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

Meeting tonight on expanding neighborhood courts

District Attorney George Gascón and Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Prozan

San Francisco District Attorney George  Gascón will meet with community members tonight (Wednesday, August 31) to talk about the expanding neighborhood courts program.

The meeting, which will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at Park Branch Library, 1833 Page Street, will include information on how the courts work and how people can become neighborhood court adjudicators.

Through the program, an assistant district attorney is assigned to a local police station to immediately pre-screen eligible people and swiftly determine whether their offenses are suitable for the neighborhood courts.

Under the supervision of the DA’s office, local residents are trained in restorative justice to adjudicate matters, instead of having cases charged and heard in criminal courts.  The adjudicators include merchants, homeowners, retirees, and students.

Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Prozan, the out lesbian who’s been the lead prosecutor in the neighborhood court program, will join Gascón at tonight’s meeting. The program launched in May in the Mission district, which includes the Castro neighborhood, and the Bayview.

Prozan said the courts are expanding into the Northern and Park police stations, so she’ll start overseeing those courts. Tinnetta Thompson will be taking over the Mission and Bayview courts, at least temporarily.

In interviews with the Bay Area Reporter, DA candidates David Onek and Bill Fazio, who are running against Gascón, have been dismissive of the neighborhood court program.

Onek said all he’s seen of the program are press releases, and Fazio said there’s  no difference between the new program and the community courts the city already has.

But Prozan said the neighborhood program does make a difference.

The courts are “really giving neighbors in the community a voice in how cases are resolved … and that’s how it should be for the lower level cases,” she said.

Cases such as petty theft can typically take up to nine months to resolve. But in the neighborhood courts, resolutions have been reached in an average of 12 days, she said.

About 150 cases have come through the courts so far, and the success rate’s been approximately 75 percent, Prozan said. She said a case is considered successful when the offender fulfills panelists’ directives.

Prozan said that in the Mission, there have been “a lot of prostitutes and johns,” while drinking in public has been typical in the Bayview. There have also been some battery cases where injuries haven’t been significant, she said.

As the program expands, Prozan will be handling matters from diverse parts of the city.

The Northern Police Station oversees the Western Addition, Hayes Valley, Polk Gulch, Civic Center, Marina, and Japantown neighborhoods. Park Police Station includes the Haight and Golden Gate Park areas, and part of the Castro.

The program model, which Gascón hopes will eventually be adopted and employed citywide, is a partnership between the DA’s office, California Community Dispute Services, and Pre-trial Diversion.

Gascón was San Francisco’s police chief when former Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed him DA in January. Gascón is running against four others in November to hold on to the job.

Fazio has been a prosecutor and a defense attorney,  and Onek is a criminal justice expert and former San Francisco Police Commissioner.

The other candidates are Sharmin Bock, an assistant district attorney for Alameda County; and Vu Vuong Trinh, a former deputy public defender.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, August 31, 2011 @ 5:06 pm PST
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SFPD seeks LGBT applicants

The San Francisco Police Department will be accepting Q2-Entry-Level Police Officer applications beginning at 8 a.m. tomorrow (Friday, August 26). LGBT individuals are strongly encouraged to apply, according to Officer Jennifer Thompson, the department’s liaison to the LGBT community.

People who are interested should go to the city’s jobs site  to create an applicant account and apply.

Asked why people should join the police force, Thompson said, “It’s extremely rewarding. Every day is a new challenge. … You learn every day, because you’re dealing with the public and everything always changing.” She added, “No two crime scenes are ever the same.”

Thompson said LGBTs are being encouraged to apply because “San Francisco is a very diverse city, and we want our police department to reflect the people that we serve.”

She also said the police force is a friendly environment for LGBTs, especially under Chief Greg Suhr.

“We’re at the best place we’ve ever been historically,” Thompson said. She estimated there are from 250 to 300 LGBT officers in the department.

Thompson said Suhr is “very pro-LGBT, and he’s also very pro-community relations, which is important to the LGBT community.”

She said once the job posting goes up, there will be “a very small window of opportunity” for people to apply. The department’s only accepting 2,500 applicants, and 700 have already gone online to express an interest, Thompson said.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, August 25, 2011 @ 8:30 pm PST
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SF housing advocate involved in LGBT shelter plans dies

Many in San Francisco are mourning the dearth of Eric Quezada (seen at left), the executive director of Dolores Street Community Services. He died Wednesday, August 24, according to a Facebook post by his wife, Lorena Melgarejo.

Quezada, 45, had been involved in plans to open a space designed to be welcoming for LGBTs at Dolores Street Shelter.

Brian Basinger, director of AIDS Housing Alliance/San Francisco, said he’s “saddened” by Quezada’s death, but the LGBT-welcoming space will still become available.

He said it’s “fantastic” that one of Quezada’s “final gifts to humanity is to wholeheartedly work with us on opening the world’s first LGBT adult shelter. It’s really so characteristic of what we should all hope for in a straight ally.”

Basinger said Quezada was one of the first people he’d approached when he came up with the idea for the shelter. He indicated he didn’t think Quezada’s death would have much impact on progress toward opening the shelter.

Continuing to refer to Quezada in the present tense, he noted that he “has been struggling with cancer for a while, and so the appropriate steps were taken. This is not a surprise.”

Basinger and others have been working on establishing the shelter space for more than a year.

At a Board of Supervisors committee hearing in March 2010, dozens of people testified about harassment in San Francisco’s shelters.

In a January 2011 email to the Bay Area Reporter, Trent Rhorer, executive director of the city’s Human Services Agency, said that late February of this year would be the earliest the beds might be available.

Basinger, who said this week he hasn’t heard anything about a projected opening date, also said he’s hoping for about 24 beds at the shelter, which is at 1050 South Van Ness. He said he didn’t anticipate plans being “substantially altered.” Quezada’s illness had “slowed down our timeline only because there are fewer hands to do the work” at Dolores Street, he said.

“I wish he would have lived to see the opening of the shelter because I know he would have been really happy and proud,” Basinger said.

One hold-up has been renovation work, he said.

“It’s just that when you have to do the remodeling, and anybody who’s had to do rehabilitation work in San Francisco knows, it can take time.”

The bathrooms pose a particular challenge.

“We need to have a shelter and bathrooms that are thoughtful about transgender folks and are upgraded,” he said, adding that work is also being done to accommodate the needs of disabled people with HIV and AIDS.

“I wanted to have as much bathroom capacity and shower capacity as possible,” Basinger said.

In response to emailed questions, Wendy Phillips, who’s been Dolores Street’s acting executive director since Quezada went on medical leave in May, said his death wouldn’t impact plans for the shelter space.

Marlon Mendieta, Dolores Street’s director of shelter services, will continue leading the process of creating the space, she said. There’s no exact opening date, she said, but organizers are “moving forward in the process of selecting a contractor and getting the rehab done so we can open as soon as possible.”

The board of directors hasn’t decided who will be the permanent executive director, Phillips said.

Phillips described Quezada as “a deeply principled and thoughtful political strategist, a grassroots community leader, a dedicated husband, father, and son, and a beautiful friend – not to mention an excellent soccer player, D.J. and budding musician.”

She added that he always insisted people shouldn’t engage in “oppression Olympics.”

“In all of his work and political activism, he was always building bridges and standing up for excluded and oppressed communities,” Phillips said.

In 2008, Quezada, who once described himself as “mostly straight,” sought former Supervisor Tom Ammiano’s District 9 seat on the Board of Supervisors. Ammiano, who  was termed out that year, is now a state assemblyman. Quezada lost to David Campos who, like Ammiano, is an out gay man.

Gabriel Haaland, a political organizer and transgender activist, was also mourning Quezada’s death this week.

In a Facebook post addressed to Quezada, Haaland wrote, “I know your journey will be peaceful, and the legacy of love and justice that you leave behind lives on. Words fail me in expressing the intensity of my admiration for you and how you lived your life. Much love, light and peace to you brother.”

A celebration of Quezada’s life will be held from 2-5 p.m., Sunday, September 25 Horace Mann Middle School, 3351 23rd St., San Francisco.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 7:30 pm PST
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Lyon-Martin to accept new patients Sept. 1

Lyon-Martin Health Services, the San Francisco-based clinic serving women and transgender people that’s been struggling to stay alive, will begin accepting new patients again Thursday, September 1.

The announcement came in a statement today (Thursday, August 25) in which clinic officials said their agency has stabilized enough to take in new patients.

“Through all the challenges that Lyon-Martin has faced over this year we have continued to offer our exceptional model of care to our current 2500 patients,” interim Executive Director Dr. Dawn Harbatkin (seen at left) stated. “Now that we have reached a greater level of stability we can open enrollment to the many other women and transgender people who need the kind of competent and compassionate healthcare that we offer.”

In late January, Lyon-Martin’s board made the surprise announcement that the clinic was more than $500,000 in debt and would close in days. Supporters quickly rallied to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the nonprofit open. It’s not clear whether the clinic will be able to remain open indefinitely.

Clinic officials have talked about changing the payer mix, noting that many patients are uninsured, which makes it harder for Lyon-Martin to bring in the income it needs. Lyon-Martin’s leaders haven’t yet announced what criteria for new patients will be.

The Bay Area Reporter will have more Lyon-Martin coverage in the September 1 issue.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 11:46 am PST
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AIDS/LifeCycle gets new director

AIDS/LifeCycle, the annual fundraising bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, has a new director.

Greg Sroda, 38, (seen at left) will start his new position September 19.

Sroda’s participated in the ride for 13 years – including five as a cyclist – and described the event, which benefits the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, as “a life-changing experience.”

“Having gotten involved for so many years, you see how a group of individuals can come together and really create something special,” Sroda, who lives in San Francisco and is openly gay, said. “It really does something for their communities. … For me, it’s the same thing. It’s helping people. It’s coming together in this amazing community to really make a difference.”

Sroda noted that the 2011 ride, which marked the event’s 10th anniversary, raised a record $13.1 million. He said he aims to continue the momentum “and make sure we’re continuing that legacy that’s been there for so many years.”

Most recently, Sroda has worked as operations director for Gap, Inc. He’s also worked for Crate and Barrel and Accenture. A San Francisco AIDS Foundation statement said Sroda has “a strong track record of boosting sales and revenue while reducing operational expenses.”

“Greg’s many years in the private sector equip him with the skills required to manage people, finances, and the complicated logistics of AIDS/LifeCycle,” San Francisco AIDS Foundation CEO Neil Giuliano stated. “More importantly, his history with AIDS/LifeCycle means he knows us. … He knows our culture, and he knows how to get the job done.”

L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center CEO Lorri L. Jean stated she’s admired Sroda’s commitment for years, adding, “He’s got the kind of energy and commitment we need to capitalize upon the extraordinary momentum of AIDS/LifeCycle 10 and raise funds that are critical to our ability to care for people with HIV and AIDS and prevent the spread of the disease.”

In addition to being a rider, Sroda has been a volunteer roadie eight times, and he served for five years as captain of the team responsible for “Rest Stop 4.” He was a top roadie fundraiser for four years.

Terry Clark, 35, took part in the LifeCyle for the first time in 2003. He’s known Sroda for about six years. He said he’s “very excited” for Sroda, and for the ride.

Sroda’s “such an amazing presence on the ride itself,” Clark said. “He’s always very composed, and he knows exactly what to do and say, even in hard situations where there’s a lot of traffic. … He’ll be a good ambassador for the ride to the public.”

Sroda’s also participated in AIDS Walk San Francisco and has volunteered with other San Francisco-based nonprofits, including Project Inform, Pets Are Wonderful Support, San Francisco Food Bank, and National AIDS Memorial Grove.

He declined to state his salary or his HIV status. San Francisco AIDS Foundation spokesman James Loduca said Sroda’s salary will be $120,000.

Loduca said Michael Barron, the previous LifeCycle director, left after the completion of this year’s ride to accept a position at the fundraising events producer CauseForce.

Barron’s LifeCycle salary had been $112,000, Loduca said.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, August 19, 2011 @ 5:34 pm PST
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18th and Hartford blocked after Muni bus incident

San Francisco police are investigating an incident involving a Muni bus that apparently hit a woman near 18th  and Hartford streets in the Castro.

At about 4 p.m. today, officers were examining the area under an empty Muni Shuttle bus that was parked in the middle of Hartford. It appeared the bus had been in the middle of making a left turn from 18th when it stopped.

Police have not yet released a statement on what occurred.

No ambulances were at the scene. Eighteenth was blocked off from Castro Street to just past Hartford. More than a dozen police officers were at the scene.

Bystanders, reporters, and TV cameramen crowded the sidewalk outside the bar Moby Dick’s, across the street from the bus, but witnesses to what had actually occurred appeared to be scarce.

Terry Beswick works at the Castro Country Club, just half a block from where the bus sat. He said he didn’t see the incident itself, but he’d come out of the club when he heard sirens. He said that he saw the body of a “young girl,” who appeared to be in her early 20s or late teens, before she was covered up.

He said her head was bloodied and her leg appeared to have been skinned up. Her pink-covered cell phone had still been under the bus, he said.

“There was a lot of blood,” Beswick said, and officials who’d responded to the scene had been checking for a pulse, but they were “not in any hurry.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 5:06 pm PST
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Progressives get big boost from Democratic Party in SF mayor, DA and sheriff races

Progressive candidates for the city’s three leadership posts up for grabs this November received a huge boost last night after winning endorsements from the Democratic County Central Committee.

The left-leaning body that controls the San Francisco Democratic Party produces slate cards that can be enormously beneficial for the endorsed candidates.

It gave its first-choice backing to District 11 Supervisor John Avalos (seen at left) in the mayor’s race and its second-choice nod to City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

Board President David Chiu, an elected-member of the DCCC, and state Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who has a seat on the body, were shut out of getting the party’s third-place nod under the city’s ranked-choice voting system.

Erica Fox, Avalos’s deputy campaign manager, noted the party’s support is a coup for the progressive supervisor. He has lagged behind the other candidates in terms of raising money to pay for his own campaign mailers.

“In a one-party town like San Francisco, getting the coveted #1 endorsement of the Democratic Party is a major win for our campaign,” wrote Fox in an email to supporters following the DCCC meeting. “With 11 Democratic elected and former officials in the race, this key endorsement reflects John’s ability to unite and stand out in a crowded field. It will also help us reach out to the thousands of Democratic Party members and voters city-wide — the majority of the electorate– who share our vision for a better San Francisco!!”

Former police commissioner David Onek won the first-place endorsement in the district attorney’s race, while Alameda County prosecutor Sharmin Bock picked up the second-place spot.

Shortly after last night’s vote, Onek posted on his Facebook page that he “thank(s) the San Francisco DCCC for their endorsement and am eager to work with them to make San Francisco the safest and fairest city in America.”

District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi won the party’s sole backing in the sheriff’s race.

I am deeply touched by their support and the support of well-wishers who helped rally the win,” wrote Mirkarimi on his own Facebook account.

— Matthew S. Bajko, August 18, 2011 @ 12:53 pm PST
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Oakland police describe alleged gay bashing

Oakland police have shared some information reported to them after a gay man was reportedly attacked outside a club in the city last week.

Officer Holly Joshi, an Oakland police spokeswoman, said police were called at 2:18 a.m. Thursday, August 11 to the 2200 block of Telegraph Avenue to investigate a battery.

When officers arrived, Justin Purnell, 29, (on right in photo) told them that another man had assaulted him in front of the club and called him “batty boy,” which Purnell believed to be the Jamaican word for “gay.”

Adalberto Castellon, 28, reported to police that as Purnell was being assaulted, Castellon rode over on his bicycle but fell off and was injured, Joshi said.

Purnell hasn’t responded to the Bay Area Reporter’s interview requests. Castellon couldn’t be reached. A call to the Para Diso lounge, where the incident reportedly occurred, wasn’t returned.

The police account differs from what’s appeared in news stories.

Shortly after the incident, Purnell told the Bay Citizen news site that a pair of men had approached him and Castellon, shouting gay slurs and telling them that “if they were in Jamaica they’d be dead.” Purnell told the New York Times-affiliated site that as he rode past the men on his bicycle, one of them hit him on the head, knocking him off his bike.

Purnell swung his bike lock at them, while one of the men hit Castellon in the face, Purnell told the site. The men who’d attacked them got into a black Porsche Cayenne SUV with two women who’d witnessed the attack, according to the site.

According to the Bay Citizen, Purnell identifies as gay, while Castellon is straight. The two are in the band Younger Lovers (seen in above photo).

After Purnell got into an online dispute with a commenter on the Bay Citizen website who said he’d witnessed the incident and contradicted Purnell’s account, Castellon told the site that his face had been broken in five places, “from the bottom of his eye to his jaw.” The witness’s accounts also don’t appear to match what was reported to police.

The Bay Citizen reported that Oakland police didn’t respond to repeated calls and emails about the incident.

Joshi told the B.A.R. that she didn’t know whether Purnell also goes by the first name Brontez, which is the name that’s been used for him in news reports.

She said the police report lists Purnell as the victim and Castellon as the witness. She said that Castellon made “no claims at the time that he had been assaulted.”

Purnell had no visible injuries and did not receive medical attention, Joshi said. She said Castellon had “some visible signs of injury” that weren’t life threatening, and he did not want medical attention. None was provided, she said. Joshi said she couldn’t say what Castellon’s injuries looked like due to health care privacy rules.

Joshi said she only had a “very general” suspect description of an African American man, 24 to 36, 6 feet tall, and weighing about 170 pounds. The police report didn’t say what the man was wearing, she said. She declined to describe the suspect’s vehicle.

She also said the police report did not provide details of any witnesses besides Castellon. However, she said the suspect had been in a group of people, “so clearly, they’re witnesses as well.”

The police report doesn’t indicate any other circumstances that lead up to the incident, Joshi said. She said the suspect, Purnell, and Castellon had all been inside the club beforehand. The report indicates the assault was unprovoked, she said.

However, “It’s not clear that it’s a gay bashing,” Joshi said, adding, “It would take some investigative follow up to really find that out.”

“There are leads, but no arrests,” Joshi said in an interview Tuesday, August 16.

When asked whether the case was being investigated as a hate crime, Joshi said Oakland police don’t have a designated hate crime unit and examine all assaults in a similar fashion. When an incident is determined to be a hate crime, that’s how police present it to the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, she said.

She said there were no weapons involved. A copy of the report wasn’t immediately available, and Joshi declined to comment on whether there’s video surveillance footage of the incident.

Joshi also said she’d call the investigation of Purnell’s case “open,” rather than “active.”

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Oakland Police Department’s assault unit at (510) 238-3426. The report number is 11-039160.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 12:09 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

SF lawmaker hosts living with coyotes workshops for city dwellers

Coyotes are increasingly becoming a fact of life for San Francisco dwellers. They were first spotted in the city’s Presidio in 2001, and since then, have migrated throughout the city using the various green spaces that have been protected from development.

One local resident has been photographing the creatures throughout town since 2007. Her shots (one is at left) can be seen on the website called Coyotes in San Francisco Bay Area.

Sightings have been reported in several LGBT-friendly neighborhoods, from Noe Valley and Diamond Heights to Bernal Heights, where the nocturnal creatures are a common occurrence in the open space surrounding Bernal Hill.

What the city is doing to protect the public, not to mention dogs and other household pets, from the North American canines became a hot topic at a town hall earlier this year that openly gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener and interim Mayor Ed Lee held near Dolores Park.

To help people learn how to live alongside urban coyotes, state Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) has teamed up with the California Department of Fish and Game to host two workshops tomorrow (Friday, August 19) in San Francisco and Daly City.

The San Francisco workshop will be held from 10 a.m. to Noon at the Richmond District Neighborhood Center’s Building B at 741 30th Avenue.

The Daly City panel will run from 2 to  4 p.m. at the Susan B. Anthony Elementary School’s Multi-Purpose Room at 575 Abbott Avenue.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 11:54 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

San Francisco gay couple marries in New York

It is official. San Francisco residents Joe Gallagher and Michael McAllister are a married couple.

The gay men, who the Bay Area Reporter profiled in July, exchanged vows today in New York. Together five years, the couple had hoped to wed in their homestate.

But those plans were dashed by the 2008 passage of Proposition 8, California’s ban against same-sex marriage. The law is being challenged in federal court but there will likely not be a final decision until late 2012 or 2013 at the earliest.

Unwilling to wait any longer to marry, Gallagher and McAllister decided to venture east after New York this spring became the sixth state to allow gay and lesbian couples to exchange vows.

They have been keeping friends and family updated via their Facebook accounts since arriving in the Empire State this week. Monday morning Gallagher posted a photo (seen at left) of McAllister filling out their marriage license application.

The wedding ceremony took place this morning (Wednesday, August 17).

“Mike and I were married at 11 a.m. today,” wrote Gallagher on his account.

Shortly thereafter the men changed their relationship status on the social networking site so that is reads “Joe Gallagher is married to Michael McAllister.”

They are planning a reception with friends and family back home in San Francisco.

— Matthew S. Bajko, August 17, 2011 @ 12:40 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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