Issue:  Vol. 45 / No. 48 / 26 November 2015

Woman gets 2 years for Zipcar thefts

Nicole Dipo. Photo: Courtesy ABC7

Nicole Dipo. Photo: Courtesy ABC7

A San Francisco woman has been ordered to serve two years in county jail for stealing Zipcars.

Nicole Dipo, 29, originally pleaded not guilty in April to numerous charges related to taking vehicles from the short-term car rental company. But Dipo, who appears to be transgender, told ABC channel 7 that she did steal seven of the cars because it gave her “a high,” and in a deal reached in September, she pleaded guilty to counts of receiving or buying stolen property and unlawfully driving or taking a vehicle.

Monday, October 19, Dipo was sentenced to a total of five years in state prison, but with credit for time served and other factors, she’s expected to do two years in jail, according to court records. She’s also been ordered to serve three years of mandatory supervision.

Additionally, Dipo’s been ordered to stay away from Zipcars and to not possess any access cards to the cars.

City documents say Dipo’s also known as Ray Charles Dipo and Regina Dipo.

Ruth Edelstein, Dipo’s attorney, hasn’t responded to requests for comment.

Court records show that in January 2010, Dipo was convicted of vehicle theft in San Francisco. Documents also indicate that around 2009 she was convicted of attempted auto theft.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 21, 2015 @ 4:31 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Beating, robbery incidents reported in Castro

Two men were beaten and one of them was robbed recently in separate incidents in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood.

The first assault happened at 12:45 a.m. Monday, October 12 in the 4100 block of 18th Street when the suspect and victim were fighting in the street, Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, said in a summary of the incident. The suspect used a piece of glass to cut the victim and fled on foot, Esparza said.

The victim, 21, was left with a non-life threatening laceration to the head and taken to Davies Medical Center. The suspect is a male who’s 26 to 32 years old and who’s ethnicity wasn’t specified.

The robbery took place at 2:15 a.m. Saturday, October 10 at 18th and Collingwood streets. Four suspects – two men and two women – approached the victim from behind, grabbed him, “struck him several times,” and took his property before fleeing on foot, Esparza said.

The suspects took the 44-year-old victim’s cash, but he wasn’t injured.

The suspects are described as a black male in his 20s, a black female in her 30s, a Hispanic female in her 20s, and a black male age 40.

No arrests have been made in either case.

Anyone with information related to the cases may call the SFPD anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411. Type SFPD in the subject line. The incident number in the Monday assault is 150891197. The incident number for the Saturday robbery is 150890806.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 15, 2015 @ 3:24 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Man knocked out in Castro fight; bank robbed


Photo: Rick Gerharter

A man was knocked out in a fight with another man in San Francisco’s Castro district yesterday, and hours later, a bank was robbed in the same block.

The fight occurred when two men “were in line for food and got into a verbal argument” at 2 a.m. Wednesday, October 14 in the 400 block of Castro Street, according to Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman.

After the suspect punched the victim in the face twice, the victim fell to the ground, and the suspect struck him again. The victim, 55, “lost consciousness,” Esparza said, and the suspect, described only as a white male aged 20 to 30, fled the scene.

The victim was treated for lacerations to his face and hands and transported to San Francisco General Hospital.

Hours later, at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday in the 400 block of Castro, a man gave a bank teller a note apparently demanding money. The teller complied and the suspect fled, Esparza said.

The suspect, who made off with an unspecified amount of money, is described as a white male in his 40s.

No arrests have been reported in either case.

Anyone with information related to the cases may call the SFPD anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411. Type SFPD in the subject line. The incident number for the assault is 150898361. The incident number for the bank robbery is 150899579.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 2:03 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

SF mayor’s gay homeless czar Bevan Dufty quits

Bevan Dufty (Courtesy SF mayor's office)

Bevan Dufty (Courtesy SF mayor’s office)

The gay man who has served as San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s homeless czar since 2012 unexpectedly quit today.

In a surprise announcement this afternoon (Monday, October 12), Lee said he had appointed Sam Dodge as the interim director of the office known as Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement or HOPE for short. Dodge had been serving as deputy director under former HOPE Director Bevan Dufty, who formerly had served as supervisor from District 8.

“You have to give residents hope, and I look forward to working with Sam in his new capacity to champion our city’s efforts to combat homelessness,” stated Lee.

Dufty had ran against Lee for mayor in 2011 and was one of the only candidates not to attack Lee during the race. His hiring to oversee Lee’s homeless policies was hardly a surprise, as Lee had told the Bay Area Reporter during the mayoral contest that he would welcome Dufty being a part of his administration if he won election to a full four-year term.

Dufty told the B.A.R. that he decided to step down to spend more time with his family. He informed Lee of his decision last Wednesday and his last day on the job will be Friday, November 6.

“My partner and my child had been on me since I turned 60 to retire. This is a great time in the sense the Navigation Center is doing so well as a new model to respond to street homelessness” said Dufty, referring to the new center recently created to move entire encampments of homeless people off the streets and into supportive housing.

For three decades Dufty has worked at City Hall in various capacities. He began as chief-of-staff to lesbian former Supervisor Susan Leal and then went to work in the administration of former Mayor Willie Brown before winning his supervisor seat.

Lee praised Dufty for his years of service to the city in the announcement about Dodge’s hiring.

“I thank Bevan for his commitment to making a real difference in people’s lives and tackling the challenges of homelessness in our city, and for implementing this new Navigation Center model of care and compassion for residents on our streets,” stated Lee. “I also thank Bevan for his more than 30 years of public service and for mentoring and preparing Sam for this new challenge.”

In addition to helping Dufty launch the Navigation Center, Dodge was also involved in the planning and implementation of the Mayor’s Streets to Homes initiative, whereby the city is master leasing 500 units of supportive housing for formerly homeless people moving out of the Navigation Center in 2015.

According to the mayor’s office, the first of those units are already welcoming residents, and the full 500 SRO units will be available by the end of the calendar year.

Dodge worked at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic for more than six years, beginning in June 2000 as a tenant organizer and was then promoted to program manager in December 2001 when the Central City SRO Collaborative was founded. Dodge was also a labor organizer for SEIU and the California Nurses’ Association.

He holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Columbia University in New York City.

— Matthew S. Bajko, October 12, 2015 @ 2:01 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

CA Governor Brown signs LGBT data collection bill into law

California Governor Jerry Brown (Courtesy governor's office)

California Governor Jerry Brown (Courtesy governor’s office)

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill that requires a number of state agencies to begin collecting LGBT demographic data.

Assembly Bill 959, authored by Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), is known as the LGBT Disparities Reduction Act.

“I am thrilled by our Governor’s actions today and overjoyed that because of AB 959 our LGBT communities will now be counted by the state for vital health and well-being services,” stated Chiu. “The governor has restored California’s status as a leader of LGBT civil rights. After years of being left out of statewide demographic data, LGBT individuals will now be able to share their experiences to provide much-needed data to understand and ultimately reduce long standing health disparities that have disproportionately impacted these communities.”

As the Bay Area Reporter‘s Political Notes column pointed out Monday, LGBT advocates made passage of Chiu’s bill this year a main priority. Chiu last week delivered more than 5,000 postcards in support of the bill to the governor’s office.

The reason for the pressure on the governor was due to his vetoing similar legislation in 2013, partly due to the cost of having the various agencies update their forms and computer systems. It is estimated to cost the state at least $600,000 to implement Chiu’s bill.

The legislation was the centerpiece of the Equality for All initiative from Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization, aimed at securing more funding from the state for a host of needs within the LGBT community.

Without having precise data on the issues confronting LGBT Californians, EQCA and others argued it is hard for them to advocate for increased funding or more services from public entities. To sway Brown this year into backing the bill, EQCA launched an online petition in support of his signing it and asked its supporters to sign on to it.

“When you can get 5,000 people to send in a postcard on something called data collection, it showed the governor how important it was to our community,” EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur told the B.A.R. in a phone interview.

Chiu’s legislation requires four state agencies overseeing health and social services programs to begin collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity and provides for protections to ensure the information remains private.

The quartet that needs to collect the “voluntary self-identification information” pertaining to LGBT people is the departments of health care services, public health, social services, and aging. They have until July 1, 2018 to comply, and advocates are expected to push for more agencies to follow suit.

“This bill was a first step,” said Zbur. “It didn’t cover all of California government but included health-related areas.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, October 7, 2015 @ 2:48 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Castro Mexican eatery Zapata, landlord working on 1-year lease extension

Local favorite Zapata Mexican Grill has reached a tentative agreement with its landlord to remain open a year. (Courtesy Zapata's Facebook page)

Local favorite Zapata Mexican Grill has reached a tentative agreement with its landlord to remain open a year. (Courtesy Zapata’s Facebook page)

It is looking likely that Castro eatery Zapata Mexican Grill will receive a one-year reprieve from having to close its doors.

Located at 4150 18th Street at Collingwood, Zapata opened in the corner storefront in 1993 and is a favorite with local residents for its inexpensive, quick-service burritos, tacos, and other entrees.

It had announced that it would close next Friday, October 16.

But owner Jorge Perez and his landlord, Les Natali, have verbally agreed to a lease extension for the popular restaurant, allowing it to remain open until October 31, 2016.

In an email Wednesday morning, Natali wrote that “now it’s just   a matter of the attorneys agreeing on the extension agreement.”

In a brief phone interview, Perez said, “We have agreed but haven’t signed papers yet. We are still waiting to see the actual document.”

But Perez noted that it still falls short of the five-year lease extension he had been seeking, meaning he has 12 months to find a new space in the city’s gay neighborhood to move into otherwise he may have to close the restaurant for good.

“We are happy that we have some more time to save some more capital and to find a new location,” said Perez. “It is not what we really wanted – we wanted a long-term lease – but he is not willing to do it.”

The tentative lease agreement follows the intervention of the Castro Merchants, the business association for the gayborhood. As the Bay Area Reporter reported last week, the likelihood of losing Zapata prompted the board of the merchants group to send Natali a letter last week imploring him to work “in an expedient manner to secure a mutually-beneficial long-term lease” for the “much loved local business …”

It also expressed its “grave concerns regarding recent and continuing issues with properties” Natali controls in the Castro.

Three storefronts owned by Natali are currently vacant, with the old Patio Cafe space, at 531 Castro, dark since 2002. A lawyer for Natali, in response to the Castro Merchants, stated in a letter shared with the B.A.R. that efforts continue to open a branch of the Hamburger Mary’s chain in the space.

The adjacent storefront at 541 Castro Street is for lease, and Natali expects it “will rent quickly,” according to the letter. As for the small space at 4144 18th Street, next door to Natali’s Toad Hall gay bar, signage on the windows say lease applications from pop-up tenants are being sought.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 12:47 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Gay ex-cop being charged with grand theft, embezzlement

Mike Evans. Photo: SFPD.

Mike Evans. Photo: SFPD.

A gay ex-San Francisco police officer is being charged with felony grand theft and embezzlement, according to the district attorney’s office.

Mike Evans, 34, was extradited from Texas and booked at about 1:20 a.m. today (Thursday, October 1). Evans, who allegedly stole about $16,000 while treasurer of the LGBT police officers Pride Alliance but repaid much of the money, was released on $15,000 bail. He’s set to be arraigned Tuesday, October 6. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

Retired gay police Lieutenant Chuck Limbert allegedly tried to block complaints about Evans when Limbert was the alliance’s president. There’s no word yet on whether Limbert, who denied the allegations, will also face charges. Limbert hasn’t respond to phone or text messages.

[Update]: In a text exchange, Limbert said, “I have not been in contact with Mr. Evans at all.” However, he added, “Since I hear another interview has been made and again wrong information is being reported I will be preparing a response.”

It’s not clear what interview or “wrong information” Limbert was referring to.

In response to questions including whether he’s being investigated, Limbert said, “I have no comment at this time. Thank you.” [End update]

The Bay Area Reporter will have more on this story in the Thursday, October 8 edition.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 1, 2015 @ 12:16 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

San Mateo man enters plea in domestic violence, dog killing case

Josiah Fowler. Photo: San Mateo County Sheriff's Department.

Josiah Fowler. Photo: San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department.

A San Mateo man pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor domestic violence and felony animal cruelty after he allegedly hit his male partner and killed a dog.

Josiah Fowler, 25, had been dating the other man since January and the two lived together, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s office.

On September 14, the victim checked himself into a hospital because he was afraid of Fowler “due to domestic violence incidents months earlier and ongoing fear,” prosecutors said in a summary of the case.

The victim said that Fowler had hit him in February and that in August, Fowler had been angry at him and “beat their dog,” hit the dog against a dresser, “and then threw it down stairs, killing the dog.”

Later, the man said, he and Fowler had “buried the dog in a cemetery” next to the victims’ parents grave, prosecutors said.

Fowler said the dog had been “a source of great tension” in the relationship and things were “much better” with the dog gone, according to prosecutors.

The DA’s office said the dog was a small terrier that Fowler had brought when he moved from Los Angeles.

At the September 25 hearing, Superior Court Judge Leland granted prosecutors’ motion to reduce the domestic violence charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Fowler could be sentenced to 16 months in county prison at his next appearance, which is set for November 10. Prosecutors had sought two years. Fowler is in custody on $75,000 bail.

Defense attorney Randy Hey didn’t respond to an interview request.

The victim didn’t respond to a Facebook message from the Bay Area Reporter.

Deputy District Attorney Sean P. Dabel is prosecuting the case.


— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 30, 2015 @ 5:18 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Report: Homeless man died of meth overdose

01_07_Milk_Movie_52_lrgThe homeless man found dead in San Francisco’s Castro district this summer died of an accidental meth overdose, the medical examiner’s office has found.

James Welch, 38, who had “no fixed address,” was found July 28 on the sidewalk in front of a residential building at 3976 18th Street, the medical examiner’s report, which was released Wednesday, September 23, says.

At about 5 a.m., Welch “was seen sleeping on the sidewalk, atop a sleeping bag and blanket,” the report says.

A few hours later, at 11:25, a neighbor heard Welch, who was still lying down, “moaning,” and bystanders soon found him “unresponsive,” according to the city.

Paramedics arrived a minute later, and “CPR was initiated but to no avail.” Welch was pronounced dead at 11:30, the report says.

Welch had a history of “schizoaffective disorder, methamphetamine, enlarged kidneys, tobacco, alcohol, and hepatitis C virus,” the medical examiner’s office says in its filing, which cites information from police, paramedics, medical records, and others.

Investigators at the scene at 1:28 p.m. found Welch covered with a yellow emergency blanket.

“[N]o evidence of external trauma was found,” according to the report, and “No evidence of tobacco, alcohol, illicit drug use, or medications was found at the scene.”

However, the agency determined Welch had died from “acute methamphetamine intoxication.” Hepatitis C was listed by “other conditions.”

Welch was cremated and his ashes were sent to his mother, the report indicates.

For several months, the city has had a homeless death review committee to examine deaths such as Welch’s to see if there are ways service providers can be more helpful.

Sam Dodge, deputy director of the city’s Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement office, said in an email exchange today (Wednesday, September 30) with the Bay Area Reporter that the committee looked at Welch’s case at its last meeting.

“Even though the [medical examiner’s] report was not finalized we had a lot to go over for him,” Dodge said. The panel reviewed Welch’s shelter use and contacts with the city’s Homeless Outreach Team and medical personnel, “and they seem to point to an absence from the City for a period of years.”

Dodge had indicated the information he can share on cases is limited.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 4:10 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Former Shanghai Restaurant space in the Castro could become home to medical pot club

Apothecarium co-owner Ryan Hudson

Apothecarium co-owner Ryan Hudson

The co-owner of the Apothecarium, the Castro area medical pot club that opened in 2011, has been given the green light to move into the nearby vacant Shanghai Restaurant space if they choose to move forward with the location.

According to a letter dated September 18 from San Francisco Zoning Administrator Scott F. Sanchez, the ground floor space that housed the former eatery at 2029 Market Street can house a medical cannabis dispensary.

Based on planning staff research, “it does not appear that any schools, community facilities or recreation centers primarily serving persons under 18 years of age are located within 1,000 feet” of the site in question.

Depending on approval from the city’s planning commission, Sanchez added that a medical cannabis dispensary could operate there between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.

An attorney for Apothecarium co-owner Ryan Hudson requested the review of the site in August to ensure it could house a dispensary.

The Apothecarium currently operates a block away at 2095 Market Street in the building at the corner of Market and Church streets. The property owner reportedly has not been renewing leases for businesses housed there on a long-term basis, with several now on month-to-month leases.

In a statement to the Bay Area Reporter released early this evening by a spokesman for the Apothecarium, Hudson said that “due to growing patient demand, we have been actively pursuing a larger space. We anticipate making an announcement shortly.”

The dispensary’s current space is 1,000 square feet. Often, customers are lined up outside waiting to be let inside. The Shanghai space is five times the size at 5,000 square feet.

The restaurant closed in January of 2013, five months after opening. As restaurant blog Eater SF noted at the time, it was the fourth eatery to shutter in the space within a three year time span.

It has sat empty for the last two and a half years.

— Matthew S. Bajko, September 28, 2015 @ 4:42 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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