SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — In an effort to create safer spaces for San Francisco’s LGBTQ community, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman on Tuesday proposed creating new zoning regulations that would allow for the revival of gay bathhouses.
Under Mandelman’s proposed legislation, a new zoning category for adult sex venues would be created, paving the way for such businesses to be allowed in historically LGBTQ-affiliated neighborhoods like the Tenderloin, South of Market, Upper Market and Castro.
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The proposed legislation builds on legislation Mandelman drafted in 2020 that updated the city’s strict health and safety standards governing commercial adult sex venues that were first imposed in 1984 – in height of the AIDS epidemic. At the time, the city sued the operators of gay bathhouses and other consensual adult venues, citing them as a public nuisance and urging most to close.
Although the 2020 update took into account advances in sexual health awareness and preventive measures and was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors, the city’s planning department determined that the Bathhouses did not fall under the city’s adult activity planning code.
Mandelman’s latest order would establish an entirely new category of zoning for adult sex venues, paving the way for bathhouses and similar establishments to be permitted in specific neighborhoods.
“During the 1970s and early 80s, bathhouses were a focal point of gay social life in San Francisco and were important community hangouts where friends gathered to share stories or watch a show. live,” Mandelman said in a statement.
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“This ordinance seeks to complete the work we began in 2020 to overcome the lingering stigma of a painful chapter in San Francisco’s queer community history by welcoming these safe, LGBTQ spaces back into our city and opening up the way for queer entrepreneurs to open them up and contribute to our post-pandemic economic recovery,” he said.
Mandelman, whose district includes the Castro, is the council’s only LGBTQ member.
Eros SF was one of the few remaining gay bathhouses in the city, but in December the business closed its longtime location at 2051 Market St..
“After 30 years, Eros spent over six months searching for a new location where our legacy business could continue to provide a safe and relaxing sex club,” said Eros SF co-owner Ken Rowe. “When we found a location, in a historic bathhouse just a block from the Market Street corridor, where the owners were interested in our business, the location did not allow adult businesses. These zoning changes can maintain our business and provide a greater variety of safe experiences for tourists and locals.
The Planning Commission is expected to consider Mandelman’s proposal next month, before then heading to the Oversight Council’s Land Use and Transportation Committee.
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