Earlier this week, the local city planning commission approved a new condo and hotel complex in San Francisco. Sounds great, right? Except, in the process of building this new development, several LGBTQ historical sites are at risk of being destroyed. The San Francisco Planning Commission voted 4-to-3 to advance the 12 story project even though it had received a letter LGBTQ advocates in opposition to the new development.
Of particular note, the development threatens the site of the 1966 Compton Cafeteria riot. In the mid-60s, local police began threatening transgender individuals who frequented the Compton Cafeteria restaurant. Following this crack down, the community began to picket the restaurant, which escalated the tensions further. A riot resulted after one transgender individual threw coffee in a cop’s face; the fighting and glass breaking ensued, as did continued picketing of the restaurant. While it did not receive a lot of media attention, it is an important moment in LGBTQ history and actually predates, by three years, the stonewall riots in New York City.
In addition to the Compton Cafeteria site, other buildings that could be demolished include the El Rosa Hotel , the Dalt Hotel, and the Ambassador Hotel, all of which are important to local LGBTQ history.
Those opposing the new development wrote to the planning commission expressing their concerns and asking for additional time to study the proposal and how it will impact the local community and its history. The letter states “…we are requesting additional time of 60 to 90 days for the Compton’s Historic District Committee to conduct an appropriate process to be able to meet with historic preservationists, labor, developers, and allies in other communities with the aim of reaching a consensus on how to best preserve these important historic assets in the area around the historic Compton’s building… These bars, businesses and organizations were instrumental in fostering queer safe spaces, as they were often the only places available for queer people to meet one another, and to organize, within the larger, often threatening society at that time. In sum, these locales were safe havens for our community.”
While it appears this project is moving forward, some opponents plan to continue their fight against the construction and are looking for ways to appeal the planning commission’s decision. Stay tuned…