After being elected State Senator by 51 percent of the vote, Scott Wiener vacated his District 8 Supervisor position in December and the community has since been awaiting a new representative. Now, Mayor Ed Lee is ready to appoint a Castro District supervisor.
Deirdre Hussey, Mayor Lee's spokesperson, says he is going to make an appointment in early January.
"The Mayor is committed to finding a strong candidate that is committed to addressing the concerns of the district while having a holistic view of the city issues," Hussey said in a statement to Castro Courier.
The appointment could occur as early as Sunday, Jan. 8 at 2 p.m. Whomever Lee appoints would be eligible to serve the remainder of Wiener's term plus two four-year terms.
"I don't want this to be a placeholder seat," Wiener said. "The person has to have the credibility to win the re-election."
Wiener says Mayor Lee is currently considering several excellent candidates to fill the void.
"I'm confident he will make a good choice," Wiener told Castro Courier. "The next District 8 Supervisor needs to focus like a laser on the needs of our neighborhoods."
Like Wiener, an LGBTQ incumbent would have a responsibility of fighting for the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV. As the only LGBTQ member of the Board of Supervisors, he or she would join the ranks with former gay supervisors Wiener, David Campos, Bevan Dufty, Mark Leno, and Harvey Milk.
While a number of progressive LGBTQ and minority leaders may be planning a 2018 campaign for the district seat, several names have arisen as potential interim supervisors, Alex Randolph being one of them.
Randolph, who is gay, was re-elected to the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees in November. In addition to being an LGBTQ advocate, he would be a black voice on the board, along with Supervisors London Breed and Malia Cohen.
Other LGBTQ supervisor considerations include Connor Johnston, the top legislative aide to Supervisor Breed, and former senior vice president James Loduca of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Google's chief of public policy and government affairs, Rebecca Prozan, who campaigned — and lost to Wiener — for the District 8 seat in 2010 has expressed interest. Gay rights activist and retired Navy Commander Zoe Dunning, who fought against Don't Ask, Don't Tell in 1993, is also a contender. And the mayor's top adviser on public safety, Paul Henderson, would be a voice for the African-American community.
Since Latino supervisors John Avalos and David Campos are termed out, Lee could choose a candidate to represent Latino residents. The city's LGBTQ Asian-American community is looking for representation from Francis Tsang, the liaison to District 4 for the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services.
Proposition D, which would have required a special election to fill supervisorial vacancies, was defeated by 53 percent in November.
Since former Supervisor Avalos was leaving office, Prop. D emerged as his last chance to change the supervisor appointment process. Avalos, with the support of five other progressive supervisors, said the proposition was about "creating a check on the mayor's power. [It would have given] voters the chance to put someone in office they want, rather than someone beholden to the mayor."
The city controller estimated that Prop. D would have cost the city approximately $340,000 per special election.
Prior to his appointment by the Board of Supervisors as interim mayor, Lee himself was little known to most voters. In 2011, Lee filled the vacancy left by California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.
Mayor Lee has made three appointments to the Board of Supervisors who haven't necessarily had an incumbency advantage. Both Christina Olague and Julie Christensen were defeated when they faced election. In 2012, District 5 Supervisor Olague lost her re-election bid to current Board President London Breed. And after District 3 Supervisor Julie Christensen filled David Chiu's vacancy, she lost to Aaron Peskin in 2015.
However, one of Lee's appointments has endured. In 2013, Katy Tang replaced Carmen Chu in District 4 and won her seat when she ran for re-election. Tang won again in 2014, securing her office until January 2019.
"The District 8 seat is a legacy seat," Senator Wiener told the Chronicle in November. "This is a seat of citywide and even national importance that represents the epicenter of so much of the LGBT community's history."
For the city's rapidly aging LGBT population, Wiener authored several pieces of ongoing legislation created to address their needs. He adds that health care needs to be on the radar of the incumbent supervisor.
"My successor needs to be very focused on making sure people aren't falling through the cracks," Wiener said.
The senator lists public safety, parks, homelessness and pedestrian safety as neighborhood needs. He says the next supervisor should also be working on the "massive citywide issues." Wiener advocates for more housing, better public transportation, and continued support for families, seniors and at-risk youth.
Under Wiener's District 8 leadership, Castro Street sidewalks were widened and the Dolores Park renovation was completed. He worked to improve pedestrian safety. And Wiener allowed for new rent-controlled in-law units by passing legislation that tied public transportation funding to population growth.
The most expansive paid-parental leave in the country was created by Wiener. He streamlined the approval process for affordable housing and required water recycling and solar panels on new buildings. Wiener also urged City Hall to increase Muni funding and to enact policies that ensure clubs, outdoor festivals, and nightlife venues continue thriving.
Reflecting back at his six years as supervisor in the Castro, Wiener added, "I'm thrilled to have been able to do this work for our community."
100 Years of Memories at Market Street’s Cafe du Nord
It’s been a year and a half since the newly-renovated Cafe du Nord opened its doors and more than a century that they’ve been cruisin’ and boozin’ on Market Street.
The newest iteration is a food and bar-forward space that pays homage to the building’s vast history that is as storied as the city’s. The space is co-run by two of the city’s leading restaurant groups: Ne Timeas (Flour+Water, Central Kitchen, Aatxe) and cocktail group Bon Vivants (Trick Dog). Together these groups renovated the space trying to maintain the original designs as much as possible — whether those original designs came from 1908, 1930, or 1976.
Morgan Schick, creative director for Bon Vivants, informed us that the space has been, since its founding in 1908, a variety of different things — but all called Cafe du Nord, starting as a Swedish grog house also famous for its French brandies.
The space also operated during Prohibition. “There is still a small mouthpiece behind the bar,” said Schick, “that was used for communicating with the front door.”
After Prohibition, Schick told us of the space’s history as a Basque restaurant, a jazz club, and the music club that many current San Franciscans still recall (although Schick admits he is sure that this list is shy of the space’s many variants over the years.
The space is one that holds these memories for San Franciscans young and old. “People come in and tell stories about how they were in the house band in the early 90s when it was a jazz club,” said Schick. “Another guy came in with his dad in the 60s because the jukebox had all this Swedish folk music on it.”
Although unlikely to order a grog on the current menu, it does pay tribute to the many, many years of drinking and dancing of all the different Cafe du Nords. The cocktail menu, while not focused on any one era of drinking, instead focuses on them all. Classic Gibson Martinis sit on the menu next to an A&F, a Long Island Iced Tea made with Blue Curacao that seems like it would go along with a jello salad and tiki bar. Expect new drinks to join the menu as well in the post-holiday blast-off.
Schick says “the gist of the cocktail menu is that there has been [almost] a hundred years of drinking in that room. The cocktail menu represents that history of drinking.”
The cocktails are supplemented by an ever-changing champagne list with inspired selections. Sometimes a shipment will include only three bottles and that bottle will never be seen on the menu again! Joining the champagne is also an impressive list of Scotch — all independently bottled single malts.
The food is oyster-forward, cooked in a variety of ways (and a dollar after midnight if you can stay up). Schick calls it “classic American bar food,” although anyone who has visited will note that the cheeseburger, for instance, is less than sloppy, accompanied by the house-made ketchup and horseradish aioli, and a winner of a number of best-of’s in the city over the last year and a half.
The space has been remembered not only for its drinking, but also for its music and dancing. Although recent memory recalls a vibrant dance and music club, the newest version is slowly ramping up their sound and their bookings.
“When we opened we were doing all jazz but it wasn’t incredibly popular,” Schick said. Although in light of the jazz-friendly hit La La Land this all might change. Schick says the group has taken a more egalitarian view of the space, encouraging its use for those who need it to use the space, like the kid’s music organization The Rock Project.
You can also expect piano singer-songwriters showing up on the bill as well as a monthly recurring jazz group that does dance nights followed by jam sessions.
The calendar online is not currently updated, but check back in for more updated listings shortly. Schick says the music is on an “as things happen” basis, although they have no plans to remove music as a focus in the future.
“Music is very important to the soul of the place,” Schick said. “It’s got such a long history of being there and it’s very important that we maintain some of that. To take that storied room and remove music from it would be wrong.”
What is ‘Bear’ culture? The GLBT Historical Society aims to explore the subculture of masculine gay men in a new exhibit that opens January 27 with a public reception from 7 to 9 p.m. at 4127 18th St.
GLBT Historical Society Features Exhibition on ‘Bears’
The gay community has many signifiers and groups. A “bear” is defined as a hairy, often plus-sized man with rugged and masculine features.
A new exhibition at the GLBT History Museum at 18th and Castro streets, will explore and celebrate the history of the gay bear community. Bears are a subculture developed in the 1980s. The exhibition, “Beartoonist of San Francisco: Sketching an Emerging Subculture,” opens Jan. 27. Fran Frisch is a cartoonist and creator of the piece.
The exhibition covers the mid-1980s to the mid- 2000s and examines the bear identity, which created positive self images for many gay men. The exhibit will display archived materials from the era, including BEAR Magazine and materials from an annual getaway for bears started in 1995 called Lazy Bear Weekend.
Bears of San Francisco, a charitable organization of bears and admirers, is also featured, and according to their website, has contributed over $600,000 to a number of charities at the local, state and national level.
In addition, the Lone Star Saloon receives a spotlight in the exhibit. It became the city’s first gay bar to earn “legacy business” status by the city. The bar has been one of the most popular “bear” hangouts since it opened in 1989.
“Beartoonist” Fran Frisch is a native of Minnesota who lived in the Bay Area from 1990 to 2007. He has worked as a cartoonist for the Bay Area Reporter and for BEAR magazine and other bear-related publications. He also worked with the Bear Expo (1992-1994) and International Bear Rendezvous (1995-2007). Frisch is a founding member of Bears of San Francisco and has created logos and graphics for San Francisco and other bear organizations and events.
Frisch also works with curator Jeremy Prince to trace the development of the bear community over the past three decades. The exhibition will include photographs and objects from the archives of the GLBT Historical Society.
There is a public reception set from 7 to 9 p.m. at the GLBT History Museum at 4127 18th St. on Friday, Jan. 27. The curator will make brief remarks to inaugurate the show. Wine and light refreshments will be served. Admission is $5 and free for members. The exhibition will be on display in the museum’s Community Gallery through May 2017.
Slow Winters Hit Castro Area Small Businesses in Pocketbook
You’ve probably noticed the many empty storefronts in the Castro. This vacancy rate in 2015 was 8.4 percent and today it may be even higher. Ten businesses closed last year.
The vacancy rate for the Castro was twice as high as other San Francisco retail districts in 2015. At that time, the Office of Small Business provided technical assistance from Invest in Neighborhoods. Their 200-page report gave ways to build more community and attract new kinds of retail stores. Castro Cares was formed as a result of needs identified in the report. It is dedicated to homeless outreach, case management and uniformed foot patrols. The neighborhood was improving.
“The Castro is a great place to do business but expensive,” said Regina Dick-Endrizzi, director of the Office of Small Business in City Hall.
It’s true that the neighborhood is centrally located, has an extensive history and still draws tourists. The Office of Small Business offers support for new businesses such as licensing and permitting and has online resources for small businesses.
Mark Quinn, director of the Small Business Administration in San Francisco said, “I’ve lived in the Castro since the 80s and seen a lot of businesses turn over.” He added, “Castro’s biggest industry is tourism and winter is the slowest time. Many retail businesses are coming off Christmas, and for many, more than half [their] sales in were in the last two months. A big part of purchasing inventory began in late summer and fall.”
San Francisco is a great place to do business but expensive.
Even with commercial rents driving many stores out of the Castro, the business district has a vitality that has brought other stores to the neighborhood. The following interviews reflect the attitude of a few small business owners.
Matt Ramassen, manager of Juice, has been in business for three weeks. The store has one owner who has expanded his stores in Russian Hill and two in the Financial District.
“We chose the Castro because of the community feeling here. It’s like no other neighborhood,” he said, “People are so health conscious of what we put in our body. We only use fresh produce.” My berry smoothie that he offered was delicious.
Ariana Akbar and James Kafader, owners of Hearth in The Castro. Photo: Jessica Webb
James Kafader, owner of Hearth, was moving bags of flour when we met. The front of the café was full and many others sitting on long tables in the back glued to their neon screens. He began his business with a loan from the SBA where he has taken many courses. “There are a lot of up-front costs before you open the door.” He and his wife have been in business for two years.
“I chose the Castro to work because the neighborhood is vibrant! My wife grew up in this neighborhood. It’s a wonderful place. It has a national focus, something we care about. It’s a symbol of the best in San Francisco,” he said.
“I’m also pragmatic. There is a lot of pressure on a business particularly on low-ticket items and it’s difficult for our six or seven employees. Rent is high. I’m happy ideologically and business-wise. If I could pick any place in world it would be San Francisco. Hopefully tourists will still come here in the new different (political) climate.”
Jon Paul Franke owner of Specs Cheaters Too consolidated his store on Chestnut Street to his Castro shop when his landlord decided to rent to Pete’s. “When Core 40 gym recently moved in next door, foot-traffic dramatically increased, which affected my sales. Foot-traffic is an important part of this wonderful neighborhood.”
Lisa, owner of Lisa’s Hair Design has been on Castro Street at a prime location close to Nails on Castro. While cutting my hair, she said, “I keep the price of hair cuts low because I want every one to afford a hair cut. People want to look their best here. I’ve been in business 10 years!” She has developed loyal clients and now employs another hair designer. Lisa also gives you a warm welcome with a haircut at a great price.
Isaiah Carter, the manager of Body clothing store explained, “The store has been open for 25 years. I think it’s because we stayed relevant in the Castro. We listen to what our customers want. I’m also the buyer for the store and we deliver. The Castro is so diverse now with gay and straight people and both having babies. The neighborhood has changed a lot. It’s a blended melting pot.” It’s got atmosphere and is busy. Last year, SF Body combined with Citizen a few doors away on Castro.
Exploring Bear Subculture
Interview with Cartoonist Fran Frisch
The bears are coming! To the GLBT History Museum in the Castro that is! Fran Frisch, the beloved Beartoonist of San Francisco (now residing in Palm Springs), is making a few stops in SF to celebrate his work, two of which are at the museum at 4127 18th Street. There will be an opening reception for his work on January 27th from 7 - 9 p.m., and Fran Frisch will join curator and Museum Operations Manager Jeremy Prince in conversation at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 27th, to discuss the history of bear culture. Both events are free to members and five dollars for non-members.
Feel like coloring? This is one of 68 drawings from Fran Frisch’s new coloring book: Frisch Coloring Book of Bears.
Besides being centrally located for Duboce Triangle residents, Courtney’s is famous for its working-class special: a $2 PB&J sandwich. Photo: Jessica Webb
Thousands gathered June 12 on Castro Street to mourn the victims of the shooting at the Pulse night club in Orlando where 49 were killed.
Paris Thayer (10) and Jada Thayer (10), students at the Harvey Milk Academy, inscribe the names of those who died of AIDS.
In the mostly residential streets of the 14th and Castro intersection is where Courtney’s Produce has been quietly doing business for the past 45 years.
However Courtney’s Produce has had to make necessary changes in a world where the economy is more global than local and in a city where “Ma and Pop” stores are evaporating from gentrification.
Walking into Courtney’s Produce during a sunny Sunday morning on the first day of 2017 I was greeted by neither Ma nor Pop.
Paul Xie, is the store manager, along with the grandnephew of the owners, Andrew Courtney. Paul has been with Courtney’s Produce for over 8 years. He was friendly, yet uninterested in being interviewed.
Along with Paul, the owner Lola Courtney and her husband Patrick, or “Paddy Joe” as he’s affectionately nicknamed, declined to be interviewed by the Castro Courier after several attempts by phone.
I was unable to ask Lola or Paddy Joe how 101 Castro St. has been able to survive as Courtney’s Produce since 1971. But what is known is that prior to this, in 1961, the store was located in the Upper Haight where it was named Farmers Produce.
Paddy Joe and his brother, reopened shop at 14th and Castro with a new name: Courtney’s Produce.
I wanted to ask Lola or Patrick what their philosophy was, their approach to staying in business for almost five decades.
Admiring the various assortment of in-season flower bouquets on display around a wooden green painted sitting bench that circled around a large tree, built by the Courtneys, I waited outside to try to talk to departing customers, I met Linda.
Linda Garcia is the mother of Hector, who attends the school across the street and makes usual morning visits to the store after dropping him off.
When asked about the healthy and local options they provide she saw it as a good thing, but not a particularly interesting reason why she goes to Courtney’s Produce.
“It beats walking a hill for a coffee, or getting something awful from the hospital cafeteria.”
Linda is referring to the hospital which basically overshadows Courtney’s Produce and no doubt receive a steady clientele from those who frequent the school, and who frequent the hospital as well.
Two hospital employees didn’t want to be interviewed but echoed Linda’s sentiment when she said, “It fulfills a need. If you need food, or want to buy fruit for home, whatever, it’s there, right here.”
It seems Linda had a point.
Was there really a secret method to Courtney’s Produce survival in the face of rising rent, cheaper accessible produce elsewhere, and encroaching unstoppable gentrification? Or is it just simply logistics?
Looking around at the lack of businesses within a two-block radius, coupled with a hospital and school just across a usually quiet street it seems Courtney’s Produce has found itself fortunately nestled in a perfect situation between steady clientele and lack of competition.
That ultimately is the purpose of Courtney’s Produce. It fulfills a need within a convenient location for those who desire organic produce and in-season flowers or just don’t want to walk down a hill for a coffee.
However if you are willing to hike up a few blocks from the main Castro, come for the local organic produce, but leave with a sense of old Castro. A time when the neighborhood flourished with shops like this and owners like the Courtneys.
Hardworking Irish immigrants serving a neighborhood working-class population, a piece of Castro history, that has surprisingly survived inside a produce shop.
Castro Year in Review: Headlines from 2016
Thousands gathered June 12 on Castro Street to mourn the victims of the shooting at the Pulse night club in Orlando where 49 were killed.
If 2016 had been a road, it would have been peppered with potholes.
The year kicked off with Super Bowl 50 invading the city and a fan village that halted the Castro F street car in its tracks. A wave of property crime also spiked during the winter.
In February, after a long, drawn-out renovation, Dolores Park finally reopened in full with the addition of new bathrooms and tennis courts. Around that time, the Courier examined how longtime LGBT dives, such as the Gangway in the Tenderloin, were going out of business and being replaced by swanky clubs. Meanwhile, Sullivan’s Mortuary, a longtime family-owned stalwart in the neighborhood, closed down. Not long after, Books Inc. would also say goodbye.
In spring, the neighborhood celebrated the first decade of work by the Castro Community Benefit District, which has helped orchestrate a number of area projects over the years, including Jane Warner Plaza. A few blocks down 17th Street, civil unrest was breaking out around the Mission Police Station as hunger strikers staged an ongoing protest over police killings of unarmed citizens and demanded the ouster of Police Chief Greg Suhr, who eventually left the job.
June marked the first ever all-media homelessness day coverage in San Francisco, something the Castro Courier — along with KQED and the SF Chronicle — took part in.
June was also a somber month for the LGBT community after news of the Pulse nightclub massacre sent shockwaves through the nation. Castro residents gathered together for a candlelight vigil to remember the victims. A controversy erupted over who controls the Castro’s giant rainbow flag in the wake of the Pulse shooting, as some locals demanded that it be lowered to half mast.
In late June, SF Pride took place on schedule, but this time under heightened security after a man carrying weapons was arrested on his way to the LA parade.
In early fall, the Courier featured the Myriad marketplace, a small business incubator that opened on Upper Market, and yet another example of neighborhood innovation.
Later in fall, District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener brought discussion to the table of establishing an LGBT Cultural Heritage District that could protect certain significant night life venues in the area.
In November, SF Team Tsunami celebrated its 30th anniversary. The gay swim club is open to everyone and regularly sends athletes of all ages to the International Gay Games.Paris Thayer (10) and Jada Thayer (10), students at the Harvey Milk Academy, inscribe the names of those who died of AIDS.
As election season rolled around, less-than-subtle signs of polemics began to make their way into the Castro. A unflatteringly nude statue of Donald Trump was placed in the center of the Castro near Jane Warner Plaza for all to mock. But Trump had the last laugh and the Castro is still reeling.
On a lighter note, the Gay Men’s Chorus saw the Trump victory as a chance to bring their act to red states in particular.
The year ended on a high note with the old tradition of the tree-lighting ceremony and a new tradition called Inscribe. Started by a local teacher at Harvey Milk Academy, Inscribe has students chalk artwork and names of AIDS victims on area streets.
There were bright spots, but overall 2016 was a bumpy ride. Will the potholes get fixed in 2017? Stay tuned.
© Castro Courier 2018