See below for information from Gayle Rubin about an exciting project celebrating leather history. Below the message are links to 2 illustrations about the project.

If you are interested in donating to this project, please donate the money to the Exiles and we will pass it along as a group donation.


There is an exciting monument to local, San Francisco leather’s history about to be constructed along the entire block of Ringold Alley. This has come about as a result of the large residential complex nearing completion at 8th and Harrison, across from Mr. S and backing up onto Ringold Alley. This project was first proposed over a decade ago, and the developer made a point of consulting with neighborhood stakeholders and planning a complex that would enhance rather than impair the neighborhood. When the real estate economy went into free fall circa 2008, this development like so many others was postponed; when local real estate began to recover, the project resumed.

As a matter of course, these large developments are required to put a certain percentage of their overall budget into what are called “neighborhood impact fees,” and a smaller percentage of those fees goes to public art. I believe it was the city authorities which determined that the majority of the impact fees for this development are going improvements for Ringold Alley: The street and sidewalks are being repaved, utilities undergrounded, trees planted, and traffic calming measures installed – in this case, “bulb outs” to slow down through traffic. In addition, many years ago when the development was first under discussion, one of the neighborhood activists, the late Jim Meko, came up with the idea of using the arts portion of those fees to fund an installation that would focus on San Francisco’s and especially South of Market’s leather history. The developer agreed, and when the construction finally got underway about two (three?) years ago, a small group of assorted leather folk began to meet with the developer and the landscape architect to sort out the details, within the parameters of the developer’s budget for this installation, and within the frameworks of city codes and approvals.

The design that emerged is represented by the first attachment here—the “schematic design drawings.” Many of the details have since been refined, but this gives a sense of the overall elements. First, the bulb outs will be paved in leather pride colors (see page L1). Second, there will be a historic marker etched onto black granite at the 9th Street entry onto the alley. This marker will be three feet deep and five feet long (see page L2), and will have an image of the Chuck Arnett mural in the rubble of the Tool Box, as well as an image of the Fe-Be’s “Leather David,” along with some explanatory text. I have also attached a probable layout for the marker. Third, there will be bronze plaques in the side walk in the shape of boot prints. See L2.1, but the boot prints pictured here are not the final design, which is instead based on a pair of Dehner motorcycle boots belonging to Mike McNamee, founder of Stompers. These plaques will have the names of many of the individuals who made leather South of Market happen. Fourth, there will be granite “standing stones” on which the names of many of the important organizations, places, and events will be etched (see L2.2).

Once the overall design was finalized, a smaller committee was assembled to choose the names that would be cast in bronze and etched in granite. This was a tough task. We had to first come up with criteria for the names and to do so within the scope of the budgetary and logistical constraints on the project: that is, there were a limited number of boot prints and stones. The initial decision was to focus on local, San Francisco and South of Market and not to try to do the “leather history of the world.” We decided that anyone and anything included would have to have had a major impact on, or have originated some key feature of, leather San Francisco. Individuals were limited to those no longer living, and organizations and similar entities would have to either be defunct or have begun at least 20 years prior to the conclusion of our deliberations about a year ago. This meant that some worthy individuals and groups could not be included because they did not meet the temporal criteria. And indeed, many others were not included who did meet the criteria, but there simply was not enough space to recognize everyone who was worthy. However, we felt that everyone and everything that is included deserves to be on one of those markers.

A partial list of the individuals includes the following: Alan Selby, Tony DeBlase, Marcus Hernandez, Chuck Arnett, John Embry, Mark Thompson, Steve McEachern, Philip Turner, Sam Steward, Cynthia Slater, Geoff Mains, Alexis Muir, Robert Davolt, and Lurch. Among the institutions and events are the Toolbox, Fe-Be’s, the Society of Janus, the 15, Mr. S. the Warlocks and CMC, Drummer Magazine, the Folsom Street and Up Your Alley Fairs, Samois, International Ms. Leather, the Leather Alliance (whose organizational trajectory goes back to the Bent Bike Fund), and Stormy Leather.

The development and the leather history walk are nearing completion, but as is often the case with late phase construction, the developer’s budget appears to have tightened. There are a handful of costs associated with the completion of the leather history installation for which Erik Gibb and I are trying to assemble some funds. So far, these may include helping with some of the required permits, helping with a celebratory “opening” sometime this summer, and other unanticipated expenses. At this point, we are only asking for “pledges” but we are trying to establish a fund from which to draw to help get this project to and over the finish line.  We already have pledges of $1750, and are hoping for a budget of $4000-5000. Folsom Street Events has agreed to maintain the installation after the construction is completed, and if there are any leftover funds, we plan for these to go to FSE for what will no doubt incur some ongoing costs.

Once completed, this installation will be the most extensive and durable leather history monument on a public street or sidewalk anywhere in the world. Any help in getting us to that ribbon cutting would be most appreciated.

Respectfully submitted,

Gayle Rubin