Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 50 / 14 December 2017
 

Planning Commission expected to approve Thursday a Castro gay museum project

San Francisco planning officials are expected to approve plans for a Castro LGBT museum project at their meeting this Thursday, June 24.

The site (pictured at right) has been vacant since November of 2006, when the As the Suds Turn Laundromat closed. The following year Walgreens proposed expanding its specialty pharmacy next door into the 2,140 square‐foot storefront at 4127 18th Street. In addition to providing private rooms to meet with its customers, Walgreens’ plans included teaming at the site with a local AIDS agency that wanted to relocate into the Castro.

The proposal met with fierce neighborhood resistance due to Walgreens’ already extensive real estate holdings in the Castro. Even merchants expressed misgivings at seeing the national chain’s footprint in the city’s LGBT district grow.  In February of 2009 Planning Commissioners rejected the company’s expansion plans.

Following that defeat, Walgreens officials discussed with the GLBT Historical Society relocating its satellite exhibit space in the Castro, which it had to vacate by October of 2009, into the vacant coin-operated laundry space. In return for offering the storefront at a reduced lease, Walgreens proposed carving out a portion of the space to build rooms where pharmacists could meet privately with customers.

After months of negotiations, the two sides signed a lease agreement in April. There has been little opposition to Walgreens’ revised plans, and three Castro neighborhood groups wrote letters of support for the proposal to the Planning Department.

Planning Department staff, in their report on the project, have recommended the commission approve the plans. But they have proposed changes to the initial proposal.

Rather than situate the expanded pharmacy area in the middle of the space, planners want Walgreens to build it in the back of the storefront.

“As proposed, Walgreens’ expansion configuration will result in an irregular shape for the adjoining commercial space. This may prevent future small businesses from finding the commercial space usable. Hence the Department recommends locating the Walgreens expansion to the rear of the commercial space, so as to maintain the usability of the remaining space,” wrote planner Sharon Lai in her report to the commission.

Paul Boneberg, the historical society’s executive director, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Based on a full-page ad the society is running in tomorrow’s Bay Area Reporter, it expects the project to be approved and the new exhibit to be open by September.

The society has signed a 5-year lease for the space.

The Planning Commission meets inside City Hall in Room 400. The meeting begins at 1:30 p.m. but the Castro LGBT museum project is listed as the 7th item on its regular agenda for Thursday. A PDF file of the staff report on the project can be downloaded from the agenda posted online here.

— Matthew S. Bajko, June 23, 2010 @ 11:50 am PST
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