“The Castro was the center of attention for the gay rights movement in the 1970s, but SoMa was always where all the kinky people were,” said Michael Valerio, a local historian who specializes in queer San Francisco history.
“SoMa has always been this weird little pocket where people could do things and be themselves that they couldn’t do anywhere else.”
San Francisco’s Leather cultural district, the first of its kind in a major metropolitan city, includes an area bounded by Market Street, Seventh and 13th streets and Harrison and Howard streets.
It is already home to several LGBTQ- and leather-affiliated businesses, including Needles & Pens, a zine shop; Mr. S Leather, a fetish gear retailer; and the San Francisco Eagle, a leather bar.
“I think it will be good for business,” said Michael Tan, owner of Mr. S Leather.
“It will help preserve the culture and the history of the neighborhood.”
The district cultural designation is intended to help small businesses in the area by making them eligible for additional city resources, such as grants and loans.
“We want to make sure that our small businesses, which are really the lifeblood of this community, have access to the same opportunities as any other small business in San Francisco,” Kim said.
“It’s becoming harder and harder for small businesses to survive.”
But while the Leather cultural district may help preserve some of the neighborhood’s character, it is not clear if it will do much to stem the tide of gentrification.