Leather approved: SF Supes vote unanimously for LGBTQ district in SoMa

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By unanimous vote the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday agreed to establish an LGBTQ Leather Cultural District in the city's South of Market neighborhood.

It's an area known primarily for bars and nightclubs. On the surface, it may seem like an only in San Francisco occurrence. But many say establishing an LGBTQ  leather cultural district is socially and economically significant.

"This is the LGBTQ, sort of a Mecca," said Jon Sellers who lives in SoMa. 

The new cultural district runs through a  swath of South of Market that includes Folsom and Ninth Streets.

"With all the encroachments of gentrification in South of Market we don't want to lose this important cultural history," said San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy.

Sheehy co-sponsored the resolution.

While many people may be familiar with the leather community's provocative Folsom Street Fair, which celebrates leather sexuality, Sheehy says other accomplishments have gone largely unnoticed.

"The service of the leather community during the AIDS crisis,  the non-profits they founded, the amount of fund raising they did in the fight against AIDS is something that should not be forgotten," he said.  

The intent of having a cultural district is to help preserve a neighborhood battling increasing rents.

The designation will help promote longtime businesses, give the district a say in future developments..and preserve the cultural history of the neighborhood.

Jonathan Schroder is general manager of Mr. S Leather, one of the largest manufacturers and retailers of leather goods geared for gay men.

"It is going to codify that this is a welcoming area to come into. It helps people understand tis existed for a long time as they move move heavily into the area and are warm and accepting that these things continue to happen," said Schroder.

The city soon will be considering a cultural district, in the Castro.