Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 50 / 14 December 2017
 

Sweetbriar named Pride grand marshal

San Francisco drag chanteuse BeBe Sweetbriar was named an individual community grand marshal by the San Francisco Pride board Friday.

Sweetbriar was selected by what is known as the electoral college, a group of former community grand marshals. The electoral college had previously chosen gay Army Private Bradley Manning but his honor was rescinded by the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee’s board after it determined he was ineligible because he is not local.

Manning, the WikiLeaks whistle-blower, is in a military prison awaiting a court-martial on criminal charges related to his leaking 700,000 classified government documents.

The Pride board’s decision to strip Manning of the honor has stirred a hornet’s nest of protest from his supporters, who plan to march in the Pride parade as they have the last couple years.

A San Francisco resident for nearly 20 years, Sweetbriar has dedicated her talents to raising funds for local LGBT community-based organizations, according to a release from the Pride Committee. She immediately became a force to be reckoned with upon arriving on the entertainment scene five years ago. She won two of the three most prominent drag pageants, becoming Miss Gay San Francisco 2008 and Miss Desperate diva 2008, and has been a fundraiser for the AIDS Housing Alliance/San Francisco, Under One Roof, Larkin Street Youth Services, LYRIC, GLAAD, the Richmond-Ermet AIDS Foundation, and other organizations.

BeBe Sweetbriar

BeBe Sweetbriar

“It is truly an honor to be recognized by my peers for my efforts to uplift our community and movement,” Sweetbriar said in a statement released by the Pride Committee. “I’ve put my heart and soul into raising awareness and resources for organizations that benefit us all in one way or another. As grand marshal I hope to serve as an example to young people what is possible, and that you can make a difference.”

SF Pride CEO Earl Plante said that Sweetbriar “is a shining exemplar of how the power of local community talent can so positively impact the lives of so many near and far.”

The fallout from the Manning controversy continues, however. Under pressure from gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos, who wrote a letter to the Pride board expressing his dissatisfaction with the situation, Plante and the board are expected to hold a community meeting to discuss the issue before the June 29-30 Pride festivities. So far, a definite date hasn’t been set, but the meeting is likely to be held in a couple weeks, or earlier.

When the Pride board rescinded Manning’s honor, it said that eligibility criteria for electoral college grand marshals as defined as “a local hero (individual) not being a celebrity.”

A quick view of Sweetbriar’s website (www.bebesweetbriar.com) indicates that she is an entertainer, actor, solo artist, columnist, and activist.

We send a message to Plante asking for clarification and will update when we hear back.

[Updated: Plante responded Monday saying that the board defines celebrity “as being someone like J Lo or Madonna,” referring to Jennifer Lopez.

“Bebe is in that sense is a local performer,” he added.]

— Cynthia Laird, May 17, 2013 @ 1:36 pm PST
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Lesbian BART director makes good on campaign pledge

22_12_Political_Notebook_33_MEDLesbian BART board member Rebecca Saltzman is making good on a campaign pledge she promised during her race last year.

Next Thursday, May 23 the oversight body for the Bay Area’s regional transit system will hold its first nighttime meeting. The board voted in April to switch two of its meeting times from morning to evening at the urging of freshmen directors Saltzman and Zahkary Mallett, who represents parts of San Francisco and Alameda County.

Getting the agency to schedule its board get-togethers at times when working people could attend was part of Saltzman’s platform as a candidate for BART’s District 3 seat representing parts of Oakland, Berkeley, and a section of Contra Costa County.

“I’m excited to share that as part of fulfilling my campaign goal of making BART’s decision-making process more accessible, the BART board will be holding two evening meetings in the coming weeks,” wrote Saltzman in an email to her supporters this week. “Our board meetings are usually held at 9 a.m. on Thursdays, so it is difficult for working people and students to attend and provide input.”

Both the May 23rd and Thursday, June 13th BART board meetings will begin at 6 p.m. in the 
BART boardroom, Kaiser Center 20th Street Mall, Third Floor, 344 20th Street, Oakland. 
(It is two blocks from the 19th Street BART station.)

The board will then assess how the two meetings went to determine if more evening times should be added to the schedule.

“

Please join us at these evening meetings. Your input is important, because at these meetings we will be discussing vital issues including BART’s budget, bike policy, and late-night service,” wrote Saltzman.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 11:33 am PST
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Castro CVS Pharmacy wins approval

As expected, the Castro’s first CVS Pharmacy easily won approval from the city’s Planning Commission this afternoon (Thursday, May 16). Barring an appeal, the Rhode Island-based company plans to have the new store open by early 2014.

The commission unanimously voted to grant the national retailer the necessary permits to locate its latest San Francisco store at the Market and Noe Center. CVS plans to revamp the concrete facade of the building that has sat vacant for close to six years following the closure of former tenant Tower Records.

(Photo: Courtesy SF Planning Dept.)

(Photo: Courtesy SF Planning Dept.)

CVS will only occupy a renovated ground floor space but is making improvements to the second floor of the building so it can be leased to another business or for office use. Radio Shack will remain a tenant in its storefront at the property.

To win neighborhood backing – in a rarity for the Castro and San Francisco as a whole, no one spoke against CVS’ application at the hearing today – the company agreed not to sell alcohol at the 2280 Market Street store and not to be open 24 hours a day.

“Looking at the project in terms of building size and scope, CVS is an appropriate use,” said Dennis Richards, the former president of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association whose tenure included numerous meetings about the vacant shopping center. “They worked really well with us. Had the prior applicant, Trader Joe’s, done that we probably wouldn’t be here today.”

Commissioner Kathrin Moore marveled at the lack of opposition, remarking that the company must have a “magic touch.” She also applauded CVS executives for a design that “seems to move away from formulaic appearance to have an appropriate look where it is. I am pleased to see that.”

Commissioner Gwyneth Borden, who lives in the area, said she welcomes seeing a new pharmacy open in the Castro and bring some business competition.

“Gone are the days of smaller pharmacies. Now we only have larger ones,” she said. “I live in the neighborhood and the only game in town is Walgreens.”

It was only last week that the Planning Commission voted down an application from Starbucks to open a coffeehouse a block away on Market Street. The Seattle-based chain had drawn fierce neighborhood opposition as well as vocal supporters.

Unlike today’s breeze of a hearing on CVS – it lasted roughly 30 minutes – Starbucks went for nearly two hours. In that case the store triggered a new rule covering the upper Market Street corridor that disfavors chain stores that bring the percentage of formula retail to 20 percent or more in a 300-foot radius.

Starbucks would have resulted in a 21 percent ratio; the CVS was calculated at 18 percent by planning staff. The difference for the locations so close to one another caught the attention of Commissioner Hisashi Sugaya.

“It is interesting projects one block apart had a different outcome under the 20 percent rule,” he noted.

The next battle over a formula retailer looking to open in the Castro will come in June, when Chipotle seeks permits to open at the old Home restaurant location at the corner of Market and Church streets. The national burrito chain has drawn negative reactions similar to Starbucks and is expected to have a formula retail percentage higher than 20 percent.

The date for its hearing before the Planning Commission has yet to be announced, but planning staff have already said they are not in support of seeing the chain open at the prominent intersection.

— Matthew S. Bajko, May 16, 2013 @ 4:42 pm PST
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Gay SF ethics applicant receives nod from panel

Brett Andrews

Brett Andrews

A supervisors committee gave its nod this afternoon to a gay ethics commissioner who has drawn fire from a number of former LGBT ethics commissioners and staffers.

The rules committee voted to recommend that the full Board of Supervisors appoint Brett Andrews, executive director of the Positive Resource Center, to a vacant seat on the five-person ethics commission.

During the May 16 hearing, all three members of the panel said Andrews and the other applicant, Hulda Garfolo, who chaired a Civil Grand Jury that issued critical reports on the ethics commission, were well qualified.

But Garfolo’s criticisms of the ethics commission staff and its executive director tipped the vote in Andrews’ favor. District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee, chair of the rules committee, and District 5 Supervisor London Breed backed Andrews.

“My edge giving to Mr. Andrews, mainly because both of you seem to have critical thinking skills and have passion to do this work. One advantage for me was Mr. Andrews early on willingness to reach out and express his interest in this,” said Yee. “I was able to sit down and ask more questions of him and get to know him better.”

Breed said she was particularly struck by Garfolo’s comments that the ethics commission is led by the staff. She questioned how effective Garfolo could be “if you don’t have a level of trust for people managing the department?”

“It is about people working together and being open-minded, not just pointing the finger,” said Breed.

District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen had recommended to send both applicants to the full board but ended up voting with the majority to only support Andrews.

She too said that, “I don’t agree with Garfolo’s assessment the staff is leading the commission.”  Nonetheless, Cohen said both applicants are “smart leaders in their own respective fields.”

As the B.A.R. reported online Wednesday, a group called Friends of Ethics sent in a letter raising questions about Andrews’ lack of experience with the ethics commission and how his ties to city leaders would impact his ability to review ethics complaints.

During the hearing Andrews pledged to approach the role on ethics with the same “integrity and professionalism” as he does his nonprofit work. When Yee asked him if he was “comfortable” with moving his application forward knowing the rules barring ethics commissioners from engaging in political activities, Andrews responded he was.

Garfolo told the supervisors she felt that the ethics commission “continues to fail in its mandated mission” to enforce sunshine law violations and transparency in local politics.

“The citizens are entitled to know who is paying for access at City Hall,” she said. Later in the hearing Garfolo said that “one thing I feel very strongly about is ethics commissioners, given their authority, have not been as forceful … haven’t taken their responsibility as seriously as they should.”

Only three public speakers addressed the committee, and all voiced support for Garfolo over Andrews.

“It is important in appointing someone to this term to find someone who has a leg up on understanding of our ethics laws. I support Hulda Garfolo; she has enormous experience,” said lesbian former ethics commissioner Eileen Hansen, one of the signatories to the letter opposing Andrews’ selection for the seat.

The full board is expected to vote on the vacancy at its Tuesday, May 21 meeting. It is believed that the full board is more evenly divided and that Board president David Chiu (D3) could be the swing vote to decide if Andrews gains the seat.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 4:09 pm PST
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LGBT activists press Feinstein on immigration reform

Senator Dianne Feinstein (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

Senator Dianne Feinstein (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

LGBT activists stepped up their pressure on Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) today as they lobby the powerful lawmaker to back immigration rights for bi-national same-sex couples.

At San Francisco City Hall this morning (Thursday, May 16) local leaders held a rally prior to a Board of Supervisors hearing on the matter. Gay Supervisors David Campos (District 9) and Scott Wiener (D8) are asking their colleagues to back a resolution that calls on Congress to include pro-LGBT language in the comprehensive immigration reform bill now before them.

“We cannot have comprehensive immigration reform if LGBT families are left out of that process,” said Campos, who chaired the hearing before the board’s neighborhood services and safety committee.

Campos singled out Feinstein and asked her to support the changes bi-national same-sex couples need in order to live freely and together in the states.

“She has a history of supporting LGBT rights. It is time for her to demonstrate consistency with that history,” said Campos.

Straight Supervisors John Avalos (D11) and Board President David Chiu (D3) are co-sponsors of the resolution. District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee asked to be named a co-sponsor of the resolution and voted to send it on to the full board at the hearing.

“I agree that we need to make those amendments and am a supporter of that,” said Yee.

LGBT immigration activists and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) are pressing to see that the Uniting American Families Act, which is designed to end discrimination of couples where one partner isn’t a U.S. citizen, be included in the final immigration reform bill sent to President Barack Obama, who has expressed support for the pro-LGBT language.

Leahy has sponsored the UAFA for more than a decade, and throughout that time, Feinstein has refused to co-sponsor the legislation. Earlier this month her spokesman Brian Weiss told the Bay Area Reporter that Feinstein is giving the UAFA language “serious thought.”

Several days later Politico reported Feinstein would support it under certain conditions, such as if it required gay couples to marry in the United States within 90 days in a state that allows same-sex unions.

“But I’m not for just accepting affidavits,” Feinstein reportedly said.

The comments raised concerns among LGBT immigration activists, as only a handful of states currently allow same-sex couples to marry.

“I’m glad that Senator Feinstein has finally pledged to support the inclusion of married, bi-national LGBT couples in the immigration reform bill, however, unless she also supports extending these same protections to couples in civil unions and domestic partnerships, many Californians will be left out,” stated Out4Immigration founder Amos Lim, who lives in San Francisco. “We want her to know that all LGBT families, including those who have been barred from marriage, should be included in the immigration reform bill.”

A number of couples impacted by the anti-gay immigration laws spoke out at the hearing this morning. Among them was Judy Rickard, a longtime outspoken immigration activist recently recognized by the White House. She applied for a green card for her wife, UK-born Karin Bogliolo, 72, in January 2012.

“It has not been denied but has been under further review for eight months now,” said Rickard, noting that she and her wife are unable to leave the country and are “prisoners of love” in the U.S.

Another speaker, Out4Immigration organizer Erik Schnabel, spoke about how he and his undocumented partner of 9 years, who is from the Philippines, have had to move and pick up their  lives several times due to the anti-gay immigration laws.

“We want to urge our senior Senator Feinstein to support the Leahy amendment and not only for married couples, but for people in domestic partnerships and civil unions,” he said. “California is not a marriage equality state.”

Following the hearing a number of activists then marched to Feinstein’s nearby offices to deliver to her a petition signed by more than 6,000 people urging her to back the UAFA amendments.

“Senator Feinstein’s decision to support an amendment that does not protect bi-national same-sex couples in California and other states that do not have marriage equality will put an undue financial burden on many LGBT couples who are unable to get married,” stated Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez of GetEqual. “The ability of same-sex families to stay together and be free from the fear of deportation should not be dependent on their paychecks or their ability to travel to another state.”

 

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 12:31 pm PST
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Gay SF ethics commission applicant draws complaint

Brett Andrews

Brett Andrews

A gay man who is seeking a seat on San Francisco’s ethics commission is drawing fire from a number of LGBT leaders opposed to his application.

Brett Andrews, (seen at right) the executive director of the Positive Resource Center, is one of two people seeking the vacant seat created by the resignation of former commissioner Dorothy Liu. Hulda Garfolo, who chaired the Civil Grand Jury report on the ethics commission, has also applied for the seat, whose term expires February 1, 2017.

The Board of Supervisors’ rules committee is set to recommend one of the two at its meeting tomorrow (Thursday, May 16) and the full board is expected to finalize the choice at its meeting next week Tuesday, May 21.

The ethics commission has not had an LGBT member since Eileen Hansen left the panel in 2011. The out lesbian consultant was the board’s representative for six years and criticized the five-person commission as toothless.

Critics have long complained that the oversight panel is too lenient when it comes to regulating and investigating complaints against campaign consultants, lobbyists, political candidates and city employees. It is unclear how Andrews, if picked, would be able to carry out his duties as a commissioner without crossing conflict of interest lines.

Not only does Andrews lead a nonprofit that routinely lobbies city officials for funding, he is also vice chair of the HIV/AIDS Provider Network, a consortium of local nonprofits that offer services to people living with HIV and AIDS. He was one of the invited speakers at the recent budget town hall for residents of supervisor districts 8 and 9 hosted by Mayor Ed Lee and gay supervisors David Campos (D9) and Scott Wiener (D8).

It is foreseeable, should Andrews join the ethics commission, that matters involving the politicians his nonprofit relies on for funding would come before him. He notes in his application for the seat that for two decades as an executive director he has “worked closely with government agencies on funding, program development” and other issues.

In response to a request for comment this afternoon (Wednesday, May 15), Andrews sent the B.A.R. an email that included segments of his application sent to supervisors. He wrote that he “would embrace the challenge of this important role with integrity and enthusiasm.”

He added, “As a proud LGBT, African American man, I have devoted my professional career to working with nonprofit organizations that serve economically disadvantaged and traditionally underrepresented individuals – social and economic justice are the cornerstones of my life work.”

As for recusing himself from certain matters, Andrews wrote that he has been vetted for conflicts by the City Attorney’s Office. He noted the Ethics Commission has a “clearly defined recusal procedure in place that all commissioners abide by.”

He also maintained that he doesn’t “lobby” City Hall or the Board of Supervisors “for PRC-specific funding.” Rather, he wrote that, “with participation from other services providers, I do support efforts and initiatives that provide resources for the non-profit sector. Simply put, I will always disclose the nature of my relationship with elected officials or any city employee, and if it is determined that there is a conflict, then I recuse myself from discussion and vote.”

In a letter sent to the rules committee today, a draft of which was provided to the Bay Area Reporter, a group called Friends of Ethics endorsed Garfolo’s appointment to the seat and called her background and qualifications “clearly superior” compared to Andrews. The group of former ethics commissioners and staffers to the body also raised concerns about Andrews’ ties to politicians.

“Mr. Andrews’ application touts his relationship with the Mayor’s office, Board of Supervisors, and various departments, the leaders of which fall under the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction for disclosure of economic interests and other regulations,” states the letter.

It goes on to state that, “It is unclear what additional – or relevant – perspective Mr. Andrews would bring since he has no ethics or policy experience.  The Board’s appointee should not require ‘on-the-job’ training in good government reform.”

Among the signatories to the letter opposing Andrews are Hansen and former gay ethics commissioners Bob Dockendorff, Bob Planthold, and Paul Melbostad, who is also the B.A.R.‘s legal counsel. They specifically raise the conflict-of-interest question, noting that Joe Lynn, a gay man who served on the ethics commission, resigned in 2006 after being hired to work for the HIV Planning Council and HIV Prevention Council because they both received city funding.

They write that were Lynn still alive today, he “would no doubt be the first to both praise the work of PRC, which Lynn greatly admired, and decry the conflict of appointing PRC’s director to an Ethics Commissioner post.”

The letter also references an August 16, 2012 B.A.R. article about a lawsuit filed by a former PRC employee alleging wrongful termination for raising concerns to Andrews and the PRC board. Andrews at the time declined comment due to it being a personnel matter, but in court documents PRC called the former staffer a “bully” who was creating her own agency that would compete against PRC.

“Apparently, the disposition of the case is still pending. With a cloud of whistleblower retaliation hanging over applicant Andrews’ non-profit agency, it would be inappropriate to appoint Andrews to a government agency that is charged with enforcing San Francisco’s ordinance regarding Protection of Whistleblowers,” states the letter from the Friends of Ethics group.

In his email to the B.A.R. Andrews wrote that the former PRC staffer, Jane Gelfand, filed her lawsuit after leaving voluntarily over actions taken by the agency’s board after extensive consultation with and on advice of preeminent counsel on ethics and employment matters.

“I have nothing more to add to PRC’s prior public filings. The parties have reached a settlement in principle, wherein PRC has not been determined to have been liable for any ethical violations or any wrongdoing,” wrote Andrews.

In its praise for Garfolo, the group points to her being a member of the 2010-11 Civil Grand Jury, which authored reports about the Ethics Commission’s performance and another that highlighted various problems with the city’s whistleblower program.

“She is an excellent and experienced choice for this important Commission and will, we believe, make the Board of Supervisors proud as she implements her experience and commitment to ethics regulation,” they write.

Garfolo is a former nurse and business owner. In her application she wrote that she wants the ethics seat because the Civil Grand Jury “found ethics has failed miserably in its mandated mission. I would like to help bring credibility and public trust to this commission, which avoids transparency as often as it can.”

Andrews has garnered the backing of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, on whose board he was a member. In a letter to the supervisors, the club wrote that its board unanimously voted to support his application.

“He is a highly qualified candidate whose background in both politics and organizational management will bring an additional perspective to the current commission,” wrote Alice co-chairs Martha Knutzen and Ron Flynn. They also noted that Andrews “was active politically for many years before his service on the Alice board, gaining practical experience about how political campaigns operate and the challenges they face in advocating for civil rights.”

They refer to Andrews as “an example of leadership with integrity” and believe he is “uniquely qualified” to be an ethics commissioner.

He told the B.A.R. that if he is selected he would focus on developing ethics training and education programs as well as the enforcement of rules.

“It is important that the City continue to provide educational and training opportunities for those interested in working in city government or seeking to hold public office, particularly those historically underrepresented in the political process,” wrote Andrews. “The Ethics Commission has the authority to enforce all ethics laws and rules, including campaign finance and open government laws. I would like to work with the commission on developing strategies that increase active enforcement of violations in the area of enforcement of rules.”

It is believed that Andrews has the votes on the rules committee over Garfolo but that the full board is more evenly divided. Board president David Chiu (D3) is seen as the swing vote who could decide who is picked.

The rules committee meeting begins at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in Room 263 at City Hall. It is chaired by District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee and includes Supervisors London Breed (D5) and Malia Cohen (D10).

— Matthew S. Bajko, May 15, 2013 @ 4:04 pm PST
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Rainbow crosswalks, gay factoids cut from Castro Street project

A rendering of the redesign for the Market and Castro streets intersection. Image courtesy SF Planning Department.

A rendering of the redesign for the Market and Castro streets intersection.
Image courtesy SF Planning Department.

Rainbow crosswalks and gay historical elements are out. Gingkos and King palms are in.

Due to budgetary constraints, San Francisco planners working on the redesign of Castro Street in the heart of the city’s gayborhood have, for now, cut from the proposal such things as rainbow crosswalks, sparkle treatments in the concrete, and embedding gay historical factoids in the sidewalks.

The first 20 Rainbow Honor Walk plaques honoring LGBT people who have made significant contributions to society, which a nonprofit group is privately raising the money for, are slated to be installed along Castro Street as part of the redesign.

Planners disclosed their decision to eliminate the LGBT design elements at an open house last night (Tuesday, May 14) in the neighborhood. It was the third and final public meeting planning staff held to gather public input so they can use that feedback to finalize their design for the streetscape.

Sometime in July they will present the final plans for Castro Street between 19th and Market Streets to the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency board and then the Board of Supervisors for approval. Construction is set to begin in early 2014 and be completed by October of next year.

As the Bay Area Reporter has noted in past stories, the $4 million makeover is being funded from a road-paving bond measure passed by voters in 2011. Depending on the results of the bidding from contractors on the project, there may be a chance that some of the gay-centric elements can be added back into the project.

“Some things we need to wait for the bid results. If they are low enough we can do such things as the rainbow crosswalks, mica sparkles in the sidewalk and the [LGBT] history facts,”  said Nick Perry, a Castro resident and an urban designer with the Planning Department’s City Design Group working on the project.

A rendering of the redesign for Castro Street near 18th. Image courtesy of SF Planning Department.

A rendering of the redesign for Castro Street between 19th and 18th streets. Image courtesy of SF Planning Department.

He added that the history facts were “always intended/presented as neighborhood history facts, which includes – but is not limited to – the neighborhood’s LGBT history” and meant to be a “unique and neighborhood-specific” compliment to the Rainbow Honor Walk.

As for the special crosswalks, Perry told the B.A.R. that they “wouldn’t necessarily be rainbows, that was just one example we’ve shown.”

Other decisions revealed at the open house included the types of plantings that will be added to the street. Armstrong maples and white barked birch were nixed in favor of Columnar ginkgos for the majority of the street.

For accent plantings King palms were chosen over two other evergreen species: southern magnolias and Queen palms.

As reported by the B.A.R. last week, Jane Warner Plaza is set to be upgraded as part of the plan based on public feedback. And planners are closely looking at the intersection of 18th and Castro streets to improve pedestrian safety there.

An initial idea to relocate the bus stops at 18th and Castro streets was abandoned as it proved to be too controversial. Instead, bulbouts will be added to the corners in front of the restaurants Harvey’s and K-Pop. The bus shelters on 18th will also be relocated closer to the buildings to give pedestrians more room on the sidewalks.

The car lanes along Castro Street were increased a foot to now measure 12 feet, with the width from curb to curb now 40 feet. Planners are also looking at removing the left-hand turn lane onto 18th Street from north-bound Castro Street in order to have extended sidewalks in that area.

Traffic counts the department did revealed infrequent use of the turn lane. They were gathering feedback from the public during the open house to see if there is support for the proposal.

At the Market, Castro and 17th streets intersection the crosswalk leading from Harvey Milk Plaza to the gas station across the street, where a new housing development is slated to be built, is set to be reconfigured. Pedestrians would no longer be able to directly access the median in the middle of the street where the bus stop for the 37-Corbet route is located.

Instead, transit users would need to cross Market to the other side of the street and walk up 17th Street where a new crosswalk would be installed to the bus stop median. To prevent people from running across to the median, planners are looking at having plants be added to it so it is inaccessible to pedestrians.

“We probably will cut back the median,” added Perry when asked about the likelihood of people jaywalking to the bus stop. “We are talking about maybe doing some landscape there so people don’t think it is a landing pad.”

So far the design for Castro Street has met with mostly positive responses. Castro florist Gary Weiss, the owner of Ixia on Market Street, was especially pleased to see gingkos had been selected.

“I am really excited about it. I am a big fan of gingkos,” he said. “The gingko has in incredibly beautiful color. In the fall it turns a brilliant yellow that is just gorgeous.”

One Collingwood resident, who declined to give his name because he works in design and has business connections to the planning department, did express some concern about traffic gridlock the project may create as there will be less room for cars making turns onto 18th Street to maneuver.

But overall he said he is “generally pleased” with the proposal and thinks having new trees lining Castro is going to be “great.”

Patrick Batt, the owner of Auto Erotica on 18th Street, had no objections to the proposed plans. He is concerned that the construction timetable has not been clearly explained.

Planners have said they intend to do the work in sections so as to be less invasive but have not stated which blocks they will start on. They likely won’t known until August at the earliest.

“If we can weather this it will be good for the neighborhood. It will create a lot of bleeding for the neighborhood,”said Batt. “We are at a crossroads right now. My concern is this could be a death knell for certain businesses.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 11:26 am PST
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EQCA hires new staff, heads to Fresno for town hall

California’s statewide LGBT advocacy group announced this week it had bolstered its staff ranks and will be heading to the Central Valley to hold a community town hall.

EQCA staffer Rikimah Glymph

EQCA staffer Rikimah Glymph

Joining Equality California as its new chief administrative officer is Rikimah Glymph and as its communications director is Jesse Melgar.

Glymph, seen at right, had worked at ColorOfChange, a non-profit dedicated to advocating for African Americans in politics and policy, as director of operations and administration. She also worked as the director of finance and operations for the New Organizing Institute, a non-profit dedicated to giving progressive organizers access to skills and technology.

Melgar had been with public relations firm Cerrell Associates Inc., where he worked as an account executive in the campaigns, issues management and media relations practice area.

He also serves on the board of directors for HONOR PAC, the statewide Latino lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political action committee. Melgar had served as the group’s vice president of communications.

EQCA staffer Jesse Melgar

EQCA staffer Jesse Melgar

In a release announcing the hires, EQCA noted that Melgar’s fluency in Spanish will provide significant help to the agency as it expands outreach to Spanish-speaking Californians and Spanish-language media outlets.

“Rikimah and Jesse will provide significant strategy and leadership in their respective areas and build on the incredible momentum we are experiencing,” stated EQCA Executive Director John O’Connor, who took over the agency in December.

Glymph began working in the organization’s San Francisco office, where she will be based, in late April. Melgar, who will be based in Los Angeles, will start on May 13. EQCA did not provide salary information for the new employees.

 

Fresno town hall set for May 16

EQCA also announced it was boosting its outreach efforts in the state’s Central Valley with back-to-back events next week in Fresno.

The first will be a town hall meeting at which O’Connor will present an update on the agency and its current advocacy work in the state Legislature. There will also be a Q&A session for audience members.

Immediately afterward there will be a briefing titled “Health Happens with Equality” focused on the state’s health care exchange it is setting up as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.  It is part of a series of similar talks being held statewide to educate the LGBT community about the new health insurance options created by the legislation.

“The Central Valley is an important part of our mission to bring full equality and nothing less to California, and that means both actively engaging with the community there,” stated O’Connor, “and making sure that they have access to programs like” the health care talk.

The town hall is slated to run from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, May 16 at the Fresno LGBT Community Center, 1055 N Van Ness Avenue, Suite A. The health care talk with go from 7 to 7:30 p.m.

Both events are free and open to the public. For questions and further information contact Bella Week at Bella@eqca.org or call (323) 848-9801.

— Matthew S. Bajko, May 10, 2013 @ 3:35 pm PST
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TLC takes top spot in Give OUT Day

The inaugural Give OUT Day, an online opportunity for LGBTs to donate to their favorite LGBT nonprofit, was declared a success by organizers, who reported more than a half-million dollars was collected during the 24-hour event.

San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center took the top spot nationally in the May 9 fundraiser, garnering $17,555 from 294 unique donors. With prize grants for winning the top spot and matching grants, TLC’s total take for the day was $32,085.

Organization leaders were ecstatic and said that Give OUT Day was the “perfect storm for the transgender community and Transgender Law Center specifically.” Nathan Harris, TLC’s development director, said the agency has been boosting its social media presence. It showed on Give OUT Day.

“Transgender Law Center has been building a robust social media presence in the past few years resulting today in over 13,000 Facebook fans and over 6,000 Twitter followers,” Harris said in an email Friday. “That made a major difference.”

Give_Out

Nearly 400 nonprofits participated in Give OUT Day. TLC also took first place in the Bay Area, followed by the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, which pulled in $4,066 from 96 unique donors. Finishing third was the New Conservatory Theatre Center with $4,091 raised from 64 unique donors.

All told, nationally Give OUT Day raised $556,400 from 5,474 unique donors. The idea for the coast-to-coast endeavor was implemented by New York-based Bolder Giving, which teamed up with crowdfunding site Razoo.com to create the online platform. The Horizons Foundation served as a sponsor.

Nationally, the Greater Twin Cities United Way took second place with $12,866 raised from 226 unique donors. Minnesota has a similar one-day, online giving event and it was a gay man, Charlie Rounds, who lives in Minneapolis, that suggested the idea for an LGBT-specific online donor drive to Bolder Giving Executive Director Jason Franklin, who is also gay. Rounds is a longtime trustee of the Kevin J. Mossier Foundation, which provided a three-year grant of $425,000 to Bolder Giving for Give OUT Day.

Rounding out the top three national groups was OutServe-SLDN, the merged group of LGBT military personnel and veterans. The organization raised $10,599 from 205 unique donors.

In TLC’s case, Harris said that volunteers, including board and development committee members and major supporters, made Give OUT Day a priority by leveraging their personal social media networks.

“Janet Mock, Cecilia Chung, Margaret Cho, and many others tweeted and retweeted our announcements,” Harris explained.

Additionally, an anonymous donor, Leonie Walker and Dr. Kate O’Hanlan, and Rose Hayes provided an incentive challenge and matching grants that “quadrupled our donor gifts up to $4,000,” Harris added.

There were also transgender issues in the news Thursday that helped bring attention to TLC and its programs, Harris said. The state Assembly approved AB 1266, a measure by gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) that ensures that transgender students in California have equal and full access to programs and facilities on the basis of their gender identity.

Another bill, AB 1121 by out Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), also passed in the Assembly. It would help ensure transgender people have access to identity documents that accurately reflect their gender identity.

Both bills now advance to the state Senate.

“We’d like to thank everyone who participated – it was a huge victory nationally in the ongoing effort to increase philanthropy toward LGBT causes,” Harris said. “To those who placed the transgender movement prominently in the national spotlight as part of that historic moment, we are totally humbled.”

— Cynthia Laird, @ 2:15 pm PST
Filed under: News


Planning Commission rejects Starbucks on upper Market Street

(Photo: Courtesy Starbucks via SF Planning Dept.)

(Photo: Courtesy Starbucks via SF Planning Dept.)

In the first test of new rules aimed at limiting the number of chain stores along upper Market Street, the Planning Commission early this evening (Thursday, May 9) rejected a proposed Starbucks.

The commission voted 5-1 to uphold a staff recommendation not to approve the project. As the Bay Area Reporter has noted, the proposed Starbucks at 2201 Market Street triggers a restriction that any formula retailer that brings the concentration of chain stores within a 300-foot radius to 20 percent or greater would not be recommended for approval. The rule applies to Market Street between Octavia and Castro Street.

According to the planning staff report, the new Starbucks would bring the percentage of nearby chain stores to 21 percent. The staff review also determined that the upper Market area is already “well served” by existing coffeehouses.

Commissioner Rich Hillis said the panel needed to listen to the community objections to the store. He said the vote was not meant to be against Starbucks.

“It is broader and about the feel of that commercial corridor and making sure it stays diverse and unique,” he said.

Also voting against the store was Commission Vice President Cindy Wu, saying it was important to uphold the staff’s recommendation and follow the new policy that was recently approved.

Commission President Rodney Fong agreed with his colleagues’ reasonings for opposing the store.

“I feel obligated to follow that policy and support it,” said Fong.

Commissioner Michael J. Antonini was the lone no vote. Commissioner Gwyneth Borden was absent. He saw the objections against Starbucks as “protectionism”and tried to have the item postponed for 90 days to see it a compromise could be reached, but that was rejected.

He called the proposed building and signage “beautiful” and said it is the right fit for the corner storefront.

“Before there was Starbucks there were very few coffee shops,” he said. “Now there are spin offs for a lot of other chains and a lot of independent coffee shops modeled after Starbucks.”

He also spoke out against the new rule, saying the 300 foot radius is too narrow and should include a larger area.

“It lumps all formula retail together,” he said, noting that the area is not getting a “hyper concentration” of a certain kind of business.

Starbucks representative Phil Burnett noted that the company has been in San Francisco for decades, provides 1,400 jobs and has been a “vocal supporter” of marriage equality. He said the new store would add 25 jobs to the city and help beautify the prominent corner storefront at Market and Sanchez.

“It will be a beneficial, desirable addition to the neighborhood,” said Burnett. “Our customers have been asking for more space in the neighborhood. They also want room for meetings and mobile office space.”

It would be the fourth Starbucks location in the Castro district. There are two stand alone stores, one on 18th Street and one in the Safeway shopping plaza on Market Street, with a kiosk inside the grocery store.

“The site is not an under-served area for coffee or baked goods. It would arguably not be an under-served area for Starbucks,” said Hut Landon, executive director of the San Francisco Locally Owned Merchants Alliance. “It will cost jobs at other stores they will compete with.”

The commission heard testimony from the public for close to 90 minutes. More than 25 people spoke in support of the Seattle-based coffee chain’s proposal; another 16 people spoke out against it.

The hearing included accusations from one man that the remodel of the 18th Starbucks, known as “Bearbucks” because of the hairy, beefy men who hang out there, was done to “drive the bears out” because the new seating isn’t big enough for their “bums.”

At the other end of the spectrum, an owner of a nearby hair salon said he welcomed seeing Starbucks move into that spot as it would attract more daytime foot traffic and improve problems with people defecating at the property. He noted that a “sign posted there said please do not shit here.”

Starbucks can appeal the commission’s decision to the Board of Supervisors and seek approval for the necessary permits from the supervisors. It is doubtful it would win a favorable vote before the board, though, as gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener backed the formula retail rule change that the planning commission adopted.

 

 

 

— Matthew S. Bajko, May 9, 2013 @ 6:14 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


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