Recent Comments

    New and Improved Castro Street Helps to Preserve SF’s Gayborhood

    andreaBy Andrea Aiello

    We’re almost there. In about one month, we’ll have our neighborhood back. We’ll say goodbye to our friends on the construction crew. Some may be sad to not see sweaty men working hard all day long on Castro Street, but I’ll be glad to see them gone. No more jack hammering, back hoes and cement trucks. By early November, Castro Street will be transformed.

    The new Castro Street will be one that reflects the current best practices in urban design. With wider sidewalks, a narrower street, 63 trees, bulb-outs, leaning posts, bike racks, and themed streetscape improvements it will be pedestrian centric, encouraging people to be out and about, to linger, meet friends at a sidewalk café and generally bring a positive vibe to the street.

    This project has not only made Castro Street more pedestrian friendly, but also there has been an added benefit. The project will help the Castro to maintain its worldwide LGBT identity. Adding to the Rainbow Flag and Harvey Milk Plaza, the privately funded project improvements include rainbow crosswalks, the Castro History Walk, Rainbow Honor Walk, and the celebratory LED lights. They are all pieces of the urban landscape puzzle critical for the neighborhood to maintain a unique cultural identity over time.

    andrea2Thirty years from now, the residents will be different. But the Rainbow Honor Walk will still be in the sidewalk, as will the Castro History Walk, the rainbow crosswalks and the celebratory LED lights. These urban landscape installations are important pieces in keeping a gay identity in the Castro.

    Peter Kane, author of the new book “There Goes the Gayborhood,” said in a recent interview that such “civic commemorations” are important to a neighborhood’s identity. “They preserve an area’s heritage or history in a way that is mindful of the fact that the residential portfolio is actively changing, but which nonetheless anchors the cultural identity of a group in space and place.” Combined with vibrant local cultural “anchor” institutions, Kane argues that these commemorations can actually help preserve a gayborhood.

    With the new SF AIDS Foundation center for gay and bi-men’s health at 474 Castro Street and the GLBT History Museum at 4127 18th Street, the Castro is well on its way to having both of these strategies—civic commemorations and anchor institutions.

    I would add that in the Castro we have a third strategy, a strategy that is perhaps the most important: a committed community. A community committed enough to volunteer and donate to support these anchor institutions in the Castro. And committed enough to comment on and create the rainbow crosswalks, the Castro History Walk and the Rainbow Honor Walk. The Castro’s committed community, the civic commemorations, and the anchor institutions are parts of the puzzle that will help carry an LGBT-identified Castro forward.

    Come out and enjoy the new street. Be proud of what you’ve all accomplished and know that you have helped to keep the gayborhood in the Castro.

    Andrea Aiello is the Executive Director of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District.