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Neighborhood association, gay community square off over rainbow flags in Castro district

Neighborhood association, gay community square off over rainbow flags in Castro district

Community activists in San Francisco’s predominantly gay Castro neighborhood are outraged by a recent effort by the Mission Delores Neighborhood Association calling for removal of the Rainbow flags that are hung from the light posts in the Castro.

Joe Cain, the Association’s Board of Director, told the Associated Press that the rainbow gay pride flags that have flown for years along the main stretches of the Castro District, were illegally hung on the metal lamp posts.

San Francisco city ordinance only allows temporary banners on the posts, he said, which were designated city landmarks in 1991, out of concerns the fasteners used to attach them could rust and mar their beauty.

A spokesman for San Francisco’s GLBT Historical Society says that assertion is not true, and that the flags, originally designed by San Franciscans Gilbert Baker and Jomar Teng for the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade, and which debuted on June 25, 1978, have hung in The Castro for over thirty years.

Openly Gay San Francisco District 8 City Supervisor, Bevan Dufty, whose district includes the area served by the Mission Delores Neighborhood Association as well as the Castro, is calling for a compromise.

Dufty who is term limited, is pushing for legislation to be passed before he leaves office, designed to save the banners while keeping the lamp posts safe.

The city’s Historic Preservation Commission issued a decision backing the plan last week and the city’s Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the changes next month.

Cain said that the Association’s position is that the banners simply don’t belong on the posts permanently.

“We completely support the diversity in the area — this is about preserving a city landmark from permanent signage.”

Dufty disagrees, saying: “This is where the rainbow flag started. This is a neighborhood that should be identified as one of the strongest and most vibrant gay and lesbian neighborhoods in the world.”

“I feel there is a balance between historic preservation and the historical context of the neighborhood,” Dufty said.

Should the Board of Supervisors pass the measure, it would allow banners that distinguish a neighborhood, the rainbow banners included, to remain on the lamp posts permanently as long as their fasteners do not cause damage. The installation would also be periodically reviewed by city officials.

Cain said the rainbow banners will set a bad precedent for other groups looking to put up permanent signs on the lamp posts in the City’s historic preservation areas.

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