As a destination the Castro is thriving, as a neighborhood/community it is failing. Why? (27 empty storefronts)

Once a place with such a concentrated gay business sense and activism, the Castro has become a place where I see this identity slipping away before its time. Don’t get me wrong. I love the tourists. I love the families, straight and gay. But I don’t love what we are projecting as community. If we can even call it ‘community’ anymore. And while I understand  bar culture thriving in the Castro, is the reason there is a Castro, we are losing examples of  non-alcoholic entrepreneurism. Which is a complete and total shame.

Thank goodness for the GLBT Historical Society is there, otherwise Britney Spears wouldn’t have had anywhere to pose that didn’t have a backdrop of booze.

Perhaps evolution is taking its natural course and the gay identity is being pushed out of the neighborhood where it was born, for profit. Or is it something else?

Maybe this is the future we’ve been fighting for–total integration, assimilation, homogeneity–at a price tag we can’t afford. The issue for me is our fight isn’t over. It’s really just begun.

Now that things are moving toward a more integrated future we need to celebrate our history and be strategic about our future. We need to lead through example and help people understand how the differences, we are inherently born with, can actually be advantageous. Being able to drink the rest of the country under the table shouldn’t be our standout attribute.

Currently there are 27 empty storefronts. Many of which were iconic gay businesses that created a sense of community and drove activism through example.

I was walking through the Castro last Thursday baffled by the amount of vacancies.  Then I saw this  post on Monday by Michael Petrelis on his blog Petrelis Files.  While it’s worth a full read, I’ll include an excerpt here:

There are more than two-dozen empty retail spaces, restaurants and an entire building up for rent or available for purchase in the Castro district, and the reasons for rather high numbers are many, starting with the continuing recession and stretching to greedy landlords wanting too much coin.

The Castro, as with all gay or hip enclaves, is always evolving and recreating itself, but I sense a deeply nervous entrepreneurial community worrying about the businesses of the area and an equally anxious grassroots network of activist wanting greater say in who controls local public spaces.

Then I saw this post on craigstlist — $10,000 for 2,000 square feet. But YAY, there is parking…no wonder things aren’t renting. Who can afford the rent?

Um, yeah...OK I'll take two

I’m not giving up, just putting it out there. I think we can do more. I have some ideas. I hope you do too.

Bevan, I’ll be calling you very soon.

One of many empty slots to showcase our talents. If only the price was right

Not iconic, but prime real-estate

I have plans for this space once Bevan has won, and no longer needs it as headquarters

Categories: wtf

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  1. I believe the greedy landlord that has held the old Patio Restaurant unoccupied for years and has managed to drill out several small business and close them is a key part of the problem. How about coming up with rentals that are reasonable to attract those small and often gay owned business rather than charging a premium price and allowing your store fronts to stay empty. This is urban decay at it’s best at the hands of the very greedy.

  2. I looked up the name of the company in that Craiglist ad and their client roster includes some of the biggest names in retail. It’s no wonder they want that much money. I’d really prefer to see locally owned and operated businesses in there that employ people from the area, but those businesses are completely priced out.

  3. It happens time and time again. We move into a bad neighborhood, make it great and drive ourselves out by irrationally rising property values. The same thing is happening in West Hollywood, and already happened in Laguna Beach.

  4. hi bearron,

    you really have made my day with this post of yours, that kindly mentions my survey and photographic essay of all the empty storefronts and such in the castro. a lot of folks in the neighborhood refuse to see the individual vacant spaces in their totality of 27 closed and/or available retail spaces.

    also, very happy to see comments about the greed of castro landlords with commercial properties. so many prime locations – plant’it earth, patio, tower records – sit empty or underused and our former supervisor bevan needs to be asked about the state of the castro as he runs for mayor.

    the 27 empty spaces are part of his city legacy after serving as supe for 8 years, and additional years working as an aide to willie brown and susan leal.

    • i was very glad to realize I wasn’t alone in my assessment. thank you for your post. i have received a deluge of comments on my facebook page, regarding this post, that I’m going to cut and paste into another post as a follow-up. the conversation has been very active.

      keep up the amazing posts. i’ll be checking back on your blog frequently. all my best, bearron

      • i’m not a FB person, because i value my privacy. can i read those comments on your FB page without registering? i’d like to see what folks are saying about all the empty stores in the castro.

  5. The ‘F’ line opened in 1995. Before the F line became an end terminal in the Castro those that wanted to get to the neighborhood had to find a bus or a cab. Now these Disneyland colored cars lure people to ride them to the Castro and with them they bring the tourist dollar. The tourist dollar promises property owners that they will spend more in shops in the Castro so rents go up and small business gets pushed out. The neighborhood has a control on it to keep chains out so they don’t move in and we are at a standstill of lots of shops not available to small business owners b/c of high rents. I say continue the F line into the tunnels as before and take the toursits out to West Portal and along the L line to the zoo. No other neighborhood in SF has had the City build a transit line that connects with the major tourist zone in the city so other neighborhoods around us are lower rents and small businesses like the Haight and West Portal and Ninth and Irving. We all love the F line but there has been a price to pay for these so called historic streetcars. They are not modern urban mass transportation like the rest of the City has. They are designed to bring tourists to the Castro and they have been successful in that respect.

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