Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 16 / 17 April 2014
 

Greystar’s SF Castro area housing project set to be approved

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 4.05.24 PMA formerly controversial housing project in San Francisco’s gay Castro district is expected to sail to passage next week when it comes up for a vote at the city’s planning commission.

As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a March 2013 article, Castro neighborhood groups initially expressed a number of objections with developer Greystar’s plans for an 87-unit rental development at the corner of Sanchez, Market and 15th streets. The project next door to the Swedish American Hall was set to not include any below-market-rate housing.

Rather than include 10 units of affordable housing on-site, Greystar wanted to pay an in-lieu fee toward the city’s affordable housing fund.

Neighborhood and housing activists balked, however, warning the company they would oppose its plans if it did not include the BMR units on-site. With the parcel one of the few remaining to be redeveloped along the upper Market Street corridor, it presented one of the last chances to see BMR units become available in the area.

Eventually, Greystar reversed course and not only agreed to include on-site BMR units but also adopted a national LGBT non-discrimination policy covering all of its properties.  In March gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos introduced an ordinance that would require any national developer wishing to build residential projects with 10 or more units in San Francisco to disclose if they also prohibit LGBT discrimination.

In light of the actions taken by Greystar, the project has won endorsements by many of those who initially threatened to oppose it. According to planning staff, only one adjacent property owner has raised objections to the development.

“This project serves as a testament to how community and developers can work together to achieve common goals. Greystar has gained our support by making a commitment to the community to build on-site affordable housing and by instituting the non-discrimination policy,” Pat Tura, president of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, wrote in the residential group’s April-May 2014 newsletter. “This happened because the community made it happen and our future corporate neighbor recognized that to be in our neighborhood they had to be a part of our community.”

In his staff report, planner Michael Smith recommends the project be approved, as it “is desirable for, and compatible with the surrounding neighborhood” and “provides needed new housing” to the area.

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 4.07.50 PMThe project at 2198 Market Street consists of a new 4- to 6-story, mixed-use building on the existing 18,830-square-foot triangular lot. It is currently being used by the Linnea condo project further north on Market Street to house its sales office.

Along with the rental apartments, the buildings will include 680 square feet of ground-floor office space on Sanchez Street and 5,130 square feet of ground-floor retail space along Market Street. A 2,500 square foot corner space is being set aside for a new restaurant.

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 4.06.29 PMThe buildings, ranging in height from 40 to 60 feet tall, will have a mix of one- to two-bedroom units on each floor, with 51 one-bedroom units and 36 two-bedroom units.

There will be 34 off-street parking spaces and 89 bicycle parking spaces within a basement-level garage accessed from an entrance on Sanchez Street. The project will include a new bulb out at the northeast corner of Market and Sanchez streets and new outdoor seating and lighting (seen in the images at left).

Speaking at a Castro merchants group meeting last summer, Greystar’s senior director for western development Victor Gonzalez described the area as a “kind of a no man’s land right now on that whole mid-block stretch.”

Today the intersection boasts a new condo development at 2200 Market Street known as The Century. On its ground floor will be two locally-owned businesses, a Mexican eatery called Bandidos and a new classic arcade games bar.

The Swedish American Hall and its underground club space Cafe du Nord are being revamped by new operators. Kitty-corner at 2201 Market Street are plans to erect a new 6-story building with nine condos over ground-floor commercial space over a basement parking garage.

Across the street from the Greystar property Forest City Development is building 88 rental units (20 of which will be BMRs) split between two separate buildings at the corner of 15th and Market Streets. It was also formerly a gas station.

The site’s 6,200 square feet of ground-floor retail space is being eyed for a restaurant and a food hall. The planning commission is expected to approve a conditional use permit for the project’s “marketplace concept” at its meeting next week.

The reason Greystar’s units will be rentals and not condos is because it is leasing the lot for 99 years from its owners, the Wong family, which had operated a Shell gas station at the site.

In a letter to the planning commission, Stanley Wong noted that his parents, now deceased, had always wanted to see the property be developed. Lacking the finances to do it themselves, the family sought out a developer, he wrote.

“Our parents had once dreamed of developing something significant on their property. They wanted to build something there, that would remain for their ten grandchildren and the generations to follow, to see and be reminded of what honest hard work could accomplish. Our father always said that if you really apply yourself anything is possible,” wrote Wong. “We really wanted to keep the land in our family to honor our parents and the connection they had to this neighborhood, but we did not have the financial means or expertise to develop a quality building.”

After being introduced to Greystar, wrote Wong, “things just felt right. They shared the same values that our father saw as being important – honesty, integrity, and the ability to work with people.”

The Planning Commission hearings on the Greystar project and Forest City Development’s market hall will take place Thursday, April 24. The meeting begins at noon in Room 400 at City Hall.

— Matthew S. Bajko, April 18, 2014 @ 4:24 pm PST
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Milk club early endorses transgender SF school board candidate

School board candidate Jamie Rafaela Wolfe (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

School board candidate Jamie Rafaela Wolfe
(Photo: Rick Gerharter)

A transgender school board candidate picked up early backing this week from San Francisco’s progressive LGBT political club.

Jamie Rafaela Wolfe, who lost her first bid for a school board seat in 2010, is again seeking to join the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education this fall. She won an early endorsement Tuesday night (April 15) from the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, on whose board Wolfe previously served.

“Earning the vote for early endorsement of my campaign for school board left me immensely excited and honored,” Wolfe, 36, told the Bay Area Reporter via a Facebook message. “This is a rarity in politics and one which I will carry with integrity. Thank you Milk Club!”

A behaviorist and floor manager at Oakes Children’s Center Inc., a nonprofit that provides educational and therapeutic services to children with emotional and developmental issues, Wolfe has also been a lead organizer for the annual Trans March during Pride weekend.

Milk club Co-President Laura Thomas told the B.A.R. that the group’s members are “delighted” to back Wolfe’s candidacy.

“She’s been a leader in the Milk Club as well as in the community. We are proud to be able to support transgender candidates for office such as Jamie,” Thomas wrote in an emailed reply. “We know that Jamie will work hard for a better education for all San Francisco kids. In particular, we believe that trans young people in our public schools deserve a role model like Jamie on the school board. We look forward to campaigning with her and will work hard to get her elected in November.”

Three school board seats will be on the November ballot, with at least one an open seat as current member Kim-Shree Maufas will not be seeking a third term. Another incumbent board member, Hydra Mendoza, has yet to announce if she will seek re-election while Emily Murase is seeking re-election to her seat on the school board.

The local Board of Education has not had an out LGBT member since early January 2009. So far two out candidates have declared bids for school board this year.

In addition to Wolfe, Mark Murphy, 48, a communications and marketing consultant whose husband is an elementary school teacher in the district, is also running.

 

— Matthew S. Bajko, April 16, 2014 @ 2:04 pm PST
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CA Assembly passes syringe access bill

Assemblyman Phil Ting (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Assemblyman Phil Ting
(Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Legislation designed to cut HIV transmissions by allowing California pharmacists to sell syringes over the counter to adults passed the state Assembly Thursday, April 10 and is headed to the Senate.

Assembly Bill 1743, authored by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), would permanently give pharmacists the choice to sell syringes to adults without prescription if the pharmacists meet requirements for providing information about safe disposal and other conditions.

AB 1743 passed by a vote of 46 to 26. If the bill isn’t enacted, most pharmacists will lose this choice at the end of the year. Only pharmacists in 15 counties and four cities, including San Francisco, would still be able to sell syringes over the counter, with conditions, according to Ting’s office.

“Nearly all of the 50 states have adopted this policy,” Ting said in emailed comments to the Bay Area Reporter. ”California was late to join this consensus among the states only in 2012, albeit temporarily. We cannot get even further behind the curve. Without this bill, most of California will not have safe syringe access and lives will be at risk. HIV and hepatitis don’t respect the boundaries of our local communities. … We have a decisive consensus in the medical field behind this bill. Needles may make people uncomfortable but there is no need to fear this bill.”

Sharing used needles is the most common way hepatitis is spread and the second most common cause of HIV and hepatitis B, according to Ting’s office. Besides California, 48 states currently allow syringe sales without a prescription.

Ting’s bill has local support, including from San Francisco AIDS Foundation CEO Neil Giuliano, which has been distributing clean needles for years.

“AB 1743 will help thousands of people throughout the state and reduce the burden of HIV and HCV on our public health system,” Giuliano said in a news release from Ting’s office. “As operator of one of the oldest and largest syringe access programs in the country, we know the significant impact that access to sterile syringes can have in preventing blood-borne illnesses like HIV and HCV among people in our community at high risk for infection.”

More information on the bill is available at www.leginfo.ca.gov.

 

 

 

— Seth Hemmelgarn, April 11, 2014 @ 1:35 pm PST
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BREAKING: Harvey Milk stamp to get White House debut

zne-jb-harveymilkThe long awaited Harvey Milk stamp will receive a White House debut May 22.

The U.S. Postal Service made the announcement this afternoon, Friday, April 11, confirming a report in the Bay Area Reporter last month.

In a press release, the postal service said the stamp image will be previewed at a later date and a public dedication ceremony will take place in San Francisco May 28.

It added that additional details will be forthcoming.

Linn’s Stamp News, however, had posted the image at right of the Milk stamp online, claiming it is the final design. The image appears to be taken from a photo by Dan Nicoletta, a photographer who was a friend of Milk’s.

In the original photo Milk’s hair is slightly tousled by the wind, whereas his hair appears combed in the stamp image.

In March the B.A.R. reported that San Francisco resident Branton Burke, 48, a stamp enthusiast, had created a petition on the White House website asking the postal service “to do the right thing” and schedule the issuance ceremony for Milk’s stamp in San Francisco on May 22, which is Milk’s birth date and annually designated Harvey Milk Day in California.

Burke, whose petition failed to gain traction with the public, had heard from postal sources that the ceremony was going to be at the White House that day. At the time neither the postal service nor the Harvey Milk Foundation, which has been working with the agency on the stamp, would confirm that the ceremony location and date had been finalized.

The 49 cent forever stamp will be the nation’s first to honor an American for their role in the fight for LGBT rights.

“As letters and postcards are sent across the nation and around the globe, they can now bear the face of a man, my uncle, who gave his life in the struggle for human rights to ensure equality for every minority group and marginalized community,’ stated Stuart Milk, the gay nephew of Milk who co-founded the Harvey Milk Foundation, in a statement released shortly after today’s postal service announcement. “The Harvey Milk Forever Stamp, which further memorializes Harvey’s legacy of hope, is a gift to help us all remember where we’ve been and the work we still need to do.”

The White House stamp dedication ceremony with President Barack Obama, who awarded Harvey Milk a presidential honor posthumously, “comes with incredibly special significance,” added Stuart Milk.

“President Obama and his administration have provided the nation with steadfast and trend setting leadership in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in the U.S. and abroad,” stated Milk. “May 22, Harvey Milk Day, is celebrated annually on my uncle’s birthday as an official California State holiday and is recognized in communities around the world as a day for all minority groups to collaborate on the vigilance needed to achieve fully inclusive human rights for everyone, everywhere.”

Milk was a community activist, business owner in the gay Castro district, and a political columnist for the B.A.R. during the 1970s. His life and that of then-Mayor George Moscone came to a tragic end on the morning of November 27, 1978 when disgruntled former supervisor Dan White killed the progressive politicians in City Hall.

The idea of a Milk stamp first arose in the late 1980s, when San Francisco artist Jim Leff, a gay man who knew Milk, painted a mock-up of what such a stamp could look like. In 2005 San Francisco’s 11-member Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution calling on the U.S. postmaster general to issue one for the gay rights leader.

But it wasn’t until 2009, when the B.A.R. began reporting about a Facebook campaign calling for the creation of a Milk stamp, that the idea began to gain momentum. The coverage spawned a nationwide campaign urging the postal service to issue the stamp.

Four years ago the B.A.R. broke the news that the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee had contacted Milk’s family about a potential stamp. And last May the paper disclosed that leaked documents obtained by Linn’s showed the advisory committee had voted to release the Milk stamp in 2014.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 12:09 pm PST
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District Attorney honors gay police inspector

San Francisco Police Inspector Len Broberg speaks in 2012 with a San Francisco resident. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

San Francisco Police Inspector Len Broberg speaks in 2012 with a San Francisco resident. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón honored gay police Inspector Len Broberg Thursday (April 10) for his work on an attempted murder case that ended in August with two gang members being sent to prison for the next few decades.

Gascón recognized Broberg, a veteran member of the San Francisco Police Department’s Gang Task Force, and others at the 10th Annual Justice Awards ceremony Thursday as part of the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Broberg, 57, was one of the policemen who provided “superb” investigative work in the case against Rashad Brown and Anthony Taylor, prosecutors said when the men’s convictions were announced in May. Broberg also testified for weeks during the trial.

 According to the DA’s office, Brown and Taylor were members of the Westmob gang who tried to murder another man because they thought he was a snitch.

In April 2009, Brown “shot at the victim multiple times” in front of the man’s Bayview district home, prosecutors said, citing court testimony. Brown missed the victim, but at least one bullet grazed a baby stroller and nearly hit the victim’s 5-year-old brother.

Almost three weeks later, the victim was outside his home cutting his 12-year-old brother’s hair when Taylor shot the man nine times, prosecutors said. The victim survived.

“I was on the stand for about three weeks testifying,” said Broberg. “We had to get the jury to believe that the gang exists,” he said, and he also testified about what the gang does, and told jurors how Brown and Taylor committed the crimes “for the benefit of the gang.”

Broberg also said it was revealed in court that Brown had sent a letter to another gang member suggesting that others should follow the victim after his testimony “so they could kill him.”

The jury found Brown and Taylor guilty of two counts of attempted murder and two counts of assault with a semi-automatic handgun, among other charges. They were also convicted of committing the crimes for the gang’s benefit, according to the DA’s office.

In August, Brown was sentenced to 60 years to life in prison, while Taylor was sentenced to 45 years to life, said Broberg. Brown was 25 and Taylor was 23 at the time of their convictions.

“These defendants have terrorized a community and kept people in fear,” Gascón stated when the jury’s findings were announced. “They have forfeited the right to live in our community. We will spare no resource in prosecuting violent gang members.”

Asked Thursday about his award, Broberg said, “It’s always nice when you get recognized for doing a case.” But he was also quick to credit others involved, including the man who was shot.

“The victim did the right thing by cooperating and getting two bad guys off the streets,” he said.

Broberg also credited Assistant District Attorney Sarah Hawkins, the victim’s advocate in the case, and the “dedicated” officers for their work.

“It took a lot of coordination to make that case happen,” he said.

Broberg was recently nominated to be a grand marshal for this year’s LGBT Pride parade and celebration, but he wasn’t selected.

“I do what I do,” he said. “It was nice to be nominated.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, April 10, 2014 @ 5:40 pm PST
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Castro Street sidewalks history facts proposal released

Photo courtesy of the Castro CBD.

Photo courtesy of the Castro CBD.

A Castro group has released a list of proposed history facts to be etched into the newly expanded sidewalks in the heart of the city’s gay neighborhood.

They trace the area’s start as a settlement for Native Americans in the late 1770s through the arrival of Mexican and European settlers in the 1800s and 1900s. The timeline extends into the 1970s when gay men began arriving in droves to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and ends with the marriage equality fight of the last decade.

As the Bay Area Reporter previously reported in February, the Castro Upper Market Community Benefit District is paying $10,000 to etch 20 historical facts about the neighborhood into the sidewalk at 10 different sites along Castro Street near where new trees will be planted and new street lights will be installed. There will be two facts at each site.

The draft Castro Street history facts are based on historical research led by Nicholas Perry, a planner and urban designer at the San Francisco Planning Department who worked on the sidewalk-widening project for Castro Street between Market and 19th Streets that is now under construction.

A Castro resident, Perry authored two books on the history of his nearby hometown. Sources for factual information were obtained from the San Francisco Public Library’s History Center, the San Francisco Planning Department’s Historic Preservation Library, and digital archives such as the Library of Congress’s Historic Newspapers database.

According to the CBD, the selection of draft facts has been reviewed and edited by neighborhood historians, including individuals from the Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, the GLBT Historical Society, the Castro Merchants Association, and the Rainbow Honor Walk.

The CBD released the 20 proposed factoids this morning (Friday, April 4) and is asking the public to attend its April 10 board meeting to hear an informational hearing about the list and to provide feedback.

A vote will not be taken next week, as the CBD board is asking the public to submit comments on the ones proposed as well as suggest different ones by email up until April 18. Submissions can be sent to execdirector@castrocbd.org.

“This is meant to be a history walk of the Castro/Eureka Valley. Accuracy is paramount and source documentation is critical,” wrote CBD Executive Director Andrea Aiello in the email announcing the facts and meeting. “Each text submitted must have acceptable source documentation/citations submitted with the text. It is very important that all text which are ultimately etched on the sidewalk are historically accurate and have supporting references.”

Earlier this year Aiello had told the B.A.R. that the CBD would seek public input about the facts likely through an online survey, such as it did to garner feedback on the type of painted crosswalks it is paying to install at the 18th and Castro Street intersection.

But when an agenda for a CBD subcommittee that meets during the day was sent out last month that included the history facts, a number of community members complained that the process appeared to be happening without much public input. Addressing the complaints, Aiello sent out an email Sunday, March 30 to announce that the CBD’s streetscape committee would no longer be hearing the matter.

“To allow for ample opportunity for public comment on the history etchings to be incorporated into the Castro St. Design Project,” wrote Aiello, the agenda item was moved to the April 10th Board of Directors meeting.

In her email today, Aiello noted that the history walk working group will “seriously review all comments on existing text and all new suggestions.” The deliberation process is expected to take between one to two months.

The meetings of the group are open to the public and public comment will be taken at the meetings. Aiello promised that “the date, time and location of the working group’s meetings will be posted” as soon as the meetings are scheduled.

“Every effort is being made to find dates and a meeting location that is open and accessible to the public,” stated Aiello.

The CBD board’s April 10 meeting begins at 6 p.m. at 501 Castro Street in the 2nd floor meeting room.

Here is the list in chronological order of the 20 history facts already under consideration:

1 Pre‐1776. Eureka Valley is a verdant grassland and chaparral. The native Yelamu people live nearby in the seasonal village of Chutchui.

2 1776. Spanish expedition led by Juan Bautista de Anza establishes Mission San Francisco de Asís near a creek they name Arroyo de los Dolores, running along today’s 18th Street. The Mission comes to be known as “Mission Dolores.”

3. 1846. Mexico grants Rancho San Miguel to José de Jesús Noé, the last Mexican Alcalde (Mayor) of Yerba Buena (San Francisco). The 4,444 acre ranch encompasses the area later known as Eureka Valley.

4. 1854. American settler John Horner purchases portion of Rancho San Miguel. Castro Street, named after a prominent Mexican‐era Californio family, marks the western border of the nascent neighborhood known as “Horner’s Addition.”

5. 1895. Five room cottages on Castro St. rent for about $15 a month. Transit improvements, including the Castro St. cable car, spur settlement by working class Irish, German, and Scandinavian families in the late 19th century.

6. 1900. Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church is established. Instead of Eureka Valley, for many decades residents refer to the neighborhood as “Most Holy Redeemer Parish.”

7. 1907. The Swedish American Hall opens at 2174 Market Street. The hall, along with local businesses such as Finnila’s Finnish Baths and the Norse Cove restaurant anchor Eureka Valley’s “Little Scandinavia” community.

8. 1918. Twin Peaks tunnel opens, connecting Eureka Valley with West Portal via electric streetcar. Mayor James “Sunny Jim” Rolph serves as the motorman on the first streetcar through the tunnel.

9. 1922. The Nasser brothers open the Castro Theatre, the first movie palace designed by prominent local architect Timothy Pflueger. The theatre is declared San Francisco’s 100th City Landmark in 1977.

10. 1943. Castro Street becomes nationally known as the setting of Mama’s Bank Account, a novel by local Norwegian‐American author Kathryn Forbes. It inspires popular adaptations including the 1948 film, I Remember Mama.

11. 1953. Lesbian couple Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon move into their first home together in San Francisco on Castro Street. They help establish the Daughters of Bilitis, the first national lesbian organization.

12. 1963. The Missouri Mule, the first gay bar in Eureka Valley, opens at 2348 Market Street. By the 1970s, an influx of gay residents and businesses revitalize the neighborhood, which comes to be known as the Castro.

13. 1972. Twin Peaks Tavern, established in 1935, reopens as the first known gay bar in U.S. to feature full‐length plate glass windows. The clear windows become a symbol of the gay community’s increased openness and visibility.

14. 1977. Castro resident, merchant, and activist Harvey Milk, known as the “Mayor of Castro Street,” is elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and becomes one of the first openly gay elected officials in the country.

15. 1978. Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone are assassinated. As news of their death spreads, tens of thousands of mourners spontaneously gather on Castro Street and form a candlelight march to City Hall.

16. 1979. The assassin of Supervisor Milk and Mayor Moscone is cleared of murder charges. Outrage among the gay community spurs “White Night” riots at City Hall and a retaliatory police raid of the Elephant Walk Bar at 500 Castro Street.

17.  1981. Openly gay nurse Bobbi Campbell posts notice about “gay cancer” on the window of Star Pharmacy at 498 Castro Street. The disease, identified as AIDS in 1982, becomes a global pandemic that devastates the Castro.

18. 1987. Cleve Jones organizes the AIDS Memorial Quilt at 2362 Market Street. Throughout the 1980s, numerous organizations take root in the Castro to fight for awareness, treatment, and prevention of HIV/AIDS.

19. 1998. After losing nearly 16,000 San Franciscans, including many Castro residents, to AIDS‐related deaths, the “No Obits!” headline of the weekly Bay Area Reporter marks a milestone in the ongoing fight against HIV/AIDS.

20. 2013. A jubilant crowd fills Castro Street to celebrate the Supreme Court decision allowing same‐sex marriages in California. The event highlights Castro Street’s historic role as a place of communal celebration.

Once vetted and approved by the CBD board, the 20 selected facts will be installed on both sides of Castro Street, from Market Street to 19th Street. They will be placed chronologically in a U-shape, starting with the earliest fact near Harvey Milk Plaza and ending with the latest fact near the Castro Theatre.

Facts have been limited to approximately 230 characters (including spaces) to meet contractor letter-sizing specifications and ensure a well-laid out and easily readable design, according to the CBD.

— Matthew S. Bajko, April 4, 2014 @ 12:46 pm PST
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Castro Street sidewalks set to be re-opened by mid June

Crews work on Castro Street April 3 as part of a sidewalk-widening project.

Crews work on Castro Street April 3 as part of a sidewalk-widening project.

City planners expect to re-open expanded sidewalks in San Francisco’s gay Castro district by mid June, well ahead of the early October completion date for the project.

The new sidewalks will likely be ready for pedestrian use on June 17, and the area’s Castro Merchants group is planning to host a sidewalk sale Saturday, June 21 one week prior to the annual Pride weekend. The outdoor sale normally occurs in May during small business week, but due to the ongoing construction in the area, the Castro business association worked with city officials to postpone the event.

The expedited schedule for when the concrete will be poured in the widened sidewalks and ready to be unveiled is due to the project contractor deciding to push up the construction timetable. Rather than work on one side of the street on one block at a time, Marin County-based Ghilotti Brothers opted instead to work simultaneously on both the 400 and 500 blocks of Castro Street.

“We will have all sides under construction to finish and get out on schedule,” Alex Murillo, with the city’s Department of Public Works, told Castro merchants at their meeting this morning (Thursday, April 3).

While some Castro officials have welcomed the faster schedule, others have voiced concerns about the disruption to businesses in the area.

“It is cutting off business. I am at one-eighth of normal business,” complained David Gray, owner of plant store Hortica, who said he preferred seeing the work be done on a block-by-block basis as opposed to all at once. “It is going to be fatal for merchants.”

But gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who has championed the project and helped pass a street bond measure that is paying for the bulk of the costs, defended the decision to speed up the work.

“The sidewalk is going to be closed for a shorter time. It was going to be from June to the end of September, so instead of sidewalk work for six months it will be three months,” he said. “We know it is hard.”

After starting on the Westside of the 400 block last month, crews have now begun ripping up the old sidewalk on the Westside of the 500 block. They are preparing to next start on the Eastside of the block and then work their way back up to the 400 block. Parking has been eliminated on both blocks to accommodate the construction equipment and crews.

“The 500 block will wrap up this week on the water pipe installation,” Murillo said. “When done they will flip a turn and start going up the Eastside.”

The contract for the nearly $6.7 million project had a stop date of June 18 built into it due to the start of the two-week Frameline San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival.  Running June 19-29 with multiple screenings at the Castro Theater, the festival brings in swarms of movie-goers day and night to the area.

The work stoppage will not only make way for Frameline but also for the annual Pink Saturday block party held in the Castro during Pride weekend. It takes place the evening of June 28 this year.

When crews return to work the Monday after Pride, June 30, their focus will turn to installing new street trees and other ornamental elements to the streetscape. The project is scheduled to be completed prior to the annual Castro Street Fair held on the first Sunday of October, which is October 5 this year.

The project will result in colored lighting and historical facts in the sidewalk on Castro Street between 19th and Market Streets. A rainbow crosswalk will be installed at the intersection of 18th and Castro Streets.

New street trees, an upgrade to Jane Warner Plaza, and a new bulb-out for pedestrians in front of the Human Rights Campaign store, initially the home of the late gay Supervisor Harvey Milk’s camera shop and campaign HQ, will be built.

“Trust me, when this is done it is going to look amazing,” promised Murillo.

For updates on the construction work, visit http://www.castrostreet.org/.

— Matthew S. Bajko, April 3, 2014 @ 6:24 pm PST
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SF Castro business group says goodbye to its president after electing a new board

Supervisor Scott Wiener commends out-going Castro Merchants president Terry Asten Bennett for her two years in the post.

Supervisor Scott Wiener commends out-going Castro Merchants president Terry Asten Bennett for serving two years in the post.

Castro business leaders elected a new president and board at their monthly meeting this morning and thanked former president Terry Asten Bennett for her two years of service in the position.

As expected, the Castro Merchants group in San Francisco’s gay neighborhood elected Mudpuppy’s Tub and Scrub Dog Wash and Grooming co-owner Daniel Bergerac as its new leader. Bergerac, a gay man who lives above his store on the 500 block of Castro Street, had been serving as vice president of the group formerly known as the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro.

The new vice president is Bay Area Reporter advertising director Scott Wazlowski, who had been serving on the board. Re-elected as treasurer and secretary, respectively, were Cathy O’Shea with Bank of America and chiropractor Dr. Alice Charap.

In an unusual circumstance for the group, it had a contested election for the 16 seats on its board. After the previous board presented a slate of candidates at the March meeting, accountant Jeff Johnston, who owns Johnston Tax Group, and architect Chris McMahon protested and sought to also seek seats.

Yet the Castro Merchants members at today’s meeting (Thursday, April 3) overwhelmingly rejected their bids and went with the board slate.

Those elected were the group’s immediate past president Steve Adams, a president with Sterling Bank and Trust; John Bellemore, a co-owner of gay Castro bars Q Bar, Midnight Sun, Edge, and Beaux; Hot Cookie owner Dan Glazer; clothing stores Citizen and Body owner Petyr Kane; Sui GENERIS Boutique co-owner Miguel Lopez; Vanguard Properties Realtor Mark McHale; Nick Mills with 440 Bar; Recology regional sales manager Stefanie Pavis Medious; Hi Tops bar owner Jessie Woodward; Apothecarium co-owner Ryan Hudson; and designer Brian Springfield.

Gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener presented Asten Bennett, whose family owns Cliff’s Variety, with a proclamation in honor of her leadership.

“Thank you for all of your service to the community,” said Wiener.

Echoing a similar comment made by the supervisor, Adams also complemented Asten Bennett for how she handled what was a tumultuous two-year reign as president.

The controversies ranged from chain stores coming to upper Market Street, homeless people congregating on benches at Harvey Milk Plaza, and the nudists who frequently gathered at Jane Warner Plaza.

Under her watch, the business group enacted a policy to never lower the over-sized rainbow flag flying above the intersection of Castro and Market streets and ended raising the leather flag during the city’s annual Leather Week.

As leader of the group, “you are sometimes a punching bag ,” noted Adams. “You handled it with grace and dignity.”

In a warning for Bergerac as he prepares to take over, Asten Bennett said, “I had no idea going into this how much work it would be. Sorry Dan.”

But she added that overall it has “been wonderful to serve our amazing community” as president of the merchant’s group.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 4:45 pm PST
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Classic arcade games bar headed to SF Castro district

A new bar featuring classic arcade games is headed to San Francisco’s gay Castro district.

Castro arcade bar photo

Siblings Tiffny Vergara Chung and Shawn Vergara plan to open an arcade-themed bar in the Castro.

The owner of upper Market Street bar Blackbird, Shawn Vergara, and Tiffny Vergara Chung, who is the business manager at Blackbird, are behind the new establishment. Dubbed “Project 22″ for now, due to its location in the new mixed-used development at 2200 Market Street known as The Century, the sister / brother team has yet to come up with a name for the new watering hole.

“It will be a beer-centric, beer and wine arcade bar,” Vergara Chung told Castro business leaders at the Castro Merchants meeting this morning (Thursday, April 3).

They plan to have 25 craft beers on tap as well as five wines on tap with low-alcohol cocktails also a possibility, said Vergara Chung. The beers will mostly focus on sours, ciders and fruit-flavored brews.

The 1,986 square foot space will have a capacity of 117 people. Shooting for a late summer opening, the siblings plan to be open seven days a week from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.

C Walters Design is creating the look of the interior space. It will feature an industrial urban atmosphere, with blackened steel, wired glass and wood accents.

“Video-games and beers in an industrial urban atmopshere, kind of like that city place your parents thought woudl ruin your life, but was actually the reason you became who you are today,” reads a prospectus about the concept. “Hi tech with a nod to the past.”

In addition to a bottle-cap bar top, the main feature of the as-yet unnamed bar will be its classic, coin-operated arcade games, such as Pac-Man and Galaga. They plan to open with 10 game consoles and hope to add more in the future.

Due to current city codes, they are capped at having just 10 games instead of the 20-plus they would like to have.

The restriction is due to a 1930s law the city passed, explained Vergara Chung, “when the city tied illegal gambling to gaming.”

The siblings have been working with District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener’s office to look at rescinding the old law. Shawn Vergara ruled out that the games would be similar to ones that allow patrons to play poker or other casino-like games.

“Will we have anything with gambling? No,” he said in response to a question.

The Castro merchant group unanimously endorsed the concept and the new bar’s request for a liquor license.

“I want to congratulate you for doing this,” said Steve Adams, an executive with Sterling Bank and Trust who is president of the city’s Small Business Commission. “It is great someone who owns a local business is opening up another local, small business. I like the concept.”

It is the second locally-owned business moving into the new building, located at the intersection of Market, Sanchez and 15th Streets. Two of the partners behind the nearby gay sports bar Hi Tops are opening a new Mexican sit-down restaurant called Bandidos in the development’s corner storefront.

The site was formerly home to property owner Leticia Luna’s Mexican restaurant called Leticia’s. More recently the Thai House had operated at the site until Luna proceeded with her development plans and demolished the old building on the lot.

 

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 3:08 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Man, 68, attacked, robbed in Castro

A 68-year-old man was attacked and robbed in San Francisco’s gay Castro neighborhood early Thursday morning (April 3), police reported.

The incident occurred at 2 a.m. at 18th and Castro streets. The suspect, described only as a black male age 30 to 35, approached the victim from behind, punched him in the face, and stole his wallet, according to Officer Gordon Shyy, a San Francisco Police Department spokesman.

The victim suffered swollen, lacerated lips. No arrests have been made.

Another recent case involving an attack on an elderly man in the Castro has been resolved.

Ryan J. Day (Photo: SFPD)

Ryan J. Day (Photo: SFPD)

Ryan J. Day, 20, pleaded no contest Tuesday, April 1 to attacking a 71-year-old man with a bottle near 18th and Noe streets last month.

In that incident, according to prosecutors, Day was blocking the sidewalk and insisted that the victim walk around him. When the older man asked Day to move, Day hit him on the head with a bag that had a bottle in it. The victim suffered a head injury and required medical treatment.

In court Tuesday, Day entered a plea of no contest to a misdemeanor charge of assault with a deadly weapon likely to cause great bodily injury, according to court records. In exchange, the original charges – felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon and inflicting injury on an elder or dependent adult likely to cause great bodily injury – were dismissed.

Day was sentenced to three years of probation, which includes participating in alcohol, substance and mental health counseling, and staying 150 yards away from the victim, among other conditions.

Anyone with information related to Thursday’s attack may call the SFPD anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444. People may also text a tip to TIP411. Type SFPD in the subject line. The incident number is 140 276 078

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 12:10 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


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