Party planned to celebrate new Castro Street
by Matthew S. Bajko
To celebrate the improved look of Castro Street in the heart of San Francisco's gayborhood, city officials are hosting – what else – a street party.
A portion of Castro Street will be shut down the evening of Thursday, October 30 to mark the completion of a $6 million streetscape improvement project that has brought wider sidewalks, rainbow crosswalks, new street trees and furniture, and several historical elements to the 400 and 500 blocks of the gay business district's main thoroughfare.
Gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener is using $10,000 from his office budget account to pay for the street closure permits and other costs related to the event. It is a way to give back to merchants and residents, he said, who have been impacted by the project, which was supposed to be done by the end of September but experienced several delays.
"This project is transformational for Castro Street. It is a permanent improvement to the street that everyone is going to benefit from and the neighborhood put up with a lot of construction over the last eight months," said Wiener. "So when you complete an amazing project that was challenging to get through and will have future benefits, it is important for the community to celebrate."
Not everyone is pleased, however, with the plans for the street party. During their monthly meeting in October several Castro business owners complained about having parking be restricted on the night prior to Halloween, one of their busiest shopping days.
"It feels like a real slap in the face," said Terry Asten Bennett, whose family owns Cliff's Variety on the 400 block of Castro Street.
The store not only had a car smash through its front doors the Monday following Pride, requiring a new entrance to be built, but has seen sales decline during the course of the street work.
"I am sucking dust right now," said Bennett, who complained to Wiener that it was a "total failure" on his part to close down Castro Street on a night that marks "a chance for me to bounce back."
Patrick Batt, a co-owner of Eureka Cafe nearby Cliff's, noted that "the minute you take away parking business dies" on Castro Street. He favored waiting to celebrate the new upgrades until early November.
Castro Merchants President Daniel Bergerac countered that the party is aimed at attracting media attention so people around the city and Bay Area "know the Castro is back open for business" just in time for the holiday shopping season.
While it is expected that all of the streetscape work on Castro Street between Market and 19th Street will be done in time for the party, Wiener told the Bay Area Reporter it is likely some repaving of Jane Warner Plaza at 17th and Castro streets will not be finished until early next month.
The street celebration, which will include a ribbon cutting and blessing by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, will be from 6 to 8 p.m. October 30. Castro Street, from 17th to 19th streets, and 18th Street, between Hartford and Collingwood, will both be closed to vehicle traffic between 5 and 8:30 p.m. that day.