Flanked by members of the Friends of 1800 Market Street, San Francisco Supervisor Mark Leno, and members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center Project (CCP) board of directors, Mayor Willie Brown signed legislation designating the Fallon Building as a landmark last Friday, October 9.
The mayor also signed legislation denouncing the submission of petitions to place the Defense of Marriage Act on the ballot as a statewide initiative, and commended the San Francisco Gay Men's Chrous (GMC) on its 20th anniversary.
Supervisor Leslie Katz sponsored the legislation designating the Fallon Building as a landmark, capping a year of controversy over the fate of the historic Queen Anne Victorian, originally slated to face the wrecking ball. The CCP board ultimately reversed its original decision to demolish the structure after Friends of 1800 sprang up and hastily organized a successful campaign to save the building.
During the controversy, which pitted members of the CCP board against preservationists, the mayor brought all parties to his office for several sessions of negotiations. Eventually an agreement was reached to save and renovate the building, which will house administrative offices and provide meeting space once the community center is constructed, according to the preliminary design. A new structure will be constructed next to the Fallon Building, and the CCP board is currently holding community meetings to get additional input on the design.
"Both sides are finally getting along with each other," the mayor quipped as many Friends of 1800 supporters joined a couple of CCP board members to surround Brown as he signed the legislation. "I remember the first joint meeting. I think I had security."
At the start of his administration, Brown committed up to $6 million for the construction and renovation of the community center. Originally, the mayor spoke out in favor of the Fallon Building's demolition, because initial estimates to renovate it were above what the CCP could afford. However, more architectural work and site visits were completed, leading to a lower renovation cost. The CCP board and the mayor have since changed their positions on the issue and are satisfied with the landmark designation, which will only apply to the exterior of the structure. The special character and special historical, architectural, and aesthetic interest and value of the building conforms to the standards of the city's planning code for landmark designation.
"It's the type of architecture that deserves to be preserved," Katz told the Bay Area Reporter. Katz, who served on the CCP board before becoming a supervisor, called the negotiations between both sides a success, in that a compromise was reached that was satisfactory to everyone involved. "It's a model of how we should work on things. I'm delighted to see this. It will bring some extra benefits to the building."
The mayor also used his Friday news conference to sign legislation sponsored by Leno that denounces the submission of petitions to place a DOMA initiative on the California ballot. Led by state Senator Pete Knight (R-Palmdale), supporters of the DOMA initiative turned in signatures recently with the hopes of getting the measure on the ballot, perhaps in June 2000. If it does make the ballot and is approved by voters, it would outlaw gay marriages in the state. Brown became the first mayor in the country to legislatively oppose the measure.
"I stand against these types of measures that divide, instead of unite, our culture," the mayor stated.
All Our Families Coalition will have a panel presentation entitled "Liberty and Justice for all Families: The Status of our Right to Marry" on Thursday, October 22 starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Center, 1187 Franklin Street, at Geary. The event is free and open to the public. For information, call (415) 681-1960.
The mayor also commended the GMC as the popular group celebrates it 20th anniversary. Sponsored by Supervisor Amos Brown, who's running for re-election in three weeks, the measure noted that the chorus was founded by a group of men who sang together for the love of music, making them the first openly gay chorus in the world. The GMC has grown to 246 volunteer singers and is seen by audiences that total more than 400,000 annually.
Jim Payne, executive director of Golden Gate Performing Arts, the umbrella group that runs the chorus, said he's proud of the chorus' contributions in the community as a whole, particularly in light of the tragic death Monday of openly gay college student Matthew Shepard in Wyoming. Payne said the GMC toured 12 cities across the country in 1981 and that similar choruses sprang up in those cities following the visits. "Maybe we need to start looking at the hinterland," Payne said, referring to the possibility of going to such states as Wyoming.
Payne said that at GMC's gala performance last month, the show was picketed by two members of a religious right group. "There were only two pickets, but it put it in perspective. We haven't won the battle."
Regarding Amos Brown's sponsorship of the legislation signed by the mayor, Payne said it came as a surprise. "We are kind of impressed by that. He showed up at our office-warming and has been supportive of the chorus," said Payne.