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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Radical Faeries Attempt to Raise $900,000 to Buy the 14th Street House

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2014 at 3:20 PM

click to enlarge homofiles.jpg

For years, 455 14th Street has been known as the “Faerie House.” As something of the Radical Faeries’ spiritual home for over a quarter-century, it’s been the site of numerous gatherings (sexual and otherwise) as well as a the spot for weekly yoga and potluck dinners. Now, it’s being sold, and rumors are flying.

To quell the confusion, I met with 14th Street House Project board members Darwin Mastin, Mike Korcek, and Rik Lee (with Stuart Siegel joining later), who were gracious enough to speak with me in a loud Mission coffeehouse after just coming out of a three-hour board meeting. We touched why the 14th Street House isn’t actually a “Faerie House,” how the group plans to raise nearly a million dollars in a fairly short time, and what the alternative might be if it does get sold to a third party. This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

SFW: So how about a little background on the house?

Radical Faeries: The Radical Faeries began as a social and political movement in the 1970s on the basis that queers deserve the same right as straights, but we’re not the same type of people. It didn’t quite go with what Harvey Milk was preaching at the time, which was “Equal Rights because of Equal Personhood.” The 14th Street House is loosely associated with the Faeries, but it’s not an actual Faerie house. It’s just what people have come to know the house as. The house itself is owned by Marty Kahn.

Marty purchased the house in 1988 at the height of the AIDS epidemic. He was looking to buy a large property but specifically one that could host sex-positive events and parties. For 25 years, it’s hosted various leather, kink, sex-positive, pan-gender parties, and spiritual gatherings. It’s also been a community space for Monday night clothing-optional yoga for the past 17 years, run by Stuart Siegel, also known as Yoga Daddy. It’s also been the home of solstice parties, things that are so varied that we had to come up with our own term: “radical sexual and spiritual community.”

SFW: When you say it’s not actually a Faerie house, what do you mean?

RF: Faerie houses are understood as a group of Faeries that live together in a house and are specifically Faerie-hosted events. Marty came into knowing the Faeries by having different sex parties at the house, and participates in Faerie events, but he doesn’t consider what he bought the property as to be a Faerie House. He bought it as a place for gay men to come together and have sex.

SFW: It’s not a full-time residence for the community?

RF: It is a residence. But they’re not only Faeries. [Marty Kahn] is putting in on the market and we want to buy it.

SFW: But why wasn’t he willing to just sell it quietly to the Faeries? Why is it becoming an issue?

RF: It’s not. [Marty's] been doing this a long time, and he’s going to allow us to try and buy it. As someone who’s owned property for that long, he wants a return on his investment. He wants to retire.

SFW: So there’s no bad blood here. No dissension in the Faerie ranks.

RF: There’s no dissension. We’re looking to preserve this house as a community space. It’s very rare to have that, and it’s something that queer society in a gentrifying city needs to survive. We need to have community spaces that aren’t just bars, where people can actually talk to each other, where there are different spaces to move through so you can connect with people. 

SFW: If you were to buy it, would almost nothing change beyond the deed of ownership?

RF: Actually, a lot would change. We’re forming a co-op, so the requirements of the tenants when they live there, they’d have to host certain community events and maintain it as a community resource as opposed to just their house. Because of the general price of property in the city, it’s not possible for us individually to purchase the property, so we’re working with the San Francisco Community Land Trust. Their model is buying property to own it, hand-in-hand on a 50-50 basis with another nonprofit that forms a cooperative to manage the space. The Land Trust only wants to be a helping hand and a fallback to creating sustainable living. They prefer to create co-op spaces where members at large receive training in how to steward a community space.

An example is the Purple House. It’s a house of musicians, but also a place where music parties occur. And the tenants have to be aware of that. It’s their responsibility to maintain. So rather than it just being Marty owning a house and opening it up, it [would be] a cooperative that’s living there with the understanding of keeping it a community space accessible to the parties and the sexual-spiritual activities that happen now.

SFW: It’s also next door to an evangelical church, which is probably not going to appeal to everybody.

RF: They actually sold as well, to another church.

SFW: What are the avenues you’re using to raise money?

RF: On our website, we’re accepting donations. That goes to our account with the Community Land Trust, who handles the mortgage. Specifically, we’re looking for big donors or investors. In this city, with very large industries in sex-positive work such as, there are places to look for that. 

SFW: Is there a timeline?

RF: It’s supposed to go on the market in January. We’re looking to have pledged donors and investors by the end of the year so that the Land Trust will act on our behalf.

SFW: What’s Plan B?

RF: Any money that’s pledged to us is going to be turned over to get another space.

SFW: So you’re going to buy a building no matter what, you’d just prefer it to be this one.

RF: It’s important to keep the property in the community if you can, because it’s already a destination. What we're also looking for is for people to share their story about the house, like our [Facebook] page, tell your friends, post any pictures you may have — obviously appropriate photos. The stories are really important, no matter what happens with the house. This is also about the larger context of preserving San Francisco history and culture, which is going fast.

SFW: When you look at all the groups that use the house, even on a semi-regular basis, how many people are we looking at?

RF: Easily thousands. Based on our online presence, easily 300-500 people are interested right now, in the Bay Area.

SFW: Do you feel you’re striking while the iron is hot? The Faerie community must be growing really fast, even in spite of gentrification.

RF: I don’t think it’s in spite of, I think it’s because of. When people can’t find housing, you have to band together and live with other people in shared spaces. You’ve got to use your networks. A lot of queer people build their own families and networks as their own safety net.

SFW: I feel like the popular misconception is that this is just sex parties every weekend, but it’s not.

RF: There still are parties where that is welcome. That’s why we went with “sexual-spiritual community.” It’s a place to go and be yourself and be accepted. There’s a statement many Faeries, Faerie-adjacent and queerdos use: People find the Faeries when you need them. You find that community when you need community. 

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About The Author

Pete Kane

Pete Kane

Pete Kane is a total gaylord who is trying to get to every national park before age 40


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