We are an ad hoc group of gay men and women who live in the Lower River, and are united in our opposition to the current redevelopment process proposed for our community.
We are particularly disturbed by accusations that the opponents of Redevelopment, among whom we proudly number ourselves, are motivated by homophobia, and that the gay community in the Lower River area is united behind the banner of Redevelopment. We are ourselves gay and lesbian, and have fought all our lives against homophobia; many of us have been abused and brutalized at one time or another by homophobic words and violence. We wish to make it perfectly clear that we and our heterosexual friend soppose redevelopment because the current proposal is seriously flawed, misguided, and a threat to our community, human and natural, and the values we cherish. We neither need nor want Winsor on the River, but that is what Redevelopment is preparing to bring us.
We oppose Redevelopment because it will solve none of the problems of the Lower River: neither homelessness nor poverty, not hunger nor substandard housing nor drug addiction nor the high cost of housing nor the absence of constructive alternatives for our young people. We love the breathtaking beauty of this corner of Sonoma County, and will not stand by idly while it is buried under thousands of hotel rooms, hundreds of thousands of square feet of new retail space, and the obliteration of highway 116 and the cutting of unknown numbers of redwoods in a foredoomed attempt to mitigate the catastrophic effects of uncontrolled growth.
We are also concerned because many of us have seen an increase in homophobia and homophobic incidents on the river recently, spawned by the myth of a gay community marching in lockstep behind the banner of redevelopment.
Many residents of the river are bitterly opposed to redevelopment; some among them, fearing that the Gay community is determined to ram redevelopment down their throats and claim the river as the exclusive turf of gay yuppies, are taking refuge in hateful words and deeds. There are dark mutterings about the "fagoisie" and gay gentrification. One of our number was recently pursued for half a block down main street by four angry teenagers shouting insults at him because of their hatred both of gays and redevelopment. The joke was that he was on his way to xerox a letter oppposing redevelopment.
The poorest of the poor along the river know that someone stands to make a lot of money by redeveloping theLower River, and know that whoever it is, it is not them. They are angry and frightened, and will fight this thing just as the pople who saw their communities and businesses devastated by Redevelopment in San Francisco did.
If you want to see Redevelopment in action, go visit the Western Addition and the South of Market in San Francisco; then consider if you want the same nightmare here.
What we are afraid of is that this battle will so polarize our community as to create an atmosphere of violence, and that we, gay men and women who oppose this plan, will end up being further victimized by the outbreaks of homophobic violence which it has already begun to spawn.
Let us be clear: The Chamber of Commerce and the Redevelopment committee do not speak for all gay and lesbian people on the river; they speak for no one but themselves, and in pretending otherwise they do us all a very grave disservice.
Bruce St. John Maher
+ 40 others.