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

Construction of street project at full speed in Castro

Castro Street constructionConstruction on the long-awaited sidewalk-widening project in San Francisco’s gay Castro district is steaming along at full speed.

Workers have begun digging up the west side of the 400 block of Castro Street. Parking has been eliminated on both sides of the block, as the traffic lanes have been down-sized to one lane in each direction.

A pink marking along the sidewalk shows just how little room will remain for pedestrians over the next three months as the sidewalks are extended out into the street. Ramps are to be installed along the street to allow for access in and out of businesses.

Writing about the construction work commencing on Facebook Tuesday, March 18, Cliff’s Variety co-owner Martha Asten warned shoppers to consider taking public transit and avoiding driving through the Castro altogether.

“Driving on Castro will be challenging, so have patience. Check the lot for parking but Muni may be the way,” warned Asten, referring to a public parking lot behind the Castro Theater. “Also try side streets for parking but remember they are two hours or S permit. Choose alternate driving routes if just traversing the neighborhood.”

On the 500 block of Castro Street, workers could be seen this morning (Thursday, March 20) “potholing” along the street. They excavate small holes to determine the location of underground utilities as a first step before ripping up the street.

As the Bay Area Reporter noted in an earlier blog post, city planners and the project contractor are planning an intense three months of work simultaneously on both the 400 and 500 blocks of Castro Street. The result is that parking on those blocks will be eliminated between March and early June during both the day and night.

Ghilotti Brothers, the Marin County-based company that won the bid for the nearly $6.7 million project, will be leaving five feet of walkway adjacent to the buildings on the 400 and 500 blocks to allow for pedestrian access while work is taking place.

Due to the city’s annual Pride festivities in June, work on the streetscape improvements will end June 18 and all construction equipment removed from the streets. The contractor will be back at work likely as soon as Monday, June 30 to finish the second phase of construction, which is expected to be completed in early October prior to the Castro Street Fair.

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 campaing HQ, will be built.

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

— Matthew S. Bajko, March 20, 2014 @ 1:32 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Anti-gay picketer Fred Phelps dies

The leader of a small Baptist church in Westboro, Kansas, who made a name for himself by traveling the country to hoist up “God Hates Fags” placards, is dead.

(Fred Phelps)

(Fred Phelps)

A spokesman for Westboro Baptist Church, whose website address is godhatesfags.com, told CNN today that Fred Phelps, 84, died of natural causes.

Although certainly appalled by Phelps’s tactics and tenacity, the LGBT community came to ignore the man and his family that referred to themselves as a church. But Phelps did manage to secure some historic notoriety for himself in 2011, when the church escaped millions of dollars in liability for picketing outside the funeral of a straight soldier killed in Afghanistan. The U.S. Supreme court ruled, in Snyder v. Phelps, that the free speech clause of the First Amendment protects public speech, which includes speech related to “any matter of political, social, or other concern to the community.”

Phelps’s targeting of LGBT people sprung into visibility in 1987 at the March on Washington for LGBT Rights in Washington, D.C. Phelps and a few followers stood on the curb along Pennsylvania Avenue waving giant colorful placards with their bluntly hateful messages. He and his family members picketed the 1994 funeral of San Francisco Chronicle reporter Randy Shilts after his death from AIDS-related complications.

“Fred Phelps will not be missed by the LGBT community, people with HIV/AIDS, and the millions of decent people across the world who found what he and his followers do deeply hurtful and offensive,” said the Reverend Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “Through his actions, he brought needless pain and suffering to thousands of families, including to military families, at their time of greatest pain and grieving. While it is hard to find anything good to say about his views or actions, we do give our condolences to his family members at what must be a painful time for them.”

In an interview with CBC Television March 18, Phelps’s son Nathan, who was estranged from his father, said he learned from a nephew who recently left the church that Fred Phelps was in hospice care and nearing death. His son left home at age 18, saying there had been considerable violence and dogma in the family.

Nathan Phelps, now 55, said he learned from other family members that the elder Phelps was kicked out of the Westboro church recently when a Board of Elders took control.

– Reported by Lisa Keen

— Cynthia Laird, @ 12:52 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Sisters relocating Easter party, Hunky Jesus contest to Golden Gate Park

The Sisters at 2003's event. Photo: Marc Geller

The Sisters at 2003′s event. Photo: Marc Geller

The annual Easter party and Hunky Jesus contest held at Dolores Park is hopping over to Golden Gate Park this year.

Due to the renovation work on the public open space that broke ground in early March, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are relocating this year’s bash.

It will take place Sunday, April 20 at Hellman Hollow (formerly Speedway Meadow and located at 50 Overlook Drive). The festivities for children begin at 10 a.m., with the more adult portion of the fun begining at noon and going till 4 p.m.

The theme for the 35th anniversary of the party is “An Emerald Jubilee a ‘Trip’ to…,” which plays off the Wizard of Oz film.

“Easter is upon us yet again but this year we are moving to Golden Gate Park, as Dolores Park is being renovated. All of our usual antics can be expected,” states a message on the Sisters’ website. “This year, in addition to our Easter Bonnet and Hunky Jesus Contests, we are adding Foxy Mary Contest to the bill. Oz costuming encouraged. Bring your blanket, picnic supplies, and join us for a wonderful afternoon of irreverence.”

Due to limited parking in the area, the Sisters are encouraging attendees to take Muni. According to a Facebook post by Sister Phyliss Withe-Litaday, the drag nun group is considering having a shuttle ferry people from the gay Castro district over to the park.

But at this point, “nothing is solidified about transportation,” she noted.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 12:26 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Man robbed at gunpoint in Castro

A man was robbed at gunpoint at 11 p.m. Tuesday, March 18 at Market and Castro streets in the Castro district.

According to a San Francisco Police Department summary, the incident started as the victim, 21, was walking on Market. Two men, whom police described only as white, walked up to him. One man pulled out a handgun while the other demanded the victim’s phone and wallet. The suspects “got into a dark green sedan and drove away,” police said. The man’s cellphone and money were stolen.

The robbery occurred at a time when the neighborhood is typically packed with gay bar patrons and others.

Anyone with information in the case 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 140 233 802.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 12:14 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Man pleads not guilty in Castro attack

A man pleaded not guilty in San Francisco Superior Court this week to charges that he attacked an older man with a bottle in the gay Castro district.

Ryan J. Day, 20, allegedly blocked a sidewalk near 18th and Noe streets Thursday, March 13 and insisted that the victim, who’s 71, walk around him, according to prosecutors. When the older man asked Day to move, Day allegedly hit him on the head with a bag that had a bottle in it. The victim suffered a head injury and required medical treatment.

The District Attorney’s office is charging Day with felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon and inflicting injury on an elder or dependent adult likely to cause great bodily injury. Day, who’s in custody, entered his pleas Monday, March 17.

Judge Ethan Schulman set Day’s bail at $100,000 and ordered him to stay 150 yards away from the victim and from the site of the alleged attack. He also ordered an examination related to Day’s mental health, according to court documents.

Day, whose booking photo isn’t yet available, is next due in court March 28 for a report on the evaluation and for a preliminary hearing.

Deputy Public Defender Qiana Washington, who’s representing Day, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday (March 19).

— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 19, 2014 @ 3:26 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Castro sidewalk design chosen

There will be plenty of rainbows at the intersection of 18th and Castro streets in the heart of San Francisco’s gay neighborhood.

(The winning proposal for the new pedestrian crossings at 18th and Castro Streets. Photo: Rick Gerharter)

(The winning proposal for the new pedestrian crossings at 18th and Castro Streets. Photo: Rick Gerharter)

On Thursday, March 13, District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener announced the winning design and location for rainbow crosswalks that will be paid for by the Castro Upper Market Community Benefit District. The crosswalks are being incorporated with a sidewalk widening project that will begin construction this month.

Wiener said that voters had chosen to have the crosswalk treatment all at the 18th and Castro intersection and that the straight-line design of rainbow colors had been the top vote-getter.

Voters in the online survey had the option of two rainbow crosswalks at 18th and Castro and two at 19th and Castro. There were also four design options – two rainbow-themed and two non-rainbow versions.

The costs for the crosswalks will run about $37,500.

— Cynthia Laird, March 13, 2014 @ 11:03 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


SF Pride to be in St. Patrick’s Day parade

A dancer sports some green on San Francisco Supervisor London Breed's float in the 2013 San Francisco LGBT Pride parade. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

A dancer sports some green on San Francisco Supervisor London Breed’s float in the 2013 San Francisco LGBT Pride parade. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

San Francisco’s LGBT Pride parade and celebration will be represented in this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Saturday, March 15, and according to Pride organizers, it will be the first time they’ve had a contingent in the parade.

The announcement comes as St. Patrick’s Day parades in Boston and New York City continue blocking open LGBT participation.

But Olivia Canniffe, spokeswoman for United Irish Societies of San Francisco, which is organizing the local St. Patrick’s Day event, said, “We’ve never not invited them. They’ve been in the parade before.” Canniffe said as far as her group is concerned, “the parade is all-inclusive.”

The last time Pride took part in the parade “was either last year or the year before. I don’t know off the top of my head,” she said.

Canniffe wasn’t aware of any other gay groups that have taken part in San Francisco’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Pride Parade Manager and board Vice President Marsha Levine said that between she and former board President Joey Cain, who have 30 years of Pride history between them, “We can’t ever remember SF Pride being in their parade. Maybe they have better historical knowledge than we do.”

Levine said gay veterans and the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band probably have marched in the St. Patrick’s Day parade before. Calls to the local LGBT veterans group Alexander Hamilton Post 448 and the Freedom band weren’t immediately returned.

In any case, Canniffe noted the theme of this year’s parade is “A Tribute to the Irish Workers of America,” and she said, “We’re very all-inclusive. We feel like [Irish workers] is an all-inclusive group of people. Everybody has contributed to make this place the way San Francisco is today.”

Levine said she’d “probably” join Saturday’s parade.

“I’m searching for something green to wear,” she said. “I don’t have green.”

Those wanting to march with San Francisco Pride can join the contingent at 10:30 a.m. Saturday to line up on Second Street between Folsom and Harrison streets. Email questions to Levine at marshal@sfpride.org.

 

— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 12, 2014 @ 3:48 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Two Pink Saturday defendants plead guilty

Johnay Davis (Photo: SFPD)

Johnay Davis (Photo: SFPD)

Julian Williams (Photo: SFPD)

Julian Williams (Photo: SFPD)

Two people who’d been accused in attacks that occurred shortly after last year’s Pink Saturday street party in San Francisco’s Castro district pleaded guilty this week to some of the charges they’d faced.

Johnay Davis, 20,  and Julian Williams, 22, had been with Christopher Porter-Bailey, 23, June 30, just after thousands of people had filled the area’s streets. In February, a jury convicted Porter-Bailey of charges including assault and second-degree robbery for kicking a woman in the face after he and Davis had attacked her, and Davis stole her purse.

In a video of the incident that received widespread attention, Davis can be seen robbing the woman, and Porter-Bailey kicks her as the victim lay on the sidewalk.

Davis pleaded to felony robbery Monday, March 3 in San Francisco Superior Court, according to Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s office. Several other charges were dismissed. She’s expected to receive a strike on her record, one year in jail on top of the time she’s already served, and three years of probation.

Williams pleaded to assault with great bodily injury and grand theft from a person, Bastian said. Both are felonies. Several charges against him also were dismissed.  He’s expected to be sentenced to three years of probation.

Davis and Williams had both been in custody since shortly after they were arrested in June. Williams was released from custody after entering his plea. They are both set to be sentenced May 16.

A judge had already held the two to answer on several charges after a July preliminary hearing.

Deputy Public Defender Stephen Rosen, who’s representing Davis, and attorney Peter Furst, who’s represented Williams, didn’t respond to a requests for comment late Thursday afternoon (March 6). Williams couldn’t be reached.

Prosecutors have asked that Porter-Bailey be sentenced to eight years in prison when he next appears in court April 11.

All three defendants are from Oakland.

 

— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 6, 2014 @ 6:14 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Castro Walgreens set to be remodeled, nearby Market Street store could add liquor

The Castro Walgreens

The Castro Walgreens

As Walgreens officials seek community input about adding liquor sales to its store on upper Market Street in San Francisco, the company is planning to completely revamp its store at 18th and Castro Streets in the heart of the city’s gay business district.

The news comes as its chief rival, CVS, readies to open its first Castro location in the Market Noe Center near the corner of Market and Noe Streets. CVS is currently remodeling the facade and interior of a large portion of the concrete shopping complex ahead of its opening later this year.

The Walgreens store at 498 Castro Street is actually two different storefronts combined as one with floor to ceiling shelving, a cramped pharmacy space, and a second section up a small staircase where greeting cards, health products and beauty supplies are sold.

It is one of the chain’s busiest stores, especially its pharmacy. In 2010 the company won approval to expand its specialty pharmacy around the corner on 18th Street after agreeing to lease a portion of its new space to the GLBT Historical Society, which opened its LGBT history museum in it, for five years.

Now it has turned its attention toward revamping its original store space in the Castro, with work likely to begin in early 2015.

“We are going to completely renovate that store,” said Dave DeVincenzi, who oversees Walgreens’ local stores and announced the remodel plans during this morning’s (Thursday, March 6) Castro Merchants meeting. “The store windows will be opened up. We will not have the decals anymore.”

The store and its pharmacy will remain open during the construction. The window along Castro Street set aside for community groups to advertise their events will remain.

Inside the shelving will be lowered to open up the space and more fresh foods, fresh produce and yogurts will be for sale, part of a revamp Walgreens has been rolling out in its stores around San Francisco since 2011.

The pharmacy area will also be remodeled so that there is a desk in front where the pharmacist will be stationed in order to more easily interact with patients. A new, private immunization and consultation room will be added.

“I would love to be able to say this will happen this fall in time with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation opening up their new health center next to us and the planned street project improvements. But most likely it will occur after the first of the year,” said DeVincenzi.

Liquor sales at Market Street Walgreens

In the meantime, Walgreens is pursuing selling liquor at its store at 2145 Market Street. It is a reversal in policy for the Deerfield, Illinois-based company, which has long said it would not sell alcohol in its stores.

In fact, when it sought community support to expand the Castro Street store, one of the conditions it agreed to was to never sell liquor in that location.

The company in recent weeks had talked to Castro community leaders about adding alcohol to that location. But based on the negative feedback it received has dropped plans to seek a liquor license for that store at this time.

It is in the beginning stages of testing community response to adding alcohol to the shelves of its upper Market Street store near Church Street.

“We are just at the start of this and are taking community outreach very seriously,” said Jennifer Kurrie, Walgreens’ regional director for government relations who is based in San Francisco.

Walgreens executives have already met with police officials and have agreed to several provisions if it does sell alcohol at the store, such as not selling individual bottles of beer or wine coolers and not having wine bottles smaller than 750 ml.

Kurrie said Walgreens’ interest in selling liquor is due to feedback from customers, who would like to be able to buy a card and a bottle of wine for a birthday party in one location.

“They are asking for these things as a one-stop-shop,” she said.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 2:25 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Castro sidewalk project to begin March 13, street parking to be eliminated for three months

The busy intersection at 18th and Castro streets is set for an overhaul. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

The busy intersection at 18th and Castro streets is set for an overhaul. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Ground will officially break next week on the long awaited Castro Street sidewalk widening project in the heart of San Francisco’s gay business district.

In order to lessen the amount of disruption in the area, city planners and the project contractor are planning an intense three months of work simultaneously on both the 400 and 500 blocks of Castro Street. The result is that parking on those blocks will be eliminated between March and early June during both the day and night.

“We think this is the best way to minimize the impact from the project,” said John Dennis, a designer with the city’s Department of Public Works who is acting as the project manager, during this morning’s (Thursday, March 6) Castro Merchants meeting.

The work schedule is a change from initial plans to first work on one of the two blocks of Castro Street between Market and 19th Streets and then move on to the second block.

The decision has business owners concerned that their customers will either avoid the area entirely or find it difficult to gain access to stores along Castro Street.

“There is no way I can stay in business with a three month disruption,” said David Gray, owner of garden supply store Hortica (566 Castro Street). “This is going to be happening during the spring, which is my busiest season.”

Ghilotti Brothers, the Marin County-based company that won the bid for the nearly $6.7 million project, plans to install ramps into the entrances to businesses along Castro Street as well as larger ramps mid-block to help with deliveries.

The company will be leaving five feet of walkway adjacent to the buildings on the 400 and 500 blocks to allow for pedestrian access while work is taking place. Crews will begin this coming Monday, March 10 digging testing holes along Castro Street to locate various underground pipes and electrical equipment.

Thursday, March 13 city officials and community leaders will be on hand for an official ground-breaking ceremony planned for 10:30 a.m. The location has yet to be determined.

Major work tearing up the streets is expected to commence the following week, either Wednesday, March 19 or Thursday, March 20, and should last about 10 days. Then installation of the expanded sidewalks and new street curbs will begin.

Due to the city’s annual Pride festivities in June, work on the streetscape improvements will end June 18 and all construction equipment removed from the streets. The contractor will be back at work likely as soon as Monday, June 30 to finish the second phase of construction, which is expected to be completed in early October prior to the Castro Street Fair.

The summer portion of the project will see the planting of new street trees, improved lighting and an upgrade to Jane Warner Plaza. A number of decorative elements being paid for by the Castro Upper Market Community Benefit District, such as special crosswalks, programmable colored LED streetlights, and historical facts etched into the sidewalk paving, will also be installed.

To sign up for updates about the project, visit www.castrostreet.org.

 

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 1:37 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


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