Frequently Asked Questions
How will Queer Land Trust achieve its goals?
Queer Land Trust will increase noncommercial residential and activity space available to queer people and communities in our traditional and emerging stronghold neighborhoods. To do this, we anticipate three core strategies:
- We’ll work with existing queer organizations to address the information gap about the real estate and housing services they can provide their members under the law. We’ll support them in working with their members on planned giving and bequests which could include real estate. We’ll work with individuals who have a deep lifelong commitment to queer communities to ensure they can leave a legacy for future generations.
- We’ll help protect and preserve existing queer households and buildings through co-ownership and non-profit land trust mechanisms. While there are other organizations that fight displacement via eviction defense, Queer Land Trust will work on the fundraising side, helping threatened queer spaces put themselves on a permanent foundation.
- We’ll design strategic collaborations between queer organizations, philanthropists and real estate developers aimed at acquiring, protecting and managing real estate with the potential to impact positively the queer culture, diversity and vibrancy of queer stronghold neighborhoods.
What services will Queer Land Trust provide?
Queer Land Trust will provide fundraising and real estate management assistance, advocacy for policy change, and long-term management of community resources. We’ll advocate for queers’ right to usable urban space with relevant services, and support policies that help protect our stronghold neighborhoods against the winds of change.
What kind of real estate will Queer Land Trust acquire?
Queer Land Trust is most interested in projects which do not just house people, but which provide a platform for those individuals and their communities to impact the neighborhoods of which they are a part. Queer Land Trust properties will increase the visibility and safety of our community at street level throughout their neighborhoods. They’ll host community potlucks, meetings, heart circles, yoga classes, play parties and other noncommercial events, bringing individuals together in new ways and ensuring queer community continues in our stronghold neighborhoods generation after generation. And they represent a meaningful way to operationalize our values of diversity and inclusivity within a broader queer umbrella.
How will you raise so much money?
Queer Land Trust will work tirelessly on major donor cultivation, developing relationships with philanthropists, and building a broad community coalition around the need to retain our stronghold neighborhoods. Our initial goal is to raise $5M in five years to support the acquisition of five community properties in San Francisco and the Bay Area.
While this sounds like a lot of money, it is actually a small amount on the scale of urban development projects. In the Castro, the planned renovation of Harvey Milk Plaza, to include an elevator and a revamped public space design, is estimated to cost $20M. We contend that the continued presence of LGBTQ residents in the Castro is worth at least as much as a renovated transit interchange.
The Bay Area’s displacement crisis affects everyone. Why do queer communities deserve special treatment?
There is little doubt that the displacement crisis has hit Black communities the hardest, as well as undocumented immigrants. Moreover, no one deserves to be displaced regardless of their identity or experience.
But we’re all human, and humans are healthiest when they’re embedded in networks of support: healthy families and communities. For gays and lesbians, in particular, that means living with each other, since our primary intimate attachments are overwhelmingly to other gays and lesbians. LGBTQ+ people face an especially crushing isolation when they don’t have access to others like themselves.
Does Queer Land Trust discriminate on the basis of gender or sexuality?
No. Queer Land Trust works with organizations that have strong values and public expression that serve as models of inclusive queerness and queer culture. We do not work with organizations that themselves discriminate on the basis of gender or sexuality, or any other axis, for that matter. If you are straight, but you live by queer sexual ethics and contribute to queer community organizations, we believe you should be treated equally in consideration for Queer Land Trust housing.
Does Queer Land Trust discriminate against straight people?
See the above question. Straight people have been valuable and integral parts of queer communities for as long as the terms have had any meaning. There have always been allies, partners, friends and others complexly integrated into queer social worlds. Yet queer spaces are rare, and the rules of public education — in housing, assembly, traffic regulation and many other fields — presume normative family forms and gender roles. As a result, queer spaces lose out in competition for scarce resources such as urban real estate.
Some of the groups we work with do host events that are restricted to those who identify with specific categories. These groups hold closer containers when necessary for the safety of their members and healing of historic wounds.
How will Queer Land Trust be accountable to the community?
Queer Land Trust answers to a large and growing advisory board consisting of activists and community leaders representing diverse interests and experiences within the queer community. Once incorporated, our board of directors will have oversight over all major financial decisions and building acquisitions. We will report the number of eviction or displacement cases we assist as well as the outcomes of these cases. We will report on our fundraising, including income and expenses, as well as on the diversity of individuals we serve, especially any to whom we provide housing.
What is your plan for the rest of 2018?
For the remainder of 2018, our work consists of the following efforts:
- Outreach to allied queer organizations to seek their input and support for our plans, as well as their participation in reaching out to their members;
- Identifying potential projects for which we can fundraise or organize acquisitions, and developing business plans describing how they could be managed;
- Advocacy to partners in city and state government regarding our strategies for preserving and protecting queer spaces;
- Developing major donor and foundation relationships with an eye to future philanthropic support.
What is your plan for 2019?
In 2019, we’ll continue the work we are already doing and look to support a small full-time staff of 1-2 people.
What happened with the Sausage Factory acquisition?
Queer Land Trust initially emerged from organizing around the possible sale of the Sausage Factory building at 18th and Castro in San Francisco, home to “Grand Central,” one of San Francisco’s longest continually-operating Radical Faerie collective houses. In 2017, we received pledges of $250k-350k toward the acquisition of this three unit building including the restaurant space on the ground floor. As it was listed at $4.1M, a serious offer on the building would have required $800-1M in available capital.
While we did not raise the funds to acquire the building, we were fortunate in that the Azzolino family decided to sell only the restaurant business within their family and the structure itself has not changed hands. For the tenants in the residential units, this is a much better outcome than a sale to a developer.
The current owner has clarified they have no intention to sell at this time. This gives Queer Land Trust the opportunity to focus on other projects.
It’s too late for San Francisco. Shouldn’t queers just move elsewhere?
It’s true that much of San Francisco’s traditional LGBTQ community has already been displaced. Every single lesbian-focused businesses of the Valencia corridor and Mission has already vanished, and the lesbian population of this neighborhood has already declined by many thousands.
It’s also true that San Francisco real estate is among the most expensive in the country, if not the world.
Yet San Francisco is still an unparalleled global symbol of freedom and progress for our community, and it’s arguably the most important tourist destination for LGBTQ people from around the world. Thanks to the efforts of Jose Sarria, Harvey Milk, and others, it’s the place where our political influence is best established, and thanks to district elections, our community still enjoys a significant voice in city affairs. Queer organizations that started in San Francisco now have hundreds of chapters all over the world, and in many ways, San Francisco is the birthplace of our liberation. If we are worth each others’ lives and loves, we are worth the investment in San Francisco real estate. Queer Land Trust may never be able to house all the queers who wish to live in San Francisco, or even a significant fraction of them, but we can provide a critical lifeline of volunteers, space, community resources and caring relationships for the individuals who are most involved with making our community happen.
How can Queer Land Trust address social justice when the Castro and Folsom are so white and male?
The Castro has already lost gender diversity, and the Black population of San Francisco has been declining for 50 years. We are one of only a few organizations working toward a solution that does not depend on massive policy change in government.
Not-for-profit, community-supported housing puts our money and real estate resources where our hearts are on diversity issues. Queer Land Trust will report annually on the diversity of people we help house, and we’re committed to making sure our unique housing model increases diversity — of ethnicity, color, gender, age and ability — in the neighborhoods where we work. We will not displace communities of color in order to house white queers.
That said, in the United States in general and California in particular, discrimination in housing is illegal on the basis of factors including race, ethnicity, family status, gender, and sexuality, among others. All Queer Land Trust real estate sales and leases will take place without regard to these factors. For this reason, we plan to work with existing organizations with strong ties to queer communities to support their members — a right that such organizations already have under fair housing law.
What about queers in Oakland, San Jose and elsewhere in the Bay Area?
The Bay Area is in many ways a single city. When pushed out of San Francisco, queers try first to resettle in Oakland, Berkeley or other near-at-hand suburbs, then to resettle on the edges of the Bay Area in places such as Martinez and San Jose. The displaced are our lovers, friends and ancestors; they are our community. Moreover, the real estate
Queer Land Trust takes an integrated approach to maintaining the Bay Area’s queer community which we call “social permaculture.” Just as an individual human must meet a hierarchy of needs to survive, so too must a community. Highly visible, symbolic acquisitions in the Folsom, Castro and Tenderloin neighborhoods may be important as destinations and focal points, but real estate prices make it easier to house larger numbers of queers outside central San Francisco. Queer Land Trust will therefore seek to invest both in lower-cost properties in emerging LGBTQ stronghold neighborhoods in other cities in the “greater Bay Area,” as far north as Santa Rosa and as far south as Santa Cruz.
In this regard, we are exploring co-housing projects and limited equity ownership cooperatives in search of financially sustainable models that can help keep LGBTQ people and their allies living closely together throughout the greater Bay Area.
What about queers outside the Bay Area?
Housing is a basic economic and social justice issue. As such, we need to understand that the fight for accessible, affordable housing, near other others of our kind, is a fundamental part of the LGBTQ rights movement. The right to marry is of no use if we can’t meet each other, get to know each other, and support emerging queer families in taking care of each other and passing on their traditions and wisdom to the next generations.
While Queer Land Trust aims to focus primarily on San Francisco and the Bay Area in our early years, it is our home that our activism and advocacy will galvanize leaders of the national and global LGBTQ rights movements to understand that queer stronghold neighborhoods and affordable housing are fundamental to our well-being.
What about queers in rural areas?
While the needs of rural queer communities are dramatically different from those of urban areas, we are open to working with communities from rural areas to fundraise to acquire their land. Please contact us for further discussion.