Civic Groups, Pols Antagonistic
There are more than two-dozen empty retail spaces, restaurants and an entire building up for rent or available for purchase in the Castro district, and the reasons for rather high numbers are many, starting with the continuing recession and stretching to greedy landlords wanting too much coin.
The Castro, as with all gay or hip enclaves, is always evolving and recreating itself, but I sense a deeply nervous entrepreneurial community worrying about the businesses of the area and an equally anxious grassroots network of activist wanting greater say in who controls local public spaces.
Given the dozens of closed venues or assorted shop available for leasing, the Castro Theater closed eight-nights in April and frequently shuttered on Mondays or Tuesdays, still operating neighborhood stores hurting for more revenue and customers, it behooves the civic groups of the Castro to lessen their antagonism and disrespect of other district stakeholders.
It's not just the Merchants of Upper Market/Castro and the Castro Benefits District groups that have engaged in alienation tactics regarding the rainbow flag and pole issues at Harvey Milk Plaza that contribute to keeping visitors out of the Castro. MUMC and the CBD are joined by Supervisor Scott Wiener and his staff, in addition to numerous folks at the Department of Public Works.
The lack of creative thinking among those named parties to recruit people to the neighborhood, and be open to new ideas allowing increased "ownership" by diverse segments of the LGBT activist community, is another deficiency in the Castro's civic leadership and stewardship.
Will 27 retail vacancies have any impact on MUMC, CBD, DPW and Wiener to re-think their approach to community-wide engagement and outreach? Maybe put forward fresh ideas to revivify the neighborhood's businesses and put out a genuine welcome mat to activists and consumers?
As we wait to see how the civic groups and Wiener deal with a high business vacancy rate, check out my pix snapped over the weekend of the empty stores. Click to enlarge: