Issue:  Vol. 46 / No. 6 / 11 February 2016
 

SJ man arrested in sex sting

Gerald McGuire. Photo: San Jose Police Department.

Gerald McGuire. Photo: San Jose Police Department.

A San Jose man was recently arrested after he allegedly went to a park to meet with a police officer who’d been posing as a “juvenile male,” San Jose police said.

Gerald Patrick McGuire, 62, allegedly posted a social media ad seeking a “younger male,” according to a news release from police. A Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force officer who was “conducting online chat as a male juvenile” responded and “had several conversations with” McGuire, who “made several incriminating statements online” directed at the officer. Additionally, police said, he “sent harmful matter to the online account of the male juvenile (Officer).”

Wednesday, McGuire allegedly arranged to meet the boy in Commodore Park, which is in East San Jose. Officers stopped McGuire and detained him, police said. McGuire was arrested and booked into jail on suspicion of “sending harmful matter to a minor and contacting a minor with the intent to commit a felony,” police said.

McGuire remains in custody on $75,000 bail, according to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department. A court date of February 16 has been set. A public defender’s attorney has not yet been assigned to him.

Randy Attaway, a principal at AGC Mechanical in Campbell, California, where McGuire had worked as a purchasing manager, said he was “very disappointed” and “disgusted” about McGuire’s arrest, but “I’m glad that he was stopped.”

Attaway said the news was a surprise to him.

“You would never ever suspect anything,” he said. “There was absolutely no indication” that McGuire would commit such a crime.

McGuire “didn’t appear to be” gay, Attaway said, but “I would have no idea.”

He said McGuire “was let go about a month and a half ago.” There hadn’t been any performance problems or other issues, but “we needed someone to do safety, along with the role he played,” Attaway said. McGuire had worked at the company for “maybe two years.”

A call to a number listed as McGuire’s home phone wasn’t returned Friday.

Officer Enrique Garcia, a police spokesman, declined to say what the statements were that McGuire allegedly made or what the “harmful matter” was. “No new victims” have been reported, according to Garcia.

Anyone with information about the incident may contact San Jose police Detective C. Mendoza at (408) 277-4102. Those who want to remain anonymous may call the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at (408) 947-7867, or submit a tip online.

Information leading to arrest and conviction may result in a cash reward.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, February 13, 2016 @ 5:41 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund endorses Wiener for state Senate

WienerThe Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund has endorsed gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener in the race for a state Senate seat.

The endorsement from the national group follows the early endorsements he received last fall from the San Francisco-based Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and the statewide LGBT group Equality California.

Wiener can now tap into the fund’s national network of donors to raise funds for his race. The group, which trains and helps elect LGBT people to public office, had endorsed Wiener in 2014 when he ran for re-election to his supervisor seat.

“I am proud to have the Victory Fund’s endorsement,” said Wiener, in addition to the support from the other LGBT groups, including the Peninsula Stonewall Democrats based in San Mateo County. “I am getting very strong support in the LGBT community. We know it matters to have great representation from the LGBT community in San Francisco.”

He is running against his board colleague, District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, for the District 11 Senate seat, which covers all of San Francisco and a portion of northern San Mateo County. The incumbent, gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), is termed out of office this year and has endorsed Wiener to be his successor.

The Victory Fund endorsement comes as Wiener heads into the upcoming state Democratic Party Convention – to be held in San Jose later this month – with strong support to secure the party’s endorsement. He received 80 percent of the Region 6 vote at a pre-convention endorsement caucus held in late January.

The endorsement by the party will now be placed on the consent calendar for simple ratification at the convention, unless Kim is able to collect enough signatures from regional delegates to pull it off the agenda in an attempt to block it.

While Wiener is expected to win the state party’s backing in the race, his support among the Senate district’s LGBT community is not universal. Kim has a significant number of LGBT support as well for her Senate bid.

She won an early endorsement from the more progressive Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club. And LGBT leaders such as former state Senator Carole Migden, former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, and District 9 Supervisor David Campos are among those backing Kim.

— Matthew S. Bajko, February 12, 2016 @ 5:17 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Housing project slated for Castro funeral home site wins approval

A rendering of the 2254 Market Street housing development that would incorporate Sullivan's Funeral Home. Courtesy the Prado Group.

A rendering of the 2254 Market Street housing development that would incorporate Sullivan’s Funeral Home. Courtesy the Prado Group.

The San Francisco planning commission has approved a mixed-use redevelopment project along upper Market Street that would incorporate a Castro funeral home building.

At its meeting this afternoon (Thursday, February 11,) the planning commission voted to support the Prado Group’s planned revamp of Sullivan’s Funeral Home at 2254 Market Street and its adjacent parking lot. The developer has proposed incorporating the existing structure into a new building containing 45 apartments and a townhouse with two units constructed on the property’s 15th Street side.

The vote was 4-0, as gay planning commissioner Dennis Richards recused himself from voting because he lives nearby the site in Duboce Triangle.

“It is a good project, ” said planning commissioner Kathrin Moore.

Planning commissioner Michael Antonini said, “I think it is well designed,” but he suggested there be “wider elements between the windows on the Market Street façade to cut the amount of glazing.”

Today’s vote comes a week after the planning commission approved a 60-unit housing project with ground floor retail a block north from the Prado Group’s site, though it asked city planners to work with local developer Brian Spiers to refine the building’s design. The rental housing development will replace the former Home restaurant space at the corner of Church, 14th, and Market streets and include 12 percent of affordable units on site.

The Prado Group has also committed to setting aside its required five affordable units on-site. But as the Bay Area Reporter noted in a February 4 news story, the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association wants Prado and other developers to raise the amount of affordable units on site from 12 percent to 20 percent.

It has adopted a policy to not endorse any development that does not meet the 20 percent threshold. DTNA also criticized Prado for not including any affordable units on site at its nearby 38 Dolores (at Market Street) apartment building that includes a Whole Foods grocery.

“The affordability of the housing is a major issue we have with this project and the Prado Group in particular,” said DTNA vice president Erik Honda, who asked for the planning commission to postpone voting on the project for six weeks.

Honda said Prado had promised to include below-market-rate units at its 38 Dolores project but then changed course and opted to pay an in-lieu fee of 20 percent to the city.

“Prado owes us the 12 units they shorted us by their duplicitous nature,” said Honda during the discussions about the previous project.

Prado Group President and CEO Dan Safier said he “took umbrage at the revisionist history of the facts” in response to Honda’s comments. He pointed to a 2010 letter in which Prado stated it would pay nearly $5 million to the city to meet the in-lieu fee.

Safier also said that the company had identified a nearby property where 30 to 40 units of affordable housing could be built but the city rejected it.

“First of all, I respect DTNA immensely. They are a neighborhood organization that cares about land use and important issues in our city,” said Safier. “I respect their position on these important issues. I do think I need to clear the record though.”

DTNA also expressed concerns about the building’s design, one of several new in-fill developments proposed for upper Market Street that it has panned. It called for a more distinctive and bolder architecture for Prado’s building.

“This building design looks more like what I expect to see in downtown Daly City than I would on one of the great boulevards of the country,” said DTNA member Gary Weiss, who owns the nearby Ixia floral shop on Market Street.

Other neighborhood residents and groups, including the Castro Merchants, the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefits District, and the Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, expressed support for Prado’s project.

“I am very grateful for the mix, the variety of units they are offering and the mix of occupants they will bring into our neighborhood,” said resident Ted Olsson.

The development fronting Market Street will be a mix of 12 junior bedrooms, 10 one-bedrooms, 20 two-bedrooms, and three three-bedrooms.

A total of 5,217 square feet of commercial retail space would be incorporated into ground floor areas of the buildings fronting Market Street. They could be divided into smaller retail spaces or combined into several larger storefronts.

The new construction would be set back behind the existing building, which is deemed a historical resource and will be maintained, “to allow the distinctive terra cotta roofline of the funeral home to be seen at an oblique view much the way it is today,” according to the developer.

The proposal calls for a below-grade parking garage with 24 spaces accessed via 15th Street. There will also be 66 bicycle parking spots for residents, most accessed via the Market Street building’s lobby.

The project also includes the retention of an existing three-unit rent-controlled apartment building at 15th Street. Prado plans to make exterior improvements to it, including new windows, trim, and siding.

Prado will not decide until halfway through construction of the Sullivan’s site project whether the new units will be apartment rentals or condos for sale.

“It is likely to be a for-sale project but that has not been finalized yet,” said Safier.

— Matthew S. Bajko, February 11, 2016 @ 5:13 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


New leather-themed public parklet in SF a step closer to 2018 debut

A rendering of the proposed Eagle Plaza on 12th Street as seen from Harrison. Courtesy Build Inc.

A rendering of the proposed Eagle Plaza on 12th Street as seen from Harrison. Courtesy Build Inc.

A new $2 million leather-themed public parklet is one step closer to debuting in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood by 2018.

The city’s planning commission unanimously voted 5-0 at its meeting today (Thursday, February 11) to sign off on turning a block of 12th Street into a pedestrian plaza that would include a lane for vehicular traffic. The open space would be built in front of the gay-owned Eagle bar, whose owners have been vocal backers of the Eagle Plaza that takes its name from their establishment.

“We believe this space is definitely necessary,” said Eagle co-owner Lex Montiel. “Build Inc. has been very thoughtful with the community, not just the LGBT community but the neighbors in general.”

Gay planning commissioner Dennis Richards, who has been a patron of the Eagle bar since 1985, moved to approve the project, noting that it will provide much needed open space to the area.

“You didn’t Disneyfy this, it is very culturally sensitive,” said Richards. “It is incredibly additive not only to the Eagle but Western SOMA.”

The project will next go before the city’s Department of Public Works for final approval of the plan since it is being built on a city street. Planning commissioner Kathrin Moore urged that the oversight body be kept informed if there are any changes to the plaza design as various city agencies review it.

“The devil is in the details,” she said.

The Bay Area Reporter first broke the news about the 13,800 square foot parklet proposal a year ago. The proposal includes two different landscaped seating areas that would be built on 12th Street between Harrison and Bernice.

Several design elements, such as dark, stained concrete, are meant to celebrate SOMA’s ties to both the LGBT and leather communities. The color scheme for the public parklet is derived from the leather pride flag, which features blue, black and white colored stripes and a red heart.

Since the 1950s the neighborhood has been home to a number of gay bars and nightclubs, many catering to the leather scene. Today, most of the remaining LGBT nightlife establishments are centered on or near 11th Street between Folsom and Harrison streets, with the Eagle a block away.

The city has designated that section of western SOMA as part of an LGBTQ cultural heritage district. Backers of the Eagle Plaza contend it could serve as a focal point and main gathering spot for the LGBTQ district.

In September the Eastern Neighborhoods Citizen’s Advisory Committee gave its approval to the plaza plan. Local development firm Build Inc. has proposed paying for construction of the plaza as part of a $1.5 million in-kind agreement with the city related to the construction of its mixed-use development to be built across the street from the Eagle on what is now a surface parking lot at 1532 Harrison Street.

That project won approval in October and consists of a new seven-story 65-foot tall, mixed-use building with 136 dwelling units and about 1,600 square feet of ground floor commercial space that would open out onto the plaza at Harrison.

“This has been an absolute fun process, albeit a long one,” said Michael Yarne, a principal with Build Inc. “It is amazing to take different elements, the need for green space, the need to commemorate a longstanding cultural community the LGBTQ and leather community in Folsom Gulch …. the Eagle Plaza is the manifestation of that.”

With 12th Street being little used by vehicles, Yarne said it was the perfect roadway to be turned into a parklet.

“It is a really little unique piece of Western SOMA. It is the perfect place for this street to plaza conversion,” said Yarne. “It is the perfect place to do something special that does not disrupt traffic in any meaningful way.”

Build Inc. has agreed to pay for all ongoing maintenance, operation and programming of the plaza in perpetuity through the establishment of a Mello Roos District. According to the planning report, the develop is currently targeting the subject development and the development site immediately north, and the Eagle Tavern, as the boundaries for the district, whose members would pay an annual tax specifically for the cost to upkeep the plaza.

The plaza will include a flag pole, estimated to cost $8,500, situated in front of the Eagle bar. It is expected to be used to fly a leather pride flag following the decision in 2012 by the Castro Merchants group to no longer allow the flag to be raised on the flag pole in the gayborhood at the corner of Castro and Market Streets.

The decision came after complaints from some local activists who wanted to see the rainbow flag that flies from the flagpole in Harvey Milk Plaza lowered at various times to honor people who have died or during special events. In response, the merchants decided to institute a policy that banned ever lowering the rainbow flag or replacing it with other LGBT-related flags.

One of the activists involved in that fight, Michael Petrelis, wrote to the planning commission ahead of today’s hearing to inquire who would control the Eagle Plaza flag.

“I’m requesting that the developer, with whom I have left vmail, forthwith present written guidance as to how flagpole control issues will be processed, once the Eagle Plaza is created and operational for public use,” wrote Petrelis.

But the issue was not addressed during the hearing today, which saw no one speak out against the creation of the plaza. City planner Mat Snyder noted that the planning department is requiring that Eagle Plaza be part of the city’s public plaza program and would seek a nonprofit to be responsible for the operation and activation of the parklet.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 3:58 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


BREAKING: Sharper Future gives up on Duboce Triangle space

Maitri hospice has entered into a lease with Sharper Future for the ground floor space of their building at 100 Church Street. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Maitri hospice has entered into a lease with Sharper Future for the ground floor space of their building at 100 Church Street. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Sharper Future, the sex offender rehabilitation company, announced tonight (Wednesday, February 10) that it’s giving up on trying to move into the Duboce Triangle neighborhood.

“Sharper Future has decided to immediately halt efforts to move into 100 Church Street,” Mary-Perry Miller, the company’s president, said in a news release. “After Monday evening’s meeting, it is clear that our presence would be divisive for everyone concerned.

“Out of respect for the community and the very critical work that we do, we’ve elected to seek an alternative location.”

Sharper Future had signed a lease with Maitri hospice to move into the former home of a thrift store and medical clinic that had been occupied by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Audience members raise their hands at Monday's Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association meeting to show they signed a petition against Sharper Future. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

Audience members raise their hands at Monday’s Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association meeting to show they signed a petition against Sharper Future. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

However, after the deal was revealed in January, there was a strong backlash from neighborhood residents, who complained that there had been virtually no community outreach.

The Monday night meeting Miller mentioned occurred was the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association’s regular meeting, where some 200 residents came to discuss the situation with Sharper Future officials and gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener.

Wiener had already told the company to put its plans on hold, citing the lack of outreach. Sharper Future had sought to move into the space early this month. In a recent email to Wiener, Miller blamed him for her company’s troubles.

In a Facebook exchange tonight with the Bay Area Reporter, Duboce Triangle resident Devin Kordt-Thomas said, “The community did the right thing. Both Sharper Future and Maitri’s Board of Directors could have spared themselves this ordeal and, had they been forthcoming with their plans, learned earlier that 100 Church Street was not a suitable location for a sex offender rehab center. The neighborhood involvement on this issue was inspiring and I am thankful for everyone’s efforts.”

Kordt-Thomas, who’s with SF Coalition for Neighborhood Quality of Life, started a change.org petition opposing the Sharper Future move that drew almost 1,000 signatures.

The Bay Area Reporter will have more on this story soon

— Seth Hemmelgarn, February 10, 2016 @ 8:12 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


SF supes appoint queer woman to entertainment commission

Laura Thomas (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

Laura Thomas (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to appoint longtime activist Laura Thomas, a queer woman, to the public health seat on the city’s entertainment commission.

Thomas, 49, works as deputy state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. In almost 30 years as a San Francisco resident, she’s been involved in numerous organizations related to HIV/AIDS and other causes.

She was a member of the city’s ACT UP chapter and is currently a member of the HIV Prevention Planning Council, which advises the health department on HIV prevention. Among several other posts, she served as co-president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club and helped found the Dyke March.

In an interview today (Wednesday, February 10), Thomas said her priorities on the panel, which regulates and promotes the city’s entertainment and nightlife, would include “making sure that we maintain and support our LGBTQ entertainment venues.”

She pointed to the demise in recent years of bars such as Esta Noche and the Lexington.

Thomas said she wants to ensure “we’re doing everything we can to support our queer venues. They’re such an important part of what makes San Francisco great.”

The seat she’s taking became available after Demetri Moshoyannis, the gay man who serves as executive director of Folsom Street Events, had to resign from the commission when he moved out of San Francisco to the East Bay city of Castro Valley.

The supervisors’ rules committee recommended Joaquin Castillo Arana, a gay man who works at Genentech, to the seat, but at Tuesday’s full board meeting, Supervisor Jane Kim moved to appoint Thomas instead. Six other supervisors voted in favor of making Thomas the commissioner, with four voting against it. Once Thomas became the recommended candidate, all 11 supervisors voted for her.

In an email, Ivy Lee, an aide to Kim, said the supervisor “nominated Laura because of Laura’s qualifications and her passion … . Her life’s work has been dedicated to public health. She has multiple decades of experience on the ground and crafting policy and legislation around access and improvements to public health, including harm reduction initiatives and AIDS activism. When you have someone with the heart and the breadth and depth of expertise that Laura has, there was no question” in Kim’s mind that she’d be the right person for the seat.

Gay Supervisor Scott Wiener, one of the four supervisors who voted against Kim’s motion to make Thomas the recommended candidate, said in an interview that Thomas is “extremely well-qualified,” but he noted she recently became a member of another city panel.

“Joaquin is a stellar candidate,” and there was “a missed opportunity to bring a new person with great energy into the process,” Wiener said. “He has a strong background in public health and a strong background in nightlife,” having worked at a nightclub.

The District 8 supervisor added, “We have a lack of Latino representation on commissions in San Francisco.” He said he recently spoke at the city’s Latino Democratic Club, and “they specifically raised this issue with me.”

“Here we had an extremely well-qualified Latino LGBT candidate for the entertainment commission, and to me, that’s a no brainer,” Wiener said. “… We fought to make that happen, and we came out on the losing end.”

Supervisors Malia Cohen, Mark Farrell, and Katy Tang were the other three who voted with Wiener to keep Arana, who couldn’t be reached for comment.

Thomas said along with preserving queer nightspots, she also wants to look at protecting “healthy environments,” especially for “people who are attending and participating in entertainment and nightlife venues.”

That includes “reducing the harm from drug use, whether that’s alcohol and tobacco or illicit substances.” Thomas noted that California voters may soon vote to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

There’s an “opportunity in San Francisco to be really thoughtful around how we want to regulate marijuana use in entertainment venues, and I’m looking forward to those discussions,” said Thomas, who in December was one of a dozen people named by the supervisors to serve on the city’s Cannabis State Legalization Task Force, which is prepping local policy should state voters legalize marijuana use next year.

Along with Thomas and Arana, two other people had also applied to serve out the rest of Moshoyannis’ term, which expires July 1, 2017: Charles M. Stephanski, a nurse and retail clerk, and Sarah Sporik, a health care analyst. Stephanski is bisexual. Sporik’s commission application indicates she’s LGBT, but she didn’t respond to a phone message.

In an email to the Bay Area Reporter just before Thomas was appointed, Moshoyannis, whose group organizes the Folsom Street Fair and other events, said, “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Laura Thomas, and I think she’d make an incredible replacement”

He added, “I don’t know the other folks well enough to cast an opinion,” but “It’s certainly nice to see a competitive pool for this seat.”

 

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 5:24 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


SF planning staff recommends approval of housing slated for Castro funeral home

A rendering of the 2254 Market Street housing development that would incorporate Sullivan's Funeral Home. Courtesy the Prado Group.

A rendering of the 2254 Market Street housing development that would incorporate Sullivan’s Funeral Home. Courtesy the Prado Group.

As expected, San Francisco planners are recommending approval of a mixed-use redevelopment project that would incorporate a Castro funeral home building.

At its February 11 meeting, the planning commission is expected to vote on the Prado Group’s revamp of Sullivan’s Funeral Home at 2254 Market Street and its adjacent parking lot. The developer has proposed incorporating the existing structure into a new building containing 45 apartments and a townhouse with two units constructed on the property’s 15th Street side.

The Prado Group has committed to setting aside its required five affordable units on-site. The development fronting Market Street will be a mix of 12 junior bedrooms, 10 one-bedrooms, 20 two-bedrooms, and three three-bedrooms.

A total of 5,217 square feet of commercial retail space would be incorporated into ground floor areas of the buildings fronting Market Street. They could be divided into smaller retail spaces or combined into several larger storefronts.

The new construction would be set back behind the existing building, which is deemed a historical resource and will be maintained, “to allow the distinctive terra cotta roofline of the funeral home to be seen at an oblique view much the way it is today,” according to the developer.

The proposal calls for a below-grade parking garage with 24 spaces accessed via 15th Street. There will also be 66 bicycle parking spots for residents, most accessed via the Market Street building’s lobby.

The project also includes the retention of an existing three-unit rent-controlled apartment building at 15th Street. Prado plans to make exterior improvements to it, including new windows, trim, and siding.

“The project fulfills the intent of the Market and Octavia Area Plan to infill mixed-use residential and commercial development in transit-served locations that create active, vibrant streetscapes,” wrote planner Marcelle Boudreaux in his report. “The project is necessary and desirable, is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood and
would not be detrimental to persons or adjacent properties in the vicinity.”

Prado built the nearby 38 Dolores (at Market Street) apartment building that includes a Whole Foods grocery. It will not decide until halfway through construction of the Sullivan’s site project whether those units will be apartment rentals or condos for sale.

“2240 Market Street is a LEED Platinum-targeted retail and residential mixed-use development, inspired by the Upper Market’s diverse heritage, that intends to revitalize the 2200 block of Market Street between Noe and Sanchez streets consistent with the Market Octavia Plan goals,” wrote Prado Group President and CEO Dan Safier and Jon Yolles, a senior project manager with Prado.

As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a February 4 news story, the building’s design is one of several new in-fill developments proposed for upper Market Street that have been panned by the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association. It is calling for more distinctive and bolder architecture for the buildings.

DTNA also wants Prado and other developers to raise the amount of affordable units on site from 12 percent to 20 percent. It has adopted a policy to not endorse any development that does not meet the 20 percent threshold.

At yesterday’s planning commission meeting, the members agreed with the design complaints raised in regard to a 62-unit project a block north from the Prado Group’s site.

Although they ended up approving the proposal to turn the former Home restaurant space at the corner of Church, 14th, and Market streets into a rental housing development, the commissioners instructed developer Brian Spiers to work with planning staff and DTNA on refining the design from Miami-based firm Arquitectonica.

Yet, at a time when the city is facing a housing shortage, the commissioners also voted to have Spiers turn two rental units fronting 14th Street into retail spaces.

The Prado group may also face concerns about its proposed design. It does have the support of the Castro Merchants, the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefits District, and the Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association.

“San Francisco has a housing shortage which is unconscionable. We need to make it easier to move forward with appropriate development. This project has been carefully and extensively vetted by city planners and it conforms to zoning rules,” wrote EVNA President Crispin Hollings. “As such, as for the reasons cited above, the EVNA board believes this project should be approved.”

The planning commission meeting will begin at noon Thursday in Room 400 at City Hall.

— Matthew S. Bajko, February 5, 2016 @ 8:32 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


SF leather-themed Eagle Plaza heads to planning for approval

A view of the proposed Eagle Plaza on 12th Street shows a new garden area with the gay Eagle bar in the back right corner. Courtesy Build Inc.

A view of the proposed Eagle Plaza on 12th Street shows a new garden area with the gay Eagle bar in the back right corner. Courtesy Build Inc.

A San Francisco leather-themed public plaza planned for South of Market is headed to the city’s planning commission for approval after a three month delay.

Expected to be heard in November, the $2 million project known as Eagle Plaza will instead be taken up by the oversight body at its meeting Thursday, February 11. With broad community support and the backing of planning staff, it is expected that the project will be passed by the planning commission.

“The proposed streetscape improvements support the policies and projects established in the Western Soma Area Plan,” wrote planner Mat Snyder in his report on the plaza. “The project would enhance pedestrian safety, provide additional public open space and community programming opportunities, and contribute to an improved public realm in this rapidly developing neighborhood.”

In a letter to the planning commission signaling its support of the project, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence noted that there are no parks or public space in that section of SOMA, something a number of city reports and task forces have called to be built.

“It also has a rich LGBTQ and leather culture that various community-driven city plans have identified as being important,” wrote Sister Anni Coque l’Doo, abbess and president of the drag nun philanthropic group. “Eagle Plaza will meet both of these needs – for a new public green space and for an area that celebrates Folsom Gulch’s character in a indulgent way that’s inviting for all. We have been waiting for a project like this for a long time.”

The Bay Area Reporter first broke the news about the 13,800 square foot parklet proposal a year ago. It proposes to turn a block of 12th Street, between Harrison and Bernice, fronting the gay-owned Eagle bar into a parklet with design elements celebrating SOMA’s ties to both the LGBT and leather communities.

Since the 1950s the neighborhood has been home to a number of gay bars and nightclubs, many catering to the leather scene. Today, most of the remaining LGBT nightlife establishments are centered on or near 11th Street between Folsom and Harrison streets, with the Eagle a block away.

A rendering of how a block of 12th Street would be rebuilt as a pedestrian plaza. Courtesy Build, Inc.

A rendering of how a block of 12th Street would be rebuilt as a pedestrian plaza. Courtesy Build, Inc.

The city has designated that section of western SOMA as part of an LGBTQ cultural heritage district. Backers of the Eagle Plaza contend it could serve as a focal point and main gathering spot for the LGBTQ district.

In September the Eastern Neighborhoods Citizen’s Advisory Committee gave its approval to the plaza plan. Local development firm Build Inc. has proposed paying for construction of the plaza as part of a $1.5 million in-kind agreement with the city related to the construction of its mixed-use development to be built across the street from the Eagle on what is now a surface parking lot at 1532 Harrison Street.

That project won approval in October and consists of a new seven-story 65-foot tall, mixed-use building with 136 dwelling units and about 1,600 square feet of ground floor commercial space that would open out onto the plaza at Harrison.

A rendering from above what the new parklet would look like, including a new "porch" seating area in front of the gay Eagle bar. Courtesy Build, Inc.

A rendering from above of what the new Eagle Plaza would look like, including a new “porch” seating area in front of the gay Eagle bar. Courtesy Build, Inc.

The block-long Eagle Plaza would maintain a single lane of south bound traffic defined by a series of fixed planters. According to the planning staff report, the plaza design would allow for vehicle through traffic, but also enable the lane to be closed for special events.

Other features of the plaza include a new bulb-out occupying the width of 12th Street extending into Harrison Street; café seats and additional movable seating; landscaping in raised planters; space for food and other kiosks, and pedestrian-scale plaza lighting.

Build Inc. has agreed to pay for all ongoing maintenance, operation and programming of the plaza in perpetuity through the establishment of a Mello Roos District. According to the planning report, the develop is currently targeting the subject development and the development site immediately north, and the Eagle Tavern, as the boundaries for the district, whose members would pay an annual tax specifically for the cost to upkeep the plaza.

The Eagle bar owners have been vocal supporters of the plaza project. To date, the planning department has received more than 200 letters in support and no opposition to the project.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 7:46 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Redevelopment approved for former Home restaurant space in SF Castro district

A rendering of the redevelopment for the former Home restaurant space in the Castro. Courtesy Brian Spiers Development.

A rendering of the 14th Street facade of the redevelopment slated for the former Home restaurant space in the Castro. Courtesy Brian Spiers Development.

The city’s planning commission has signed off on the redevelopment of the former Home restaurant space on upper Market Street in San Francisco’s Castro district.

But at its meeting today (Thursday, February 4) the oversight body voted unanimously 6-0 to also have planning staff work with the developer and his architects on refining the design of the proposed building at 2100 Market Street.

A key concern was the building’s facade being too monotonous, with commissioners expressing a desire to see a design worthy of such a prominent corner lot on the city’s main thoroughfare.

“This building is trying too hard to do too much,” said planning commissioner Kathrin Moore, adding that, “you need differentiation in the façade articulation.”

They also asked that two rental units proposed on the ground floor of the development’s 14th Street side instead be changed into retail uses.

“It is rare there on 14th Street to look into someone’s house. You will have dead space,” said planning commissioner Rich Hillis. “There is a big Muni stop there. People are going to be drawing their curtains.”

Overall, the commissioners were pleased with the proposal to turn a vacant restaurant into a modern building with affordable housing on site.

“It is a carefully thought out project,” said planning commissioner Michael Antonini, adding of the design, “I think it strikes a good balance.”

Hillis noted that the building is much better for the site than having an outlet of Mexican fast-food chain Chipotle operate there. At the hearing in 2013 where the commission voted down the eatery’s permit request, Hillis recalled many people preferred seeing housing be built on the triangular lot.

“I think we got to a better place,” said Hillis, who did express a desire to see the design tweaked. “Its bulk and massing works here.”

Planning commission vice president Dennis Richards, a gay man who lives  nearby the project site in Duboce Triangle, expressed faith that developer Brian Spiers and his architects could work out the design issues in consultation with planning staff and neighborhood representatives.

“I think with a little more time you will have a complete winner here,” said Richards.

Spiers said he is amenable to swapping out the two units of housing for retail on 14th Street. And he urged the commission not to delay approving the project; a motion to postpone the vote until March 3 failed after the commissioners deadlocked 3-3.

“I’d like get approved today and work with staff on the design,” he said. “I don’t know what I could do different and not getting approved now would achieve.”

The vote is a harbinger for another six mixed-use redevelopment projects slated for upper Market Street between Duboce Avenue and Castro Street that could come before the planning commission this year.

The Arquitectonica-designed 62-unit building at 2100 Market Street would replace the existing corner restaurant space, last operated as Home, and attached parking lot.

The building would mirror a flatiron design with the corner featuring glassed living rooms with dark gray metal guardrails. Both sides of the building would feature pop-out bay windows and Juliette balconies.

The building, which would range from four to seven stories on the sloping parcel, would have six studio units, 31 one-bedroom units, and 25 two-bedroom units. Residents would have access to a 4,960 square foot roof top deck.

Seven of the rental units would be set aside as affordable, and a new restaurant would be sought to operate out of a corner 2,600 square foot commercial space. In a first for the corridor, the building will not have any parking for cars but will include 62 bicycle spaces indoors and another five outside on the Market Street sidewalk.

Spiers, a local developer, also owns nearby bar Lucky 13 and built the cube-like Linea development, designed by the same architects, a block north on Market.

“I feel this proposed project will transform an under-utilized site which is currently an eye sore and attracts bad behavior,” Spiers told the commission.

But as a front-page story in today’s Bay Area Reporter noted, the project is one of several in-fill mixed-use developments proposed for lots along upper Market Street that have sparked concerns about their designs and complaints they include too few units of affordable housing. A number of neighborhood groups have demanded that the new projects set aside 20 percent of their units as affordable above the current requirement of 12 percent on-site.

The Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association has also voiced strong objections to the design of the building for the Home site and wants to see bolder, more modern architecture. It urged the commission to delay voting on the project for at least six weeks in order for Spiers to rework his project to meet the group’s concerns.

“I am not convinced the design is there yet. I feel, if we want to set a precedent, we want to have something ground breaking and impressive so it sets a bar for others to follow,” said architect Tom McElroy, who sits on the DTNA land use committee.

DTNA board member David Troup, the group’s past president, pointed to problems with the outcome of Spier’s Linea project as cause for concern with the design of his latest building.

“Mr. Spiers’s last project Linea we spent a lot of time on. Frankly, we were a little disappointed about how the building once built looked. It was quite a bit different from the renderings,” said Troup.

However, others argued for the commission to approve the project. Several nearby merchants and residents noted the site has been vacant for too long and that it is time for it to be redeveloped.

“For the last five years the site has been vacant and a magnet for elicit activity and covered in graffiti,” said Dylan MacNiven, a co-owner of the nearby Woodhouse Fish Company and operator of the Swedish American Hall up the street. “As someone doing business across the street, we would like to see that building with some activity in it and like to see it soon because it has been a long time. We would like to see something there and something soon.”

Adrea Aiello, executive director of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, echoed those comments.

“I urge you not to delay this project. It has to get built,” she said. “We have to get that old building torn down and the new building built very, very soon.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, February 4, 2016 @ 6:27 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


SF Castro area bar Churchill a step closer to upstairs expansion

Courtesy Churchill bar

Courtesy Churchill bar

The Churchill bar in San Francisco’s Castro district is one step closer to being able to expand into an upstairs space.

The planning commission today (Thursday, February 4) on a unanimous 6-0 vote recommended the Board of Supervisors approve a proposed zoning change to allow the bar to do so.

Know for its specialty cocktails, the bar is located at 198 Church Street on the corner of 14th and Market streets across from the Safeway shopping center. It has an existing second floor, that once housed a medical cannabis dispensary, that it would like to incorporate into the bar.

It had been renting out the area as a special events space, but according to the planning department, it was doing so without proper permits. And under current zoning rules, bar-type uses are not allowed on second floors in buildings along upper Market Street.

To allow for Churchill to legally expand into the second floor, the bar’s owners worked with the office of gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, planning staff, and neighborhood groups to revise the zoning rules.

Under the proposal, which must be passed by the supervisors, a bar on upper Market Street would be allowed to expand into a second floor space if it had not been used for residential in the last five years, there was an existing internal staircase connecting the two floors, and did not expand the building’s existing envelope.

“We are definitely supportive of the entitlement of the second floor for this particular bar in question. They have been a good neighbor,” said David Troup with the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association. “Allowing an event space for parties is a good thing. We don’t have enough of those in the neighborhood.”

As written, the zoning change would only allow Churchill to expand. There is a possibility of seeing the rules revised to allow other upper Market Street bars or restaurants also make use of second floor spaces in the future.

But Troup voiced concern about seeing the planning commission expand the zoning change to cover other businesses since that has not been fully vetted by the community.

“I am a little weary to lend support for a general expansion of this to restaurants,” he said. “We haven’t wrapped our heads around that yet.”

Planning commission vice president Dennis Richards, a former DTNA president, suggested he would like to see the rules revised so restaurants on upper Market Street could potentially expand to upstairs spaces similar to the Eureka Restaurant and Lounge on 18th Street in the heart of the Castro district.

Such a possibility, said Richards, “I think it is great.”

Should the supervisors adopt the zoning change, then Churchill’s owners will need to apply for a conditional use permit from the planning commission in order to utilize its second-floor area.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 3:22 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


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