Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 11 / 15 March 2018

UPDATED: Gas line shut off in SF’s gay district, the Castro

A ruptured gas line in the heart of San Francisco’s iconic gay neighborhood was finally shut down at about 3 p.m. today (Thursday, October 21), approximately two hours after the some of neighborhood was first blocked off.

Police and fire department personnel began evacuating the Castro District sometime after noon today due to a strong smell of gas in the area.

San Francisco Police Department spokesman Albie Esparza, who was on the scene this afternoon had told the Bay Area Reporter there was a gas leak in the area and that PG&E officials were  immediately on the scene.

San Francisco Fire Department Spokeswoman Lt. Mindy Talmadge told the B.A.R. that a private contractor doing work on Castro Street near Walgreens apparently ruptured the gas line with a backhoe.

She said there have been no reported injuries.

A loud hissing sound could be heard in the area. The noise was caused by the gas line rupture, said PG&E spokesman Joe Molica.

“We are working as quickly as we can,” said Molica, earlier this afternoon, estimating it could take as long as two hours to repair.

The gas was coming out of a 2-inch plastic distribution line. Molica said for safety reasons PG&E crews had to dig by hand to reach the line and then squeeze it off.

PG&E received its first calls about the leak around 1 p.m.

Talmadge had cautioned that this sort of accident occurs often when contractors are doing work on the city’s streets and that Castro residents need not worry of a fire breaking out similar to what occurred on the Peninsula last month.

“If it were me and my neighborhood, I would” worry as well, said Talmadge. “But this is not a transmission line; it is a service line which is smaller.”

The Castro Muni station has reopened, but the Muni bus lines 24-Divisadero, 33-Stanyan, and 35-Eureka are being re-routed out of the area.

Businesses and homes around the corner of Castro and 18th Streets have been completely evacuated, according to public safety officials.

At the moment traffic is blocked along Castro Street at Market, and on 18th and Hartford Streets. Vehicles are being allowed to travel on Market Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, as it heads towards Twin Peaks.

It was over a month ago on Thursday, September 9 that a gas line exploded in San Bruno south of San Francisco and engulfed an entire neighborhood in flames. Six people died and dozens were left homeless.

According to eyewitness accounts in the Castro, it appears PG&E workers are digging into the roadway near the bar 440 at 440 Castro Street and Citibank  to try to determine what is causing the gas smell.

Several Muni buses are parked on streets in the area with no passengers on board. Bus driver Rosario Hoskins was driving her 33-Stanyan bus down 18th Street when she said she smelled gas and the police told her to stop and have her passengers exit the vehicle.

Erik Schulz was talking to a pharmacist at the Walgreens located at the corner of 18th and Castro Streets around 1:15 when he began to smell gas. The store manager had everyone evacuate at that point.

“Thank God it is not another San Bruno, that is what I was thinking,” said Schulz, who finds himself stranded as his car is parked behind the store in a city parking lot. “It looks like they are doing a good job shutting things down.”

Castro resident James Smith was coming home from the nearby Safeway when he began smelling the gas. He is unable to get into his apartment building at 18th and Castro Streets due to the situation.

He said there are dogs and cats in his building that he and his neighbors are worried about their safety.

District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty is on the scene monitoring developments. Decked out in San Francisco Giants gear, Dufty said he was meeting with staff from the API Wellness Center near City Hall when an aide told him of the gas leak.

The Bay Area Reporter will have more information on the situation throughout the day.

— Matthew S. Bajko, October 21, 2010 @ 2:05 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Disney opens San Francisco store as Sears adds toy shops to its Bay Area locations

Disney is returning to San Francisco’s world-famous Union Square shopping district this week with the opening of a brand new, technologically upgraded store it hopes will dazzle children of all ages.

The store, at 39 Stockton Street, officially opens Friday, October 29 and 10 percent of the first day’s sales will be donated to the local Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Nearly two years ago Disney closed its more prominently located store, operated by an outside company, on Powell Street as part of a worldwide redesign of its merchandise outlets. The family entertainment company took back control of its branded stores and set out to add its own unique blend of fantasy and high-tech gadgetry to shoppers’ retail experience.

Customers stepping inside the San Francisco store, the company’s eighth to open in North America, will find trees that come alive, a magic mirror where princesses speak, and a theater where children control the programming.

“We wanted a destination and a place to have interactive experiences. We hope this will be children’s best 30 minutes of their day,” said Vince Mikolay, who is in charge of global business development for the Disney Stores.

By the end of the year Disney plans to open 20 stores worldwide, with its flagship New York location in Times Square the next to open on November 9.

Each store is uniquely branded to the city it is in, with merchandise specific to that locale. In San Francisco Mickey Mouse adorns t-shirts and mugs with the city’s name, as does Tinker Bell on a variety of women’s clothing.

The store’s wall murals are also an homage to the city-by-the-bay, with Mary Poppins flying over Coit Tower and Cinderella’s carriage galloping across the Golden Gate Bridge. The bumbling twins from Alice in Wonderland ­– Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum – hold hands in front of the Transamerica Pyramid.

“We are really excited to be back in San Francisco,” said Molly Adams, vice president and general manger of Disney Store North America. “The Disney Store design team took inspiration from the City’s architecture and surrounding environments to once again re-imagine the Disney Store experience, and deliver a destination that is both authentically Disney yet tailored for local San Francisco families.”

One of the key features of the two-level 6,400-square-foot store is its princess area, where three crystal chandeliers hang overhead. A wave of a magic wand brings various storybook heroines, such as Ariel from The Little Mermaid or Tiana, the star of The Princess and the Frog, to life in a wall-mounted mirror.

For boys (and adult men) there is a station staffed by Ridemakerz where they can make their own version of the automobile characters from the Disney-Pixar film Cars. Upstairs is a theater area where children can select clips from Disney films and shows to be screened.

“It is like a jukebox,” said Adams, adding that the idea is to make the store a destination in itself. “The more opportunities for families to do things together, the more likely we are to achieve that goal.”

Ninety percent of the merchandise is exclusive to the stores and cannot be bought from other retailers or at the company’s theme parks in Anaheim or Orlando.

The new Disney Store, the first to welcome shoppers in northern California, is the second Bay Area toy store to open in time for the holiday season. Last Saturday Sears opened Toy Shops in five Bay Area stores, including its downtown Oakland location at 1955 Broadway and at the San Bruno store at 1178 El Camino Real.

The Illinois-based company opened 79 toy shops in stores across the country this month. Like Disney, it is trying to brand them as more than just a way to buy stuffed animals or dolls but as places of entertainment for the whole family.

The shops, which were test marketed last year in the Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco markets, offer a hand-picked selection of toys and a “play as you shop” experience.

“The consumer response to our Toy Shops that were launched last year was so strong that we wanted to extend them to more families in more markets,” stated Dev Mukherjee, president of Seasonal and Toys for Sears Holdings. “Sears is committed to providing parents with the tools, guidance and toy selection they need to foster play within their households. We have also made our toys shops as play friendly as possible by adding interactive displays and even a kid-sized hot air balloon to delight our youngest customers.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 12:27 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

At town hall, Obama continues to deflect blame on DADT

At a youth town hall in Washington today, today [Thursday, October 14], President Barack Obama (pictured at right) reiterated his support for ending the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on gays serving openly, but he again put the blame on the Senate for not ending it.

The discussion came around the time his administration requested that U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips stay her injunction barring enforcement of DADT. She issued her decision Tuesday.

“This is not a question of whether the policy will end,” said Obama. “This policy will end and it will end on my watch. But I do have an obligation to make sure that I am following some of the rules. I can’t simply ignore laws that are out there. I’ve got to work to make sure that they are changed.”

His remarks were in response to Bridget Todd, an English teacher at Howard University in Washington. She asked Obama about why he hasn’t signed an executive order ending DADT, as President Harry Truman did to integrate the military in 1948.

She noted that Obama’s publicly opposed the military ban, and said she’d voted for him based on his “alleged commitment to equality for all Americans, gay and straight.”

Obama said, “… I have said very clearly, including in a State of the Union address, that I’m against ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and that we’re going to end this policy.”

But he said that unlike in Truman’s case, “this is not a situation in which with a stroke of a pen I can simply end the policy” because Congress “explicitly passed a law that took away the power of the executive branch to end this policy unilaterally.”

The president said he’s gotten some top military staff, including Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to support changing or ending the policy. He believes there are “enough votes in the Senate to go ahead and remove this constraint on me, as the House has already done, so that I can go ahead and end it.”

Last month, the Senate rejected a motion to break a Republican-led filibuster against an annual defense spending bill that included language aimed at ending DADT.

Obama also referred to Phillips’s ruling and said, “I agree with the basic principle that anybody who wants to serve in our armed forces and make sacrifices on our behalf, on behalf of our national security, anybody should be able to serve. And they shouldn’t have to lie about who they are in order to serve.”

He said the country’s “moving in the direction of ending this policy” but the process has to be “orderly, because we are involved in a war right now.”

The president also touched on other LGBT-related issues.

Allie Vonparis, a junior at University of Maryland-College Park, described herself as a victim of “anonymous, hurtful, degrading harassment over the Internet.”

She said police and university officials haven’t been able to stop it, and she asked the president what he could do to stop such attacks while preserving free speech. Vonparis (only the phonetic spelling of her name was available) also referred to several recent suicides apparently related to anti-LGBT harassment.

“Obviously our heart breaks when we read about what happened at Rutgers, when we read about some of these other young people who are doing nothing to deserve the kind of harassment and bullying that just completely gets out of hand,” the president said, referring to Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University student who committed suicide after his roommate broadcast him online kissing a man.

The president said the Department of Education recently had a summit to talk about how federal officials could help local and state governments “set up structures where young people feel safe, where there’s a trigger that goes off when this kind of bullying starts taking place so that immediately school officials can nip it at the bud?”

Dealing with speech on the Internet is difficult the president noted, but he said at schools, for example, “there is nothing wrong with instituting policies that say that harassment of any form, whether it comes through the Internet or whether it happens to you face to face, is unacceptable; that we’ve got zero tolerance” for harassment based on sexual orientation or other categories.

He said it’s important to make sure every institution, including schools and workplaces “know that in some cases there are laws against this kind of harassment and that prosecutions will take place when somebody violates those laws.”

The president didn’t specifically mention the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would amend federal law to require schools and districts receiving federal funds to specifically prohibit bullying and harassment in their codes of conduct. That policy would include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Obama also noted, “The law is a powerful thing but the law doesn’t always change what’s in people’s hearts. …I’ve got two daughters, 12 and nine, and Michelle and I spend a lot of time talking to them about putting themselves in other people’s shoes and seeing through other people’s eyes. And if somebody is different from you, that’s not something you criticize, that’s something that you appreciate.”

A tweet that was read at the meeting said, “Dear President Obama, do you think being gay or trans is a choice?”

The president said he doesn’t “profess to be an expert,” but he said, “I don’t think it’s a choice. I think that people are born with a certain makeup, and that we’re all children of God. We don’t make determinations about who we love. And that’s why I think that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 14, 2010 @ 5:04 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Group that works with youth opposes sit/lie ban

Larkin Street Youth Services, a San Francisco agency that helps LGBT and other youth with needs such as housing, has come out against the proposed ban on sitting or lying on the city’s sidewalks. The sit/lie ban – Proposition L – is on the November ballot.

“The young people we serve are on San Francisco’s streets through no fault of their own,” Sherilyn Adams (pictured at right), Larkin Street’s executive director, says in an opinion piece issued this week. “These are kids whose parents are unable or unwilling to care for them. Life circumstances far beyond their control have left them without a safe place to call home. If they are lying on the city’s sidewalks, it’s because they have no other place to go.”

Adams says the measure “will do nothing to address the issues that led to its creation” and will only lead to more unpaid fines and bench warrants. Laws already exist to address the “dangerous, disruptive” behavior the measure’s backers worry about, she writes.

“We believe that the real problem is the city’s lack of service-rich housing for homeless 18 – 24-year-olds. Larkin Street estimates that roughly 5,700 youth are homeless or marginally housed in San Francisco each year. There are currently about 350 housing beds to accommodate them,” added Adams.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 11:11 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Sex worker wins SF students’ mock school board race

Sex worker elected to school board.

That would be the headline if San Francisco’s public high school students had their way.

More than 8,000 students recently participated in a mock election in which Starchild (pictured at left), a bisexual sex worker, grabbed a bigger percentage of the vote than anyone else, with 41.8 percent. Tom Chan came in second with 32.2 percent.

The San Francisco Unified School District released the results today [Wednesday, October 13].

Starchild appeared with other school board candidates at a Mission High School  forum in September.

In a statement, Starchild, who’s also the local Libertarian party’s outreach director, said students “are more likely than their parents to vote for alternative party candidates, and to question the status quo on a fundamental level. Older people are more likely to be socially conservative and to believe there is something wrong with prostitution, or to think that a candidate who goes by a single name and looks kind of alternative can’t be taken seriously.”

Not fairing so well in the election was out gay Assemblyman  Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who just barely lost his District 13 seat to Republican candidate Laura Peter, a lawyer. Peter got 50.9 percent of the vote, while Ammiano had 49.1 percent.

But other Democratic candidates in several close statewide races won handily over their Republican competitors.

Attorney General Jerry Brown beat former eBay CEO Meg Whitman in their bid for governor, 45.2 percent to 13.2 percent.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-San Francisco) had a whopping 61.2 percent, easily beating former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who got 9.9 percent in her bid for Boxer’s job.

In the race for lieutenant governor, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was victorious over incumbent Abel Maldonado with 55.6 percent of the vote to Maldonado’s 9.3 percent.

San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris got 47.4 percent of the students’ votes, compared to Los Angeles DA Steve Cooley’s 14.7 percent, in their race for attorney general.

Locally, in the race to replace termed out, openly gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty in District 8, Scott Wiener, another out gay man, won. The district’s statement announcing the results didn’t list what percentage of the votes he got, or how the other candidates in that race did.

Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana in the state, narrowly passed with 51.2 percent of the students’ votes. 48.8 percent voted against the measure. (The proposal would still not allow people under 21 to use or possess the drug.)

San Francisco’s Proposition L, which would ban sitting or lying on the city’s sidewalks, lost overwhelmingly. The vote was 73.1 percent to 26.9 percent.

In the district’s statement, Brian Leung, a Student Advisory Council member, said, “Many of us had significant discussions about the issues, things like civil rights and the ‘sit-lie’ proposition, and I feel we made informed decisions.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 13, 2010 @ 5:21 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Mayor names Barbara Garcia new health chief as Katz takes LA job

Mayor Gavin Newsom officially announced today (Thursday, October 13) that he would appoint Barbara Garcia as the city’s new director of public health now that openly gay Dr. Mitch Katz has agreed to lead the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

Newsom first disclosed his choice to replace Katz last night at the Mayor’s Latino Heritage Month Celebration and Awards ceremony, where Garcia was honored for her contributions to the Latino community in health and medicine. Garcia is currently the Deputy Director of Health in the San Francisco Department of Public Health and her selection had been rumored for weeks since news broke that Katz wanted to relocate to L.A.

“There’s no one better prepared than Barbara Garcia to hit the ground running as Director of the Department of Public Health and build on Dr. Mitch Katz’s remarkable record of achievements,” said Mayor Newsom in a statement released this afternoon. “Barbara’s extensive public health experience and her deep understanding of the City’s diverse communities uniquely qualify her to lead the Department and ensure San Francisco’s continued leadership on public health issues and outcomes.”

Katz stated having served as health chief for the last 13 years was “a tremendous honor and joy.” He added that he was “thrilled” with the selection of Garcai as he successor.

“Having been selected to run the Los Angeles system, the 2nd largest safety net system in the country, is a testimony to our great successes in San Francisco and I am confident Barbara will continue to build on those successes to protect and improve the health of all San Franciscans,” stated Katz, who plans to take over in his new role in January.

Garcia has been the Deputy Director of Health since 1999.  She is responsible for Community Programs, a $320 million division with over 2,000 civil service employees and over 150 community-based organizations delivering Primary Care, Behavioral Health, HIV/AIDS, Maternal and Child Health, Prevention and Health Promotion, Housing and Urban Health, Indigent Health, and Placement services.

While in this position, she has implemented innovative programs to meet the Mayor’s priorities to reduce homelessness and violence, including a medically supervised sobering center and intensive case management program for public inebriates, citywide homeless outreach teams, violence response teams and supportive housing.

Garcia previously served as Director of Community Substance Abuse Services and Director of Homeless Services in San Francisco, Associate Administrator of AIDS at the Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in Rockville, Maryland, and Executive Director for Salud Para La Gente Health Center, a rural health center that provides primary and behavior health care to over 10,000 farm worker families, in Watsonville, California.

Garcia received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Community Studies Education Credentialing Program from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a Master’s of Public Administration degree from the University of San Francisco.

The Bay Area Reporter will have more on Katz’s leaving and Garcia’s taking over as health director in next week’s paper out Thursday, October 21.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 4:57 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Out lesbian lawyer Linda Colfax to become SF judge Jan 14

Out lesbian lawyer Linda Colfax (pictured at left) announced today that we will be sworn in to a seat on the San Francisco Superior Court January 14.

Colfax defeated three opponents in the June Primary to win outright the local court’s open Seat 6. She will become the 12th out person to currently serve on the local bench.

Her investiture ceremony and reception
will begin at 5:30 p.m. January 14th in the Milton Marks Auditorium inside the state building, 455 Golden Gate Avenue.

— Matthew S. Bajko, October 11, 2010 @ 4:00 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Rally with Milk confidant and supe candidates postponed

A rally featuring Cleve Jones and candidates for supervisor Rafael Mandelman and Debra Walker had been set for today (Monday, October 11), but late Sunday night, Mandelman’s campaign sent this message:

“The Cleve Jones Coming Out Day event scheduled for Monday Oct. 11 at noon has been postponed, there will be no press conference at City Hall Monday. We apologize for the inconvenience and will send a new advisory when his visit is re-scheduled. Thank you for your time and patience.”

Stephany Ashley, Mandelman’s campaign manager, explained in an e-mail, “Cleve had to reschedule due to travel complications. A new date for the press conference is being worked out between Cleve and the campaigns now, and once a date is settled on we will be sure to let you know.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 9:43 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Milk confidant to rally with SF supe candidates

Cleve Jones, who helped elect Harvey Milk as the nation’s first openly gay city supervisor, will be at a rally Monday, October 11 for two candidates for San Francisco supervisor.

Rafael Mandelman, who’s running for what’s considered Milk’s former seat, is one of those candidates. The District 8 spot he’s seeking includes the Castro area, where Milk rose to fame.

The other candidate Jones is supporting is Debra Walker, who’s running for the District 6 seat. That district includes the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood.

Milk was one of the country’s first out gay elected officials when he became a supervisor n 1977. He was assassinated in City Hall in 1978, along with then-Mayor George Moscone.

The rally begins at noon Monday – National Coming Out Day – across the street from San Francisco City Hall. Out gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who also worked with Milk, is expected at the rally, as well.

Jones, who now lives in Palm Springs, is coming to San Francisco to endorse and walk precincts for Walker and Mandelman.

“Jones’ visit for Walker and Mandelman marks an important historic connection between the Harvey Milk era and today’s LGBT leaders in San Francisco,” a statement from Mandelman’s campaign said.

“Walker and Mandelman have both been long city leaders on issues that were key to Milk’s legacy–LGBT civil rights, rent control, living wage jobs, labor-community coalitions, and strong support for small neighborhood business.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 8, 2010 @ 5:07 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Longtime aide leaving Dufty to raise baby

Anyone who’s ever worked with out gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty has probably also dealt with Boe Hayward (pictured at right), his longtime legislative aide.

But not for much longer. Hayward’s wife is about to have a baby, and Hayward’s leaving City Hall.

“After excellent practice taking care of Bevan, Boe is ready to have a baby of his own,” quipped Alex Randolph, Dufty’s other aide, in an e-mail to people who’ve worked with Hayward.

Hayward managed Dufty’s first campaign for supervisor of District 8, which includes the Castro gayborhood, in 2002, and they’ve worked together ever since.

“I feel like not working with Boe is going to be harder than leaving office,” said Dufty, who’s running for mayor. He’ll be termed out as supervisor come November.

Hayward’s “been such a constant in my life as my campaign manager and as my legislative aide. Everyone loves Boe, and I’m no different,” added Dufty, who pleaded during an interview, “Don’t make me cry.”

He said his new legislative aide will be Todd David, who’s been “very active in public school advocacy.” David has a wife and two children, said Dufty.

Uncharacteristically, Hayward didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But anyone’s who’s worked closely with him is invited to talk to him directly and raise a toast Friday, October 15 at Lucky 13, 2140 Market Street, starting at 6 p.m. No RSVP is needed, and there will be a cash-only bar.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 3:28 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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