by JIM MEKO
Memo to the Realtex Group: this would be a good time to invite prospective tenants of your new 57 unit development to come down to Folsom and Dore Alley to meet the neighbors. Well, maybe this time next year.
Today the Up Your Alley Fair made its annual appearance in SoMa. Generally described as a celebration of kink, it is held on the last Sunday of July every year. The Folsom Street Fair, the world’s largest leather and fetish event, is held later in September. Folsom Street and Dore Alley are generally considered the epicenter of both events.
Realtex, Inc., a privately held commercial real estate development firm, has applied for permits to build a 65 feet tall residential building with 67 single room occupancy (SRO) units there. SRO units don’t necessarily reflect the seedy connotations that 6th Street housing might conjure. In SoMa zoning, they are simply a category of housing that maximizes profits for the developers.
The units will average 385 square feet each. Bath and cooking facilities are allowed in each of these “mini-studios” and although there will be no parking for cars, bicycle parking for each unit is required. The ground floor space, where retail is encouraged, will instead provide a workshop for bicycle repair and storage.
This area is now zoned as the Folsom Street Neighborhood Commercial District. Existing clubs, like the Powerhouse adjacent to the Realtex project, are grandfathered in and enjoy the same rights that fully permitted uses have elsewhere. New building code requirements included in the Western SoMa Community Plan, put the responsibility on the developers of new housing to include sufficient mitigations to reduce interior noise to meet state standards. This neighborhood will also eventually be part of an LGBTQ social heritage district.
Ringold Alley, less than a block away, is currently undergoing $1.8 million in improvements to turn the site into a destination for the tens of thousands of gays and lesbians who visit Folsom Street every year.
An earlier generation of gay activists conceived these events as an in your face affirmation that the leather/kink community was still active and organized in spite of the AIDS epidemic. Folsom Street is really gay. Don’t expect to change that.