REDWOOD CITY (KPIX 5) — Bay Area officials, once ready to do battle with Chick-fil-A over its expansion plans, are cheering the company’s decision to stop donating to anti-LGBTQ groups.
“It’s a big day for San Mateo County, it shows that Chick-fil-A has a heart. It shows that Chick-fil-A has seen the light,” said David Canepa, San Mateo County Supervisor.
Chick-fil-A Foundation made the sudden announcement on Monday via a press release saying 2020 donations would be “giving to a smaller number of organizations working exclusively in the areas of education, homelessness and hunger.” And for each new location opening, a $25,000 donation would be made to a local food bank.
In June, Canepa wrote a letter to the Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy urging him to withdraw the building permit, saying “Your company’s anti-LGBTQ policies do not represent the values of the overwhelming majority of San Mateo County residents.”
“I will do everything in my power as county supervisor to ensure Chick-fil-A does not open a franchise in San Mateo County,” Canepa wrote at the time.
The day after the company’s announcement, Canepa said, “We can forgive, but not forget.”
“Going from where they were to where they are now is encouraging,” said Canepa, “Instead of protesting Chick-fil-A, we want to cut the ribbon with Chick-fil-A because of the actions they’ve taken.”
The widespread backlash to revelations of the donations had taken place for years in cities across the U.S. and was already well underway at some of the dozen Bay Area locations, including Mineta San Jose International Airport.
Upon learning about an upcoming lease renewal for the airport location, the San Jose City Council voted not to renew the lease in 2026 on grounds that the restaurant is closed on Sundays, and that the city needs a business that is open seven days a week.
Councilmember Raul Peralez made national headlines after saying, “I would be fine with making this the gayest Chick-fil-A in the country, and putting the (Pride) flags right outside of it.”
Chick-fil-A’s announcement comes eight days after the installation of a Rainbow Flag and Transgender Flag at the San Jose airport within view of customers waiting in line at the restaurant inside Terminal B. It was a move meant to provide comfort to any travelers put off by Chick-fil-A’s presence at the airport.
“Believe me, I really hope that they have changed their ways. I would like nothing more than that for them to really become more enlightened about how negative their actions have affected the LGBTQ community,” said Ken Yeager, former Santa Clara County Supervisor.
Yeager, who is openly gay, helped coordinate the placement of the flags through his work at the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee Community Foundation. Yeager is encouraged but cautiously optimistic about Chick-fil-A’s announcement, saying LGBTQ rights activists must remain vigilant and hold the company accountable to its promises.
“But again, it’s not even one day yet, so we will be tracking just to see if they really mean what they say,” said Yeager.
Bob Neumann of Pescadero said he would now actually consider going to the new restaurant in Redwood City.
When asked if he would be OK eating at the location set to open in May 2020, Neumann replied, “Yes, definitely. Because it’s more reasonable to go with what the majority of society wants. And it’s time.”