Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 47 / 20 November 2014
 

SF mayor marks Transgender Day of Remembrance

The 2002 Transgender Day of Remembrance observance saw people walk up Market Street from Harvey Milk Plaza. Photo: Rick Gerharter

The 2002 Transgender Day of Remembrance observance saw people walk up Market Street from Harvey Milk Plaza. Photo: Rick Gerharter

In a statement this morning, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee proclaimed today (Thursday, November 20) Transgender Day of Remembrance Day in the city and ordered City Hall be lit in Blue, Pink, and White – the colors of the transgender flag.

“Today we remember those who died tragically because of hatred and intolerance,” Lee stated. “Those lives in the transgender community will never be forgotten. And, while much progress has been made in the last decade to advance transgender rights, sadly anti-transgender violence still exists. Greater awareness is needed to end the bullying, discrimination and violence.”

Lee pointed to progress in San Francisco toward ensuring equal rights for transgender people, including in education and healthcare.

“Transgender people are our family, our coworkers and our friends, and we recommit ourselves so that no one is denied basic rights that ensure safety and success in our city,” he said.

Danielle Castro, 39, a trans woman who lives in San Francisco, said she had the idea for lighting City Hall in the transgender flag colors when she was passing the building recently and noticed it was glowing in orange for the Giants baseball team. The city’s headquarters are also lit up for other occasions, like Christmas and breast cancer awareness.

“I see City Hall lit up with so many different colors” of the “things we celebrate together,” Castro, who works at UCSF’s Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, said. She’s also noticed flags raised at half-staff to remember people who’ve died. However, she said, “What I haven’t seen them do is really include us.”

City Hall does get lit up in rainbow colors in June for the LGBT Pride celebration, but Castro said there hasn’t been lighting specifically recognizing the transgender community.

She said she approached her friend Lucky Gutierrez, the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee’s longtime office manager, with the idea of lighting City Hall, since he’s “well connected” and “a big supporter of the trans community,” and he took the idea to officials. Francis Tsang, a spokesman for Lee, confirmed that’s how the idea came about.

“To me, the significance of having City Hall lit up with the colors of the trans flag is they’re really honoring our lives and those who have been lost through transphobia,” Castro said.

She called the lighting “historic,” and said it’s “an important time to highlight the lack of awareness about the over 200 murders that happened this year and the thousands that have happened since the beginning of the Transgender Day of Remember movement.”

Castro hopes that “other places around the world that have stopped caring” about the transgender community “will think again and see how important it is because we’re not getting any resolution to the countless murders” or the abuse transgender people face in the criminal justice system, among other issues.

Transgender Day of was Remembrance was started by Bay Area Reporter Transmissions columnist Gwen Smith 15 years ago, a year after the 1998 killing of Rita Hester, an African American trans woman who lived in Massachusetts.

The often-somber occasion is observed November 20 to call attention to trans people who have been murdered in the past 12 months.

Events around the Bay Area are planned to commemorate the day.

In San Francisco, a Transgender Day of Remembrance event will be held today from 6 to 8 p.m. at the LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market Street.

The event will include community advocates Miss Major Griffin-Gracy and Jewlyes Gutierrez, both of whom were grand marshals at this year’s Pride parade. It will also include performances by trans youth, an altar created by El/LA Para TransLatinas, and a special Hawaiian chant by trans legend Kumu Tatiana Kaneholani.

Theresa Sparks, executive director of the city’s Human Rights Commission and a transgender woman, said in a statement that despite progress, “the transgender community remains vulnerable to the clutches of hate and intolerance often resulting in unspeakable violence and death.”

Sparks urged people to “be steadfast in giving voice to our fallen brothers and sisters who remain our heroes for having the resolve to stand firm in the face of  bigotry, injustice, and death in order for those who follow may live  their lives out loud and their truth to the fullest extent.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 20, 2014 @ 11:23 am PST
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Three cars burned in Castro arson attack

Three cars were burned in an apparent arson attack in the Castro district this morning (Wednesday, November 19), according to San Francisco police.

The fire department was on the scene at 2 a.m. in the 500 block of Noe Street “putting out three vehicle fires,” Officer Grace Gatpandan, a San Francisco Police Department spokeswoman, said in a summary. Firefighters “found empty paint canisters underneath all three vehicles.” Gatpandan didn’t say exactly how much damage had been done to the cars.

No arrests have been made, and no suspect descriptions are available. Anyone with information in the case may contact police anonymously at (415) 575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411. Type SFPD in the subject line. The incident number is 140 979 363.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 19, 2014 @ 12:31 pm PST
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Teen arrested in Castro robbery

San Francisco police arrested a Pinole, California man this morning (Friday, November 14) after he allegedly robbed another man in the gay Castro district.

Abraham Mendezortiz, 19, was booked on suspicion of robbery, possession of stolen property, and a couple of traffic warrants, according to Officer Grace Gatpandan, a San Francisco Police Department spokeswoman.

The incident occurred at 12:15 a.m. at Market and Castro streets when Mendezortiz approached the victim, a 35-year-old man, and demanded his cellphone, wallet, and keys, police said. He then fled on foot but was soon apprehended.

When he was arrested, Mendezortiz had someone else’s cellphone, wallet with cards and identification, and an electronic adapter.

The victim’s finger was cut during the incident, according to police. There was also a second victim, a 37-year-old woman. Police didn’t indicate she was injured.

According to the sheriff’s department, Mendezortiz was booked at 5:48 a.m. and is in custody on $100,708 bail. If the district attorney’s office decides to press charges, he likely won’t be arraigned until early next week.

Gatpandan said she couldn’t yet release Mendezortiz’s booking photo.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 14, 2014 @ 10:56 am PST
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Supes panel OKs use of city seal for Imperial Court 50th anniversary gala

Praising the Imperial Court of San Francisco’s philanthropic work, a committee of the Board of Supervisors Thursday (November 13) unanimously approved moving forward a resolution that would allow the nonprofit group to use the official city seal on some of its materials when it celebrates its 50th anniversary next year.

Donna Sachet, far right with Emperor John Paul Soto, joined Supervisor Scott Wiener, fourth from right, and other Imperial Court members at Thursday's hearing on the group's use of the city seal for its 50th anniversary gala. (Photo: Cynthia Laird)

Donna Sachet, far right with Emperor John Paul Soto, joined Supervisor Scott Wiener, fourth from right, John Weber, fifth from right, and other Imperial Court members at Thursday’s hearing on the group’s use of the city seal for its 50th anniversary gala. (Photo: Cynthia Laird)

Sponsored by gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener – and co-sponsored by board President David Chiu and Supervisor London Breed – the resolution will allow the Imperial Council, the court’s governing body, to use the city seal on appropriate materials related to its golden anniversary gala, set to be held February 15 at City Hall

Members of the Imperial Court board and current and former emperors and empresses were on hand to urge the board’s government audit and oversight committee to approve the resolution.

“We’ve raised lots of money for charitable organizations like housing and HIV/AIDS,” Jon Weber, Emperor 36 and chair of the Imperial Council of San Francisco, told the supervisors.

John Paul Soto, the reigning emperor of San Francisco, said that the Imperial Court’s philanthropic work what he is most proud of. To date, Soto and his empress, Misty Blue, have raised about $40,000 since they were crowned in February.

During his remarks, Wiener explained that the Imperial Court has been a big part of the city’s LGBT community and is one of the oldest LGBT organizations in the country.

Jose Sarria, who founded the Imperial Court and was the first empress, ran for supervisor as a gay man in 1962 and while he didn’t win, he did pull in a lot of votes, Wiener said.

“San Francisco has retained the role of Mother Court and we should all be very proud,” he added.

Board clerk Angela Calvillo offered some amendments to Wiener’s resolution, explaining that use of the city’s seal by outside groups is not something that is common.

“Since 1979 the board has granted and approved use of the seal 22 times,” she said.

The seal dates back to the city’s earliest days. “The seal was created in 1858 and re-established in 1900,” Calvillo said. “It needs to be placed in a dignified manner.”

Someone who maliciously uses the seal can be charged with a misdemeanor, she said, adding that has happened in 12 instances over the years.

The seal cannot be used on caps or items of clothing such as T-shirts that are for sale, Calvillo said.

Donna Sachet, the Bay Area Reporter’s society columnist and chair of the Imperial Court’s 50th anniversary gala, talked about the importance of the organization.

“Fifty years ago we did not enjoy a central community,” Sachet said, adding that while there were gay people living in the city, it was not the community that it is today.

“Along came a Navy veteran and drag queen, Jose Sarria, who founded the Imperial Court,” Sachet said.

She also talked about the upcoming gala, which is expected to fill City Hall with 700 people.

“It will be crowns, gowns, and pageantry,” she said.

After the hearing, Sachet said that the group wants to use the city seal on its brochure for the gala and for a 126-page bound commemorative book that will be distributed to guests.

The resolution now goes to the full board, which is expected to vote on the item at its November 25 meeting.

— Cynthia Laird, November 13, 2014 @ 3:18 pm PST
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Having conceded last week, gay man now winning San Mateo harbor race

Robert Bernardo

Robert Bernardo

Hours after the polls closed the night of Tuesday, November 4, gay incumbent San Mateo County Harbor Commissioner Robert Bernardo took to his Facebook page to concede that he had lost his bid for re-election.

It seems he was too quick to give up.

A week later, with a full count of absentee and other remaining ballots posted by San Mateo County elections officials, Bernardo found himself in second place among the six people who were seeking one of two four-year terms on the commission.

The new vote total, posted the evening of Wednesday, November 12, had Bernardo with 30,337 votes, a lead of 205 votes over the other incumbent seeking re-election, Jim Tucker.

“I just woke up to some interesting news…Are my eyes deceiving me? This 2014 midterm election has been surreal!,” wrote Bernardo on his Facebook page early Thursday morning.

Still in first place in the race is bisexual marine biologist Nicole David. Her vote tally now stands at 59,056, according to the still unofficial returns.

Should the latest results hold, it would mean the five-person harbor commission would have a majority of out members. Lesbian graphic designer Sabrina Brennan, who backed David’s bid, won election to the oversight body in 2012 and is up for re-election in 2016.

Although she did not endorse Bernardo’s re-election effort, Brennan reacted with excitement at seeing Tucker be defeated, writing in her own Facebook post after the new vote count was released, “Let’s hope this trend continues!”

And LGBT leaders on the Peninsula were celebrating the possibility of a “rainbow majority” on the commission. It has oversight of two marinas, the bayside Oyster Point, which features East Bay ferry service, and the seaside Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 12:38 pm PST
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Transgender Law Center director to leave

The executive director of the Transgender Law Center announced today (Wednesday, November 12) that he plans to leave the Oakland-based organization.

Transgender Law Center Executive Director Masen Davis (Photo: Courtesy TLC)

Transgender Law Center Executive Director Masen Davis (Photo: Courtesy TLC)

Masen Davis, who’s headed the nonprofit for more than seven years, said in a news release that he’s “come to a difficult decision” and will leave “in early 2015.”

“I am proud to have been part of an incredibly committed team that has strengthened employment protections nationwide, secured coverage of transition-related care for transgender Californians, and helped to change the cultural narrative about transgender lives,” Davis, 43, said. He added, “I don’t know exactly what I’ll do next,” but he’s leaving with the “profound sense that this is the right moment to hand the baton to the next generation of leadership at TLC.”

Davis took a months-long sabbatical earlier this year.

The organization’s board recently approved a strategic plan to “significantly expand” its reach nationwide.

In a phone interview, Davis said TLC would do “deeper policy work in a handful of states across the nation to help them get the legal protections we have in California.” The nonprofit will also be involved in pushing for “comprehensive nondiscrimination law in Congress in the years to come.” (Federal lawmakers have made little progress on a transgender-inclusive Employment Nondiscrimination Act.)

The board will hire Davis’s replacement from within the nonprofit. He plans to stay long enough for that person to make that transition and leave in February or March.

Davis succeeded TLC co-founder Chris Daley when he joined TLC in 2007. At the time, the organization had four staff members, a budget of $325,000, and about 900 people contacting the group for help annually.

Since then, TLC has grown to 14 staff, a budget of more than $1.5 million, and over 2,500 requests for help a year. Davis’s salary is $100,000.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 12, 2014 @ 5:04 pm PST
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Family: Missing gay SF man is dead

Dan Ha missing

Dan Ha

The family of a gay San Francisco man who recently went missing said this morning (Wednesday, November 12) they believe he’s dead. Dan Ha, a 26-year-old software developer, had last been seen October 31.

“Yesterday morning, the Coast Guard recovered a body found in San Francisco Bay,” Joseph Ha, one of Dan Ha’s brothers, said in a statement. “In speaking with the Medical Examiner, while the face and body were indistinguishable, the clothes, wallet contents, and phone matched Dan’s personal belongings.

“At this time, we believe the body is Dan’s,” Ha continued, adding that the family was still waiting for full confirmation from police.

Staff at the medical examiner’s office told the Bay Area Reporter this afternoon that the body found in the bay had not yet been identified. A police spokeswoman said there were no updates and the case was “still an open investigation.”

Ha said the family has “no reason to believe” his brother committed suicide.
“Dan has never indicated having any intention of harming himself,” Ha said. “Dan did not leave a note, had scheduled a doctor’s appointment the morning of his disappearance, and was scheduled to attend a work event the next day. On his desk was even a note to return a shirt he had recently purchased.”

More about Ha will be posted on the B.A.R.’s website tonight and in the paper tomorrow (November 13).

 

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 2:35 pm PST
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Friends search for missing gay SF man

Dan Ha

Dan Ha

Friends of Dan Ha, a missing gay San Francisco man, are organizing a search party for 3 p.m. today (Friday, November 7). Searchers will meet at the parking lot across from 530 Brannan Street.

Ha, a 26-year-old software engineer, was last seen at 8 p.m. Halloween, October 31, at Fourth and Brannan Streets in the South of Market neighborhood, according to a flier distributed by friends, who confirmed he’s gay. Ha’s home is in the area.

Ha, who’s 6 feet, one inch tall, weighs 210 pounds and was last seen wearing a red hooded sweatshirt. He “has been known to get dizzy spells where he gets light-headed and has difficulty speaking,” according to the flier.

In an email to the Bay Area Reporter, Thomas McAfee, a friend of Ha’s, described him as “one of the nicest, most thoughtful persons I’ve met.”

Anyone with information about Ha may contact the San Francisco Police Department at 415-558-5508. The case number is 140 937 521.

The B.A.R. will have more about Ha in the Thursday, November 13 edition.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 7, 2014 @ 2:04 pm PST
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UPDATED: Chiu wins SF Assembly race as Campos concedes after updated tally released

David Campos, left, makes a point during an October 2 debate with David Chiu at UCSF Mission Bay. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

David Campos, left, makes a point during an October 2 debate with David Chiu at UCSF Mission Bay. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

After San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu’s lead expanded for a second day in a row over gay Supervisor David Campos in their heated contest for a state Assembly seat, Campos conceded Thursday night.

According to the most recent vote count, posted shortly after 4 p.m yesterday (November 6), Chiu’s margin of victory stood at 3,771 votes ahead of Campos. His lead in the race had already grown by 652 votes late Wednesday.

The latest tally now gives Chiu 51,878 votes, or 51.89 percent, compared to Campos’ 48,107 votes, or 48.11 percent.

As the Bay Area Reporter noted in its story on the race in yesterday’s paper, because numerous ballots remain to be counted by elections officials, both candidates were waiting to see additional vote tallies before they declared victory or conceded.

Even though the Department of Elections said it had 42,000 vote-by-mail ballots that were dropped off at polling places and an approximately 11,000 provisional ballots cast Tuesday still to count, Campos’s campaign determined there was little chance of seeing the vote count reverse.

In a message he posted to Facebook last night after 9 p.m., Campos said he had called Chiu to congratulate him on his victory in the race.

“As I write this my thoughts are with Supervisor Harvey Milk. Forty-two years ago Harvey made a similar call when he lost his own race for the 17th Assembly district by fewer then 4,000 votes,” wrote Campos, referring to the city’s first gay elected official due to his winning a supervisor seat in 1977. “It was one of many races that Harvey lost, in fact he was only a supervisor for 11 months before his murder. And yet the message that is most associated with him is that of hope. Right now my heart is filled with hope.”

Campos added that the city is experiencing “a time of great change,” and that through his campaign, “we have sent a powerful message that the people of San Francisco are alive, spirited, and ready to fight for our values and way of life. We made clear that we love this city, refuse to be pushed out and are a force to be reckoned with.”

In his own Facebook message last night, Chiu wrote that he and Campos “had a positive conversation and agreed to work together in the future for the good of San Francisco. While the race was often challenging, I applaud Supervisor Campos and all of his supporters on the passion and hard work that they put into the campaign.”

With Chiu victorious, it means San Francisco for the first time in nearly two decades does not have a gay or lesbian lawmaker representing the city in the state Assembly. Lesbian former lawmaker Carole Migden became the first to do so when she won her race for a legislative seat in 1996.

Gay lawmaker Mark Leno, currently serving in the state Senate, succeeded Migden in the Assembly in 2002. And since 2008 gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has held the seat, now numbered the 17th Assembly District, covering the city’s eastern neighborhoods.

Whether the seat should remain in LGBT hands was one of the dominant themes in this year’s race. Among those who argued it should was Ammiano, who endorsed Campos to succeed him.

The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, statewide LGBT group Equality California, and numerous LGBT officials and leaders shared that view with Ammiano and vigorously backed Campos in the race.

But Chiu, who pledged to be a stalwart supporter of LGBT issues in the statehouse, also garnered significant LGBT support for his bid. He picked up backing, for example, from gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, the B.A.R., and the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club.

If elected, Chiu has said he will petition to become a member of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, even though it currently does not allow straight members of the Legislature to join it.

“I believe that as San Franciscans there is more that unites than divides us,” wrote Chiu in his Facebook message. “I look forward to continue working for each and every one of you to make sure that San Francisco remains the wonderful, special place that we all love. Thank you San Francisco!”

— Matthew S. Bajko, November 6, 2014 @ 5:14 pm PST
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Umpqua Bank, Philz plans for Castro locations add to debate over gayborhood’s business climate

umpquaUmpqua Bank is proposing to open a Castro branch in the space that now houses Magnet, the gay men’s health clinic, but faces opposition from those who question the need for another financial institution in the heart of the city’s gayborhood.

In early 2015 Magnet is expected to relocate around the corner from its current home at 4122 18th Street into an expanded health center that the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, of which the clinic is a part, is building on the 400 block of Castro Street.

As seen in the artist’s rendering at right, the bank intends to reskin the 18th Street building, which is adjacent to a city parking lot, and upgrade the facade and entrance way. It also is proposing to work with the community to install a mural on the side of the structure fronting the parking lot entrance and possibly install a new structure for local organizations to post their posters.

“It would be a total remodel of the building,” said Lani Hayward, the executive vice president of creative strategies at Umpqua Bank.

The bank, which has a branch in Noe Valley on 24th Street next door to the Whole Foods, is looking to partner with Castro community groups that need office space to utilize two rooms it will not need in the second floor of the 18th Street building.

In order to activate the space as Magnet has done, by hosting forums and art gallery openings, Umpqua is proposing to do the same once it moves in and is planning to have a lobby area that can easily be rearranged to host meetings or events.

“You are not entering a branch but into a store,” Hayward told members of the Castro Merchants group at its meeting this morning (Thursday, November 6). “It feels like a cafe not a bank. Our doors are open for you to use.”

The company, which is 60 years old, is just beginning to meet with neighborhood groups about its plans. It does not expect to go before the city’s planning commission to seek approval to open in the Castro space until sometime this spring.

It likely will face resistance from those in the neighborhood who are opposed to seeing another bank move in rather than a retailer. Many merchants are concerned that the Castro is losing its retail stores to other uses, whether it be financial or restaurant, that do not attract the same amount of foot traffic as more traditional shops do.

“We are becoming like Polk Street in the 1980s with nothing to offer people a reason to come shop during the day,” longtime Castro business owner and leader Patrick Batt said earlier in the meeting while speaking out against seeing Philz Coffee relocate its 18th Street coffee shop into a space on the 500 block of Castro Street that once housed a shoe store. “With seven banks and nine coffee shops in the Castro, people are just walking through the neighborhood. They are going to other places to shop.”

Philz Coffee wants to relocate its 18th Street location in this space on Castro Street where David Chiu had his Assembly race headquarters.

Philz Coffee wants to relocate its 18th Street location into this space on Castro Street where David Chiu had his Assembly race headquarters.

Philz will go before the city’s planning commission on Thursday, December 4 to seek approval for its relocation plans, the same day Castro gay bar owner Les Natali will be asking for sign off on his plan to open a Hamburger Mary’s in the long vacant Patio Cafe space a few doors down from where Philz wants to open at 549 Castro Street.

Owner Phil Jaber, in asking for the Castro Merchants group’s support, which it agreed to do in a 20-15 vote, argued his coffeehouse will attract people to the Castro and benefit other businesses.

“When Philz comes to the community we put the building on the map. We create more business,” said Jaber, who a decade ago opened the Castro location, his second one in what is now a company with 15 stores in the Bay Area and one in Los Angeles.

The debate over the direction of the Castro’s business environment comes as several neighborhood groups have banded together to create a retail strategy for attracting new businesses to the gayborhood to fill up vacant storefronts.

Volunteers will be out in the Castro this Saturday, November 8, and again Wednesday, November 12, asking patrons to fill out a short survey to help gather input for the project. The retail plan is expected to be presented to the public sometime next summer.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 1:44 pm PST
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