Plenty of Nothin'
Despite $300,000 in Support and 16 Months to Find a Space, Gay Youth Center Still Hasn't Opened Its Doors
Queer Youth Space (QYS), an organization led by folks under 21 who want to run their own LGBT youth center, still hasn't secured a location despite winning a $100,000 city grant 16 months ago. In contrast, all other recipients of the Department of Neighborhoods (DON) matching grant from last spring have contracts in place or are awaiting signatures, says DON spokeswoman Lois Maag. Queer Youth Space is the only one that does "not have a contract yet," she says.
Before the city can dispense the grant money, the group must lease a location in their preferred neighborhood—Capitol Hill. A quick search of Craigslist on November 7 turned up 20 retail/office spaces for lease on Capitol Hill within the previous five days. So what's the problem?
Sid Jordan, a 32-year-old "adult in solidarity" speaking for QYS, blamed the tough rental market and a combination of required features: wheelchair accessibility, neighbors tolerant of late-night activity, a location within one mile of Cal Anderson Park, and suitability as a concert venue. As if that's not specific enough, there's another feature on the wish list: "We don't want it to be close to a bar," Kyle Rapinan, one of group's leaders, said last year.
The lack of a lease 16 months after getting the green light—along with additional contributions totaling $200,000 in grants and in-kind donations from private donors—contrasts with the group's urgent "We need queer youth space" poster and flyer campaign last year. "It's just taking longer than they expected, or we expected as well," Maag admits.
But even the group's website had been dormant (the last post dated in March) until I repeatedly e-mailed the city and QYS. Suddenly, the website received a flurry of updates—including one that says the group is "working hard to find a permanent space," bizarrely dated November 9; that's the day after this paper went to press.
Meanwhile the $100,000 is sitting around, unspent, while city resources are slimmer than ever. Last December, DON project manager Anne Takekawa said that if QYS were in the same position a year from now, "I would be extremely concerned."
So is the city concerned now?
"Because this is a youth-driven project, we are giving them a little bit more time," Maag says. She adds that there's no cutoff date to lose the grant money.
The group is willing to compromise on its wish list of specifics (except wheelchair accessibility, a city requirement), Jordan explains, but they want to find an affordable venue to sustain a youth-run community space. "We are not just trying to push forward with the facility and open the doors without a plan to sustain that," she says. "We're figuring out how to do it well from the beginning so it keeps going beyond that initial year."