Sunday a group of naked protesters hung banners and danced on the rooftops above the Castro Street Fair in defiance of City Supervisor Wiener’s proposed ban on public nudity.
Wiener, yes it’s really his name, was spotted in the crowd below talking with police. who then scaled the fronts and backs of the buildings to break up the demonstration and rip down the banners.
An Activist’s Last Stand
The action was organized by Jason Villalobos, a well known activist and a spokesmodel for the “Greater Than AIDS” campaign. In recent years, he’s been all over local billboards, and even appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Alas, like so many passionate activists, he’s leaving town, moving home to Lompoc in Southern California to regroup and pursue his Masters.
Villalobos has decided to use his last few weeks being a fly in the ointment of his longtime nemeses Scott Wiener, and Wiener’s war on nudity. Public nudity is in fact legal in most of San Francisco, and nudists have settled into a small plaza at the entrance to the Castro district, traditional home of the city’s LGBT community.
A Gentrifying Castro
Like the rest of San Francisco the Castro is changing rapidly. As rents have skyrocketed, LGBT people have been squeezed out en masse. One of the neighboring districts known for affluent young straight people with babies is Noe Valley, and getting space there is next to impossible. “Noe people” are instead moving to the Castro, and pushing for local mores to conform to their tastes- and they’ve found a sympathetic ear with Supervisor Wiener.
On Wiener’s Facebook page these new residents complain about being “eye raped” by nudists, and bemoan that the “park” the nudists occupy is no place for small children. The parents are less worried, apparently, by the Muni streetcars that run through this tiny section of reclaimed street, or that they’re steps away from fast-moving Market Street traffic. If anyone lets their toddlers run around this glorified highway median I think the nudists are the least of their worries.
Local celebrity, and Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club President, Anna Conda, who was nearly purged from the city herself by housing costs, is passionate about preserving the city’s rapidly vanishing queer spaces. Weiner’s proposal exempts public events like Bay to Breakers and the Folsom Street Fair from the ban, but Conda isn’t buying it.
“There is some ‘exclusion’ that exempts money-making events for the City such as Bay to Breakers and the Folsom Street Fair, but don’t be fooled. The supervisor and his associates want people in the community to blend in and conform to a bland flavor of vanilla so they can further their own agenda.”
Conda, Villalobos, and many others think Wiener’s simply trying to rack up moderate victories that will help him pursue higher office.
In Wiener’s defense, the gentrification battle had largely been lost long before he was elected. Many of his constituents are mainstream consumers who don’t value the international significance of the Castro, instead wanting simply another high-end urban neighborhood.
People who don’t like public nudity have roughly 88,000 U.S. municipalities where such expression is illegal to choose from. They even have a hundred neighborhoods in the Bay Area where they’re unlikely to see a naked person outside of their own home. The misfits have one tiny plaza and a couple of blocks in a neighborhood that’s hardly ever hidden its sexual pecadillos. It’s not like the new neighbors didn’t know what they were getting.
Before the gays and misfits arrived the neighborhood was known as “Eureka Valley”. Now it’s transitioning to “New Noe”, but the old guard won’t go out without a fight, and a fabulous, historic spectacle.