francisco. It will commemorate the area’s LGBTQ and leather heritage and provide a much needed public space for the neighbourhood.”

It adds: “Eagle Plaza’s design has evolved through an extensive and ongoing community outreach process. It responds to the neighborhood’s needs for both new public open space and for commemoration of the area’s rich LGBTQ and leather cultural heritage.

“[It will] be a safe space for people of all ages to gather, relax, play, and celebrate.

“The plaza is designed for both active and passive recreation, with more open, hardscape areas that can host neighborhood gatherings, events, performances, and also some quiet, green spaces to read a book, eat lunch or walk a dog.

“Featuring the leather pride flag flying high, Eagle Plaza will also be a commemorative public space for Folsom Gulch’s LGBTQ and leather communities.”