Political Notebook: D8 supe candidates adamant Castro Pride party to continue
by Matthew S. Bajko
As the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence re-examine their plans for the annual Pride party in the Castro following a deadly shooting that marred last month's event, the candidates running to replace District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty are adamant that the street party will not be shut down similar to what happened with Halloween.
Violent incidents plagued the Castro's Halloween party for years, leading city officials to cancel the unofficial street bash in 2007. The decision sparked a loud outcry from some but was championed by many Castro residents and business leaders.
Most civic and city leaders have so far taken the opposite stance toward Pink Saturday. Hardly anyone has called for canceling the gay Pride event.
While several of the District 8 candidates have put forward various suggestions on how to prevent a repeat of this year's fatal incident, there is unanimous consensus that no changes should be made until all of the stakeholders involved with the party have had a chance to weigh in on what happened this year.
What is clear is that whoever succeeds Dufty, who is termed out this year and running for mayor in 2011, will have an immense impact on how the city handles next year's Pink Saturday street party, held the night prior to San Francisco's annual Pride Parade and celebration the last Sunday of June.
Dufty has been intimately involved in the planning for the yearly gathering since he assumed office eight years ago. He has served as a go-between for the Sisters with not just the police but also other city officials who have a role in the permitting for the charitable drag nun group's major fundraiser.
The next District 8 supervisor is sure to play a similar role, particularly as questions are raised about how to adequately protect the tens of thousands of attendees at the party.
"People want Pink Saturday to stay. They also want a safe, fun event. We have to do everything we can to provide that," said Rebecca Prozan, an assistant district attorney and out lesbian who had returned to her Castro home by 10:30 p.m. June 26 following the Dyke March and dinner at a Market Street sushi restaurant. "I am obviously distraught and want to make sure Pink Saturday stays for next year."
Should she be elected, Prozan said she would work with the mayor's office, law enforcement, and neighborhood groups to address the safety issues surrounding the 2011 Pink Saturday party.
"It is bigger than just a neighborhood event at this point," said Prozan. "I would be doing an official investigation of what actually happened, what the Sisters did this year, what happened to work and what didn't so we could problem solve for next year."
Deputy City Attorney Scott Wiener , a gay Castro resident, was also resolute in wanting to see Pink Saturday continue.
"I don't want us to overreact and kill off one of the last large community events in the Castro. I want to be very thoughtful about this and not to overreact," said Wiener, a past president of the Castro's residential neighborhood association and co-founder of a volunteer safety patrol in the area.
Before proposing specific changes to the event, Wiener also said he would want to first hear from community leaders and city officials.
"I really think it is important to sit down with the Sisters and folks in the entertainment community as well as bar owners and merchants in the Castro to come up with some solutions that work for the community," said Wiener, who had returned home by 11:15 p.m. that night from the street party. "I don't want to unilaterally impose my opinions."
Having worked with the Sisters in the past on the Pride party, Wiener said the group does "a tremendous job" and deserves to have a say in whatever changes are proposed.
"I respect the work they have done on Pink Saturday and I am really interested in hearing what they think the best solution is," said Wiener.
He did suggest that the street party may need to end earlier than it has been, which in recent years has fluctuated between 11:30 p.m. and midnight. Wiener proposed a potential 10 p.m. cut-off point.
"One option I have been thinking about is to open the streets a little earlier than normal. It might make sense to consider opening the streets up at 10 p.m.," said Wiener. "My experience is that earlier in the evening from 6 to 7 p.m. until things get going at 10 p.m. it is a much more community, peaceful, festive atmosphere. Once you get to 10:30 or 11 o'clock, it becomes a different kind of atmosphere."
Out of the four main contenders in the District 8 race, out businessman Bill Hemenger has proffered the most ideas for addressing safety concerns tied to Pink Saturday.
In an email to the Bay Area Reporter and a follow-up interview, Hemenger suggested making the party a ticketed-only event and restricting it to people 21 years or older. He also proposed moving it to the daytime as opposed to a nighttime party.
He was quick to note that he is not wedded to any of the ideas and merely wants to help foster discussion about what steps could be taken to address the violence that marred this year's party and cost a 19-year-old man his life.
"It is a complicated issue. The main problem is the few ruin it for the many," he said. "I am not going to take a stand right now because I think it is too soon. We have to hear from everyone's ideas on this."
The only position he has taken, said Hemenger, is that there is no need for the city to shut Pink Saturday down.
"Our biggest concern is it doesn't become another Halloween where we lock it down like a military state and say no to any visitors," said Hemenger, who had left the event this year for his home in Diamond Heights by 9:30 p.m. "This is part of our biggest holiday of the gay community's year. This is our Christmas, really, so we can't just shut it down."
A better solution can be found, he added.
"At the same time we can't just be yes it is on and let's see if it happens again. We just have to come up with creative new ideas to keep the crowd under control and still having a good time," said Hemenger.
Rafael Mandelman, a gay attorney, expressed the same sentiments as h
"This is definitely the kind of issue that calls for a good process so people feel heard and have an opportunity to come up with the best solution," said Mandelman, who lives near Dolores Park and had left the Castro by 9 p.m. that night. "I really feel like this is an important event for the community. It shouldn't be an opportunity for people to just get drunk, but it should be a celebration. It would be sad to see another city celebration go down."
In the end, though, it is not just a problem for the Castro to resolve, said Mandelman.
"It is terrible to have this kind of violence coming to the heart of the Castro. It also reminds us there are communities in the Bay Area and the city that deal with this kind of violence on a daily basis," he said. "We shouldn't want to keep it from happening just in our community but in any community."
Planners set to vote on Castro infill project
The Planning Commission is set to vote today (Thursday, July 8) on a controversial infill project in the Castro neighborhood that would replace what has been a hole in the ground for decades. The lot at 2299 Market Street, bounded by 16th and Noe streets, has been a scar on the streetscape of the city's gayborhood ever since an arsonist burned down the church that used to occupy the prominent corner spot in 1981.
Developer Angus McCarthy wants to build a five‐story mixed‐use building with 18 dwelling units over ground-floor commercial space for two or more stores. There would be subterranean parking for 18 vehicles as well as storage space for 18 bicycles.
The building, measuring 50 feet in height, would have residential and garage access from 16th Street. It would consist of a variety of one- and two-bedroom units and one three-bedroom unit.
A variety of neighborhood groups along with pedestrian and bicycle advocacy organizations are opposed to the project. They have raised concerns about pedestrian and bicyclist safety; the failure to include affordable housing units on-site; a lack of public amenities; and the number of parking spaces sought.
In his report to the oversight body, planner Michael Smith recommended that the commissioners approve the project as proposed.
"The project is well designed and would contribute to the urban character of the neighborhood," wrote Smith in his review of the project.
The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. today in Room 400 of City Hall. The Castro project is listed as number 14 on the commission's agenda, which would be one of the last items to be heard.
Dean backs Nava for judge
Following his third-place finish in last month's primary race for a San Francisco Superior Court judicial seat, gay attorney Daniel Dean has endorsed the other gay male candidate in the race.
Out attorney Michael Nava took first place in the three-way match-up for the court's Seat 15, currently held by Judge Richard Ulmer, who was appointed to the bench last summer by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. According to elections officials, Nava beat his opponents with nearly 46 percent of the vote.
Ulmer, who needed to capture 50 percent plus one of the vote to retain his seat outright, fell far short with just 42 percent. Dean garnered 11 percent of the vote.
Following their race, Dean spoke with both candidates but decided to throw his support behind Nava.
"I obviously think he is a great guy, with wonderful credentials. He would make a great judge," said Dean. "I also think it would be wonderful to have San Francisco's first openly gay person of color on the bench. I think that is needed and very important."
Had Dean stayed out of the race and opted instead to run for an open seat on the local court, it is possible that Nava would have defeated Ulmer last month. Instead, the two are locked in an intense runoff on the November general election ballot.
Asked if Nava would have won had he not been in the race, Dean said, "My gut feeling is he would have."
Nonetheless, Dean said he has no regrets about his decision.
"No second thoughts. It was one of the best experiences I went through. I am really proud of all I did. I have no regrets," said Dean, who plans to seek a judicial appointment and did not rule out a second judicial campaign in the future. "I will become a judge somehow."
Nava is hoping that the LGBT community and progressives will help him oust Ulmer, a former Republican Party member, from the judicial post this fall. Dean said he is unsure of which candidate his supporters in the primary will now back.
"I think my base was pretty broad. I think it will be interesting," said Dean.
He said he drew not only from within the LGBT community but also longtime residents due to his being a fourth-generation San Franciscan with ties to the city's Irish community. Some of those supporters may now opt to go with Ulmer.
"I don't know that it is a guarantee that all my votes will go to Michael Nava," said Dean. "I am curious to see how it plays out."
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