Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Planning staff recommend approval of permits to reopen the Castro’s Patio Cafe

Screen Shot 2013-07-26 at 2.29.52 PMPlanning staff are recommending that the long shuttered Patio Cafe in San Francisco’s gay Castro district be granted the permits needed to reopen the restaurant.

The Planning Commission is set to vote on the matter at its meeting next Thursday, August 1 and is expected to sign off on the permits. Owner Les Natali has said that the eatery, located at 531 Castro Street, could open within a matter of weeks once it receives official word that its permits have been granted.

“All work, other than the removal of the last retail space, has already been completed, and the Patio Cafe is prepared to open very soon after it receives approval,” wrote John Kevlin, with the law firm Reuben, Junius and Rose LLP, which specializes in land use issues, in a July 19 letter to planning commissioners.

As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a story earlier this year, Natali had planned to reopen the Patio, which closed in 2002, in May 2012. But a routine health department inquiry related to his request for an occupancy permit led to a determination that his planning permits were not in order.

At the crux of the snafu was a zoning prohibition placed on the eatery in 1992 that stipulated a seating capacity of 160 people. Any expansion required Natali to seek a new permit.

However, when he sought city approval in 2005 to expand the restaurant into several retail spaces fronting Castro Street, city planners at the time neglected to have Natali apply for the necessary permits in order to exceed the capacity cap. Due to the expansion the Patio Cafe’s occupancy will go from 160 people to 171.

The mistake was not caught until last spring. After first trying to fight the planning department’s determination he needed to apply for a conditional use permit, Natali relented and did so this year.

“Mr. Natali had no notice that there were any issues with the permit until after all work was completed,” wrote Kevlin, “and a Certificate of Final Completion was issued to him by” the city’s Department of Building Inspection.

“Mr. Natali is enthusiastic to finally reopen the Patio Cafe after years of construction,” added Kevlin. “This conditional use authorization would affirm his good faith investment in the Property and allow him to reopen and reactivate this important retail frontage on busy Castro Street.”

In June Natali told the B.A.R. that he was in talks with two interested parties to run the Patio Cafe – they would be required to keep the name – but did not disclose their identities. He expected to have an operator lined up prior to the planning commission hearing and would announce who the person is once the permit has been approved.

According to the staff report released today (Friday, July 26) the Patio’s bar and seating area fronting Castro Street will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week.

The back bar and outdoor seating area will be open from 11 a.m. to midnight seven days a week. Planning staff is requiring that the retractable roof over the eating area be closed nightly at 9 p.m.

The report estimates that approximately 10 percent of the restaurant operation will be devoted to take-out dining.

Planning staff reported they received no opposition to Natali’s permit request. It has broad neighborhood support from both residents and merchants.

Castro / Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association President Alan Beach-Nelson wrote in a letter of support that, “EVNA believes that the Patio’s return to the Castro after years will bring back an historic icon to the neighborhood. Furthermore, it will return a long vacant space to active use and enhance business activity.”

The planning commission meeting begins at noon in Room 400 at City Hall.



— Matthew S. Bajko, July 26, 2013 @ 3:12 pm PST
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Human billboard planned for Manning

Army private first class Bradley Manning

Army private first class Bradley Manning

Supporters of a gay army private first class facing court martial are planning a human billboard spelling out “Free Bradley Manning” from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday (July 26) at First and Market streets in San Francisco.

Manning has admitted to leaking 700,000 classified U.S. government documents to WikiLeaks. Locally, controversy erupted around Manning after the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee board announced he’d been named a grand marshal for this year’s parade, then rescinded the honor.

The protest marks the International Day of Action, which is Saturday, July 27. According to Manning’s backers, the date coincides with the anticipated sentencing phase of his trial.

For more information visit or

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 1:53 pm PST
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Bicyclist who hit, killed Castro pedestrian pleads guilty

The bicyclist who struck and killed a pedestrian in the Castro last year is expected to avoid jail and do community service after pleading guilty in the case.

Chris Brucchere, 37, had been accused of running a red light before hitting Sutchi Hui, 71, in the intersection of Castro and Market streets March 29, 2012. Hui died three days later.

Bucchere, whom a judge hard ordered to stand trial, pleaded guilty Tuesday, July 23 in San Francisco Superior to felony vehicular manslaughter, according to District Attorney George Gascón.

“With the conditions of this plea, the defendant will be held accountable for the tragic death of Sutchi Hui and will have an opportunity for redemption,” Gascón said in a statement. “We hope this case continues to serve as a reminder that blatant disregard of the traffic laws can have dire consequences.”

Bucchere’s felony conviction is “the first of its kind in the nation involving a bicyclist,” according to the DA’s office. He’s set to receive 1,000 hours in community service and three years of probation. His sentencing is scheduled for August 16.

A judge may determine in six months if the conviction can be reduced to a misdemeanor.

Assistant District Attorney Omid Talai prosecuted the case. Bucchere’s attorney, Ted Cassman, wasn’t immediately available for comment Wednesday, July 24.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, July 24, 2013 @ 4:00 pm PST
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San Diego County Clerk tries to halt marriages

The San Diego County Clerk has filed a petition with the California Supreme Court Friday (July 19) protesting orders from state officials that it issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“Respondents have ordered Petitioner to stop enforcing state law that claims marriage as the between one man and one woman,” the clerk’s filling, which refers to Attorney General Kamala Harris, Governor Jerry Brown, and others, says. “Respondents claim that petitioner is bound by a federal court injunction that prohibits enforcement of that state marriage law because, according to respondents, state law provides them with authority to supervise or control county clerks issuing marriage licenses. Petitioner, however, asserts that state law does not give Respondents this authority over him, and for this reason, among others … Petitioner contends that he is not bound by the federal court’s injunction.”

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its 5-4 ruling striking down California’s Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban. Days later, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a stay on the marriages, allowing them to resume immediately.

Harris quickly issued a response to the San Diego clerk’s petition.

“The filing offers no new arguments that could deny same-sex couples their constitutionally protected civil rights,” Harris stated. “The federal injunction is still in effect, and it requires all
58 counties to perform same-sex marriages. No exceptions.”

Equality California Executive Director John O’Connor released a statement saying, “This is an outrageous and desperate attempt that is without merit. Our Attorney General Kamala Harris’ swift response asserting that all 58 counties are required to perform same-sex marriages without exception, further illustrates the importance of electing pro-equality leaders to office. We thank our Attorney General for her continued leadership!”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, July 19, 2013 @ 4:42 pm PST
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Queer man becomes San Francisco Bay Guardian publisher

Marke Bieschke

Marke Bieschke

A self-identified queer man has been named the new publisher of the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Marke Bieschke’s promotion to the alternative weekly’s top post is believed to make him the first out publisher of a non-LGBT paper in San Francisco.

“I’m stoked to bring a different energy and openness to innovation to the Guardian, while respecting our legacy and strengthening our bonds with the progressive, alternative community,” Bieschke, 42, said in a news release Thursday (July 18). “Obviously, [newly named Editor] Steve Jones and I stand on the shoulders of giants, and we’re so grateful to our Guardian family, past and present, for blazing a trail for world class progressive journalism, arts and culture coverage, and community-building in the Bay Area. In that spirit, I’m eager to reconnect with our readers and partner with them to amplify the Guardian voice and continue to change the Bay Area for the better.”

The Guardian will hold a forum from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 31 at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market Street. The event is designed “to solicit input and discuss the Guardian’s unique role in the Bay Area’s political and journalistic landscape,” the paper’s news release said. “…The forum and subsequent discussions will form the basis for a strategic plan that will help guide the Guardian into a new era.”

The release was upfront about some recent controversy involving the paper.

Canadian businessman Todd Vogt and a team of investors bought the Guardian last year. Vogt’s San Francisco Newspaper Company also owns the San Francisco Examiner and SF Weekly.

In June, longtime Guardian Editor-Publisher Tim Redmond abruptly left the paper during a dispute with the owners over layoffs and autonomy. Years of cutbacks had already left the weekly publication with a skeleton crew of reporters. The loss of Redmond raised concerns about the paper’s future as a progressive institution. He said Vogt fired him. Vogt insisted that Redmond had resigned.

Asked in an email whether he’s the first out publisher of a non-LGBT publication in San Francisco, Bieschke quipped, “… I think Phil Bronstein was basically an honorary A-gay – and let’s not rifle through that musty Hearst closet.” Bronstein is the former editor-at-large for the San Francisco Chronicle and other newspapers owned by the Hearst Corporation. He was also once married to actress Sharon Stone.

“I do think that, on the alternative as well as mainstream press scene, there’s long been a need for diversification in any form in the upper echelons,” Bieschke said. “Perhaps I’m not the first, but I’m from a generation that had a lot more freedom in terms of expressing and defining queerness, so I think that’s what’s really unique here in terms of operating as a queer outside the defined LGBT sphere.”

The Guardian already regularly covers queer issues, arts, and other topics. Bieschke said the paper “will always have a queer bent, mostly because of the San Francisco audience we serve. That said, I would love to better serve not just the queer community in all its awesome diversity but all the other communities of the Bay Area that I feel could use a lot more representation, and give them a larger voice as well. In terms of media representation, even with the proliferation of online outlets, I feel like communities of color, the economically disadvantaged (including the homeless and mentally ill), and even our vibrant youth have fallen off the map in terms of having a voice in today’s media environment. It’s really weird, and I want to dedicate myself to fixing that.”

In the Guardian news release he said he’s “excited to help diversify San Francisco’s media environment by bringing two decades of queer Arab-American activist experience to the role.”

After Redmond left, Stephen Buel, the San Francisco Newspaper Company’s vice president of editorial operations, had been named interim Guardian publisher and Bieschke, who’s been with the paper since 2005, had become interim editor.

“Heeding concerns in the community about whether the Guardian would remain an independent, progressive voice in San Francisco,” Bieschke and Jones negotiated terms with Vogt “that guarantee them full editorial control, the addition of three new advertising sales positions and another staff writer, and guaranteed minimum staffing levels during a rebuilding period,” the news release said.

Helping to coordinate the July 31 forum is Guardian writer Rebecca Bowe, who has accepted the position of news editor.

Jones, who’s been with the paper since 2003 said in the release, “Losing Tim’s leadership was hard on all of us at the Guardian, and we struggled with what to do next. But ultimately, the Guardian plays such an important role in San Francisco – particularly now, at a pivotal moment for this gentrifying city and its progressive movement – that we wanted to find a way to keep that voice alive, maintain our credibility, and reach out to a new generation of Bay Area residents.”

Vogt stated, “I’m happy about this. I think it’s appropriate that two recognized leaders in the progressive community are in charge of the Guardian and I look forward to seeing what they do with it.”

As for the biggest challenge he sees for the paper in his role as publisher, Bieschke said, “The Guardian has had a rocky few years in terms of business environment and staffroom cutbacks – that’s a mere blip in our long and fabulously tumultuous history, but it’s something the new editor Steve Jones, our excellent staff, and I certainly want to move away from, so we can concentrate on what we do best: covering the Bay Area from a progressive perspective and moving the conversation forward in terms of politics, culture, and arts. …We also have an incredible set of advertisers that we value deeply – despite the economy and changing landscape of advertising, they realize the enormous value of our dedicated and growing print and online audience. Our challenge is to push ourselves to serve them better while expanding our revenue sources, developing online and mobile excitement, and expanding our reach. But, just like San Francisco, we’re a scrappy lot that will continue to flourish, or at least be very interesting, despite the ups and downs. Plus we look great.”

Bieschke, who joined the paper as culture editor, became part of the staff after covering nightlife from a queer perspective in his Super Ego column. He’s also worked at CitySearch and PlanetOut Partners, and he’s managed a bookstore in the Inner Richmond. He lives in San Francisco’s Lower Haight neighborhood with his husband, David Schnur.

Bay Area Reporter deal finalized

In April, the Bay Area Reporter announced a restructuring effort in which Vogt and Patrick Brown, chief financial officer of the San Francisco Newspaper Company, will own 49 percent of the paper, collectively.

The paper’s top management told staff recently that the deal has been finalized and the new company, BAR Media Inc., will be operational August 1.

Michael Yamashita, the B.A.R.’s general manager, will own 31 percent of the company and will become the paper’s publisher. The Bob Ross Foundation, which is named after the B.A.R.’s founder and currently owns the paper, will own 20 percent.

The majority of the paper’s ownership will still be gay, and the paper isn’t being sold. Vogt and Brown have said repeatedly that the new partners will not try to interfere with the paper’s editorial operations, a pledge they repeated Thursday in a meeting with B.A.R. staff.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, July 18, 2013 @ 4:24 pm PST
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Herrera to fight Prop 8 motion

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said Friday that his office will promptly oppose a motion filed by that seeks to halt same-sex marriage in the state.

[Updated: Monday, July 15: the California Supreme Court this afternoon denied a request to halt same-sex marriages in the state in a brief, two-sentence order signed by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. The court will consider’s bid to revive Prop 8 and briefs are expected to be filed in the next couple of weeks.]

In its filing, said that 56 of the state’s 58 counties are obligated by the state constitution to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 decision that upheld a lower court ruling – and after the appellate court lifted its stay – Governor Jerry Brown ordered state officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

(City Attorney Dennis Herrera. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

(City Attorney Dennis Herrera. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland) filed a motion July 12 with the state Supreme Court that contends that Brown did not have the authority to direct county officials to stop enforcing Prop 8 because the measure had not been deemed unconstitutional by an appellate court. The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling, holding that the measure’s sponsors lacked standing to appeal, left intact a lower federal court decision that Prop 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban, was unconstitutional.

The petition filed Friday is Hollingsworth v. O’Connell.

In a statement, Herrera call the move by “desperate.”

“This motion is a desperate obstruction tactic used in the vain hope of pursuing an unconstitutional agenda,” Herrera said. “The opponents of the freedom to marry have chosen to ignore the supremacy clause of the Constitution, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, and the well-settled California marriage case of Lockyer v. San Francisco, which they themselves celebrated at the time.”

Herrera was referring to the 2004 case where the court determined that the 4,000 same-sex marriages performed in San Francisco were void because public officials acted unlawfully in issuing the marriage licenses.

Herrera went on to note that’s motion “has essentially no chance to succeed.”

Herrera said the city will file its motion because it was named as a defendant, along with the rest of the counties in the state.

The Bay Area Reporter will update this post as warranted.

— Cynthia Laird, July 12, 2013 @ 1:42 pm PST
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Man pleads guilty to Castro hate crime

Alejandro Bonilla (Photo: SFPD)

Alejandro Bonilla (Photo: SFPD)

A San Francisco man pleaded guilty this week to an anti-gay attack against another man who’d been walking down a Castro street.

Alejandro Bonilla, 35, pleaded guilty to a felony battery charge Wednesday, July 10 in San Francisco Superior Court in exchange for charges of assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury and possession of the drug Oxycontin being dismissed, court records show. The battery and assault charges carried allegations that Bonilla had committed a hate crime based on the victim’s sexual orientation.

Police said the victim and another man had been walking down 18th Street near Sanchez Street at about 4 p.m. May 19 when Bonilla approached them yelling, “Fuck you faggots” and “I hate faggots.” He clenched his fists, ran up to the man, and attacked him, according to police, who said the victim and the other man were a couple.

The victim suffered lacerations to his face and a broken pinky. Bonilla also tried to attack the other man, but he was able to defend himself, police said. Both victims are in their 20s. One is a San Francisco resident.

Bonilla pleaded not guilty to all three charges and denied the allegations at his May 22 arraignment, when his bail was set at $100,000, according to court documents.

His sentence is expected to include three years of probation with substance abuse and mental health counseling. If he complies with probation for 18 months and completes an anger management class he may petition the court to reduce the battery charge to a misdemeanor.

Superior Court Judge Monica Wiley has ordered Bonilla to stay away from the couple and keep at least 150 yards away from 18th and Noe streets.

Assistant District Attorney Victor Hwang prosecuted the case. Deputy Public Defender Seth Meisels, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, represented Bonilla.

Bonilla’s sentencing is set for July 31.

In an email, Sergeant Peter Shields, of the San Francisco Police Department’s Special Investigations Division, said he wanted to “reiterate and give praise to the witnesses, the first responding officers, Inspector Sue Bachman and [Hwang] for the arrest and successful conviction of Bonilla.” Bachman did the initial investigation and Shields completed it.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, July 11, 2013 @ 3:47 pm PST
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LGBT seniors researcher seeks stolen flash drive

A researcher who was in San Francisco this week to present groundbreaking data on LGBT seniors is looking for a flash drive that was practically stolen from under her nose.

The flash drive had “a lot of very important information on it,” including research and work-related materials, said Bill Ambrunn, a member of the Human Rights Commission’s LGBT Aging Policy Task Force, which commissioned the report.

Karen I. Fredriksen-Goldsen, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Washington and director of the Institute for Multigenerational Health, shared her data at the San Francisco Public Library’s Koret Auditorium Tuesday, July 9. Among other findings, the data show that 15 percent of the seniors surveyed had “seriously considered” committing suicide within the last 12 months.

The storage device was in Fredriksen-Goldsen’s wallet, which she’d placed in her briefcase. Her briefcase and overnight bag had been “at the front of the auditorium, right next to the stage,” Ambrunn said.

She’d given the device to a technician to load onto a computer. He returned it about 20 minutes before her presentation, and she put it in her briefcase, Ambrunn said. Shortly before her talk, she stepped out of the auditorium to do a media interview. Ambrunn suspects that’s when her items were stolen.

“That was the last time she saw it,” he said.

By about 5 p.m., someone had already used her credit card to buy Muni Clipper cards. Her credit cards have been taken care of, but she’d still like to get the flash drive back.

In an email Wednesday, July 10, Fredriksen-Goldsen said, “I had all my presentations on the flash drive but luckily I have many of them backed up on my work computer, thank goodness.”

Ambrunn encourages whoever has the flash drive to bring it to the Human Rights Commission at 25 Van Ness Avenue, Room 800.

“The task force will offer a small reward,” he said, and no questions will be asked.



— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 11:27 am PST
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SF supervisor committee to vote on Milk airport terminal naming plan

994794_622233611129492_1913169904_nA San Francisco supervisor committee will vote Thursday on a plan to name one of the city’s airport terminals after the late gay Supervisor Harvey Milk.

The vote comes as SFO administrators and federal aviation officials continue to investigate the crash over the weekend of Asiana Flight 214 that led to the deaths of two Chinese students and injured 180 of the passengers arriving from South Korea.

In late April the Bay Area Reporter broke the news that city leaders had reached a compromise to name one of the four terminals at San Francisco International Airport after the slain gay rights leader rather than the entire airport as originally proposed by gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos.

The initial idea had caught many at City Hall by surprise and was met with fierce resistance from both the public and city leaders. The LGBT community itself was divided on the matter, with some questioning if the tribute to Milk was necessary while others embraced it as a powerful message that could resonate around the globe.

Others feared having to fight over the proposal at the ballot box in November, as renaming the airport would have required voters passing an amendment to the city’s charter. In an editorial the B.A.R. had warned such a political fight could divide the city along racial lines.

For months Campos was short the sixth vote at the Board of Supervisors he needed to put the charter amendment on the fall ballot. Then Mayor Ed Lee went on record as questioning the merits of the idea, as any number of former and current city leaders could be honored by having the airport named for them.

That led to Campos and Lee putting forward a compromise plan, where an Airport Facilities Naming Advisory Committee would recommend which of the airport’s terminals should be named after Milk, the city’s first gay elected official who was killed inside City Hall in 1978 along with then-Mayor George Moscone by disgruntled former supervisor Dan White.

The board would name four people to the panel and the mayor would name five members. It would be given three months to present its recommendation to the board and could also recommend names for all of the airport’s terminals, as well as boarding areas and control towers. There are three domestic terminals and an international terminal.

The alternative proposal has the support of gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener as well as straight Supervisors John Avalos (D11), Jane Kim (D6), Eric Mar (D1), Norman Yee (D7), and Board President David Chiu (D3). They along with Campos are co-sponsors of the proposal.

As the B.A.R. reported in May, a separate naming committee created by the city’s airport commission is not keen on seeing a terminal be named after Milk or anyone else. It has been meeting to develop its own criteria and rules for naming SFO facilities.

Since 1985, 13 areas at the airport have been named after former airport commissioners, staff, and the late Congressman Tom Lantos, who represented San Mateo County and has the Terminal 3 Hub named in his h0nor.

Campos has insisted, however, that only the supervisors and mayor have the authority to name airport facilities.

The board’s Rules Committee will vote on the SFO terminals naming plan this Thursday, July 11. Campos expects the full board could then vote on it as early as Tuesday, July 16.

He would like to have the naming panel members selected by August. The panel could then decide on the terminal that will bear Milk’s name by November, which marks the 35th anniversary of the assassinations of Milk and Moscone.

Already, some are pushing to see the International Terminal be named after Milk.

The Rules Committee hearing begins at 2:30 p.m. in Room 263 at City Hall.


— Matthew S. Bajko, July 8, 2013 @ 11:51 am PST
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Police seek help in catching suspect in ‘brutal’ robbery, assault

Suspect in robbery, assault (Photo: SFPD)

Suspect in robbery, assault (Photo: SFPD)

The San Francisco Police Department is asking for help in identifying a suspect in what the agency describes as a “brutal” robbery and aggravated assault that occurred not long after Pink Saturday ended. A video of the assault is available online.

Police said in a news release that the incident occurred at 1:50 a.m. Sunday, June 30, about three hours after the Castro street party ended. A group of suspects robbed the victim, and one kicked her so violently in the face that she was knocked unconscious, police said. The release doesn’t say where the incident occurred.

The suspects were described only as a group of approximately five black men and a black woman. They appeared to have been in their late teens or early twenties.

Police said it’s believed the suspects committed multiple robberies and assaults after the end of this year’s Pink Saturday, which draws thousands of people to the Castro on the night before the main Pride festival every year. It’s also believed the same suspects may have committed other unreported robberies and assaults in the area of Market Street between Castro Street and Civic Center on Sunday around the same time. Security at Pink Saturday has been a concern for years, especially after the 2010 shooting death of Stephen Powell, 19.

The SFPD is requesting assistance identifying unreported robberies and assaults as well as additional help with the identification of suspects already in custody. Pride weekend included several violent incidents, including a shooting that injured two exhibitors, and several robberies and assaults.

People are encouraged to contact the SFPD Mission Station Investigation Team at (415) 558-5400 with any information. Calls may also be made anonymously at (415) 575-4444 or text-a-tip to TIP411 with SFPD at the beginning of the message.




— Seth Hemmelgarn, July 5, 2013 @ 9:15 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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