Understanding and Getting to Know the Merchants of Upper Market Castro (MUMC)

Merchants of Upper Market Castro (MUMC) held it’s monthly, members only, meeting December 6th. This group of local business owners and managers have a major influence over the direction and tone of life in the Castro since it’s inception and currently enjoys a very intimate working relationship with the current Dist. 8 Supervisor, Scott Wiener.

Membership in MUMC is only open to the 270 businesses holding license within it’s defined Castro/Upper Market area. Any businesses (or managers of a business) who aren’t members at this time are welcome to attend one meeting to get the lay of the land as a guest of the board. The board is made up of 12 members. Non-members who have no ties to businesses may only attend if they receive the expressed consent of the President of the MUMC, Terry Asten Bennett, General Manager/Cliff’s Variety, self-described lifelong Castro resident. If you’re curious about  going you may send a request, via email, to  [email protected] or call 415/431-2359.

This iron fisted rule of who may or may not attend-based on the decision of one person-is viewed by critics who oppose or challenge MUMC plans, proposals, ideas, decisions or endorsements as their cloak of invisibility in responding or listening to oppositional opinion. “They are able to make unilateral decisions that impact the community without any oversight by it’s citizen’s”, one local critic accused in an email to me.

MUMC, by law, as a private group need not have meetings open to the public. However as they seem to make decisions that effect public policy and do have access and use to public owned property it seems to this casual observer at cross purposes to the MUMC mission ‘to serve the community’.

Some recent controversial issues have gripped the Castro, which The Biscuit have covered in length, are directly tied to the MUMC and it’s policies. The group maintains and controls the much disputed Harvey Milk Plaza flag pole that flies the Gay Flag. They  decide which flags fly on it if any. MUMC helps raise the annual, beloved, community ‘Holiday Tree‘ that was recently disrupted by protestors displeased with MUMC’s stance on public nudity and other issues. It also worked with the community group, CastroCBD, to remove the benches at Harvey Milk Plaza that they’d installed several years prior after citizens and businesses complained about the homeless encampment who’d taken to sitting there in an effort not to violate the City’s No Sit/No Lie on sidewalk and streets law.
The most recent meeting, according to one observer, was primarily given over to the discussion of the ongoing issue of homelessness in the neighborhood and ways to deal with it. Bevan Dufty, former Supervisor for the district who now currently serves the City as Mayor Ed Lee’s Supervisor of Housing, Opportunity, Partnerships & Engagement (HOPE), presented an extensive and exhaustive breakdown of multiple programs currently being initiated, tried, or in use through out the City and the Castro. Many neighborhoods are embroiled in this issue and are working closely with Mr. Dufty and the Mayor, but, as anyone who walks the streets of the Castro could attest, the issue seems far from improving.
 Also on hand, SFPD Police Captain Bob Moser, whose Mission police district encompasses the Castro, came to lend his assurance that his officers are continuing to work with impacted communities and liaison with the City’s Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) . No matter what programs are initiated by the City SFPD will assist all who need it to the best of their ability while responding the concerns of merchants and enforcing City laws and codes.
MUMC also maintains a website and a blog that highlights recent decisions, announcements of upcoming meetings and a short historical overview of the Castro. Included are some amazing photographs of the Castro through the years provided by Castro Biscuit contributor Jerry Pritkin and my friend, Danny Nicoletta, whose career began under the tutelage of our late, great, Mayor of Castro Street, Harvey Milk.
It’s my sincere desire to see better communication occur within the MUMC and the greater community at large. I hope the common goals of activists and members of MUMC aren’t so estranged that compromise can’t be found. I encourage public forums or town hall meetings led by civic leaders, MUMC and community activist groups be held on the collective, quality of life in the Castro issues to find this promised common ground. It’s just one solution the  community could explore to avoid many misunderstandings that often devolve into political disasters like the near denial of the raising of the Trans Pride Flag on the Annual Day of Trans Remembrance.
For those curious below is the MUMC agenda for the Dec. 6th, 2012 meeting.

* Introductions

* City Hall Update – Supervisor Scott Wiener

* Discussion of current Quality of Life Issues in The Castro – Bevan Dufty, Director of S.F. Office of Housing, Opportunity, Partnerships & Engagement (HOPE): SF Homeless Outreach TeamSFPD Mission Station Capt. Bob Moser

* Proposed Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at 2301 Market Street, Information Presentation – Jason Munyon

Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District (CastroCBD) Update – Andrea Aiello

Castro Community On Patrol (CCOP) “Castro Business Watch” Program – Greg Carey

International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs Convention in SF, July 2013 – Steve Huggins

* Other Member Business

* Member Announcements



Waiyde Palmer

Waiyde Palmer loves San Francisco, social activism and punk rock(ers). His work has appeared in Handbook Magazine. SF Bay Times, The Advocate, Diseased Pariah News and American Music Press . He also has an extensive and repeatedly redacted FBI file.

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4 Responses

  1. One of the problems is that Scott Wiener attends every MUMC meeting, so they of course have his ear. Yet he has held no town halls to hear from or engage the public. Wiener constantly states that nudity was a growing concern for two years before he felt compelled to act on it, yet no one heard about these concerns, so no members of the nudist community were incapable of addressing concerns or engaging in any discussions, which all went on behind closed doors between Wiener and MUMC.

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  2. Ramón says:

    Governance by fiat = Bad!

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  3. WilloSF says:

    this isn’t governance. It’s a private business group. There are resident groups, citizen groups, and elected officials. If you want to have a say so as a resident, citizen, or constituent, get involved there. If you’re a business person, you can join the business group.

    Would you rather have those invested in the neighborhood make the decisions, or City Hall which has neither the resources nor the inclination? Yeah, the flag issue annoys me a lot, but the MUMC pays for it, which is a ridiculously monthly expense, and they pay for the constant cleaning of the neighborhood. I would rather their flag charge be given some policies developed with the approval of the community association.

    Regardless of whether I agree with them or not, the members of the MUMC are paying for and doing the hard work to keep the neighborhood vibrant and working. They have, quite literally, invested in the neighborhood.

    The increased casual griping keeps reminding me of the Little Red Hen.

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    • Waiyde says:

      I appreciate your valid point about how MUMC steps up to the plate to see to the well being of the neighborhood and that more people should find ways to get involved to keep the neighborhood evolving.

      I wrote this to answer reader’s questions that’d been forwarded to me via email about how MUMC operates, etc. I agree with your assessment regarding the flag. I also think that ANY group that has providence over public property should also have public forums to listen to the communities views on how that property is used/treated/adjusted.

      It would also give MUMC an opportunity to hear from all those who love what they do and support their decisions as much as give them viable, citizen based, ideas for the future.

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