In response to plans championed by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to shut down businesses in the Castro and eliminate the traditional Halloween celebration, a group of long-time San Francisco gay activists have formed Citizens for Halloween. They held a public forum on Sept. 22 at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center, where they hoped to address the myriad of public safety and logistical questions that remain unanswered about the spontaneous, decades-old tradition of the Castro Halloween block party. The organizers of the forum had hoped for a dialog with community members and City officials, but no one showed up from the Mayorâs office or from any supervisorsâ office.
The CFH made a statement at the Sept. 22 meeting: âSince the Cityâs only plan for an alternative celebration outside of the Castro fell through, and they are declaring that there is no âHalloween in the Castroâ this year, we are very concerned with personal and public safety, parking and traffic issues, trash and public health issues with public restrooms, and possible crime, violence, and vandalism.â
CFH including activists Hank Wilson and Gary Virginia, Party Party founder Ted Strawser, Castro neighborhood resident Rick Galbreath, and former District 8 supervisorial candidate Alix Rosenthal.
Citizens for Halloween says it is disappointed that the Newsom administration did not follow through on its Nov. 2, 2006 promise to convene a public task force, in response to the trouble at last yearâs event, which involved a shooting at Sanchez and Market.
Citizens for Halloween says it believes that organized, safe, and fun Halloween festivities in and around the City would bolster the Cityâs tourist-friendly image and provide welcome business activity. Where, when, and how to accomplish this has yet to be established. CFH stated at the Sept. 22 forum: âWe do not condone the Cityâs strategy to ask Castro businesses to close on Oct. 31, and feel this will create more problems than it solves.â CFH says that for decades, Castro merchants have exercised their right to alter hours on this holiday, and for many employees and businesses, it is one of their highest income days of the year. âTheir customers and employees should not be punished for the Cityâs lack of managing this public event properly or creating a viable alternative,â says CFH. âWe recognize the positive economic impact for small and large businesses in the Bay Area surrounding San Franciscoâs tradition of a unique Halloween celebration,â says CFH. It says it seems antithetical to use City tax dollars to encourage people to NOT come and spend their dollars in San Francisco.
Undergirding the worldâs appreciation of Halloween in the Castro is the creativity and civil rights history of SFâs LGBT community, says CFH. âDecades of oppression and prejudice kept myriad LGBT and questioning people from feeling free to express themselves but for this one night of the year,â says CFH. âWe have come a long way, but for many, this outlet still serves that purpose.â CFH claims the Cityâs intention to âcancel Halloweenâ and its failed plan for a waterfront celebration had no consideration for this history.
CFH has several goals - with the successful annual New York City Halloween event as a model - for consideration by the Newsom administration and the public. Now in its 33rd year, New Yorkâs Village Halloween Parade is the nationâs largest public Halloween celebration, drawing more than 50,000 costumed parade participants and an estimated two million spectators. The parade has won an Obie Award and has been recognized by the Municipal Arts Society and City lore for making a major contribution to the life and culture of New York City. It has been named âthe greatest event on earthâ by Festivals International and by Events International for Oct. 31. It is ranked 3rd by Citysearch as the best event in New York City. It has been said that in effect, by turning a large and complex city into a small town for just one night, the parade has been a pioneer in the critical movement toward the resurrection and rejuvenation of the city.
CFH puts forth these goals for San Franciscoâs Halloween: Work with the community and City departments to provide a safe Halloween celebration and related events. This includes personal safety, and safety of private and public property. Support the longstanding tradition of a world-class Halloween celebration in San Francisco using best practices for large-scale, public event production. Recognize and support the benefits of San Francisco Halloween events including the cultural and historical significance to the LGBT community; community building; and economic development for small businesses, Bay area businesses, and non-profit organizations. Cultivate the âfun factorâ for locals and tourists alike, which embraces diversity, tolerance, arts and culture, economic access, and non-discrimination.
In the end, CFH has over 40 unanswered questions regarding the Cityâs âplanâ for a ânon-eventâ Halloween in the CastroAmong them: Are any street closures planned, or any restrictions to traffic in or around the Castro? Any prohibitions on parking? Plans to protect parkers and vehicles that may be trapped by the crowds? Plans regarding bus and train lines to and from the Castro? Will there be advance notices on these plans? What will be the crowd control measures? Since the City has asked Castro businesses to close on Halloween, how will the City reimburse these businesses for their lost revenue? What about employees not able to work on Halloween? What about public toilets, first aid, lost and found, an information center? Will there be an SFPD command center in the Castro? Above all, is it at all realistic to expect to hold a ânon-eventâ in the Castro? Â
Citizens for Halloween says it intends to have a post-Halloween meeting with elected officials, politicos, activists, and observers coming together to make realistic plans for next yearâs Halloween activities in the City.