Issue:  Vol. 46 / No. 26 / 30 June 2016
 

Sisters share SF Pride parade judging duties with activists

Sister Hellen Wheels awards California Attorney General Kamala Harris the "Most Outrageous Individual" award at the 2015 Pride parade for her support of equal marriage. (Photo courtesy of Sister Merry Peter.)

Sister Hellen Wheels awards California Attorney General Kamala Harris the “Most Outrageous Individual” award at the 2015 Pride parade for Harris’ support of same-sex marriage. (Photo courtesy of Sister Merry Peter.)

San Francisco’s Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have announced that they’ll be sharing the role of LGBT Pride parade judges with other community activists in order to support the 2016 Pride theme, “For Racial and Economic Justice.”

In a news release this week, Sister Merry Peter, who for the past five years has helped organize volunteers for the parade, said the charitable nuns group is “proud to share parade judge service with remarkable Bay Area activists leading the daily struggle for justice.” This year’s parade is Sunday, June 26.

Referring to the June 12 massacre at a gay Orlando, Florida nightclub in which 49 people were killed and 53 were injured, Sister Peter said, “The tragic shootings at Pulse Nightclub make clear the urgent need to stand against violence, overcome hatred and unite in creating and sustaining welcoming, safe, and just communities for all.”

She added, “As your pride judges we stand in solidarity with Orlando and dedicate our service to celebrating the joy, resilience and power of our communities. As you pass by our table, we hope you will see your own courage and beauty reflected and amplified in our smiles, cheers and applause.”

Judges will include Mahnani Clay, ‘a queer black mother’ who was formerly incarcerated; Reverend Daigan Gaither, a Sister and hospice volunteer who co-founded the San Francisco Zen Center‘s Queer Dharma Group; Ericka Huggins, a Black Panther leader who’s developed programs for women and children with HIV; Edwin Lindo, one of the Frisco5 hunger strikers who’d called for former police Chief Greg Suhr’s firing; Jenna Rapues, a Filipina American transgender woman who works to combat health disparities among trans people and others; Lisbet Tellefsen, an activist who co-founded Ache, the longest running black lesbian journal of the 1980s; and Reverend Diana Wheeler, a former night minister with San Francisco Night Ministry and a saint of the Sisters.

Also judging the parade will be Sisters Chola de Dah, Guard N O’Pansies, Merry Peter, Phyliss With-Litaday.

The parade begins at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Market and Beale streets and ends at Market and Eighth streets.

If you want to see this year’s San Francisco Pride parade live, you will have to venture down to Market Street to view it in person.

For the first time in more than two decades a live broadcast of the parade will be unavailable, either online or on cable television.

Visit www.sfpride.org for more information.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, June 23, 2016 @ 11:47 am PST
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Appeals fight heats up over Castro-area marijuana dispensary’s proposed Marina location

The Apothecarium would like to open a location on Lombard Street in the city's Marina district.

The Apothecarium would like to open a location on Lombard Street in the city’s Marina district.

A fight over a Castro-area medical marijuana dispensary’s proposed Marina location is heating up on the eve of a hearing that could halt the project, with the opponents being accused of using homophobic language.

The Apothecarium, which opened its first location near the intersection of Market and Church streets five years ago, won approval from the city’s planning commission last fall to open at 2414 Lombard Street despite vocal opposition to its plans. According to the dispensary, 2,650 of its patients live in the Marina area.

Both the Cow Hollow Association, a neighborhood group, and District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell, who represents the area at City Hall, object to having a marijuana dispensary operate at that address. Among their reasons for doing so, they have cited its being across the street from the Edward II housing complex for transitional age youth as well as its proximity to a nearby martial arts studio for children.

“Medical marijuana dispensaries do have a place in San Francisco, but do not belong next to a children’s martial arts studio and directly opposite of Edward the Second who houses formerly homeless transitional aged youth,” Farrell told the Bay Area Reporter in an emailed statement.

An online petition against the Apothecarium’s planned location had attracted 263 signatures as of early Tuesday afternoon. The Cow Hollow Association has appealed the planning commission’s decision, and the city’s Board of Appeals is set to take up the issue at its meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, June 22).

The appeal seeks either to have the permit be overturned, or if the board rejects that request, to then restrict sales at the medical cannabis dispensary, or MCD for short, to only those age 25 or older and restrict the hours of operation, thereby “minimizing the exposure to children in the neighborhood.”

The Cow Hollow Association’s board, in an email to its members urging them to attend the hearing, wrote, “There is no ‘necessity’ or other commanding reason why an MCD must be sited at 2414 Lombard. There are many delivery services and it appears that there have been and are other possible sites.”

The planning commission did impose a restriction barring the Apothecarium from serving clients aged 18 to 20 at the Marina location.

“My client has also promised the city (now found as conditions of approval) that they will not offer home delivery or allow service to persons under 21 years old to create ‘protections’ that appellant felt are needed. These conditions have never before been required of any dispensary in the city, but were accepted in the spirit of compromise,” wrote Brett Gladstone, an attorney and partner at Hanson Bridgett LLP, who is representing the Apothecarium, to the appeals board.

Email language provokes outcry

Language the Cow Hollow Association used in an email urging people to attend tomorrow night’s hearing has provoked an outcry from the Apothecarium’s backers. In a statement emailed to the B.A.R., Apothecarium spokesman Michael Colbruno specifically cited the phrasing: “The marijuana store owners have implored and transported their supporters (many customers of their store in the Castro) to come from all over the city to urge that such a store be opened in our neighborhood.”

Colbruno, who is gay, accused the association of using what he deemed a “keep gays away” argument.

“Members of the LGBTQ, as well as people in communities of color and religious minorities, have heard these innuendos before and we fully understand the message,” stated Colbruno. “This coded language has no place in our public discourse and needs to be called out for what it is: homophobia.”

He also criticized Farrell for opposing the Apothecarium’s moving into the Marina, tying it to the supervisor’s earlier opposition to the Edward II housing project opening at its Lombard Street at Scott location, as the B.A.R. noted in a 2011 article.

“Supervisor Farrell’s actions to deny the Apothecarium’s approval at the Planning Commission last November and his opposition to locating the Edward II transitional youth facility make this the third time since the beginning of 2011 that Supervisor Mark Farrell has joined CHA in opposing facilities to meet the needs of the sick or less privileged,” stated Colbruno.

The release also quoted Daniel Bergerac, a gay man who is president of the Castro Merchants group and also operates a location of his MudPuppy’s Tub and Scrub business in the Marina.

“Years ago, when my husband was dying of AIDS, I had to get his medical cannabis on the street. This stigma around gay men and their medicine was so strong especially
in some neighborhoods,” stated Bergerac. “You would think we would have moved beyond these issues by 2016, but clearly we are still fighting them.”

Leaders of CHA did not immediately respond to the B.A.R.‘s request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Farrell, in his emailed statement, harshly attacked Colbruno for implying his objections to the proposed dispensary had anything to do with the owners or anti-gay animus and called on him to “immediately rescind” his “baseless statement.”

“The claim of the Apothecarium’s paid lobbyist, Michael Colbruno, that I am opposing the proposed location on Lombard Street because the owners are LGBTQ  is outrageous and has no basis in truth whatsoever – Michael Colbruno should be absolutely ashamed of himself for making this accusation. I am and will always be an ally of our LGBTQ community and my life and record on the Board of Supervisors proves this without a doubt,” stated Farrell.

He added that, “Mr. Colbruno has a vested, paid interest in seeing this project through, and apparently is willing to do whatever it takes even when he knows his accusations are false. Mr. Colbruno’s desperate and baseless attacks are an attempt to pad his checkbook further.”

Housing agencies voice opposition

In a twist from when they were battling Farrell and Cow Hollow residents, Larkin Street Youth Services and Community Housing Partnership, which oversee the Edward II housing project, are now allied with them in opposing the proposed Apothecarium location, citing concerns for “the health and safety” of the residents there, who are aged 18 to 24 and include LGBTQ youth.

In a letter to the planning commission, signed by the two nonprofits’ executive directors, the agencies contended that, “similar to safety zones established around schools and other programs for minors, we believe that MCDs should not be located within close proximity of housing programs for youth.”

In a statement issued to the B.A.R. Apothecarium co-owner Ryan Hudson refuted the claims that its presence in the Marina would have a negative impact on nearby youth or facilities that cater to youth.

“The Apothecarium in the Castro has successfully operated for five years across the street from a church that hosts programs for youth at risk for addiction. We are also across the street from a martial arts studio that serves children. Both have written letters saying we are good neighbors,” stated Hudson. “The notion that dispensaries are a danger to children has been proven false by 20 years of legal cannabis in San Francisco. Children are on every block of our city. Those who suggest dispensaries cannot safely co-exist near children, are really suggesting there should be no medical cannabis dispensaries in our city. They are also fear-mongering.”

The appeals board has received numerous letters in opposition of the Apothecarium,  resulting in a 74-page PDF the body posted online. It has also received numerous letters in support of the dispensary, compiled in a 126-page PDF.

Among the 600 letters of support for the Apothecarium, including 140 from the immediate neighborhood, is one from state Controller Betty Yee, who contended the dispensary “should be viewed as a valuable addition to any community, as they have proven to be a model dispensary, having been cited by planning staff as the ‘gold standard’ among operators in San Francisco.”

Yee also informed the appeals board members that it is important for the city “to avoid clustering” MCDs in only a “handful of neighborhoods, primarily focused in SOMA and the Mission,” since medical marijuana users live throughout San Francisco.

“No person who is using cannabis to treat cancer, PTSD or debilitating pain should have to travel across town (often on public transportation) to access their medicine,” argued Yee.

The Board of Appeals hearing is set to begin at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Room 416 at City Hall, however, the Apothecarium’s permit is listed as the final agenda item so it could be some time before the issue is taken up by the oversight body.

— Matthew S. Bajko, June 21, 2016 @ 3:24 pm PST
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Gay candidate pulls ahead in SoCal congressional race

Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen is running for a southern California congressional seat. Photo: Courtesy Nguyen for Congress

Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen is running for a southern California congressional seat.
Photo: Courtesy Nguyen for Congress

On Election night gay Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen was trailing a Republican opponent in his bid for a congressional seat in southern California, putting him in third place in the eight-person contest.

But with additional ballots now counted, Nguyen has moved into second place in the race for the 46th Congressional District seat in Orange County. The current officeholder, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), placed second in the June primary behind front-runner state Attorney General Kamala Harris in their race for U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s seat.

Nguyen’s vote tally as of Tuesday morning, according to the unofficial returns posted by the secretary of state’s office, stands at 13,259, or 14.6 percent of the vote. Republican Bob Peterson, a commander in the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, is now in third place with 11,640 votes, or 12.8 percent.

Former state Senator Lou Correa remains the first place finisher in the primary. The Democrat’s lead has now grown to 39,548 votes, or 43.4 percent, and he is widely viewed as the likely winner come November due to the large number of Latino voters in the district.

Nonetheless, Democrat Nguyen’s victory in the primary, where the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation advance to the general election, is another sign of the Republican Party’s diminishment in California. And a signal of the GOP’s increasing difficulty to win elections in areas of the state long seen as more conservative, particularly Orange County.

But an influx of new residents, many people of color, has lessened the GOP’s political chances in the county south of Los Angeles.

Nguyen, who only came out publicly last summer, issued a statement this morning following the release of the latest vote count in the race.

“I am immensely grateful to everybody who has supported me in this race. This election isn’t about who has the most money. It’s about the hardworking middle and working class families of Orange County,” stated Nguyen. “Washington is broken, and we know that sending another politician who’s in the pocket of special interests isn’t going to fix it. We need somebody in Washington who has a record of fighting corruption, not participating in it. The era of big money, special interests, and corporate lobbyists running Washington is over, and I’m here to fight to the finish.”

As noted in the Bay Area Reporter‘s Political Notebook column last fall, Nguyen would be the first out immigrant to serve in Congress. Born in a Thailand refugee camp, where his parents and several of his six siblings had sought refuge after escaping Vietnam, Nguyen came to the U.S. three months later and grew up in southern California. He became a U.S. citizen at the age of 12.

He had served on the Garden Grove Unified School District Board of Education then, in 2014, was elected the city’s mayor, becoming the country’s first directly-elected Vietnamese American Democratic mayor. He is his city’s first Vietnamese American and first openly LGBTQ mayor.

In the primary race, neither Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, nor the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports LGBT candidates seeking political office, endorsed Nguyen.

Should he defeat Correa, Nguyen would be the second out member of California’s congressional delegation, joining gay Congressman Mark Takano (D-Riverside), who is expected to easily win a third term in November.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 12:02 pm PST
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Bag checks and metal detectors at SF Pride

People going into San Francisco’s Pride festival this weekend will be subject to bag checks and metal detectors, city officials said at a security briefing Monday, June 20.

The move comes in the wake of the Orlando mass shooting at a gay nightclub that left 49 people dead and several lawsuits filed against the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee by victims of shootings here in 2013 and 2015.

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

— Cynthia Laird, June 20, 2016 @ 11:03 am PST
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City Hall Pride flag-raising honors Orlando victims

The rainbow flag was raised at San Francisco City Hall Friday, then lowered to half-staff to honor the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.

(Mayor Ed Lee prepares to raise the rainbow flag Friday at City Hall. Photo: Bill Wilson)

(Mayor Ed Lee prepares to raise the rainbow flag Friday at City Hall. Photo: Bill Wilson)

Forty-nine people, mostly gay Latino men, were killed early Sunday at the gay Orlando nightclub. Another 53 people were injured.

Mayor Ed Lee, in remarks to a crowd of LGBT leaders, city officials, and others, said that the flag would remain at half-staff for the remainder of Friday (June 17) “in honor of our brothers and sisters in Orlando.” The rainbow flag-raising has been a tradition that kicks off Pride Week.

Lee said the significance of the rainbow flag at City Hall is “also a point of celebration.”

San Francisco’s LGBT Pride festivities take place next weekend, culminating with the parade and festival Sunday, June 26. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend.

The mayor said that he wants to make sure that “everybody who comes here – their lives can be celebrated for who they are.”

LGBT city officials had mixed emotions at the event – sadness at the Orlando tragedy coupled with resolve of celebrating the progress that the community has made. Lee remarked that it was just about a year ago that people in the city were jubilant after the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

“In this particular time, with the terrible events involving our community, Pride is more important that ever,” gay city Treasurer Jose Cisneros told the Bay Area Reporter. “We’re strong, visible, and proud.”

— Cynthia Laird, June 17, 2016 @ 12:26 pm PST
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SF rec and park to light up historic conservatory structure for Pride

A photo from a test run of the lights shows how the Conservator of Flowers will look for Pride. Courtesy SF Rec& Park.

A photo from a test run of the lights shows how the Conservatory of Flowers will look for Pride. Courtesy SF Rec & Park.

Starting tonight, the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park will be lit up in rainbow colors in honor of Pride. It is the first time ever that the city’s recreation and park department has changed the lighting in such a way for the historic structure.

The Conservatory opened to the public in 1879 and over its history has had to be rebuilt due to damage from fire and wind. An especially severe winter of storms led to the building’s closure in 1995, and it wasn’t reopened until 2003.

The colorful display for Pride will remain through July 1. The Conservatory is located at 100 John F. Kennedy Drive.

“From our own programming, to the events happening within our parks, we stand with the entire LGBT community in celebrating Pride,” stated Phil Ginsburg, SF Rec & Park general manager. “Recreation and Parks are truly for everyone — and this month, like all months, we’re proudly demonstrating that parks are for all communities.”

The city agency has been taking special actions for years to mark the annual LGBT celebration. Four years ago it debuted an altered logo – which depicts a girl on a swing hung from a tree drawn in silhouette – so that the sky is rainbow colored.

Many of the city’s Pride events take place on rec and park properties throughout the city. The agency’s staff raised rainbow flags in Civic Center Plaza, where the two-day Pride festival will take place next weekend, and a number have been flying at half-mast due to the shooting rampage early Sunday at a gay Latin nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people dead.

Among the department’s sponsored Pride activities is the annual Women on Women Dodgeball Tournament, which kicks off this Friday at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center in the gay Castro district.

At the Harvey Milk Photo Center, named for the former San Francisco Supervisor and gay rights leader and located in Duboce Park, the department is hosting a new photo exhibit titled “LGBTQ Chronicled: 1933-2016.” Featured are historic photographs from past Pride celebrations, as well as more recent photos of LGBT youth and seniors, including works by Bay Area Reporter photographers Bill Wilson, Rick Gerharter, and Peter Thoshinsky.

The exhibit opens at 4 p.m. this Saturday, June 18, with a party and performance at 8 p.m. hosted by drag performer Peaches Christ.

— Matthew S. Bajko, June 16, 2016 @ 4:11 pm PST
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Counseling group moves 2017 confab to SF due to anti-LGBT Tennessee law

American Counseling Association CEO Richard Yep

American Counseling Association CEO Richard Yep

The American Counseling Association is headed to San Francisco for its 2017 conference after pulling out of Nashville due to the passage of an anti-LGBT law by Tennessee lawmakers.

The legislation, HB1840/SB1556, permits counselors in the Volunteer State to deny services and refer clients based on the provider’s “strongly held principles.” In effect, it allows counselors to cite their religious beliefs in order to refuse to work with clients based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The counseling association says the law not only violates its code of ethics but denies services to those most in need. It announced in May that it would no longer hold its 2017 Conference & Expo in the state and sought proposals from other cities interested in hosting it.

“After thoughtful discussion, the ACA Governing Council made the difficult – and courageous- decision on behalf of our membership. Of all the state legislation I have seen passed in my 30 years with ACA, the new Tennessee law based on Senate Bill 1556/House Bill 1840 is by far the worst,” stated the group’s CEO Richard Yep, at the time, who also posted a video to explain the decision.

After receiving 13 bids from other cities, the ACA announced Monday, June 13, that it had selected San Francisco as “the best option.” The group estimates it will bring in $5 million in revenue to the city and the Bay Area as a whole.

The Pre-Conference Learning Institutes will be held from March 15-16, 2017 with the ACA 2017 Conference & Expo immediately following from March 16-19, 2017. Both events will be held at the Moscone West Convention Center.

“This is a historic time for ACA as we have never had to make a decision like this before. We believe that San Francisco will be an enjoyable and active city for our conference,” stated Yep. “This change signals that we are committed to serving our diverse members and helping them provide the support their clients need.”

For more information, visit the ACA 2017 Conference & Expo website here.

— Matthew S. Bajko, June 15, 2016 @ 11:25 am PST
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Vigil Sunday; gay papers issue statement on Orlando mass shooting

There will be a vigil Sunday (June 11) at 8 pm at Harvey Milk Plaza (Castro and Market streets) in San Francisco to remember the victims of Saturday night’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Meanwhile, the National Gay Media Association, of which the Bay Area Reporter is a part, is stunned at the mass shooting at an LGBT club in Orlando, Florida. At least 50 people have been killed in the shooting at the Pulse nightclub, and dozens more injured in the attack.

“Our hearts go out to the entire Orlando community,” said Leo Cusimano, publisher of the Dallas Voice, president of NGMA. “We lend our support to the community of Orlando, and the LGBTQ community nationally, as we all cope with the incredible sadness and anger this tragedy has caused.”

(Officers direct people after the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Photo: AP)

(Officers direct people after the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Photo: AP)

“Individuals in the LGBTQ community have been targeted for violence frequently over the years, but nothing on this scale,” said Tracy Baim, spokeswoman for NGMA and publisher of Windy City Times. “We want to encourage the community to show their support by donating to the victims at https://www.gofundme.com/2942a444. We also send our support to our member paper Watermark during this difficult time for their community.”

NGMA, a membership organization of the 12 of the country’s top regional LGBT media, works together to help member newspapers. Orlando’s Watermark newspaper joined NGMA in 2015. See http://www.nationalgaymediaassociation.com/.

The B.A.R. will have more on this story in Thursday’s paper.

— Cynthia Laird, June 12, 2016 @ 11:17 am PST
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Trans woman works to create Transgender College Fund

Rae Raucci

Rae Raucci

A transgender San Francisco woman is working to create a Transgender College Fund that would award $500 educational support grants to trans youth ages 18 to 24.

Rae Raucci, who recently launched a Gofundme campaign with a goal of raising $200,000, hopes to deliver the first grants either during the Trans March in June 2017 or Transgender Day of Remembrance in November 2017.

Raucci said she came up with the idea after forming an emergency fund a couple years ago to help two young trans women find supportive housing.

“Try as I could, I could not convince the girls to apply for college,” she wrote in response to emailed questions from the Bay Area Reporter. “They simply did not believe that investing in their education would make a difference. This is one reason that I believe that a grant that is tied to a completed college application will help. I believe that only if enough trans youth enter the higher educational system that we will have a healthy representation for what trans people face in the present and the future, especially pernicious treatment like ‘bathroom bills’ across the nation being enacted just to strip trans people of their civil rights.”

Raucci, who’s in her third year of law school and clerking in Supervisor Jane Kim’s office, said she was also inspired by the deaths of Leelah Alcorn, a trans teen who killed herself in 2014, and Amber Maxwell, a young trans woman who killed herself in 2013.

The two “are perfect examples of who could be helped by the Transgender College Fund,” she said. Only if women such as Alcorn and Maxwell are nurtured and supported “can we have the next generation of professional trans people who can stand up on their feet and demand their rights.”

The Transgender College Fund will go to people “with the most need,” Raucci said. (As of Friday afternoon, the fund itself has plenty of need, as only $25 had been contributed.)

“Applicants will also have to be in the proper age range (18-24), inside the trans spectrum, and also show proof of a completed 4-year college or graduate school application,” she said.

Raucci’s planning to have a panel of at least three judges “selected from trans leaders and allies,” and she also aims to start a nonprofit to back the fund.

She welcomes questions and suggestions at rraucci11@gmail.com.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, June 10, 2016 @ 6:00 pm PST
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SF Pride says safety at risk if party called off

Prosecutors say this photo shows Joshua Spencer with a gun near the 2015 San Francisco LGBT Pride celebration. (Photo: San Francisco Superior Court.)

Prosecutors say this photo shows Joshua Spencer as the gunman during a shooting at the 2015 San Francisco LGBT Pride celebration. (Photo: San Francisco Superior Court documents.)

Organizers of San Francisco’s Pride celebration said this week that calling off the party could increase public safety risks, as more than 1 million people would still be likely to come to Civic Center anyway.

The comments are part of SF Pride’s response to a lawsuit filed by a San Francisco man who was shot at the 2015 celebration.

As part of his suit, Freddy Atton has said that this year’s festival should be called off unless organizers move it to another location, use metal detectors and search people’s bags, and take numerous other steps that police have recommended.

A judge has ordered SF Pride to explain at a hearing June 16 why organizers shouldn’t have to make the changes and keep plans in place for the two-day festival, which is set to start June 25, just nine days after the hearing.

“San Francisco Pride is the largest gathering of people in the city of San Francisco,” George Ridgely, executive director of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee, said in a declaration filed in superior court June 9.

“If the court enjoins the celebration or it is cancelled, none of the infrastructure provided by San Francisco Pride would be in place. That would mean that 1.2 million people would be in downtown San Francisco before, during, and after the parade without any coordinated plan to address unavoidable crowd control issues. There would be none of the infrastructure that San Francisco Pride provides to manage street closures, to respond to emergency medical situations,” and handle other situations.

Ridgely added that Atton’s “demanded changes to the celebration are already in place or infeasible.”

He pointed to one of the plaintiff’s recommendations that the Pride celebration be moved to Golden Gate Park, and explained why that wouldn’t work.

“The largest public space in Golden Gate Park is the Polo Field, which has a capacity of only 57,000 people,” Ridgely said. “Additionally, the rental fee for the Polo Field is almost double that of Civic Center Plaza. San Francisco Pride pays an average of $14,000 per day to use Civic Center Plaza and would have to pay $28,864 per day for the Polo Field.”

Organizers would have to rent several spots in the park “to accommodate crowds of 300,000-500,000 people at any given time, which would be cost prohibitive,” he said.

Another problem is that Civic Center is where the parade ends, Ridgely noted. (The injunction would not apply to the parade.) Traditionally, people go right from the parade into the festival. Even if SF Pride did move the celebration from Civic Center, “hundreds of thousands of people would have to be transported across the city at around the same time the parade finishes,” he said.

Atton’s complaint also says the celebration’s footprint should be smaller. At least one police official has testified in a previous lawsuit against SF Pride that the vast size of the party, which encompasses several blocks in an already busy neighborhood, makes it difficult to ensure safety. Court documents have also revealed that even people from the Pride Committee have expressed concern about the size of the footprint.

But in his declaration, Ridgely said his group “cannot ‘adopt a smaller footprint’ for the celebration. San Francisco Pride does not have control over the number of individuals who choose to attend the parade and celebration. Reducing the size of the footprint where the celebration is located will not change the number of individuals who will attend. Rather, what would happen is that the same number of people would attend, and given the reduced size of the footprint, there would be more difficult crowd control concerns. For example, it would be more difficult for police and emergency medical response to quickly assist in emergencies given that the same number of people would be packed in a smaller venue.”

Ridgely also countered other recommendations, which include using metal detectors and checking people’s bags as they enter.

“Adopting a security point with metal detectors, bag checks, and patdowns would change the fundamental nature of the event as an open and public celebration of the LGBT community and LGBT rights,” he said. “It would be prohibitively expensive, and if ordered on June 16, 2016, it would not be possible for San Francisco Pride to find the vendors and staffing that could implement this change to the celebration in nine days.”

2015 shooting

In his lawsuit, filed in May, Atton described being shot June 27, 2015, after “a large fight broke out” on Fulton Street west of Hyde, which was inside the festival perimeters. He claims in his lawsuit that the Pride Committee allowed someone “to bring a handgun into the celebration.”

“There was no security in sight to address the fight, to dissipate it, or to eject the combatants,” the complaint says, and the celebration was allowed “to descend as it does annually into lawlessness.”

Atton, who’d been attending the festival and lives in the neighborhood, was walking by when “the festering fight turned into a shootout.”

At about 6 p.m., “a gunman fired into the crowd, shooting Atton in the left arm,” according to court documents. Atton is seeking at least $10 million in damages.

Joshua Spencer, 20, has pleaded not guilty to charges including attempted murder and assault with a semiautomatic firearm in the case. Spencer, whose next court date is June 21, is in custody on $2.5 million bail.

Officer Carlos Manfredi, an SFPD spokesman, said shortly after the shooting that the situation was believed to have started when several groups of men, “unrelated to the Pride event,” got into a verbal argument near or inside the venue.

Mahlik and Monte Smith, two brothers from Oakland, were injured as they fled a shooting at the June 30, 2013 celebration. They also filed a lawsuit against SF Pride in May. Ryan Lapine, who’s representing Atton and the Smiths, was also the attorney for Trevor Gardner, a Los Angeles man who was shot at the June 2013 festival and settled a lawsuit against SF Pride last year. Another case stemming from the 2013 shooting is pending.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 1:39 pm PST
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