San Francisco Plans World’s First Citywide Effort to Promote LGBTQ Cultural Heritage

Aiming to curb the effects of gentrification and displacement on LGBTQ heritage and culture in San Francisco, a city-sanctioned group of cultural activists, community organizers and city staff has developed a series of wide-ranging policy proposals in a draft report recently presented to the San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission.
Regarded as the first comprehensive effort of its kind anywhere in the world, the report from the LGBTQ Cultural Heritage Strategy Working Group makes recommendations in three general areas: community services and education; economic opportunity and equity; and arts, culture and heritage. The draft report is available here.
This monumental undertaking was initiated by a 2016 resolution by former San Francisco Supervisor Scott Weiner, now a member of the California State Senate. In addition to addressing housing, services and economic opportunities, the report prioritizes several key proposals crafted by the Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee, a group of about 20 participants which we were honored to cochair over the last year.

Drawing on input from a number of community workshops and meetings, as well as a public survey that received 1,500 responses, our committee established a goal to “honor, protect, and celebrate our rich and diverse LGBTQ+ heritage while nurturing our community of artists and community organizations.”

Five Key Strategies
We enumerated five key strategies: 1) Support and advance LGBTQ cultural districts; 2) establish a permanent Museum of LGBTQ History and Culture; 3) create an LGBTQ Historic Preservation Advisory Group; 4) increase access to affordable housing and workspace for LGBTQ artists; 5) develop LGBTQ focused heritage and arts programming and K-12 and post-secondary curricula and educational materials.
The draft report spells out objectives and action steps to move these strategies forward. Based on feedback from the Historic Preservation Commission and others, the report will be refined in the coming months, then presented for approval to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Along with the Mayor’s Office of Transgender Initiatives and the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, the GLBT Historical Society likely will take a leading role in implementing the recommendations.

We hope the Citywide LGBTQ Cultural Heritage Strategy will serve as a blueprint to guide San Francisco municipal policy and budget development to protect and support the heritage and culture of our diverse communities — in particular those under the greatest economic duress such as the transgender community and queer communities of color. And we trust it will provide a jumping off point for LGBTQ communities in cities worldwide that hope to develop their own preservation and heritage initiatives.

For more information and to submit comments on the draft report, visit the San Francisco Planning Department website.

Terry Beswick is executive director of the GLBT Historical Society. Shayne Watson, an architectural historian and preservation planner, is co-author of the Citywide Historic Context Statement for LGBTQ History in San Francisco and is founding chair of the GLBT Historical Society’s Historic Places Working Group. Ramona Webb is associate artistic director of the Queer Cultural Center, a multiracial community-building organization that fosters the artistic, economic and cultural development of San Francisco’s LGBTQ community.