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

Milk club joins calls to fire SF police chief

Chief Greg Suhr (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Chief Greg Suhr (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club’s political action committee has joined calls for San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr to be fired.

The group sent a letter Wednesday, January 13 to Suhr, the police commission, Mayor Ed Lee, the Board of Supervisors, and the police officers association “to demand justice for Mario Woods and the countless individuals who have been unjustly terrorized and murdered by the SFPD.”

Police fatally shot Woods, 26, of San Francisco, December 2 in the Bayview neighborhood. He’d been suspected of stabbing someone just before the incident and was still holding a knife when he encountered police. The shooting was captured in dramatic cellphone videos that quickly went viral.

Since police killed Woods, there have been numerous protests and calls for Suhr’s termination.

Among other complaints, the Milk committee’s letter says Suhr “and other leadership have continued to execute policies and support personnel that allow racism, homophobia, transphobia, and homeless persecution to proliferate within the force … Far too many black and brown folks, people with mental and physical disabilities, and members of the LGBT community and homeless residents have suffered at the hands of the SFPD.”

The committee added, “Current leadership has proven that it either cannot or will not take action to stop the excessive use of force, abuse of power, and bigotry that is causing unjust pain and suffering in our communities.”

In an email exchange with the Bay Area Reporter, Peter Gallotta, the Milk club’s president, said among other things he found troubling about Woods’ shooting was “The fact that Mario was shot and killed by a firing squad of officers in cold blood with impunity,” and “the fact that it was filmed and we were able to see the absolute horror of the moment, and the reality that this was absolutely use of excessive force and need not have happened.”

Asked for recent, specific examples of the SFPD’s racism, homophobia, and transphobia, Gallotta pointed to text messages exchanged by police officers in 2011 and 2012. The messages included use of the words “fag” and the N-word.

Suhr has sought to have several of the officers involved fired, but Gallotta said the messages were “a major indication of what goes on behind the scenes at the department” and show “that there are real biases that exist in this police force which manifest in police behavior and practices, and often go unchecked by those in power.”

He also said, “black people in San Francisco are 7.1 times as likely as white people to be arrested, and account for 40 percent of arrestees in the city,” even though they make up only a small percentage of the population.

Gallotta said nobody’s responded to the club’s letter.

Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, said in response to an email from the B.A.R. about the letter that, “The public has the right to protest/say what they would like freedom of speech protected under the first amendment of the USA.”

Monday, January 18, Black.Seed, a black, queer liberation group, marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day by shutting down part of the Oakland Bay Bridge and joining those demanding that Suhr, along with other officials, be fired.

In a news release that mentioned Woods’ and other killings, Black.Seed said the protest was “a show of resistance to a system that continues to oppress black, queer, brown, indigenous, and other marginalized people throughout the Bay Area.”

Twenty-five people were arrested but quickly released, according to media reports.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, January 20, 2016 @ 2:48 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Milk club VP intends to nominate own slate for 2016 board election

Milk club VP Mahnani Clay is nominating her own slate of 2016 board candidates.

Milk club VP Mahnani Clay is nominating her own slate of 2016 board candidates.

A vice president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club intends to nominate her own slate of candidates for the 2016 board election, setting up a contested leadership fight for the progressive political group in quite some time.

The club is set to vote tonight (Tuesday, January 19) on its leadership positions for the next 12 months. It is a key year politically, with control of the city’s Democratic Party up for grabs on the June primary ballot and progressives fighting to retain their one-vote majority on the Board of Supervisors in November when the odd-numbered seats are all up for re-election.

As the Bay Area Reporter‘s Political Notebook reported last week, the Milk club’s current male co-president, Peter Gallotta, is seeking re-election to lead the club alone due to, he has said, being unable to recruit a female member to serve alongside him as co-president.

The club’s current female co-president, Laura Thomas, decided not to seek a third term this year. Gallotta has noted that the slate he has put forward includes 10 women out of 19 total positions, which would mark an increase in female board members.

But Gallotta and Thomas have come under fire from some club members, particularly for their handling of the endorsement in last year’s sheriff’s race. After supporters of former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi pushed to hold a second vote after the club initially failed to endorse anyone in the sheriff’s race, the club co-presidents announced they would not allow the re-endorsement vote to proceed.

After members of the club pushed through a second re-vote on the endorsement, Mirkarimi secured Milk’s support in the race, which he ended up losing. The episode continues to dog Gallotta as he seeks a second term as club president.

This afternoon the club’s vice president of political affairs, Mahnani Clay, revealed to the B.A.R. that she would be nominating a different slate of board candidates for club members to vote on. She would like to see attorney David Waggoner return as the club’s male co-president and Kin Folkz serve in the female co-president position.

She said that Gallotta had rejected her offer to run alongside him for the co-president position and then also refused to include Folkz on his slate.

“I presented, recruited Kin Folkz and suggested to Peter that they run together. He immediately declined without consideration,” Clay told the B.A.R. “Since he had already rejected my own offer to run with him as co-president last month, I was dismayed and concerned about the imbalance a white cis gay male presiding alone would likely create.”

Clay would like to be elected as an at-large member of the board this year. As for Gallotta, her slate has him in the club’s vice president internal position.

Noting he has dedicated the past five years to the club, Gallotta told the B.A.R. that he is “hopeful” he will have club members support for his re-election as president.

“This is the first I am hearing of anyone running against the current nominated candidates. I appreciate varying opinions in the club, that is democracy at work,” he said. “We nominated the current slate back in December at the holiday party … so I am frankly a little surprised now the day of election there is news of another slate or more candidates are running.”

Gallottta said that Folkz never contacted him directly about running as co-president, and that the first he heard about such a possibility was Saturday when Clay contacted him.

“I respect Kin immensely but I don’t know her personally,” he said. “She has not been very active in the Harvey Milk club. I did not feel at this point in time I could make a different decision.”

Kin Folkz, nee Monica Anderson, has been nominated to be the next female co-president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club.

Kin Folkz, nee Monica Anderson, has been nominated to be the next female co-president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club.

Folkz, whose given name is Monica Anderson, is a black and indigenous Choctaw two-spirit queer woman. She also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to a statement Folkz posted online, “As a 3rd generation human rights activist with cultivated, deep ties to a diverse set of social justice communities, I am delighted to have been nominated for the position of co-president of the Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Democratic Club. I particularly welcome the opportunity to collaborate with other progressive thinkers and change-makers to continue the work to create equity by bringing the concerns of marginalized TLGBQIA voices to the table – not just as superficial advisers – but as respected co-leaders and knowledgeable stakeholders.”

Reached via instant message on Facebook, Waggoner told the B.A.R. he did not have time this year to lead the club due to personal obligations.

“I am flattered to be nominated. I love the club and it will always be my political home. However, I must respectfully decline the nomination due to other commitments this year. I wish the board the very best,” he wrote.

He added that, “At a time when much of the country is having a long overdue conversation about racial justice, and just a day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I hope the club will support the leadership of people of color.”

Depending on how the vote goes, Mahnani said she hopes Waggoner would reconsider if a majority of club members wishes to see him serve again as president. Barring that, she indicated those upset with the current leadership have a “plan C” in mind.

Gallotta defended the slate the board has put forward, arguing it includes a diverse set of people of color and women.

“There is representation on this slate that has not been represented in years,” he said. “It is important for the club to have a range of experiences and identities and skills.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, January 19, 2016 @ 3:57 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

AHF fails to gain approval to combine Castro pharmacy with health clinic

A notice for public hearing is taped to the window of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation clinic on 18th Street. Photo: Rick Gerharter

A notice for public hearing is taped to the window of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation clinic on 18th Street. Photo: Rick Gerharter

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation failed to win approval this evening from the city’s Planning Commission to relocate its Castro pharmacy into the same building where its health clinic is in the gayborhood.

On 4-2 vote, a majority of the six commissioners signaled they were likely to disapprove the permit. But they postponed their vote to do so until their January 28 meeting in order to give AHF time to answer how they would activate the space other than as a pharmacy.

Gay commissioner Dennis Richards, who lives in the neighborhood, authored the motion. He noted he had visited the property and did not see much activity at either of AHF’s spaces.

“I live nearby and I never see people at either location,” he said. “Who are these places serving? I worry about creating another dead space.”

The permit had drawn significant neighborhood opposition to the Los Angeles-based agency, based largely on its policy stances against the widespread usage of PrEP as an HIV prevention tool and its support of a November ballot measure that would require the usage of condoms on all porn sets in California.

Yet in her report made public last week, planner Veronica Flores had recommended AHF be given the permit, noting doing so would not result in the displacement of an existing retailer nor increase the number of pharmacies in the area. She added that the pharmacy relocation “was desirable for, and compatible with” the neighborhood.

Commissioner Rich Hillis, however, said he would oppose the permit due to the lack of community support.

“What troubles me on this, we don’t see a lot of support from merchants and residents from this neighborhood,”said Hillis. “It is not an extremely active use.”

Both commissioners Kathrin Moore and Cindy Wu also voted against.

Two members of the oversight panel – Christine Johnson and Michael Antonini – said they would support AHF’s permit.

“It is combining a medical use and pharmacy. It is not increasing the number of formula retail, so it is just a relocation and now a collocation,” said Antonini. “This is a land use issue.”

He added that having the clinic and pharmacy in the same building “just makes sense.”

The vote today (Thursday, January 14) came after a prolonged battle between AHF and city planning officials over zoning rules in the Castro district. As the Bay Area Reporter has previously covered, the agency had filed a lawsuit against the city and gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who represents the Castro, due to AHF being told its pharmacy fell under the city’s formula retail rules – it has close to 40 pharmacies nationally – and required sign off from the planning commission.

City planning staff initially had granted the agency a permit in January of 2014 to relocate the pharmacy, which is currently on 18th Street, without any public review but then reversed course. Their reasoning was that AHF could not simply change the name from AHF Pharmacy to Castro Pharmacy to avoid triggering the rule that requires chain stores with more than 11 locations nationwide to seek a conditional use permit from the planning commission.

And Wiener sponsored legislation to ensure AHF and others could not use the naming loophole going forward. AHF appealed the rescinding of its permit to the city’s Board of Appeals, which last March ruled against it, and then announced it was putting its lawsuit on hold while it pursued approval for the permit.

AHF and its clients argued before the planning commission that the policy fights were immaterial to its pharmacy permit request and should be decided solely on the basis on whether it met the city’s land use rules. They contend having the pharmacy operating out of the street-facing portion of 518 Castro Street, where its health clinic has been in the rear of the retail space since the fall of 2014, is better for patients.

And they noted that its clinic is one of the few places in the Castro that treats women who are living with HIV or want to access HIV prevention services.

“The only thing that will change in this move is AHF will be able to offer better and higher quality services to its HIV positive and negative clients,” said Tom Myers, AHF’s chief of public affairs and general counsel.

(Glenn-Milo Santos, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the San Francisco Department of Public Health Substance Use Research Unit, had submitted a letter in support of AHF’s permit. But it was announced at the hearing that it had been rescinded because it did not reflect the viewpoint of the health department.)

Jesse Brooks, an advocacy consultant for AHF who is also a client at its Oakland clinic, which has a pharmacy onsite, said he knows first hand how important the convenience of having your doctor in the same building as your pharmacist, particularly when sick.

He said the politicization of AHF’s permit request for its Castro site had angered him.

“It makes me angry when I see who is here opposing it. People who should know how important this is far patients,” Brooks, 54, who is gay and HIV positive, told the Bay Area Reporter. “You oppose too many liquor stores in a neighborhood. You don’t oppose medical care.”

But others argued the pharmacy was not needed to be located on Castro Street and would do nothing to increase foot traffic to the 500 block of Castro Street. Others argued AHF should not be allowed to operate in the Castro due to its stances regarding a variety of HIV prevention issues.

AHF is “not desirable in the Castro,” said Dr. Peter Berman, a gay man who lives in the Castro. “Their ads in the Castro with ‘Do you trust him,?’ send the message gay men are lying, deceitful people. This is the wrong message to send about our community.”

San Francisco AIDS Foundation Senior Vice President James Loduca questioned how many clients AHF was serving at its clinic and suggested its real goal was to increase pharmacy sales that would come at the expense of other nonprofits located in the Castro.

(Earlier this month SFAF opened its brand new health center for gay and bisexual men called Strut, which includes a pharmacy, just a block away from AHF’s location.)

“There has been no evidence offered by AHF that it has any local clientele in the Castro,” he said. “We do know this represents a major profit opportunity for the Walmart of HIV care.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, January 14, 2016 @ 7:27 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Port bar’s not open, but will celebrate Cohen-Cooper show in Oakland

The owners of Uptown Oakland’s most anticipated new bar, the Port bar, are teaming up with their neighbor, the Paramount Theatre, to make Sunday afternoon – January 17 – a very gay day.

(Members of the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band mill about outside the Port bar space after Oakland Pride. Photo: Cynthia Laird)

(Members of the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band mill about outside the Port bar space after Oakland Pride. Photo: Cynthia Laird)

Ahead of the 3 p.m. appearance by gay TV stars Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper in the AC Squared event at the Paramount, gay Port bar owners Sean Sullivan and Richard Fuentes will be hosting an outdoor event with free hot chocolate and a free raffle for two tickets to the show. The fun starts at 1:30 p.m. at 2023 Broadway.

Sullivan said that the sidewalk celebration will feature six talented Bay Area artists, most of them queer people of color, and their six panels honoring pioneering LGBTQ leaders – Jose Sarria, Audre Lorde, Bayard Rustin, Marsha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk, and Silvia Rivera.

Teaming up with the Paramount in promotion of “AC Squared: Deep talk and shallow tales with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen” might just be the perfect recipe for the bar that’s not quite open yet, Sullivan noted. A news release from the bar quoted Cohen describing the show.

“It definitely feels like you are hanging out at a bar with us, just kind of shooting the shit. It’s very insider,” he said. “We represent two sides of people’s brains – Anderson is on the front lines of every breaking news story and I’m kind of in the middle of everything pop culture. We’re both really interested in what the other person does, and we’re both trying to get the story in our own universe. Somehow, in the Venn diagram, there is a place in the middle where we intersect and it’s really a great intersection between news, and pop culture and current events. Between the two of us, we have accumulated a lot of great stories and we love to share them.”

Cohen is an Emmy Award-winning host and executive director of Watch What Happens Live and executive producer of the Real Housewives series. Cooper is an Emmy Award-winning CNN anchor and 60 Minutes correspondent.

Tickets for Sunday’s Oakland show start at $55 and are available at Cohen and Cooper will also appear in San Francisco Friday, January 15 at 8 p.m. at the Masonic Theatre.

— Cynthia Laird, @ 4:27 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Report: Man who collapsed in Castro died of heart disease

The area of Market Street where Thomas Smallwood died after collapsing in August. Photo: Seth Hemmelgarn

The area of Market Street where Thomas Smallwood died after collapsing in August. Photo: Seth Hemmelgarn

A gay San Francisco man who died in August on a street in the city’s Castro neighborhood died of hypertensive heart disease, the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office has determined. The ailment results from high blood pressure and can lead to heart failure.

Thomas Smallwood, 75, was walking to a bar with his boyfriend August 7 when he said he wasn’t feeling well, Tyler Smallwood, 36, one of Smallwood’s sons, said in an interview just after his father died.

According to the medical examiner’s report, which was made public this week, Smallwood had “appeared disoriented” the morning he died, and as he and his boyfriend crossed Market at about 11:40 a.m., Smallwood, who had asthma and other health troubles, “stumbled and possibly fell.” They headed back to the car for his medication, but when they got there, Smallwood “collapsed and became unresponsive,” the report, which cites police and other sources, says.

A passerby called 911. When emergency services workers arrived, Smallwood was “pulseless,” according to the medical examiner’s office. Life support was performed, but Smallwood was pronounced dead at noon.

He had an open wound on his head, which the agency said was possibly from the collapse. There was no evidence of illicit drug use, alcohol, or tobacco in his pockets or in his car.

Along with a history of hypertension, Smallwood had also had pulmonary disease and other problems, the report says.

The toxicology report lists tramadol, a pain reliever, and other drugs in his system, but nothing illegal.

Smallwood had lived in San Francisco for more than 20 years and “loved San Francisco his whole life,” Tyler Smallwood said.

He liked to socialize in the Castro and was an active member of First Congregational Church of San Francisco, where he was the treasurer and a steering committee member.

The Reverend David Cowell, 52, of San Francisco, said in August that Smallwood “was just a dear, just a sweet man who basically touched people’s lives in a positive way wherever he went.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 2:45 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

SF planners support request by AIDS Healthcare Foundation to relocate Castro pharmacy

A notice for public hearing is taped to the window of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation clinic on 18th Street. Photo: Rick Gerharter

A notice for public hearing is taped to the window of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation clinic on 18th Street. Photo: Rick Gerharter

The San Francisco planning department is recommending that the AIDS Healthcare Foundation be granted a permit to relocate its pharmacy in the city’s gay Castro district.

In a report made public today (Friday, January 8), planner Veronica Flores recommended that the city’s planning commission – at its meeting next Thursday, January 14 – approve the Los Angeles-based AIDS agency’s request to move the pharmacy it owns on 18th Street into the street-facing portion of 518 Castro Street.

It relocated its health clinic into the rear of the space in the fall of 2014.

“The business is currently operating at 4071 18th Street around the corner from the subject property and is therefore desirable for, and compatible with the surrounding neighborhood,” she wrote.

Flores noted in the report that “the project promotes the continued operation of an established business, and contributes to the viability of the overall Castro Street NCD” or neighborhood commercial district.

And the project, she added, “would not displace an existing retail tenant providing convenience goods and services to the neighborhood, and would not result in a net increase in the number of pharmacies in the area.”

AHF and city officials have sparred over the question on if the permit is needed or not. The agency was initially granted the permit in 2014 without any public review but then city planners reversed course.

They determined that AHF’s pharmacy fell under the rules governing chain stores, even if it changed the name from AHF Pharmacy to Castro Pharmacy, and would need to secure a conditional use permit in order to relocate it.

AHF appealed that decision to the city’s Board of Appeals, which last March ruled against it. And the Board of Supervisors has enacted interim legislation to close the naming loophole AHF had attempted to use in order to avoid seeking a permit.

Now, as the Bay Area Reporter noted in a story in its January 7 issue, the permit request has turned into a proxy fight over AHF’s stances regarding HIV prevention and AIDS funding. The agency has faced derision in San Francisco for its opposition to widespread usage of PrEP as an HIV prevention tool.

It has also come under attack for pushing for the use of condoms on all adult film sets in California and for its trying to block high-rise developments in downtown Los Angeles. The agency has also been accused by former staffers of bilking Medicare and Medicaid nearly $20 million.

Others opposed to the agency have pointed to its refusal in 2013 to pay rent to local hospice Maitri, its landlord at its former space on Church Street. The dispute resulted in a lawsuit brought by Maitri that the two agencies agreed to settle.

“This neighborhood is well served by many pharmacies, so this business is not needed,” wrote Castro resident Jim Manning in a letter to the planning department. “The current AHF Pharmacy at 4071 18th Street is an empty void in our vibrant neighborhood. AHF has done NOTHING to activate this space. Therefore allowing this move is not desirable.”

Others have countered that AHF supports other local nonprofits and that it is merely moving its pharmacy from one location to another. They also argue that it will be better for AHF’s clients to have the pharmacy collocated with the health care clinic.

“I believe health access needs to be dependent upon the individual and their personal provider and insurance. I see there to be no problem with have access easier under one roof for those present and future who utilize the facilities of AHF,” wrote Tyler Deutscher, general manager of clothing stores Outfit Castro and Knobs Retail. “This helps those who are in a hurry, have limited ability and all who would use the facility.”

AHF officials have argued that its permit request should be judged solely on if it adheres to the city’s zoning rules. Any other issues, they contend, are immaterial.

“To be candid, it does not matter if the AHF Pharmacy is around the corner or miles away, the fact that patients need to make one more stop, or take one more step (especially for those whose infection is disabling), is sometimes enough to delay action on any given day and any delay can mean the difference between being healthy or not and, to us, that is unacceptable,” wrote Dale Gluth, AHF’s Bay Area regional director, in a letter to planning commissioners.

The planning commission meeting begins at noon Thursday in Room 400 at City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place.

— Matthew S. Bajko, January 8, 2016 @ 5:54 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Woman accused of robbing Wiener set for hearing

The San Francisco woman accused of recently robbing gay Supervisor Scott Wiener is due in court Thursday, January 7 for a preliminary hearing.

Lasonya D. Wells, 41, faces counts of second-degree robbery, grand theft, and attempted extortion, among other charges. She’s been in custody since her December 18 arrest. A judge is expected Thursday to determine whether there’s enough evidence to hold her for trial.

According to police, the incident occurred at about 5:45 p.m. December 18 as Wiener, 45, was walking in the Mission district. The District 8 supervisor told officers that Wells had taken his cellphone, but he’d “negotiated” with her to get it back in exchange for cash.

Wells and two other suspects escorted Wiener to an ATM, where she demanded that he give her cash, Officer Carlos Manfredi, a police spokesman, said in a news release.

Wiener withdrew cash and gave it to Wells, who gave back his phone “through a third party. All suspects subsequently fled the scene,” Manfredi said.

Police immediately canvassed the area for witnesses and evidence, Manfredi said, and “Mission Station investigators obtained evidence which led to the identity and arrest of Wells at her residence.”

Police haven’t released Wells’ booking photo. Manfredi didn’t immediately respond to an email today (Wednesday, January 6) asking whether there have been more arrests in the case.

Police didn’t name Wiener in their news release, but he shared a detailed account of the incident with San Francisco Magazine.

In a recent interview with the Bay Area Reporter, Wiener declined to comment on Wells’ prosecution.

“The process will play itself out,” he said.

However, the supervisor urged other people to be cautious when walking around carrying their phones.

“I think we all should try to minimize having our phones out, myself included. But with that said, it’s not realistic in modern life never to take your phone out in public,” Wiener said.

When his phone was “snatched,” he said, “I was looking at my calendar to see the address where I was going.” He reiterated people should have their phones out as little as possible, but said, “the more important thing is always to be aware of our surroundings.”

He said he’s walked through the intersection where the incident occurred “a million times. … We get very comfortable with our surroundings when we’ve been to a place a lot.”

Court documents indicate Wells has previously been charged with numerous other crimes, including robbery and drug charges.

Wells declined an interview request made through jail staff. A deputy public defender didn’t respond to a phone message requesting comment on Wells’ case.

Wiener has announced a public safety meeting for District 8 will be held Thursday, January 14 at 6 p.m. at St. Philip School, 725 Diamond Street.

He said last month that he wanted to have the meeting, which is separate from a hearing he’s hoping to schedule soon at City Hall.

The public safety meeting for January will look at property crimes and “discuss the situation, including ways to make our community safer and how to have strong communication between the police and the community,” he told the B.A.R. last month.


— Seth Hemmelgarn, January 6, 2016 @ 3:52 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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