Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Police arrest 19 after Castro building occupation

San Francisco police arrested 19 people working to draw attention to homelessness Wednesday, October 11 after several of them allegedly broke into a vacant Castro Street building.

Those arrested were booked on felony charges of burglary, vandalism, and conspiracy. A San Francisco Police Department news release put the damage estimate at “several thousand dollars.”

Police said people associated with Homes Not Jails gathered at about 5:50 p.m. Wednesday at Dolores Park, then marched down 18th Street, taking over the street and disrupting traffic.

At about 6:10, they broke in to and vandalized the empty building, according to the news release. According to news reports the building is at 535 Castro Street. The owner is Les Natali, who also owns the nearby bars Badlands and Toad Hall. Natali couldn’t be reached for comment.

Three to four people wearing dark clothes and face masks climbed to the building’s roof and started to drill holes in order to hang signs and banners, police said. A section of metal chain was either dropped from the building or fell to the sidewalk, but didn’t hit anyone, according to police.

Officers entered the building at about 6:30 to make arrests and prevent further damage. One woman who was trying to flee tripped and hurt her ankle, according to police. She was taken to a hospital and then booked into jail.

Others who were occupying the building “broke the lock to the rear balcony door and entered a neighboring business,” police said. The suspects were arrested.

It’s not clear when, or if, the district attorney’s office will formally charge the 19 people arrested.

Gay housing rights activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who said he was at the scene Wednesday night but wasn’t directly involved in the action, said there were 50-60 people there.

“Homes Not Jails is trying to make the point that there are all these vacant properties in the city. Why are they going vacant when people desperately need housing?” Avicolli Mecca said in an interview Thursday.

He said doing the action in the largely gay Castro neighborhood was important because of the presence of queer homeless youth in the area.

Avicolli Mecca said, “It’s always hard to say” how effective such tactics are, but it can lead to people “getting the message that this building should not be empty.”

He likened the action of Homes Not Jails to the tactics of the group AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in the 1980s as its members worked to raise awareness around AIDS.

“It’s people using a certain tactic in order to draw attention to a very dire crisis we have,” Avicolli Mecca said. “… Sometimes it feels like it’s not being taken seriously in this city.”

He suggested that the city should fine building owners who leave properties sitting vacant for more than a year or two. He estimated that the property occupied Wednesday has been vacant for more than five years.

Avicolli Mecca also said he felt “really weird and creeped out” by what he described as a large police presence at Wednesday’s action. As for the charges the activists were arrested on, “Cut me a break,” he said.

Organizers of the action didn’t respond to an interview request sent through Facebook.

Those arrested were Bruce Allison, 61; Graeme Fisher, 22; Alexander Kerfoot, 31; Jeremy Miller, 32; Alisha Pelton, 24; Elisabeth Rapp, 28; Carmen Simon, 33; and Kevin Stolle, 27, of San Francisco; Carl Davison, 30; Robin Dragich, 22; Gina Krawiec, 21; and Christopher Macy, 58, of Berkeley; Brian Newell, 33, of Baton Rouge, California; Lindsay Frech, 24, and  Nyle Sharkes, 23, of Oregon; Kameron Herrod, 20, and Marcos Vargas, 23, of Texas; Daniel Dauphinee, 22, of Canada; and Scott Barnes, 24, of Great Britain.

As of late Thursday afternoon, all 19 remained in custody in San Francisco County jail. Bail for 16 of those arrested is $325,000. Herrod’s bail is $325,378; Fisher’s bail is $328,000; and Barnes appears to be without bail due to an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold, according to the sheriff’s department.

Booking photos of most of those arrested are available at the SFPD website.

Witnesses are encouraged to contact police by calling the Special Investigations Division at (415) 553-1133, the anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444, or text a tip to: TIP411 and begin the text message with SFPD.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 11, 2012 @ 4:16 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

SF nudity ban legislation to be heard Nov. 5

A proposal to ban public nudity in San Francisco is set to have its first hearing at City Hall early next month.

The Board of Supervisor’s City Operations and Neighborhood Services committee is expected to take up the rule change at its November 5 meeting.

As the Bay Area Reporter has been reporting, gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced legislation in early October that would ban nudists from the city’s sidewalks and public plazas. What has been dubbed “Wiener’s Law” would amend the city’s police code to require people be clothed on public streets and parklets as well as on transit vehicles and at Muni stations.

The proposed legislation would allow for exemptions of the policy at “permitted parades, fairs, and festivals.” Violators of the law could face fines ranging from $100 to $500 with repeat offenders looking at a year in county jail.

The issue has become a hot button topic in the city’s gay Castro district since nudists began gathering at a parklet created several years ago on 17th Street. The growth in their numbers and reports of lewd behavior brought the issue to the fore in recent months, with Wiener deciding it was time for city leaders to act.

His move has attracted international media attention and sparked heated debate on the issue. Nudists and their supporters are holding a rally to oppose the ban at noon, Saturday, October 20 at Jane Warner Plaza and have an online petition that has drawn more than 1,330 signatures.

The supervisors on the committee that will hear the matter are Carmen Chu (District 4), Christina Olague (District 5), and Sean Elsbernd (District 7). Since Elsbernd is termed out of office this year, it is expected that Wiener will fill in for him on the committee.

The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. in Room 263 at City Hall.

Scheduled to take place a day before the November 6 election, it will once again put Olague in the center of a controversial vote. Of the three committee members, Olague is the only one up for re-election this fall.

Asked by the B.A.R. in a candidate questionnaire if the city should ban nudity in public, Olague simply answered, “No.” Her stance is the same as a majority of her opponents in the race, who all told the B.A.R. they see no reason to tell people to keep their clothes on outdoors.


— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 4:09 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Feinstein says Mayor was right in attempt to oust Mirkarimi, criticizes Olague’s vote

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-San Francisco) told the Bay Area Reporter today (Thursday, October 12) that “the mayor was correct” in trying to remove Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from office.

“This is a man who pled guilty to what constitutes domestic violence, and you have people in jail” for domestic violence-related offenses, Feinstein said during a meeting at the B.A.R.‘s offices. That’s “an immediate conflict of interest,” she said.

Feinstein was also critical of the process that led up to the Board of Supervisors voting 7-4 Tuesday night, October 9 to reinstate Mirkarimi after months of suspension without pay. (Nine votes were needed to remove him.)

“The process is really screwed up,” she said.

The Ethics Commission voted 4-1 in August to sustain the mayor’s charges of official misconduct against Mirkarimi.

The panel “only sat one day a week,” Feinstein said. She said she realizes the commissioners have jobs, but “you don’t try somebody one day a week.”

Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor herself, also said she thought it was “nonsense” that Lee had been prohibited from talking to supervisors about the case.

Both the mayor and the supervisors had been advised not to discuss the matter, though questions were raised if the mayor had spoken to District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague about Mirkarimi. Both denied the accusations.

Lee tapped Olague to fill the vacancy created when Mirkarimi resigned to become sheriff. He had been the supervisor for the Haight and Western Addition centered district for seven years before being elected sheriff in November 2011.

Mirkarimi remains popular with District 5 residents, and Olague faced immense pressure to keep him as sheriff. Tuesday night, Olague bucked the mayor and voted in favor of keeping Mirkarimi.

Without naming Olague, Feinstein critcized her decision during the editorial board meeting with the B.A.R.

Feinstein said that when she appointed people to fill vacancies or serve on city commissions, “I expected to get their vote. Once they got elected on their own, then how they voted was another thing.” She added that “If I called and asked for your vote, I expected to get it.”

She declined to say whether she would support an effort to recall Mirkarimi.




— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 12:50 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

District attorney calls on sheriff to back off domestic violence duties

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón today (Wednesday, October 10) called on reinstated Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi to recuse himself from his duties relating to the custody, supervision, safety, and rehabilitation of domestic violence offenders.

“Ross Mirkarimi is on probation in this county for a crime of domestic violence,” Gascón said in a statement. “He is, at a minimum, incapable of adequately performing the functions of his office that relate to crimes of domestic violence.”

Mirkarimi didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

[Updated 10/12/12]: Mirkarimi’s attorney David Waggoner said in an email Wednesday that the sheriff “is focused on renewing his job duties and it would be inappropriate and premature to respond to demands made in the heat of the moment.  It’s time for cooler heads to prevail on all sides and for everyone to get back to performing the jobs they were elected to carry out.” [End update]

The Board of Supervisors voted 7-4 Tuesday, October 9 not to sustain Mayor Ed Lee’s official misconduct charges against Mirkarimi. Lee suspended Mirkarimi without pay in March after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge that stemmed from a December 2011 domestic violence incident with his wife, Eliana Lopez.

The DA said he appreciates the work of the board and other city officials, but “I believe I echo the sentiment of many San Franciscans when I say I have grave concerns about Ross Mirkarimi’s ability to manage the sheriff’s department. … What I will not accept is any compromise of public safety as a result of his reinstatement.”

During the remainder of Mirkarimi’s three-year probation sentence, Gascón said, “he needs to wall himself off from this conflict by appointing a high level administrator within his department to oversee all domestic violence related work.” That administrator should be allowed to make all domestic violence-related decisions, including the domestic violence batterer’s program overseen by the sheriff’s department, supervision of inmates being held for domestic violence-related crimes, and direct discipline of sheriff’s personnel charged for domestic violence crimes, the DA said.

“I will not allow the clock to be rolled back on 30 years of progress in protecting victims of domestic violence,” Gascón stated. “No victim of crime should fear that their call for help will go unanswered. No victim should have to consider whether their claim will be taken seriously because they are reporting it to an individual who has committed the same crime.”

Gascón has encountered some questions about his office’s handling of domestic violence cases. The SF Public Press recently reported the DA’s office’s “prosecutions for domestic violence crimes was the lowest per capita in the Bay Area.” Gascón has said his office would examine the situation, the news site reported.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 10, 2012 @ 4:06 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

House denies Frank’s SF travel request

The House Ethics Committee this week denied gay Congressman Barney Frank’s request to travel to San Francisco to attend several events this weekend.

Frank (D-Massachusetts) is retiring from the House this year and had been invited to address the Commonwealth Club of California this afternoon (Friday, October 5) and share his thoughts about the 2012 elections. Saturday night Horizons Foundation, the LGBT grant-making organization, was to honor him at its gala dinner.

But Wednesday word came from the ethics panel that his trip did not meet the requirements to be considered official business, and thus, could not be paid for by official funds. Horizons posted a note on the website for its event (at right) alerting attendees that Frank would receive his honor “in absentia.”

The Commonwealth Club posted a short message to its event page for Frank’s talk that simply stated it had been cancelled but gave no indication as to why. A sign with red lettering saying that the event had been cancelled greeted those who turned up at the group’s Market Street headquarters today.

Frank’s spokesman Harry Gural told the Bay Area Reporter that there are certain rules that govern House members’ travel. He called the decision to deny Frank’s Bay Area visit “somewhat arbitrary.”

“He hates not to attend events he has committed to,” added Gural, noting that Frank has sent a video message to be played during the Horizon’s event.

In his place Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, is now scheduled to speak. And Horizons’ has also extended an invite to openly gay Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles), as he is slated to be in town this weekend as part of the cast of the Prop 8 play set to be performed Sunday night.


— Matthew S. Bajko, October 5, 2012 @ 2:40 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Nudists plan rally against proposed SF ban

Responding to proposed legislation that would ban nudity in public in San Francisco, nudists are planning to rally against the legislation later this month in the Castro.

Already 73 people have indicated via the Facebook page for the protest that they plan to attend. The Nude In is scheduled to take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, October 20 at Jane Warner Plaza. The parklet is on 17th Street at the corner of Market and Castro Streets.

“Lets rally together in our jock straps, chaps, or whatever shows your ass in public. Nudity welcomed,” wrote organizers.

As the Bay Area Reporter has been reporting since September, gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener wants to require people to be clothed on city streets, sidewalks, parklets, Muni vehicles and transit stations. His legislation, which he officially introduced this week, would exempt street fairs and parades.

The rule change has divided the city’s LGBT community, with opponents calling it an attack on civil liberties and San Francisco’s liberal ethos. Supporters complain the nudists have crossed the line into indecency and lewd behavior and need to be banned.

It is expected that the Board of Supervisors will begin debating what is being called “Wiener’s law” sometime in November.



— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 1:49 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Coffee chain plans Castro location

A southern California coffee company plans to open a location in the Castro along upper Market Street.

The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, which opened its first store in Brentwood in 1963, is eyeing the now vacant space where Vibrant Health Vitamin Center had operated at the corner of Market and Noe Streets. According to the beverage company’s website, it is the oldest and largest privately held specialty coffee and tea retailer in the country.

The building at 2301 Market Street (seen at right) had been the longtime home of the Gold’s Gym Castro branch. But due to the gym chain’s parent company’s donations to anti-gay causes, the holder of the local franchise ended its relationship with Gold’s last month and is now known as Fitness SF.

As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a recent story, plans to remodel the two-story structure to expand the gym and add rental housing had been shelved due to the dispute with Gold’s. Now that the gyms are under local control, the SOMA Gold’s also switched to Fitness SF, the family that owns them is once again pursuing zoning changes for the site to allow them to  proceed with their construction plans.

In the meantime, it was announced this week the Coffee Bean chain is pursuing the necessary permits to open its fourth San Francisco branch. It recently opened a store at the corner of Montgomery and Bush in the Financial District and has two other downtown locations.

Officials with the company based in the Bay Area did not immediately respond to an emailed interview request. It is unclear how soon the Castro location will go before the city’s Planning Commission to obtain the necessary permits to open.

It could face opposition from local residents who are increasingly concerned about seeing formula retail move into prominent storefronts along the upper Market Street corridor. Proposed Starbuck’s and Chipotle outlets seeking approval for corner locations in the area are facing opposition.

City planners reportedly have concerns with a CVS branch going into the shopping center kitty-corner from where the Coffee Bean wants to open. The space at Market and Noe once housed a Tower Records but has been vacant for years.

Bank of the West recently won approval to go into the new mixed-used building under construction at the same intersection. It did so only after the bank and the developer agreed to reconfigure the retail space to allow for smaller leases intended to go to locally-owned stores.



— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 12:15 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Episcopal bishop detained at Cordileone installation

There were protests outside St. Mary’s Cathedral today when Salvatore Cordileone was installed as archbishop of the San Francisco Archdiocese and it seems there was controversy inside the church as well when the Right Reverend Marc Andrus, Episcopal bishop of California, was escorted to a basement room and detained until the 2 p.m. service began.

Andrus was an invited guest to the installation, an elaborate affair celebrating the beginning of Cordileone’s tenure as head of the Catholic Church in San Francisco. According to a news release posted on the Episcopal Diocese’s website, Andrus was not allowed to be seated.

Episcopal Bishop Marc Andrus (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

“He was escorted to a basement room at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral and detained by an usher until the time the service began, whereupon Bishop Andrus left the cathedral,” the news release stated.

Andrus was an opponent of Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban. Cordileone was a strong supporter of the measure.

On Monday, Andrus wrote a blog post about the impending installation and said that while he and Cordileone share concerns for the treatment of immigrants to this country and reforming U.S. immigration policies, the two differ on the issue of marriage equality.

“Bishop Cordileone was an active supporter of Proposition 8, which I and the other Episcopal bishops throughout California opposed,” Andrus wrote in the October 1 post that was called a letter to the diocese. “Despite this difference of opinion and support, I look forward to working with archbishop-designate Cordileone … Christianity has a long tradition of the faithful disagreeing with one another yet working together for common mission for the building of the Reign of God.”

Andrus’s post generated a headline on the Catholic News Agency’s website Thursday, “Episcopal bishop gives Archbishop Cordileone frosty welcome.” The story went on to report about Andrus’s October 1 letter, noting that he characterized Catholic Church teaching on marriage as “oppression.”

In fact, Andrus did state, “We can and must both work together for the world’s good, and it is equally important, as I say in most of my blessings at the conclusion of the Eucharist, that ‘we make no peace with oppression.’ The recognition of the dignity and rights, within civil society and the church of lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgendered people, and of women are as core to our proclamation of the Gospel as our solidarity with the poor, with victims of violence and political oppression, and with the Earth.”

Andrus went on to state that he would not “change my course with regard to the full inclusion of all people in the full life of the church. I hope that public disagreements can be handled respectfully and that criticisms of public statements may be met with mutual respect.”

It looks like that didn’t happen at Cordileone’s installation.

George Wesolek, communications director for the archdiocese, told the Bay Area Reporter late Thursday afternoon that he did not know about the Andrus incident.

“I don’t know anything about that,” he said, adding that he should have more information Friday.

The B.A.R. will update this post when we receive more information.

[Updated 10/5/12: On Friday, there were conflicting accounts of what happened.

Wesolek said that Andrus came in to the cathedral before the 2 p.m. installation but after the rest of the interfaith delegation had been seated. Andrus was asked to wait in a conference room under the cathedral that was being used as a staging area for clergy.

Wesolek said they were trying to “figure out a way to get him up there without disrupting the service.”

However, when they came back down to the conference room Andrus had left.

Andrus said, in an October 5 blog post, that he was dropped off at the cathedral by his assistant at 1:30 p.m. and was in the lower level conference room at 1:40. His assistant had been instructed by the archdiocese to have Andrus there by 1:45.

“I identified myself to an assistant to the archbishop, who spoke to someone through a headset, saying, “Bishop Andrus is here.”

Andrus said that several members of the Greek Orthodox delegation were in the conference room. As an archdiocesan employee tried to escort Andrus up to the cathedral with the Greek Orthodox delegation they were stopped by another employee, who instructed yet another employee to wait with Andrus.

“At this point no other guests remained in the downstairs area,” Andrus wrote. “The employee and I chatted while waiting. I began to wonder about the time holdup. I checked my phone; it was 1:50 p.m. I asked the employee standing with me if the service indeed started at 2, which she affirmed.”

At 2 p.m. when the service started Andrus was still standing with the employee.

“I think I understand, and feel I should leave,” Andrus said to the woman. Her response was, “Thank you for being understanding.”

Andrus said he walked out the door. No tried to stop him.

“No attempt was ever made to explain the delay or any process for seating. I arrived early, before the time given my assistant, and waited to leave until after the service had begin,” Andrus wrote.

Wesolek said, “it just wasn’t the case” that Andrus was denied seating.

“We’ve had a relationship with him,” Wesolek said, adding that it’s the archdiocese’s intention “to work this out and to apologize for any misunderstanding.”

Joe Murray, executive director of the Rainbow Sash Movement, an LGBT Catholic organization, called the treatment of Andrus “disrespectful.”

“This is a perfect example of how extreme Cordileone can get when people in the interfaith community don’t agree with his judgments of LGBTs in general and gay marriage in particular,” Murray said in a statement. [End of update.]

— Cynthia Laird, October 4, 2012 @ 4:40 pm PST
Filed under: News

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