Issue:  Vol. 46 / No. 17 / 28 April 2016
 

CA woman walks for peace

Alexis Ryon-Melcher

Alexis Ryon-Melcher

A California woman is walking through the state for peace, working to meet strangers and looking for volunteer work along the way.

Alexis Ryon-Melcher, 53, a lesbian who works as a life coach, left Nevada City, her home of about 25 years, March 21 on her “Walk for Peace.” She’s been walking ever since.

Ryon-Melcher was in South San Francisco Thursday and was headed to San Mateo Friday. She’s not sure of her ultimate destination, or whether she’ll go back to Nevada City.

“I have no idea where I will end up,” she said. “I have sold off pretty much everything I own. I’m relying on the spirit to tell me when and where I’m supposed to stop.”

The idea for her trip came from a dream she had more than 20 years ago.

“It’s something I’ve thought about on and off,” Ryon-Melcher said. “I wasn’t sure what exactly it was supposed to looked like … It scared me. It felt like a big commitment and a big shift in a settled life, but I feel called to have these conversations about peace and create some energy at the grassroots level about what it’s going to take to be peaceful in ourselves and with other people, and ultimately in the world.”

She acknowledged that even to her, “there’s a part of it that seems really outrageous,” but “I just feel really fortunate to be doing this. I consider this my work, and I just feel really fortunate.”

She recalled one conversation she had with a homeless man a couple weeks ago.

Ryon-Melcher carries her possessions in “a little buggy.” The man had all his things with him, too, and “we had a really lovely conversation.”

After they were done talking, “he turned around and ran back and offered me a couple bucks. I was really moved by how little each of us has, but his absolute willingness to give me part of what he had.”

The biggest challenge has been finding a place to stay each night. She’s used Couchsurfing.com and has stayed in a couple motels, but she also has a sleeping bag and a tent, and she’s spent some time sleeping outside.

So far, only one person’s told her she has to be nuts.

“I actually only had one person say that to me,” Ryon-Melcher said. “It was a very, very good friend of mine, several months after I told her I was doing it, when she realized there were nights I was going to be camping.”

She welcomes people to walk with her, and she can be reached through her website – www.stepintoyes.com.

 

 

 

— Seth Hemmelgarn, April 30, 2016 @ 11:23 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


White Night Riots filming set for City Hall

A scene from the 1979 White Night Riots. Photo: Dan Nicoletta.

A scene from the 1979 White Night Riots. Photo: Dan Nicoletta.

The famous White Night Riots will be recreated tonight (Friday, April 29) at San Francisco’s City Hall for filming of the ABC TV miniseries When We Rise.

The film, which is based on the upcoming memoir of Harvey Milk confidante Cleve Jones, covers the lives of Jones and others who helped lead the LGBT rights movement from the 1970s through today.

According to a news release from the city’s Film Commission, “The production will have large billowing smoke effects, lighting that will mimic flames in the basement windows of City Hall, and a clash between actors dressed as police and rioters. Please do not be alarmed.”

The May 21, 1979 riots involved fiery battles between police and residents that erupted after a jury convicted Milk assassin Dan White only of manslaughter, rather than murder.

Street closures will be in effect Friday on Polk between Golden Gate and Hayes, most of McAllister between Larkin and Van Ness, and Grove between Van Ness and Larkin. A start time wasn’t provided.

Police will be on hand “to assist with the production and public safety,” officials said.

In an email to reporters, Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, said filming would take place from Friday “to May 1 at City Hall, UN Plaza and Castro neighborhoods. This is about gay rights and will be recreating the White Night Riot scene tonight.”

He suggested that reporters should let others in their newsrooms know that they shouldn’t mistake the “flames and smoke effects” for an actual riot.

Milk became the first out LGBT elected official in California when he won a seat on the Board of Supervisors in 1977. White, a former supervisor, assassinated Milk and Mayor George Moscone in City Hall in November 1978.

After Milk’s death, Jones, who lives in the Castro, went on to become a well-known AIDS and labor activist, founding the AIDS quilt. His book is set to be released on his 62nd birthday, October 11.

Dustin Lance Black, who won an Academy Award for his screenplay for the 2008 Milk biopic, also wrote the screenplay for When We Rise.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, April 29, 2016 @ 4:13 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Anti-LGBT law leads AC Transit, SFMTA to boycott national conference in North Carolina

Courtesy AC Transit

Courtesy AC Transit

AC Transit and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will both boycott a national transportation conference set to take place next month in North Carolina due to the state’s enactment of an anti-LGBT law.

The Bay Area agencies join the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which announced in early April it would not pay for the travel costs of its employees to attend the event. A Capital District Transportation Authority bus driving team in Albany, New York, also canceled its plans to participate due to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order barring non-essential travel by public employees to the state.

In an announcement released this morning (Friday, April 29), the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District said the East Bay public transit agency’s Board of Directors had voted unanimously Wednesday evening to affirm General Manager Michael Hursh’s decision to prohibit district employees from traveling to the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) International Bus Roadeo  – slated to begin May 13 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The statement noted that North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s decision last month to sign the controversial legislation known as HB 2, which both blocked transgender individuals from using restrooms of their choosing and restricted cities within the state from passing nondiscrimination laws, is in direct conflict with AC Transit’s “longstanding commitment of access and inclusion to all members of our community without regard to race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.”

AC Transit employees have been past Grand Champions of APTA’s Bus Roadeo: a competition that recognizes superior skills of operators and maintenance teams nationwide. And the agency’s award winning team members were planning to again compete this year.

In explaining his decision to cancel the trip, Hursh stated, “AC Transit cannot support any government action that effectively reverses civil rights protections for all citizens.”

The statement stressed that his decision “was not made capriciously,” and came after consultations with his executive staff, union leadership, and the employees who had been set to compete.

“I am empathetic to our valued staff but remain resolute to the commitments I made when I assumed this position less than one-year ago,” stated Hursh. “That AC Transit will continue to maintain zero-tolerance of any discriminatory acts and foster the rich diversity of our riders and employees alike.”

San Francisco’s public transit agency is also boycotting the APTA conference. San Francisco cable car operator Kevin Grady, who won APTA’s 40-foot bus Roadeo last year, had been planning to attend and defend San Francisco’s first place international title at the conference, the San Francisco Examiner reported earlier this month.

At the time SFMTA Director of of Transportation Ed Reiskin had told the paper that he was urging the APTA to postpone or relocate its conference this year before pulling the plug on Grady’s trip. Should it not do so, then Reiskin said he would abide by Mayor Ed Lee’s executive order that bans publicly-funded travel to North Carolina.

This afteroon Tom Nolan, a gay man who chairs its board of directors, told the B.A.R. that the agency had decided not to pay for Grady’s trip and is now reviewing if it has any contracts with businesses located in North Carolina.

Nolan will be attending an APTA conference this weekend in San Antonio, Texas for board members of transit agencies. He said he plans to push the APTA to adopt a policy that would ban it from having its meetings in so-called hate states with anti-LGBT laws.

“These people have shown the only thing they respond to is money,” said Nolan, who is one of dozens of people on APTA’s board of directors.

Nolan and Reisken sent APTA Chair Valarie McCall and President Michael Melaniphy a letter dated April 7 explaining the SFMTA’s position.

“While we would like to applaud cities like Charlotte and its mayor, Mayor Jennifer Roberts, who have taken steps at the local level to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination, we recognize that other states, like Mississippi, have joined in passing more discriminatory laws,” wrote Nolan and Reisken. “To that end, we call on APTA to cancel or move any meetings currently planned and not schedule future meetings in any state that supports discrimination against any lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.”

APTA did release a statement in early April denouncing McCrory’s signing the anti-LGBT legislation into law and stood by Charlotte leaders’ enactment of a local measure banning LGBT discrimination, which prompted state lawmakers to rescind it with HB 2.

But it also noted that it had signed the contracts to hold its Bus & Paratransit Conference and Roadeo in North Carolina more than four years ago, and, “Unfortunately, we are legally bound to adhere to those contracts.”

It added that, “We want to ensure attendees that at the conference we will shine the light on the importance of treating all people with respect. We will spotlight the impact and strength that diversity brings to our industry.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 11:37 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Businesses prepare to open in small Castro retail spaces

A real estate firm is set to move into the storefront at 2324 Market Street.

A real estate firm is set to move into the storefront at 2324 Market Street.

Two businesses are preparing to open their doors in a pair of small retail spaces in the Castro that have sat vacant for years.

Two years ago Drysdale Properties, a local affiliate of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, first announced it planned to move into the roughly 280 square foot space at 2324 Market Street. The company hopes to begin using the storefront in May.

By next week it will begin posting fliers about homes for sale in the windows, said real estate agent John Oldfield.

The city’s planning commission approved the company’s conditional use permit for the space at its April 21 meeting. Drysdale is now just waiting for city officials to complete the paperwork it needs to seek a business license for that address, as well as for Comcast to wire the space for Internet access.

“The place is usable as is,” said Oldfield, and just requires furniture and other office equipment to be moved in before agents can start using the satellite office. “Otherwise there is no construction work aside from cleanup that needs to be done for us to open. We’ll probably start putting up posters and flyers in the windows in the next few days.”

Drysdale, which is owned by Gretchen Pearson, plans to have people working out of the upper Market Street location weekdays and on weekends as needed.

Summer opening for skin care salon

A medical spa company plans to open this summer at 410 Castro Street.

A medical spa company plans to open this summer at 410 Castro Street.

LaserAway Skin Care Spa, which was founded in West Hollywood, is looking to open later this summer at 410 Castro Street, a small storefront in an old bank building that now houses a SoulCycle location. The building at the corner of Castro and Market fronts Harvey Milk Plaza above the Castro Muni Station and had been the site of a Diesel jeans store.

The smaller space, which totals 1,302 gross square feet, once was leased to cellelular phone company US Sprint, which officially vacated it in 2013 though it had closed its store there years prior. The planning commission approved LaserAway’s permit request to move in at its April 14 meeting.

Unlike with Drysdale’s storefront, the site of LaserAway’s second location in San Francisco will require more extensive work before the company can open. Lucian R. Blazej, who owns local architecture and planning firm Strategic Solutions and helped the spa company secure the necessary city approvals, said it will be several months before it welcomes its first customers to the Castro location.

“Hopefully LaserAway will open by August 15th, maybe sooner,” he told the Bay Area Reporter this week.

LaserAway plans to be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week and expects to see upwards of 300 clients per week. Its services include hair removal, tattoo removal, and other skin and body care spa treatments, including the sale of skin care related lotions and cosmetics.

— Matthew S. Bajko, April 28, 2016 @ 12:37 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Hit-and-run defendant remains jailed after judge rejects release efforts

Brendan Wallace. Photo: Courtesy SFPD.

Brendan Wallace. Photo: Courtesy SFPD.

The man accused of fatally striking a gay San Francisco man with his car and fleeing the scene will remain in jail after a judge today (Thursday, April 21) denied a motion to reduce his $400,000 bail or release him on his own recognizance.

Brendan Wallace, 33, of Daly City, was arrested earlier this month for the November death of Dennis Nix, 60. He’s pleaded not guilty to charges including felony hit and run and vehicular manslaughter. Nix, a well-known financial planner, had been riding his scooter around 2 a.m. November 22 near his Ingleside district home when he was hit.

Deputy Public Defender Abigail Rivamonte portrayed Wallace as a man who’d had a rough life but was working to better himself and described Nix’s death as an “unfortunate” accident.

Assistant District Attorney Maggie Buitrago described Wallace as “callous” and said he’d done nothing to help Nix.

Rivamonte said another man, who hasn’t been charged, was a passenger in Wallace’s car the night of the incident. She said the man’s stated they were driving down San Jose Avenue. “All of a sudden,” Nix had appeared on his scooter, and “in a snap second, the accident occurred,” she said, referring to the man’s statement.

She said there had been “poor choices” afterward, but she referred to the incident as an “unfortunate, unfortunate accident.” She said prosecutors haven’t presented evidence that shows there was “gross negligence,” which would be required to justify such a high bail amount, rather than just “ordinary negligence.” There’s been no evidence that Wallace had been speeding, under the influence, or on the phone, according to Rivamonte.

Accurately predicting that Buitrago would claim Wallace had dragged Nix’s body 400 feet, Rivamonte said the man who’d been riding in Wallace’s car has denied that. She also said that a 911 caller had seen a blue car hit Nix’s body after Wallace allegedly struck him.

“Another car may have caused Mr. Nix’s body to be moved or dragged a portion of the way,” Rivamonte said.

She first argued for his bail to be reduced to $15,000, but eventually said she’d be willing to settle for $300,000.

Buitrago objected to the motion to reduce bail, saying that Wallace had rear-ended Nix’s scooter, “prompting him to propel backward” onto his car. He didn’t stop, try to render assistance, or do anything to prevent Nix’s body from being struck again, she said, adding that “good Samaritans” had finally stopped near the body and turned on their hazard lights.

Heinz Raimol "Rymo" Cortado. Photo: Courtesy SFPD

Heinz Raimol “Rymo” Cortado. Photo: Courtesy SFPD.

Wallace, whose wrecked Mercedes was still at the scene when police arrived, “only stopped because his car was rendered inoperable,” Buitrago said, and he never called police. Instead, she said, he’d contacted co-defendant Heinz Raimol “Rymo” Cortado, who came to pick him up. Cortado, 34, has pleaded not guilty to charges of being an accessory after the fact and giving police false information. He bailed out of custody shortly after his arrest.

“He did flee,” Buitrago said of Wallace, countering a statement from Rivamonte that he hadn’t fled the Bay Area before his arrest. “… He fled from the scene itself.”

When Daly City police went to Wallace’s home the day Nix was killed, he’d lied to police and told them that his car had been stolen, Buitrago said.

Wallace was “irresponsible” and had shown a “callous disregard for human life,” she said.

‘Against all odds’

As she argued that Wallace wouldn’t be a public safety risk if he were released, Rivamonte told Dorfman that Wallace had been born and raised in San Francisco and turned out well “against all odds and adversity.”

His parents were both crack addicts, she said, and he’d gone to live with his grandmother before being removed and spending years in foster care and group homes.

Despite Wallace’s troubles, Rivamonte said he’d graduated from Balboa High School and worked multiple jobs. He finally became employed as a line cook at Google, where he went to work “diligently,” and took classes at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school.

Wallace and his wife, Shayne Wallace, lived with their two-year-old son in one room of a house they shared with other family members.

The family has “very limited financial means,” and the high bail is “a hard toll and burden” on the family “financially and emotionally,” Rivamonte said.

It’s “nearly impossible” for them “to make ends meet” with Wallace in jail, she said. If he were to be released, Rivamonte said, “he is not going anywhere … he is not going to leave his family.”

She said her client would be willing to wear an ankle monitor or comply with “whatever conditions you want.”

Wallace has only one previous conviction, a second-degree burglary charge from 12 years ago, Rivamonte said. San Mateo County court records show that in May 2014 Wallace’s wife had gotten a temporary restraining order against him, but that it dissolved after she and Wallace didn’t show up for a hearing weeks later.

Shayne Wallace was in court Thursday with a cousin and wept as she watched the proceedings. She declined to comment when approached by a reporter.

Dorfman indicated he had little sympathy for Wallace.

“What am I supposed to do today?” he asked. He said the defendant had continued driving, fled the scene, “made no effort to notify police,” and then lied.

He told Rivamonte she may claim “that’s the action of a scared person,” but he said it was “the action of somebody who does not want to be responsible.”

Rivamonte started pleading with Dorfman, with her voice rising. She continued repeating that there was nothing to indicate “gross negligence” on Wallace’s part and asking, “How do we get to $400,000, judge, how?”

She also noted that the medical examiner’s office had found methamphetamine, amphetamine, and antidepressants in Nix’s system, and when it came to negligence, the drugs’ presence “could come into play.” (Nix’s friends have insisted he didn’t use amphetamines or methamphetamine and that the drugs were a byproduct of one of his antidepressants. The medical examiner’s office has indicated some test results are pending and has declined to directly confirm the friends’ claims.)

Dorfman eventually told Rivamonte she was “advocating vigorously” for her client, and “I respect it,” but Thursday’s session wasn’t an evidentiary hearing, and “it does not sound to me like a misdemeanor crime.” He kept the bail where it was, citing Wallace fleeing the scene and lying to police, among other factors, and saying the defendant was a public safety risk.

Wallace, who stood calmly before during Thursday’s hearing without speaking, is set to appear back in court May 5 to set a date for his preliminary hearing. Cortado is also due to appear in court that day.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, April 21, 2016 @ 8:09 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Relocation of Apothecarium marijuana dispensary wins approval

10513374_1093722310639384_4753470233835912142_nThe city’s planning commission has signed off on the relocation plans for a medical cannabis dispensary in the Castro district.

The oversight body voted 4-0 at its meeting this afternoon (Thursday, April 21) to support the Apothecarium moving into the shuttered Shanghai Restaurant space at 2029 Market Street.

The relocation plan had broad community support, including from the residents who live in the condos in the new building. The planning department received no letters in opposition to the move, and the commissioners voted basically without comment in approving it.

“We are moving because we are losing our lease,” co-owner Ryan Hudson told the commissioners.

Four people spoke at today’s hearing in support of the Apothecarium.

“They are nothing but a model business in the neighborhood,” said Castro/Upper Market Street Community Benefit District Executive Director Andrea Aiello.

The Bay Area Reporter first reported in September on the medical marijuana provider’s desire to move out of the small storefront at the corner of Church, Market and 14th streets it has operated out of since 2011.

Last year San Francisco Zoning Administrator Scott F. Sanchez ruled that the vacant ground floor eatery space up the block from the Apothecarium could house a medical cannabis dispensary.

In March Apothecarium officials told the B.A.R. that an investment group had bought the space for an undisclosed amount at the end of 2015 with the intent to then lease it to the dispensary. (One online listing had it for sale at a cost of nearly $4.2 million.)

It has signed a 10-year lease with multiple long-term options to extend it. The Apothecarium is planning a “fairly significant” remodel.

Architect Vincent Gonzaga has been hired to work with local interior design firm Urban Chalet on the project, which is expected to maintain the Apothecarium’s current neo-Victorian look but with a contemporary twist.

The dispensary’s current space at 2095 Market Street is 1,100 square feet, and oftentimes, customers must wait outside to be let in the doors. The Shanghai space is five times the size at 5,207 square feet allowing more room not only for the staff but also to ensure customers no longer will have to wait outside during peak times. The plans call for 2,858 square feet accessible to patrons.

There will be a multipurpose room as part of the design allowing for the dispensary to hold its classes on-site as well as meetings of its philanthropic board. Over the last five years it has distributed more than $300,000 to local groups.

The proposed hours of operation are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. There will be no consumption of marijuana on site, nor will there be any cultivation at the space.

As for the Apothecarium’s current space, the zoning allows another medical cannabis dispensary to move into it within the next three years. Thereafter, the zoning would lapse and would need to be re-approved by the planning commission if such a business wanted to operate there.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 2:50 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Teen with gun arrested in Duboce Triangle robbery

San Francisco police arrested a 17-year-old boy Wednesday night for allegedly using a gun to rob a woman in the city’s Duboce Triangle neighborhood.

According to police, the April 20 incident started at 10:30 p.m. as the victim was walking on 14th Street near Noe Street. The suspect approached her with a “silver pistol and demanded [the victim’s] items,” Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, said in a summary. The victim, 29, complied, and the suspect fled northbound on Noe “to an awaiting vehicle,” but he was arrested, Esparza said.

Police don’t typically release the names of juvenile defendants. The boy was described only as a Hispanic male. He had taken the victim’s purse, wallet, money, and phone. She wasn’t injured, according to Esparza.

Duboce Triangle residents have been expressing increasing concern about crime in the neighborhood. Park Station Captain John Sanford has recently boosted patrols in the area.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 11:13 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Extras sought for ‘When We Rise’

A scene from the 1979 White Night Riots. Photo: Dan Nicoletta.

A scene from the 1979 White Night Riots. Photo: Dan Nicoletta.

Filmmakers today (Wednesday, April 20) put out a call for extras in San Francisco to appear in When We Rise, the ABC-TV miniseries based in part on the memoir of Harvey Milk confidante Cleve Jones. Production is set to take place in San Francisco in late April and early May.

The scenes reenacted in the city are expected to include the 1978 Gay Freedom Day parade, as the LGBT Pride parade was then known, as well as the 1979 White Night riots. The latter refers to the fiery battles between police and residents that erupted after a jury convicted Milk assassin Dan White only of manslaughter, rather than murder.

Producers are “seeking ALL races, genders and body types, but people with hair styles consistent with the 1970s are especially needed,” according to a note Jones posted to his Facebook page Wednesday.

Jones’ post indicated most work will be unpaid. People should plan to spend up to eight hours on the set, unless they sign up for a two-hour shift.

Those interested may send an email to wwr.casting@gmail.com and include:

– Name (in the subject line) and indicate whether you’re over 18

– Email and best phone number

– If you’re a member of the Screen Actors Guild and, if so, your SAG number

– A current photo (selfies are fine).

– Were you referred by cast or crew?

Jones’ Facebook note says the film will chronicle “the personal and political struggles, setbacks, and triumphs of a diverse family of LGBT men and women.”

Milk became the first out LGBT elected official in California when he won a seat on the Board of Supervisors in 1977. White, a former supervisor, assassinated Milk and Mayor George Moscone in City Hall in November 1978.

After Milk’s death, Jones, who lives in the Castro, went on to become a well-known AIDS and labor activist, founding the AIDS quilt. His book is set to be released on his 62nd birthday, October 11.

Dustin Lance Black, who won an Academy Award for his screenplay for the 2008 Milk biopic, also wrote the screenplay for When We Rise.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, April 20, 2016 @ 4:50 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Man with box cutter robs Castro shop

Photo: Rick Gerharter

Photo: Rick Gerharter

A man with a box cutter robbed a store in San Francisco’s Castro district Tuesday, according to police.

The April 19 incident in the 4000 block of 18th Street started at 10:52 a.m. when the two victims approached the male suspect, who was shoplifting.

The man “produced a box cutter and refused to put back items,” before fleeing, Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, said in a summary. The stolen items were listed as bath products, a grooming kit, batteries, and scissors.

The suspect was described only as a black male aged 35-45. The victims were a 61-year-old man and a 39-year-old woman. Neither was injured.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 1:53 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


SFPD arrest 2 in Nix hit and run case

San Francisco Police announced April 11 that they have arrested two men in connection with a fatal hit and run accident last November that left a gay man dead.

(Brendan Wallace. Photo: Courtesy SFPD)

(Brendan Wallace. Photo: Courtesy SFPD)

(Heinz Raino Cortado. Photo: Courtesy SFPD)

(Heinz Raino Cortado. Photo: Courtesy SFPD)

Dennis Nix, 60, was killed last November 22 when a car collided with his scooter in the city’s Ingleside district.

Brendan Wallace, 32, of Broadmoor, California, and Heinz Raino Cortado, 34, also of Broadmoor, were arrested in connection with the case.

Wallace was taken into custody at his place of employment in Mountain View. He was identified by police as the driver of a silver-colored Mercedes used in the collision. Cortado surrendered to SFPD officers at the Broadmoor Police Station in San Mateo County April 8. He was identified by police as the getaway driver of a second car that picked up Wallace after the accident.

Wallace was booked on vehicular manslaughter, felony hit and run, and providing false information to peace officers. Cortado was booked on felony accessory to the hit and run and providing false information to peace officers.

The Bay Area Reporter will have more in Thursday’s paper.

— Cynthia Laird, April 11, 2016 @ 1:36 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


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