Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 25 / 22 June 2017

Propane tank leads to Castro bomb scare

A bomb scare stemming from a report of a propane tank with a note shut down much of San Francisco’s Castro district Wednesday night, May 3.

According to a Facebook post by gay District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, “an anonymous citizen called 911 after seeing a propane tank scribbled with ‘This is a bomb!'” at Castro and Market streets.

Police spokeswoman Officer Grace Gatpandan said in a news release that police responded to the area at 9:17 p.m.

“The reporting party stated a propane tank was found with a label indicating the item was possibly explosive in nature,” Gatpandan said. Police “immediately shut down the surrounding area” to Muni, vehicles, and pedestrians.

City officals issued an alert at 9:59 p.m. for people in the area to shelter in place.

The 400 block of Castro Street was completely blocked off, and Market Street between Diamond and Noe was also shut down. Muni buses were rerouted. Numerous police and fire personnel were in the area.

The police department’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit “deployed its robot to inspect the device, and determined the propane tank to be non-hazardous,” said Sheehy.

Gatpandan said the bomb unit “ultimately rendered the item non-hazardous at approximately 11:10 p.m.”

The shelter in place advisory was lifted at 12:02 a.m. Thursday.

-Matthew S. Bajko contributed to this post.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, May 4, 2017 @ 2:48 pm PST
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It’s official: Gay former CA state Senator Mark Leno to run for SF mayor

Mark LenoGay former state Senator Mark Leno will formally announce his bid to become San Francisco’s first gay mayor Thursday morning at City Hall.

The Democrat has signaled for months that he would be a mayoral candidate in 2019, as Mayor Ed Lee is barred by term limits from running again.

A former city supervisor then state assemblyman, Leno was termed out of his state Senate seat in December, sparking speculation that he would seek to succeed Lee. On his Facebook page this afternoon (Wednesday, May 3) Leno posted, “Tomorrow, I will make a major announcement about my plans for the future.”

In a text message to the Bay Area Reporter, Leno, 65, confirmed that he would be pulling papers for the mayor’s race. He has invited supporters to join him at the elections department offices, Room 48 in the basement of City Hall, at 10:30 a.m. Thursday morning.

During an interview in November, Leno had told the B.A.R. that he was mulling over a mayoral bid and would make a decision by the end of 2017. He had said the main “question I am asking myself is what is meaningful to me, and what can I do to address that” should he be elected to Room 200 in City Hall.

After news broke in January that Leno had hired the political consulting outfit SCN Strategies – headed by Ace Smith, Sean Clegg and Dan Newman – it was all but certain that he was running for mayor. In February, during an interview for the San Francisco Chronicle’s 10 Questions feature, Leno further cemented his mayoral campaign plans with his response to the very first question.

“I am 100 percent sure that I will be running for Mayor of San Francisco in 2019 – as sure as I am that Hillary (Clinton) won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, that 3-5 million fraudulent votes were not cast and that this new president is a dangerous liar,” Leno said, referring to last year’s presidential race.

At the unveiling last month of the city’s renovated LGBT Community Center, which Leno helped lead the initial capital campaign for, and at the March dedication ceremony for Openhouse’s senior housing aimed for LGBT elders, Leno was introduced as the city’s next mayor at both events.

Well liked by his political colleagues, Leno has morphed over the years from being part of the city’s more moderate camp to now being embraced by progressives. He will be a formidable mayoral candidate, as he has extensive ties across the state that will allow him to tap into a vast donor network.

And he is sure to draw national attention within LGBT political circles as Leno is vying to become the leader of the U.S. city most often identified with the LGBT movement. None of the past out mayoral candidates have been successful, though gay former city and state lawmaker Tom Ammiano came the closest during his historic 1999 write-in campaign.

What is unclear is who will also enter the 2019 mayor’s race against Leno, who will be the first high-profile candidate to take out papers. Among moderates, the names most often floated include Supervisors London Breed, the current board president, and Mark Farrell, who represents the Marina, as well as state Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco.)

As for progressives, Supervisor Jane Kim tops the list, while rumors continue to swirl that Supervisor Aaron Peskin could run. Yet Peskin had told the B.A.R. in the fall he was encouraging Leno to run and would back his bid.

One wild rumor making the rounds is that Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the minority leader, could jump into the race if Democrats do not take back the House in next year’s midterm elections.

Then there is Kara Swisher, a lesbian and co-founder of the San Francisco technology news website Re/code. Last year, she said she would enter the 2023 mayor’s race but in March suggested she could seek the office sooner.

— Matthew S. Bajko, May 3, 2017 @ 5:28 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

SF inmates learn quilting to address homophobia, other issues

Photo: San Francisco Sheriff's Department

Photo: San Francisco Sheriff’s Department

Two dozen men who are incarcerated in San Francisco’s County Jail #5 recently completed a six-week quilting class in which they learned how to use the craft to address homophobia, racism, and other social justice issues, according to an article by Angela Wilson, a rehabilitation services coordinator with the sheriff’s department. The article appears in the department’s April-May newsletter.

During “The Art of Social Justice” course, which was taught by Five Keys Charter School instructor E. Christian, the men also watched “Common Threads,” a documentary about the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and other quilt-related films, the newsletter says. Five Keys is a program through which inmates may earn their high school diploma or GED.

“After loading the students’ minds with fresh concepts of social justice, they sketched their ideas onto paper and transferred their concepts onto cloth,” stated Christian. Squares included expressions of peace, love, and kindness.

The former prosecutor learned quilting from an aunt, “using quilting as an expression of social activism is a family tradition,” the article says. Christian passed the skill on to Sara trail, her niece, who founded the Social Justice Sewing Academy, according to the newsletter.

Sheriff’s Captain Kevin Paulson, who’s gay and serves as facility commander, stated, “This is true restorative justice. Men who are willing to be creative, to be vulnerable, in order to give voice to the changes they want to see in themselves and in their society.”

One challenge in putting on the quilting class in jail was developing a way to bring scissors and sewing needles into the facility, which is located in San Bruno, California.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 2:13 pm PST
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Robberies hit Castro, Duboce Triangle

Three people were robbed in San Francisco’s Castro and Duboce Triangle neighborhoods in recent days.

The latest incident occurred at 6:35 p.m. Monday, May 1 on a Muni train at Church and Market streets, in the Castro.

The victim was on the train using his cellphone, police said. When the train stopped, the suspect and victim struggled over the phone. The suspect overpowered the victim and got off the train, then fled on foot with the phone.

The victim, 25, suffered non-life threatening injuries. The suspect was described only as a black male between the ages of 15 and 18.

Another man was robbed Friday night, April 28, in the Duboce Triangle area. According to police, the two suspects approached the 29-year-old victim, grabbed his cellphone, and took it before fleeing the scene on foot. One of the suspects dropped the phone and continued to run away. The victim recovered his phone.

Police described the suspects only as two Latino males who appeared to be 20 years old.

A third robbery occurred early Wednesday morning, April 26, at 18th and Castro streets in the Castro.

At about 1 a.m., three male suspects approached the victim from behind, pushed him against a wall, took his cellphone and wallet, and then fled on foot, police said.

The victim, who’s 41, wasn’t injured. No descriptions were available for the suspects.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 12:53 pm PST
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Castro vigil set for man who died after outburst at Hecho bar

Abel from family

Abel Marquez (Photo: Dave Monroe)

Friends of a gay San Francisco man who died after a violent outburst at a Castro district bar are planning a vigil for him in the neighborhood Thursday night (April 27).

Abel Marquez, 36, died March 24, about two weeks after police say he entered Hecho Cantina, 2200 Market Street, broke a window, and cut himself.

Soon after police and paramedics responded to the bar, Marquez suffered cardiac arrest, according to fire department records. He was taken to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and kept on life support until his death.

Organizers of the vigil are asking people to bring candles to the corner of 18th and Castro streets by 10 p.m. Thursday.

“Afterwards we will hit up some of Abel’s favorite drinking spots,” a friend said in a Facebook post announcing the event.

The vigil will be followed Sunday, April 30 by a celebration of life for Marquez, who was also known as Abel Florentino, at 6 p.m. at Club BNB, 2120 Broadway, Oakland.

Marquez had reportedly been drinking and using methamphetamine before the incident at Hecho, and Dave Monroe, his stepfather, is attributing Marquez’s death to the sedative Versed that paramedics apparently gave him. Monroe believes mixing the sedative with the other substances in Marquez’s system was fatal. The medical examiner’s office has not released the cause or manner of death.

A Gofundme campaign has been launched to help Marquez’s family.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, April 26, 2017 @ 4:53 pm PST
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Advisory panel eyes naming SFO’s Terminal 1 & access road for Harvey Milk

A drawing of what the rebuilt Terminal 1 will look like at SFO when its renovation wraps up in 2014. Courtesy SFO.

A drawing of what the rebuilt Terminal 1 will look like at SFO when its renovation wraps up in 2024. Courtesy SFO.

The advisory panel tasked with naming a terminal at San Francisco International Airport after gay icon Harvey Milk is leaning toward the under renovation Terminal 1 as well as naming the airport’s access road after Milk.

At the inaugural meeting this morning (Thursday, April 20) of the nine-person Airport Facilities Naming Advisory Committee, an initial consensus emerged among the eight members present that designating the first of the airport’s four terminals after Milk would present a unique marketing opportunity since Terminal 1 is currently undergoing a $2.4 billion remodel that will be unveiled in stages through 2024 and draw years of media coverage.

And by christening the airport’s access road as Harvey Milk Way, all four of the terminals as well as the airport itself would be attached to the former supervisor’s name, committee members noted. In November of 1977 Milk became the first openly gay elected official in San Francisco and California by winning a supervisor seat but was assassinated a year later.

Terminal 1 will be a “gleaming, new facility,” said Jon Ballesteros, a gay man who is currently vice president of public policy at San Francisco Travel, the city’s tourism bureau, but as of May 1 will be SFO’s chief external affairs officer.

The rebuild of the terminal will be heavily promoted in the press, noted Ballesteros, and christening it the Harvey Milk Terminal “adds to the scope and reach of the public impact that could have.”

Theresa Lee, formerly the deputy airport director for administration, added that the remodel of the terminal presents various opportunities to incorporate the name and story of Milk into the design.

“It is the first terminal people see picking up and dropping off passengers or parking at the airport,” said Lee.

Retired airport director John L. Martin, a gay man who was elected chair of the naming committee, suggested the front glass window of Terminal 1 could bear Milk’s name similar to how the airport’s name is emblazoned on the front of the International Terminal, which is the most visible of SFO’s terminals to those passing by on Highway 101.

“It is a great idea,” said Martin of selecting Terminal 1, who proposed having airport staff present the committee at its next meeting with ideas of “what potential things we can do” outside and inside the building to honor Milk.

Jim Lazarus, the senior vice president for public policy at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, first broached the Milk road naming idea as something the committee should consider in addition to selecting a terminal to name in his honor.

“If you look at the airport’s address it is a PO Box; it is not a street address,” said Lazarus, who was a deputy city attorney when Milk was in office. “It is something I would like us to consider as well. If you look at Google’s map, it is listed as Airport Access Road. There is some opportunity at the street level as well we can consider.”

Having worked for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) when she was the city’s mayor in the 1980s as executive deputy mayor for finance and administration, Lazarus admitted that he is “a little prejudiced on the international terminal,” suggesting it should be named after Feinstein. He pointed out it was rebuilt during her time as mayor.

“Few people have had as large an impact on the modern airport than Dianne Feinstein,” said Lazarus, adding that she has fought for federal funding for SFO while in Congress.

As the B.A.R.’s Political Notebook reported in today’s paper, gay former Supervisor David Campos would like to see the international airport be named after Milk. In light of the recent reports about gay men being rounded up in the Russian republic of Chechnya, as well as the ongoing global fight for LGBT rights, Campos believes a Harvey Milk International Terminal would send a powerful message.

“Given what is happening with Chechnya and in other countries, the International Terminal becomes more significant and more appropriate,” he said. “It is the first thing people who travel from all over the world see when they come into San Francisco.”

The airport naming committee arose from Campos’ initial proposal in 2013 to rename all of SFO after Milk. But it would require voters passing a charter amendment, and Campos was unable to secure the necessary votes at City Hall to place the idea on the ballot.

Mayor Ed Lee and Campos ended up striking the compromise to name just a terminal after Milk. They proposed forming a naming committee and tasked it with recommending to the board and mayor which of SFO’s four terminals should bear Milk’s name.

Yet the panel had sat dormant because of Lee’s snail’s pace in naming his five appointees to the nine-person body. It was only recently, as the B.A.R. reported Monday, that the mayor appointed Lazarus, Therese Lee, and Renel Brooks Moon, the public address announcer for the San Francisco Giants, to the panel.

He also named two gay appointees: Joe Goldman, who is the public affairs and civic engagement manager at the Jewish Community Relations Council, and Alfredo Pedroza, who is a senior vice president at Wells Fargo and the bank’s West Region director of local government relations. (Pedroza was unable to attend today’s meeting.)

Ballesteros and Martin are board appointees, as are Alex Walker, a gay man who now works for state Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), and Maggie Weiland, deputy director of the Entertainment Commission and a volunteer with the Harvey Milk Foundation, co-founded by her mother, Anne Kronenberg, who was a campaign consultant and legislative aide for Milk.

Weiland said that her first preference would be to recommend naming the International Terminal after Milk due to the persecution LGBT people face across the globe.

“What we are seeing in other countries and in our own country is disheartening,” she said.

Walker, a former board member of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, also said that “coming into the room” he was inclined to support naming the International Terminal after Milk. But he later said he could see the merits of choosing Terminal 1.

“I am intrigued with the Terminal 1 idea,” he said, “and with the new construction being able to incorporate elements about Milk into what is being built now.”

Goldman, whose partner works for Virgin America airline, said he was “leaning towards” Terminal 1 because the media attention on its rebuild would “magnify awareness” of having it be named in honor of Milk. It would also signify that the fight for LGBT equality in America is far from done, added Goldman, who serves on the board of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club.

“We are a city that is a model internationally but also at home,” he said.

The committee has three months to vote on a Milk terminal and can opt to remain meeting for an additional 15 months in order to recommend names for the other three terminals and additional airport facilities. It voted this morning to first focus on selecting a Milk terminal and then decide if it would continue to meet or disband.

Its next meeting will likely be held on Monday, May 22, which is Harvey Milk Day and would have been Milk’s 87th birthday. Otherwise, it is looking to meet Tuesday, May 23 to hear from airport staff.

It would likely then schedule one more meeting where it would vote on its recommendation for the Milk terminal.

— Matthew S. Bajko, April 20, 2017 @ 1:33 pm PST
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Mandelman pulls papers for D8 supe race

Gay City College of San Francisco board member Rafael Mandelman Thursday became the first candidate to take on gay Supervisor Jeff Sheehy in the June 2018 election.

(Rafael Mandelman. Photo: Rick Gerharter)

(Rafael Mandelman. Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Mandelman, 43, said he took out election papers April 20 for the seat, which includes the Castro, Noe Valley, and Glen Park neighborhoods.

“I’m running because I believe that District 8 voters deserve a choice – democracy is at its best when it’s a contest of ideas,” Mandelman stated in a news release.

In a phone call, Mandelman told the Bay Area Reporter that his deciding to run was not about anything Sheehy has done during his first four months in office.

“It’s not really about Jeff,” Mandelman said. “I feel ready and I feel I’d be a good supervisor for District 8.”

Sheehy was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee in January to replace Scott Wiener, a gay man who served as District 8 supervisor until he was sworn in as a state senator.

In a news release, Mandelman, who ran unsuccessfully for the D8 seat in 2010, said he wanted to help people “trying to make it in San Francisco.”

“I learned that District 8 needs a supervisor who isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty, someone who’ll be out there in the neighborhoods doing the work,” he said, referring to his 2010 race.

Mandelman has served on the City College board for several years, including a stint as president. He’s been widely acknowledged for steering the 80-year-old institution through its recent accreditation crisis.

Mandelman said that his priorities as supervisor would be clearing encampments and getting mentally ill people off the streets and into care.

“For me, solving the homeless crisis in San Francisco is personal,” he stated.

Mandelman was 11 when his mother’s mental illness started her down a spiral that led to homelessness and repeated institutionalization. Mandelman became responsible for his own care and after college, fought to assume guardianship of his mother.

The Bay Area Reporter reached out to Sheehy for comment and will update this post when we hear back.

Sheehy, in a phone call Thursday afternoon, said he’s concentrating on the city’s next budget.

“I’m really focused on doing my job,” he said. “It’s budget season.”

Sheehy was in a budget committee meeting Thursday, where he said he wants to make sure backfills are added to things like HIV/AIDS services. (Sheehy is the first openly HIV-positive member of the board.)

And, Sheehy said, he wants to make sure there is funding for homeless services, especially for youth.

“The 2015 Point-in-Time count showed 1,600 homeless young people,” he said. “Forty-eight percent identified as LGBTQ and 13 percent identified as HIV-positive. I’m focused on getting resources for a comprehensive and compassionate response.”

— Cynthia Laird, @ 1:30 pm PST
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SF Pride to highlight immigration, civil rights

Maysam Sodagari

Maysam Sodagari

Organizers of San Francisco’s LGBT parade and celebration have announced that this year’s festivities will highlight immigration and civil rights.

Maysam Sodagari, a legal immigrant from Iran, will speak on the main stage at the “celebration/rally,” the Pride Committee said in an email Wednesday (April 18).

Sodagari, who has a PhD in chemical engineering, has been living in the U.S for nine years, Pride organizers said. U.S. Customs officials detained him during President Donald Trump’s executive order to prohibit people coming from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. That order and Trump’s subsequent Muslim ban were both blocked by judges.

This year’s celebration and parade, themed “A Celebration of Diversity,” are set for June 24-25.

In solidarity with the resistance movement that’s been building since Trump’s election in November, longtime gay activist Cleve Jones, 2017 grand marshal Alex U. Inn, and members of Pride board “will lead this year’s parade/march with a resistance contingent,” organizers said.

“This contingent will stand in defiance to the policies and actions of the current administration that threaten the most vulnerable members of our community and undermine the hard-fought victories we have secured in our fight for equal rights,” according to the release from Pride.

Pride board President Michelle Meow stated, “San Francisco Pride was born out of a protest in order to fight for LGBTQ liberation. The current actions to regress on the progress we’ve made in the last 47 years” since the city’s first Pride celebration “are a threat not only to our community, but also a threat to American democracy. We will show the world our unity, love, and resilience through the freedom of expression for which SF Pride has traditionally provided a platform. We are proud to stand in solidarity with all of our communities, whether it’s sending a message through a peaceful protest or celebrating our beautiful diversity. We will stand up for human rights and resist against any actions that threaten our existence.”

For more information, go to

— Seth Hemmelgarn, April 19, 2017 @ 2:45 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Man attacked, robbed in Duboce Triangle

A 27-year-old man was attacked and robbed late Tuesday (April 17) in San Francisco’s Duboce Triangle neighborhood, police said.

The incident occurred at about 10:35 p.m. at Walter and 14th streets when one man approached the victim from behind and hit him with a bottle. He then demanded the victim’s property. A second man punched the victim, and the two suspects took the victim’s cellphone and got into a waiting vehicle, which fled east on Walter Street, according to police.

Descriptions of the suspects weren’t available. The victim was left with a non-life threatening injury.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 1:58 pm PST
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Armenian genocide film benefiting Elton John AIDS Foundation debuts

Oscar Isaac (Photo: The Wrap)

Oscar Isaac (Photo: The Wrap)

Bay Area Armenian-Americans are promoting the premiere of “The Promise,” the first-ever Hollywood film depicting the 1915 Armenian genocide. All proceeds from the film, which debuts this week, will be donated to the Elton John AIDS Foundation and other charities.

Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale, and Charlotte Le Bon star in the film, which was directed by “Hotel Rwanda” director Terry George and co-produced by San Mateo native Eric Esrailian.

Ara and Lori Jabagchourian, of San Mateo, are inviting some people to a screening of “The Promise” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 20 at San Mateo’s Cinemark 12 Movie Theatre, hoping “to share this important part of their heritage with their non-Armenian friends and colleagues,” Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the local Armenian-American community, said in a news release.

The 1915 genocide of 1.5 million Armenians was ordered by the Turkish government of the Ottoman Empire. Many of those killed were drowned, beaten, burned, or ordered on death marches. The Turkish government denies that the genocide even happened.

“The vast majority of Armenian-Americans are descendants of the few survivors of the genocide who were able to escape,” Bastian said.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 1:27 pm PST
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