Controversy strikes around Castro sidewalk etchings

Castro history facts stamped into sidewalk pavement

Historical etchings will be embedded into the upcoming new sidewalks as part of the Castro Streetscape Improvement Project currently underway in the Castro.

The Castro / Upper Market Community Benefit District, which offered to pay for the etchings and other improvements after a budget shortfall, will be holding a meeting this afternoon at 12 noon to finalize what text is going to make the cut April 10th, 2014, at 6PM at 501 Castro Street, 2nd Floor, to allow for public comment on the sidewalk etchings. Andrea Aiello, Executive Director of the CBD, responded to an email from us inquiring about the initial meeting time of today at noon and noted that the meeting would be rescheduled to offer the public a more convenient meeting time (monthly Board of Director’s meetings start at 6PM and every CBD meeting is open to the public).

Some community members are upset that the public hasn’t been more involved in deciding what text gets stamped into the pavement and feel as though the CBD has purposefully kept the whole matter veiled.

Trey Allen, a community activist who first appeared on the activist scene during the nudity ban controversy, setup a Facebook Event letting people know about the meeting that was originally scheduled for today and encouraged people to attend and also questioned the intentions of the board and their processes. Amongst his claims are that the CBD will be “whitewashing” the community’s LGBT history. During a CBD board meeting on January 9th, 2014, Allen claims a CBD board member mentioned, “I’m for the etchings as long as there isn’t any controversial history.” Aiello did not confirm this when we emailed her.

LGBT and housing rights activist Tommi Mecca wrote about the alleged “whitewashing” of Castro’s already controversial history, “I’m sure they will censor out anything that they feel is too controversial (like the fight against racism at the bars or the police riot in 1989) or [anything] unappealing to the masses (like the nudity and sexuality) to sell their image of the Castro as this sanitized stop on the way to the Marina.”

Allen is also claiming that the CBD did not offer the public enough time to prepare for the meeting and holds their public meetings at an inconvenient time for concerned Castro-area citizens (12 noon). The CBD sent out an email on Wednesday, March 28, 2014, to folks subscribed to their email list that the Monday meeting would be “finalizing the proposed historic text to be etched into the sidewalk.” Allen mentions that Supervisor Scott Wiener has been granted the authority to make the final decision on which texts will (or will not be) etched into the Castro’s sidewalks.

We reached out to Scott Wiener and Andrea Aiello who tell a different story.

Supervisor Scott Wiener responded to our email mentioning that he is not making any decisions on the text being approved. “Just like I didn’t decide who would be honored as part of the Rainbow Honor Walk,” wrote the Supervisor.

Andrea Aiello responded back to our email writing that the agenda item for the sidewalk etchings has been on the docket for the January and February Board of Directors meetings which are always open to the public. Moving the item from today’s meeting to the Board of Director’s meeting on the 10th does seem to be in response to Allen’s outcry that the noon meeting time was inconvenient for concerned citizens. With regards to the openness of the process Aiello wrote, “There will be ample opportunity for public comment. There is a very good chance that no decisions will be made at the April board meeting. This issue is too important and really [too] detailed to make quick decisions on [at this point]. We never had the intention of making a decision by the April board meeting. The intent was always to develop some process to allow a significant amount of public comment.”

With regard to what text will be included, Aiello mentioned that a member of the Planning Department staff has been researching the history of the area and is compiling a list of text. “He has had input from GLBT Historical Society, he has done quite a bit of research,” wrote Aiello. Aiello also mentioned that she has reached out to Castro-area LGBT activists and historical figures for their input. Half of the etchings will be about the pre-gay history of the Castro (Native American, Spanish, Swedish, and Catholic histories) and half will be about the LGBT history of the Castro. The budget allows for 20 pieces of text. Each text will surround the Eastside and the Westside of each tree (building-side and curb-side) and will be set in chronological order to make it a sort of history walk.

Aiello mentioned that the process will take some time before they finalize their decision, “This is a work in progress and the work is tedious at times and very slow.”

If you want to be involved in the process of selecting which text will get stamped into Castro sidewalks it seems like there will be ample opportunity to get involved and have your voice heard.

Roy McKenzie

Roy has been a Castro resident since 2010 and is passionate about drag queens, bicycling, and food. Follow his babbling on Twitter.

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14 Responses

  1. Fun with words (and history) says:

    So the history of the Native Americans in the area will be highlighted? Or the history of the European immigrants in the area through much of the century? I’m confused.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 9

  2. Larry Bush says:

    I hope they highlight the 1979 White Night police riot in the Castro that shattered the glass at the Elephant Walk and locked down the community following the lenient sentencing of Dan White for the murder of Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone. That incident led to an official finding by the US Civil Rights Commission that it was indeed a “police riot” and led by 1982 to the creation by the voters of the Office of Citizen Complaints to monitor police misconduct, a ballot measure instigated by the Milk Club.

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  3. Mitch Mansfield says:

    Let’s all get agitated before we get down to business. But let’s do remember that the words of one board of director does not a policy make.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  4. Yes… Because asking the opinion of members of the public is always the best way to get anything done.

    By the time it’s done we’ll have 20 etchings that say, “Something happened here. (But 20 bored, self-important queens posing as ‘public advocates’ couldn’t agree on what it was.)”

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  5. Joe says:

    I for one trust Andrea Aiello and the CBD board who actually get things done then chronic complainers and do nothings like Trey Allen and Tommi Mecca.

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  6. Matthew says:

    Does that mean that the gays that purchased the Victorian’s and effectivetly evicted the poor Irish and Blacks that were originally in the Castro neighborhood in the 60′s and 70′s will be on the sidewalk?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 17

    • Mitch Mansfield says:

      A bit of rewriting history here. Folks leaving for the suburbs was the main reason why gays were able to move into the Castro, not because the gays started the eviction trend. And the Irish were not poor but very middle class. Not sure what Black people you are talking about.

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  7. Yes… Because asking the public’s opinion is always the best way to get anything done.

    In the end we’ll have 20 etchings that say, “Something happened here, but a few bored, self-appointed queens posing as ‘public advocates’ couldn’t agree on what it was.”

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  8. Aln Beach-Nelson says:

    Oh give me a frickin’ break. As a gay man and a history buff, I am embarrassed that some in the gay community are so damn self-centered, and self-important that they think that the last 40 years of Eureka Valley and the Castro as a gayborhood should be more important or significant that the 200 year history of Eureka Valley before it became a gayborhood. What a bunch of self-important, self-centered whiners.

    I helped work on this project among many who know the VERY LONG history of the neighborhood to ensure a balanced list that recognized what has come before us as well as our own history. Given that the Rainbow Honor Walk is also included as part of the sidewalk widening project, I, as a gay man, felt it important that the historical facts NOT be all gay, and instead honor the long, rich history of Eureka Valley. Since the area has a 240+ year history, and the gay community has only been here about 40 years, by my calculations of proportionate representation, no more than 6 facts should be LGBT related, certainly NOT half.

    The neighborhood didn’t start with the gays, it started 200 years earlier, so stop your damn whining and being all about YOU – you only perpetuate the stereotype that gay men are self-centered, egotistical and vain. Man, this really pisses me off!

    BTW, the neighborhood was never Bback, mostly, mostly middle-class Irish and Scandinavian, who fled the city as part of the white-flight that happened all across America in the 50s and 60s in large part due to the GI Bill.

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    • Alan Beach-Nelson says:

      BTW, if you really want to put your money where your mouth is, provide a verifiable fact with citations, as we have done, and cough up the money to pay for it. I’ll be happy to get you the required funding YOU’LL have to provide to make it happen.

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  9. bluesparrow says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  10. Peter says:

    Please, in the name of all that his holy, NO ONE tell Petrelis about this. PLEASE.

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