Rainbow Flags Prompt Backlash in Castro

By Matt Baume
|  Friday, Dec 24, 2010  |  Updated 3:00 PM PDT
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Rainbow Flags Prompt Backlash in Castro

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Welcome to San Francisco, where you can't hang a rainbow flag outside a gay bar without conducting an environmental impact report.

Feathers were ruffled last week when Supervisor Bevan Dufty attempted to modify a city ordinance prohibiting permanent banners on Market Street lampposts. At issue is the lampposts' historic status, since some date back nearly 100 years.

The rainbow flags that currently adorn the poles were never supposed to remain up, but due to negligence, they've been allowed to remain for nearly a decade. Over time, most have fallen into such disrepair that they've been removed. Others are tattered and hanging by a thread.

Under Dufty's proposal, the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro would be allowed to properly maintain the banners, leaving them in place year-round to demarcate the historic LGBT enclave.

But a neighborhood organization has objected. The Mission Dolores Neighborhood Association has claimed that the rainbow banners would obscure the "gateway" to their own neighborhood. And their definition of their neighborhood boundaries might surprise many Castro residents. According to MDNA, their boundaries would separate numerous LGBT-frequented from the Castro. That includes Sparky's, Martuni's, the Mint, Baghdad Cafe, Safeway, Out of the Closet, and even the LGBT Center itself.

Their objections are unlikely to derail the banners. The Historic Preservation Commission voted last week to unanimously approve of long-term banners on the poles. The MDNA, for their part, may proceed with demands for an Environmental Impact Report, but it's unclear how far they'll get. The rule change must now be considered by the Board of Supervisors, which is in recess until January.

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