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Community stakeholders call for affordable LGBTQ+ programming, films & orchestra seats at Castro Theatre

By Karalyn Monteil, President & CEO, SF Heritage

Think of this theatre as the Vatican for our community, a sacred temple

Jesse Oliver, board member, Castro LGBTQ Cultural District

Hundreds of participants filled the red velvet seats of the Castro Theatre on August 11, 2022 at Another Planet Entertainment’s first Community Consultation Meeting, which the independent concert promoter and new theater programming partner organized to share information on their rehabilitation and development plans for the iconic landmark movie palace. Designed by architect Timothy L. Pflueger, the theatre celebrated its 100th anniversary on June 22, 2022. 

The meeting started at 5:00 PM with guided tours of the building, followed by a video presentation from APE. Interventions were made by Peter Pastreich from the Castro Theatre Conservancy—and head of the Save the Castro Theatre campaign — and Jesse Oliver, board member of the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District. “Think of this theatre as the Vatican for our community, a sacred temple,” Oliver urged. Both provided examples of other successful movie palace renovations that continued film programming and maintained orchestra seating, and called for a written commitment from APE to maintain the seating and to prioritize films and LGBTQ programming. 

Jesse Oliver from the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District presents at the Castro Theatre Community Meeting, August 11, 2022.

Christopher Wasney from CAW Architects then presented on the architectural plans for the theatre, followed by a community Q&A. Over forty community stakeholders were given two minutes each to express their concerns, some of which were responded to by Mary Conde, Senior Vice President at APE or Dan Serot, Vice President of Business Affairs at APE.  Many shared personal stories and tributes to the intangible cultural values of the Theatre to the LGBTQ+ community. 

Rendering of proposed seating at the Castro Theatre, displayed at the Castro Community Meeting on August 11, 2022.

In addition to neighbors and community advocates lamenting the potential loss of this epicenter of LGBTQ+ programming and cultural life, small business owners from the Castro neighborhood also expressed their concerns with how the development project and programming could positively or negatively impact their businesses. The role of District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who organized a consultation meeting with key Castro stakeholders in May and was called on to lead preservation and programming efforts on behalf of the district, was also highlighted by some of the speakers. 

Community meeting participants hold signs reading “Save our Seats!”

The meeting concluded around 8:30 PM with a request from audience members on a date for the next community consultation meeting, which APE promised to post on their website.

San Francisco Heritage has been monitoring developments at the Castro Theatre closely since APE first reached out to our organization in January 2022, and our Projects + Policy Committee has met with APE and the project architects to review and advise on their plans. We have also been involved in the historic landmarking process for the interior of the theatre, and were among the participants in the community stakeholder meeting with Supervisor Mandelman’s office. Community stakeholder consultations are a critical part of any development project. Although we regret APE did not initiate this community meeting sooner, we were pleased to see the broad participation at the Castro Theatre last night, and hope the community’s concerns will be addressed by APE. 

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