Oct 12, 2022 - News

Lesbians Who Tech & Allies conference takes over the Castro

Sign that says "lesbians who tech"

Lesbians Who Tech & Allies conference starts today in the Castro. Photo: Megan Rose Dickey/Axios

The 9th annual Lesbians Who Tech & Allies conference returns to San Francisco's Castro neighborhood this week.

Why it matters: San Francisco remains in pandemic-recovery mode, with the city having the third-slowest rebound in the country, per data of the 62 largest cities in the U.S. and Canada from March through May.

  • In the wake of shutdowns and forced separation during the height of the pandemic, the Lesbians Who Tech & Allies conference has the potential to bring members of the LGBTQ+ community together.

What's happening: The for-profit organization, which aims to foster community through events, will host the in-person portion of its annual conference beginning Wednesday.

  • Speakers include comedian Rosie O'Donnell, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, author Roxane Gay and San Francisco Mayor London Breed.
  • Lesbians Who Tech anticipates 3,000 attendees will descend upon the Castro.
  • Castro Street will be closed to car traffic between Market and 19th Streets.

What they're saying: Leanne Pittsford, founder of Lesbians Who Tech, told Axios the gathering takes place in the Castro "because it's one of the most historic queer spaces in the world … and it's still a space that doesn't have a lot of women, a lot of non-binary leaders, a lot of people of color," she said. "So it's really important for us to reclaim that space."

  • Dave Karraker, co-president of the Castro Merchants Association, told Axios it's exciting for Lesbians Who Tech to be back in the Castro, adding the neighborhood was "one of the hardest hit" in the city during the pandemic. "We’re always looking for these types of events that can bring back that activity."

Between the lines: The Castro neighborhood and the Castro Theatre have both been at the center of recent controversy.

  • Yes, but: Neighborhood groups like the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District have opposed the plans, which entail, in part, altering the theater's seating configuration.
  • Meanwhile, the Castro Merchants Association in August threatened to withhold taxes if the city did not address homelessness and drug use in the neighborhood.
  • Breed promised last month to coordinate city efforts in the Castro, saying police would intervene if people refused to accept help.

What to watch: Whether business owners keep their taxes.

  • Karraker said the Merchants Association is "encouraged by some of the progress we’ve seen" in regards to the city addressing homelessness and addiction, but that merchants still need answers on "what exactly" San Francisco is doing and how the city will measure success.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Lesbians who Tech is a for-profit organization, not a nonprofit, as originally stated.

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