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

City seeks help in suspected Castro arsons

San Francisco’s police and fire departments are asking for the public’s help in the four suspected arson attacks that have occurred this week in the largely gay Castro area.

The city’s Arson Task Force is investigating the cases, and officers in the Mission and Park districts are “being vigilant in their patrols of the area as a preventative measure,” a police statement released today (Friday, February 4), said.

“We want people in the Castro and Duboce Triangle areas to be alert for any suspicious activity they might see or hear,” police said. “We know that in the early morning people are out walking dogs, going to work, or taking a morning jog. We need those eyes and ears to assist us in apprehending the suspect or suspects responsible for these criminal acts.”

The most recent fire was reported this morning in front of Eureka Barber Shop and Hair Styling at 4222 18th Street.

Three fires were reported early Thursday morning nearby.

The public can contact the SFPD with information, “however slight,” by calling 911 or 415-553-8090 (by cell) if it’s an emergency.

The non-emergency line is 415-553-0123.

Anyone with information can also call the anonymous tip line at 415-575-4444, text a tip to tip411, or submit a tip at

— Seth Hemmelgarn, February 4, 2011 @ 4:25 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Another suspicious fire reported in Castro

Another suspicious fire broke out in San Francisco’s largely gay Castro neighborhood this morning (Friday, February 4), outside Eureka Barber Shop and Hair Styling, at 4222 18th Street.

According to police, the fire was reported at 4:13 a.m. after a piece of plastic was found burning in front of the shop’s doorway. The fire was put out before firefighters arrived, according to police.

Police listed victims a 55-year-old man, a 53-year-old woman, and an 11-year-old boy, but no injuries were reported.

A call to the shop was not immediately returned.

The fire follows three similar incidents yesterday morning in the same area. Police referred questions about the incident to the fire department. Lieutenant Mindy Talmadge, a fire department spokeswoman, didn’t immediately respond to a phone message.

In his newsletter this week, Mission Station Captain Greg Corrales said that he and Park Station Captain Denis F. O’Leary “have made apprehending this firebug our top priority.”

Corrales said, “I don’t want to reveal all of our tactics, but suffice it to say that this situation has our full attention.”

In a Facebook message about the fires, out Supervisor Scott Wiener, who represents the Castro and other neighborhoods, said, “I’m in close communication with SFPD and the Fire Department. Please keep an eye out for suspicious activity and let SFPD know if you see anything. We need to keep our neighborhood safe from this despicable behavior and make sure this stops.”

The volunteer group Castro Community on Patrol has released an advisory asking people to “help keep an eye out for suspicious behavior in the early hours.

“We cannot expect volunteers to be on patrol 24/7,” the group said in an e-mail. “Even if we had patrols out all night, the odds of being on the exact intersection that the arsonist has targeted are extremely low.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 11:15 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Castro area medical cannabis dispensary wins approval

Planning Commissioners gave their approval today (Thursday, February 3) for a medical cannabis dispensary that plans to open in the city’s upper Market Street area.

Known as the Apothecary, the business intends to open sometime this spring at 2095 Market Street near the corner of Church Street and across from the Safeway shopping center. The retail space had long been home to Gramophone Video and DVD, which closed last year.

“We believe we have what it takes to run a responsible medical cannabis dispensary in this city,” Ryan Hudson, (shown at left) who with his business partner, Michael Thomsen, is the owner of the cannabis collective, told the commissioners.

They will not allow consumption of marijuana on the premises. And they are working to team up with other medical providers to offer services to their members. Hudson said Thursday that they already have signed an agreement with Castro chiropractor Alice K. Charap.

A philanthropic advisory committee will also advise the owners on what local nonprofits to donate to, as state law forbids dispensaries from being for-profit entities. Hudson said that Alan Beach, president of the Eureka Valley and Castro Neighborhood Association, has agreed to be a member.

Some of the agencies it intends to fund include Maitri, Shanti, the Castro Steps, Glide Memorial Church, and PAWS, Pets Are Wonderful Support.

Hudson added that, “We will have a compassion program that provides subsidized and free medicine to those who can’t afford it.”

The Apothecary would be the second dispensary located along upper Market Street. The Market Street Co-op already operates at 1884 Market Street at Laguna, roughly two blocks north near the LGBT Community Center.

It has generated mostly positive feedback and support from neighborhood groups. A pot club had long operated in the vicinity in a second-floor space about what is now the Bar on Church at the corner of Church and 14th Streets.

Freshman District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener told the Bay Area Reporter this week prior to the hearing that he had not received any complaints about having the business open at the site. He wrote a letter in support of the business to the commission.

In total, the commission received 10 letters in support and only two phone calls from people opposed. No one came to the hearing to object to the proposal.

The owners expect to employ 12 people and have promised to hire from within the LGBT community. They intend to begin work on the space immediately.

“It will appear like any other upscale retail location,” said Hudson.

— Matthew S. Bajko, February 3, 2011 @ 6:47 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Ex-SF Supe Daly discusses Lyon-Martin fundraiser

Former San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly (pictured at left) is holding a fundraiser for Lyon-Martin Health Services next week at the Buck Tavern (soon to become Daly’s Dive Bar and Grill), the bar he purchased in December.

The San Francisco-based Lyon-Martin clinic, which provides health care to women and transgender people regardless of their ability to pay, is facing more than $500,000 in debt and is struggling to stay open.

Daly said Lyon-Martin is “incredibly important, not just to the LGBT community and women, but in terms of the fabric of the city,” and community-based health services.

“While supervisor, I made defending health services one of my top two or three priorities in office,” said Daly, who represented District 6 until being termed out last year.

The event will be from 6 to 11:30 p.m., Wednesday, February 9. The bar’s located at 1655 Market Street.

“Hopefully we can raise a chunk of change to help keep the clinic open,” he said.

Daly hasn’t yet given money to the cause, though.

“I have not yet made a personal contribution,” he told the Bay Area Reporter today (Thursday, February 3). “I couldn’t even tell you whether I have money right now or not … I can tell you at the moment my family doesn’t have health care.”

Then, he suggested to a B.A.R. reporter that he should also make it known that he hasn’t made any contributions to the clinic.

“If you write that about me, you should write that about you, too,” said Daly.

When it was explained to him that reporters don’t usually make personal contributions to agencies they’re covering, he said, “So what if you’re a reporter?” and added, “That seems wrong to me.”

For anyone who is interested in making a contribution, a $5 to $20 donation is requested at the bar. Celebrity bartenders will be on hand, and a portion of all drink sales will go to the clinic. Bartenders will include Stephany Joy Ashley, Co-President of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club and drag queen La Monistat.

For more information, visit the Save Lyon-Martin page on Facebook.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 5:51 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

After activists question Castro flag policy; the iconic gay symbol will be lowered for rally tonight

For only the fourth time since it was installed on November 8, 1997, the over-sized Rainbow Flag in the Castro will be lowered to half mast tonight.

It will descend midway down the flag pole above the Castro Muni Station around 6 p.m. to coincide with a rally planned in Harvey Milk Plaza that will honor murdered Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato.

Planners of the rally initially had asked the Castro’s merchant group, which oversees the flag, to lower it for 24 hours on behalf of Kato, whom Ugandan police say was bludgeoned to death with a hammer in his home January 26. But leaders of the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro declined, saying their policy is to only lower the flag on those special occasions when a local LGBT person dies.

In fact, MUMC president Steve Adams said that only three people have been honored in such a way during the last 13 years. The most recent being San Francisco Patrol Special Police Officer Jane Ellen Warner, who died on May 8 last year.

The other two were Trevor Hailey, who led tourists on guided history tours of the Castro and pushed to install the flag pole, and San Francisco Police Officer Jon Cook, who in 2002 was the first openly gay city police officer killed in the line of duty.

After the outcry this week from local activists upset with MUMC’s decision not to honor Kato in a similar fashion., Adams relented and told the Bay Area Reporter that the flag will come down for one hour tonight.

“I do think it is the right thing to do,” said Adams, who was greeted at this morning’s monthly MUMC meeting by a person handing out fliers demanding his resignation. “I agree with the activists that what is happening in Uganda and other places around the world is horrifying.”

At the end of the MUMC meeting, local activist Michael Petrelis, one of the organizers of tonight’s rally, asked MUMC to revisit its policy on when to lower the flag.

“We want a new debate on who controls Harvey Milk Plaza and who controls the flag,” said Petrelis. “It is not community controlled when you have to go through Steve Adams and MUMC.”

Petrelis said there has been talk about erecting a second flag pole at the site that activists could control and lower at their own discretion.

“Do we want a second flag? I don’t think so,” said Petrelis.

Adams pledged to have MUMC’s board address the community complaints about the flag policy.

“I am open to dialogue. There may be a compromise between the activists and MUMC,” said Adams.

He said the board a long time ago adopted the restrictions on when to lower the flag because they receive anywhere from four to eight requests a month to do so.

“It got so it was overwhelming, the number of requests,” said Adams. “Unless something very special happens within our own community here, it keeps flying.”

According to the rules MUMC uses, any requests to lower the flag must be approved by its full board. A flag expert, who wishes to be anonymous so he is not approached about requests, handles the taking down or lowering of the flag.

Technically, the ground on which the flag pole sits near the intersection of Market and Castro Streets is owned by BART, which built the Castro Muni Station back in the 1970s. In the 1990s Castro merchants worked with Hailey and Gilbert Baker, the creator of the Rainbow Flag, to erect the flag pole and fly the iconic LGBT rights symbol.

Baker initially oversaw it, but after he moved out of the city, MUMC assumed responsibility for it. BART and the city refused to be held liable for anything to do with the flag and pole, so the merchants group pays $5,000 a year for an insurance policy in case of any accidents.

“If if falls into traffic and somebody gets hurt or something, the city said they were not going to pay the insurance for that,” said Adams. “In the late 1990s we had an agreement with DPW we would pay for the insurance.”

The flags weigh up to 20 pounds, and MUMC uses $4,000 donated annually by the Castro Street Fair to buy four new ones each year as the winds coming down from Twin Peaks quickly damage the massive flags.

Since being installed, the flags have become one of the most photographed structures in San Francisco. LGBT and straight visitors alike come to the Castro by the busload to take pictures of it. It is one of the reasons why MUMC is so hesitant to lower the flag more often.

“The bottom line is a lot of it is tourists. They want to see that flag up,” said Adams, who plans to bring up the matter with his board. “It is not my decision; it is a board decision.”

He said based on the phone calls he has had this week with board members, the majority support keeping the status quo.

“I am open to dialogue though,” said Adams. “They may not get what they want, but I am open to talk about it. That is a democracy.”

In an email, community activist and former Mr. Gay San Francisco  John F. Weber said the issue of who controls the flag needs to be examined.

“The community intends to engage in direct dialogue with MUMC for their lack of sympathy at the death of a fallen International Gay Activist and controlling the Rainbow Flag in the Castro,” wrote Weber earlier this week before Adams agreed to lower the flag.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 2:09 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Two suspicious fires hit Castro area

Two two-alarm fires that are being investigated as suspicious hit the Castro area early this morning (Thursday, February 3), affecting three buildings around 17th and 16 streets. Seventeen people have been  displaced from one of the buildings.

Lieutenant Mindy Talmadge, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Fire Department, said one firefighter suffered a minor injury. She said both fires have been put out.

Talmadge said at 4:25 a.m., the departed reported to a small trash fire at 2248 Market Street in a backyard trashcan. The backyard was locked, she said, and that fire “didn’t raise any red flags.”

Then, around 5 a.m., firefighters responded to a structure fire at 3620 16th Street, at Market. The fire started outside but spread to the building and went to second-alarm status. Seventeen people were displaced, but the  fire was under control by 6:05.

While firefighters worked on that fire, others responded to a fire at a building under construction at 17th and Hartford streets, a block away. That fire, which also started on the exterior and became a second-alarm fire, spread to the attic of a neighboring building.

The people who live in the unit affected by the fire are out of town, said Talmadge. She indicated other residents left the building temporarily but were able to go back in. She said the fire was reported just before 5:30 a.m.

Talmadge said the two structure fires are being investigated as suspicious because of the proximity of the two locations, the short time span involved, and the point of origin for both fires was exterior. She didn’t know whether any messages had been left at either scene.

“The trash fire in and of itself is not suspicious, but [investigators] are taking that into consideration,” said Talmadge.

Lieutenant Lyn Tomioka, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Police Department, said police had been dispatched to the scenes but she didn’t know yet whether they’ve determined that criminal activity was involved.

Mission Station Captain Greg Corrales and Park Station Caption Denis F. O’Leary plan to meet this afternoon to discuss the incidents and coordinate their response. Due to how the city divides its police districts, the fires occurred within the two police precincts.

“It appears they were set by some person,” said Corrales. “I will be meeting with Captain O’Leary today to work out a plan to hopefully prevent any other fires.”

Captain Teresa Barrett, formerly with Park Station, happened to be addressing the Castro merchant’s monthly meeting this morning and recalled she had an arsonist in the Haight and it turned out to be a person who lived nearby and liked watching the fires. She also said that the police worked with the community and stationed officers inside homes at night as lookouts in order to capture the individual.

When asked by the Bay Area Reporter if he thought the person who started the Castro fires was a resident of the gay neighborhood, Corrales said he was unsure at this point.

“It is difficult to say. It could be a lot of different options,” he said.

“What we do know is this is very serious. Our intent is to see that there are no more fires.”

Brian Kendall, the owner of the building at the corner of Hartford and 17th Streets, said he suspected the fires were started by an individual who was arrested Monday night in the Castro and was heard screaming he would “burn the neighborhood.”

“I think it was just a disgruntled, angry person,” said Kendall, who had bought the historic multi-unit building, constructed in 1902, 5 years ago.

He and his family had just moved out six weeks ago in order to restore the historical structure. Because it was vacant, Kendall believes the arsonist saw it as an easy target.

The person set the back of the house on fire, and the flames not only destroyed the Hartford end of the building but also damaged the adjacent apartment building.

Firefighters were still working on the building at 11 a.m. this morning, and scorched wood was piled on Hartford Street.

“The firefighters were already at the 16th Street fire and saw the smoke here on 17th Street. Luckily, mine is not as bad as over there,” said Kendall, who was about to contact his insurance company. “The fire department has been fantastic. What is disturbing with the 16th Street fire is the person tried to light people’s doors on fire and burn them alive.”

Fire crews were also working on the 16th Street fire at 11 a.m. this morning, while Red Cross staffers were on the scene to assist with those displaced by the fires.

The gray-colored Victorian, two doors up from Squat and Gobble, had extensive damage to it. The fire engulfed the front façade and the windows on both stories were smashed out. In the upper right hand window a scorched lamp sat.

The building to the left also suffered damage, as the flames singed the side paneling.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 9:45 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Castro LGBT walk of fame skips over Harvey Milk, other out LGBT politicians

The organizers of an LGBT walk of fame set to be created in the Castro later this year have selected their first group of 20 inductees for the project, and they have skipped over one of the city’s most famous gay denizens.

The late San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk is not on the list, whose members will be exclusively revealed in tomorrow’s (Thursday, February 3) edition of the Bay Area Reporter. In fact, the steering committee for what is known as the Rainbow Honor Walk opted not to include any out politicians among the first group of honorees.

Speculation had swirled for months on whether Milk, (pictured at left) the first out person elected to public office in both the city of San Francisco and the state of California, would be picked by the project’s backers.

He fit the main criteria they used to determine who would be chosen for the first group of 20 people to be honored with plaques installed in the sidewalks of the gay Castro district: the people had to be deceased and have lived openly as LGBT.

Milk landed in the Castro like a tornado back in the early 1970s and upended both the city’s political circles and LGBT community. Sadly, his historic win of a Board of Supervisors seat on election night in 1977 was tragically cut short a year later by disgruntled former city supervisor Dan White.

Since then numerous city buildings and public amenities have been named after him, and outside his old camera shop and campaign headquarters at 575 Castro Street sit two historical markers honoring Milk.

It is because of those plaques, reasoned the honor walk backers, why Milk didn’t need to be included in their list of names.

The same reasoning led the committee to decide not to pick Leonard Matlovich, a gay vet who appeared in uniform on the cover of Time magazine in September 1975 underneath the headline “I Am A Homosexual.” A plaque honoring Matlovich, who sued the military after it kicked him out of the Army for being gay, is affixed to the side of the apartment building at 18th and Castro Streets where he once lived.

“Milk and Matlovich already have plaques so they were off the list,” of people the committee considered for the honor walk, said David Perry, a local press agent who is a co-chair of the project.

With nearly 150 people nominated by the public to be chosen for the first group of 20 people, Perry said the steering committee had to come up with ways to narrow the list down. Since they already have been honored in the Castro, removing Milk and Matlovich from consideration was an easy decision to make.

“There were no fisticuffs,” he said.

The honor walk committee is currently in the process of obtaining its 501(c)3 status from the IRS. For now, it is a sponsored project of the Castro’s Community Benefits District, and therefore, can collect tax-deductible donations to help pay for the creation and installation of the plaques.

Isak Lindenauer, a Castro businessman who is co-chair of the project, said he has received donations, so far totaling $1,100, from people not just in San Francisco.

“The donations made come from all over the country,” he said. “Some donate to honor particular people, others think the idea is worthy.”

However, people can not buy someone’s name onto the list, stressed Lindenauer. They can only make suggestions of who should be part of the honor walk.

To make a donation, or find out more information about the project, email

— Matthew S. Bajko, February 2, 2011 @ 5:49 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

SF Police LGBT forum to begin Tuesday

The first San Francisco Police Department LGBT Community Forum will start at 6 p.m., Tuesday, February 8, at the Noe Valley Library, 451 Jersey Street (between Castro and Diamond streets).

District Attorney George Gascon launched the citywide forum during his brief tenure as the city’s police chief.

“This forum is your opportunity as LGBT community stakeholders to work together with the SFPD to build bridges, improve public safety and create positive change,” Officer Jennifer Thompson, police liaison to the LGBT community, said in an e-mail announcing the event.

Forum members are:

Amanda Harris – Gay-Straight Alliance Network
Alan Beach-Nelson – Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association
Alexandra Byerly – EL/LA Program Para Translatinas
David Morgan – SOMA Bar & Business Guild
Dennis Richards – Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association
Greg Carey – Castro Community on Patrol
Kate Brown – San Francisco Dykes on Bikes
Ken Craig – Community Patrol U.S.A.
Matt Wood – Transgender Law Center
Ming Wong – National Center for Lesbian Rights
Ray Tilton – Red Saturday Events
Rebecca Rolfe – SF LGBT Community Center

Out Assistant Chief Denise Schmitt, Officer Lynn Reilly and Thompson will be there, but there’s no word on whether Chief Jeff Godown, who’s filling the post until a new chief is selected, also will attend.

There are also chief’s forums for the Hispanics, business leaders, and other communities.

Thompson said in an e-mail to the Bay Area Reporter that the forums are open to the public.

However, she said, the nature of the forums “do not provide opportunities for comment by members of the public.  Members of the public may observe on a space available basis.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 5:26 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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