A recently struck agreement between Group I—the developer for a Handel Architects-designed mixed-use housing and hotel project in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood called 950 Market Street—and TLGB activists will soon yield the country’s first transgender cultural historic district.
The new Compton’s Cafeteria Transgender, Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (TLGB) District is being crafted as a result of neighborhood opposition to the project, originally designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, that aims to bring apartments and a hotel to the heart of the city’s historic TLGB enclave. A deal struck between activists, the developer, and San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim would utilize $300,000 paid by the developer to establish the cultural district the area in order to preserve the architectural and social legacy of the neighborhood’s many gay bars, several of which are being demolished in conjunction with the new project. The fund is to be administered by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development and will support local business and nonprofit organizations that serve transgender people in the district.
The district is named for Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, the site of a two-day riot in 1966, an event that predates the Stonewall Riots in New York City by two years and is considered as the first major transgender protest in the United States. President Barack Obama elevated the Stonewall Inn—a gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood—as a National Monument in 2016, the first such monument for the TLGB community in the country. The district encompasses a collection of roughly ten blocks in the Tenderloin neighborhood along Viki Mar Lane, 6th Street, and Market Street and surrounds an area formerly known as the “meat rack,” a stretch of town friendly to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer populations in the city from the 1950s through the early 1970s that is also home to many historic gay bars. Of these, the Old Crow, Rainbow Tavern, and Silver Rail bars will be torn down to accommodate the development. A two-story structure known as the Dean Building is also being town down. The roots of the district as a cultural site for TLGB populations go back to the Gold Rush era.
In a press release touting the first-of-its-kind cultural district, Kim explained the importance the cultural site during a time of newly-restrictive social mores, as an ascendant conservative ideology permeates national political and social discourse, saying, “By creating the Compton’s TLGB District we are honoring this vibrant community built by transgender people, and are sending a message to the world that trans people are welcome here.”
Handel Architects’ 12-story complex, with an eye toward the particularities of a neighborhood that is historically home to a collection of specialized communities, including low-income, homeless and under-housed populations, will aim to bring 242 new mixed-income units to the neighborhood. The developers behind the project also aim to work with the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD), the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC), and Tenderloin Housing Clinic (THC) to develop between 60- and 70-units of off-site, deed-restricted affordable housing. The affordable complex, to be located at 180 Jones Street, will make use of a $14.8 million in fees and donations by the developer to come to fruition. When built, it will be operated by MOHCD.
The project—articulated as a snaking apartment block decorated with a hexagonally-shaped structural grid populated by large expanses of floor-to-ceiling glass walls—is expected to take about two years to build and will contain, among other programmatic components, a neighborhood non-profit threater. The forthcoming Magic Theater, designed to occupy a 2,000-square-foot retail space at the corner of Turk and Taylor streets, will also contain a locally-owned cafe.