••••• IN THE JULY-AUGUST 2015 ISSUE •••••

 

Supreme Court, SF Pride Cook Up Perfect Parade

 

Same-sex marriage ruled legal

More than one million people flooded downtown San Francisco’s streets for the city’s largest Pride ever.

Photos: Ted Andersen

 

What began in 2004 as San Francisco’s activism against a legal ban on same-sex marriage culminated in the nation’s highest court on Friday, June 26 as a resounding victory for LGBT couples across all 50 states.

While not directly related to each other, the   two events are part of the same ongoing struggle to legalize same-sex marriage. The early morning news of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in case of Jim Obergefell, who challenged Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage after he was barred from putting his name on his late-husband’s death certificate, unleashed a tidal wave of rainbow reaction on the steps of City Hall.

 

Revelers, politicians and media gathered in the early morning hours at Civic Center to celebrate. Former Mayor Gavin Newsom, who famously initiated one month of marriage licenses in 2004 that were quickly invalidated by the California Supreme Court, spoke at the impromptu gathering.

 

“Today is the antidote to cynicism. It’s the antidote to any kind of despair that you may have. Your frustrations, your sense of powerlessness,” he said. “Don’t ever despair, don’t ever give up. Don’t ever believe a challenge is too big.”

Former Castro Supervisor Bevan Dufty said the struggle for marriage equality has been a long one, but that in the grander scheme of things, battle for LGBT safety is far from over.

 

“Today is about a step forward and it’s about remembering what happened here in 2004 when we started marriage. I officiated 120 marriages that month that Gavin gave us and I think it was a watershed moment,” he said. “And this is a movement where we need to continue fighting against repression in states like Michigan and Texas and then going in countries around the world where basically being an out gay person or lesbian or transgender person is a death sentence.”

 

Assemblymember David Chiu, former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, agreed that much work is still left unfinished within the city’s local LGBT community.

 

“Our work is not done. When we have transgender individuals who experience violence, LGBT homeless youth that are living on our streets, businesses that are still discriminating against our LGBT community, we have more to do,” he said. “This is an incredible day for San Francisco and our country and I’m so proud that San Francisco has been the epicenter of the civil rights movement that has defined our generation and so grateful to so many who fought and sacrificed for this day to come.”

 

Two of those figures were marriage activists John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney, who were among those married at City Hall in 2004, and were later plaintiffs in the historic case to overturn Prop 8.

 

“My husband Stuart and I have been together for 28 years,” Lewis said. “We got married at San Francisco City Hall 11 years ago right here on the steps and that marriage was taken away from us.”

 

Gaffney praised the Court’s decision, which ended the checkerboard of same-sex legality in which 14 states had previously disallowed it.

 

“Marriage equality was a like twinkle in everybody’s eye just a decade ago. We thought at that point maybe in our lifetimes, but it’s real, it’s happening.,” he said. “For many years John and I had to give up our rights as a married couple, our rights as a family, in order to go celebrate the holidays with our family in other states that didn’t recognize our marriage and didn’t recognize our love. Those days are over.”

 

In one of the day’s greater coincidences, Georgia natives Hai Nguyen and Mark Streeter were married just as people began to gather at City Hall. As Nguyen said, “We didn’t coordinate with the Supreme Court at all.”

 

“We got engaged two and a half years ago and have just been waiting for the right occasion, and this was not the plan, definitely not the plan,” Streeter said. “It’s just nice that we all have recognition now and can marry who we want, and that’s what it’s all about.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

••• ALSO IN THE JULY-AUGUST 2015 ISSUE •••

 

Ending Scouting Discrimination

 

Organization contradicts new inclusiveness

 

 

On May 21 former Defense Secretary and Eagle Scout Robert Gates was elected President of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). In his acceptance speech at the organization’s 2015 national conference in Atlanta, Gates announced that he supported the full inclusion of gay adults as scout leaders and called for an end to BSA’s national ban on gay adult leaders.

 

“We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be,” he said. “The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained.”

 

In the words of Zach Wahls, executive director of Scouts for Equality, a scout alumni organization dedicated to ending the national ban on gay members and leaders, “This is another step forward for the Boy Scouts of America . . . Americans are no longer willing to tolerate discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

 

Just two years earlier in 2013, the Boy Scouts of America had finally begun to allow membership as scouts to openly gay youth. Yet remaining in the BSA website was this statement: “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”

 

Gates saved his comments on membership for near the end of the meeting’s agenda. He cited “urgent challenges” which he had not foreseen and which the BSA could not ignore. Specifically, he said “more and more councils [are] taking a position in their mission statements and public documents contrary to national policy. Nor can we ignore the social, political, and juridical changes taking place in our country,” he said. That’s where he inserted his oft quoted “we must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be.”

 

What course of action did Gates recommend, though? The BSA has the authority to revoke the charters of non-conforming councils, but Gates asserted “I will not take that path.” Instead, we can “seize control of our own future” by allowing “unit sponsoring organizations,” 70 percent of whom are churches, “to determine the standards for their scout leaders.” To this he added the conservative reassurance that “we must, at all costs, preserve the religious freedom of our church partners to do this.” In other words, in meeting the major changes in a world characterized by change, nothing significant was going to change.

 

Eagle Scout Timothy Curran’s Male Date

 

As the Los Angeles Times reported in 1990, “Timothy Curran was 17 when the Boy Scouts awarded him its highest honor—the Eagle Scout badge.”

 

“On that spring night in 1980, family and friends sat in a Berkeley church proudly listening as [Timothy] was held up as an exemplary scout, possessing the character and leadership qualities coveted by scouts everywhere.” Months later, however, he was summoned to a meeting at the Boy Scouts’ Mount Diablo Council office in Walnut Creek. It was there that he was told that he could not continue in scouting because officials had learned he had taken a male date to the senior prom at Berkeley High.

 

The senior prom was a non-scouting activity but it had occurred within the Council’s geographic territory, whereupon Council Executive Director Quentin Alexander informed him that “homosexuality and Boy Scouting are not compatible.”

 

Nearly a decade later Curran filed suit to rejoin the scouts as an adult leader. By then he was a 28-year-old freelance journalist who had moved to Los Angeles to attend college. He was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

 

The Los Angeles Times commented in 1990 that “Timothy Curran’s suit against the Boy Scouts for denying him the opportunity to serve as a scout leader is a prime example of the pernicious discrimination lesbians and gays suffer daily. The leadership of Mount Diablo’s Boy Scouts has proved itself to be bigoted against Curran, by basing its assessment of his suitability to lead on a vicious stereotype rather than on his spotless record of achievement. The big lie here is that gay men seduce young boys. It is a stereotype well-known to legitimate sex researchers to be completely baseless.”

 

An observer present at the time corroborated this assessment, characterizing the Mount Diablo BSA response as mean spirited and based on the faulty belief that a gay person was inherently a child molester.

 

The Bay Area Champions Nondiscrimination

 

Around the time that the Curran case went to trial in Los Angeles, the United Way of the Bay Area had begun to look at the policies of the local Boy Scout councils for which United Way provided funding. As a rough measure, in 1996 the Boy Scouts of America overall received nearly $84 million from 1,400 United Way organizations.

 

Before the trial began, United Way of the Bay Area (UWBA) had adopted a nondiscrimination policy which prohibited grant recipients from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation when providing services. When it was determined that a council was adhering to BSA’s discriminatory policies, the San Francisco United Way would engage in a dialogue with that council to determine the process for changing those policies or face the loss of its funding. In effect, United Way of the Bay Area took the lead in challenging BSA’s policies.

 

The BSA Reaction

 

According to a story in United Press International at the time, facing the possible loss of up to $1 million in funding, Boy Scouts of America leaders “refused to budge . . . on the organization’s hard-line stand forbidding homosexuals from participating in the youth group.” Buford Hill, BSA’s western regional director, said they “were not going to be intimidated into change by the threat of a loss of funds from the Bay Area United Way.” Scouting would have to walk away from “the solid values upon which the BSA has been built,” and “we will not allow that to happen. Our values and principles are not up for negotiation.”

 

The Business Community’s Reaction

 

Although this was the era when the San Francisco council was economically conservative and represented a lot of Bay Area companies, the decision to withhold funds from service provider agencies that would not sign a nondiscrimination clause was supported by the major San Francisco employers: Levi Strauss, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, PacBell, AT&T, the San Francisco Chronicle and others. Through all this, however, it was not an issue of the LGBT community pushing for justice, but the Bay Area community as a whole saying this policy of discrimination is just not right.

 

The United Way Boy Scout Task Force

 

From September 1991 through January 1992 a broad-based group of volunteers met at United Way every two weeks to clarify issues and develop a policy on nondiscrimination. The 24-member task force included representatives from the San Francisco Boy Scout Council, the United Way board of directors, labor, gays, youth, religious and people from the public and private sectors.

 

The result was a document with six major conclusions. Following the prevailing policies of non-discriminating organizations like the Girl Scouts and Big Brothers-Big Sisters, sexual orientation was viewed as a personal and family matter. This was in contrast to the BSA Texas model where sexual orientation was seen as a screening device. It is worth noting that none of these organizations tolerated misbehaving or abusive relationships.

 

The Bay Area Council’s new policy, in the words of Steve Barnes, its new CEO, did not bar membership for simply being homosexual, but it forbade scout officials from investigating a member’s or leader’s sexual orientation. According to the policy, “We allow youth to live as children and enjoy scouting and its diversity without immersing them in the politics of the day.” Barnes went on, “Sexuality is an adult issue. We don’t think kids should be part of that. Most of these kids are Cub Scouts, aged 8 to 11, and there’s nothing appropriate about anybody having a discussion with an 8- or 11-year old about sexuality.”

 

The focus of the report was on services to youth, with emphasis on those in greatest need. The Task Force was clear that “in a multi-cultural society, The United Way must continue to respond to all of our citizens in a nondiscriminatory manner” and that all funded agencies must join in that effort. It was recognized that not everyone sees the world from the perspective of the diverse Bay Area, and national BSA would take time to change. Plans were immediately made to work with the individual scout councils to implement the new policy.

 

Funding Withheld and the Expected Firestorm

 

The United Way cut off nearly $500,000 in annual funding to Bay Area councils in 1992 because of the Scouts’ anti-gay policies. Ultimately $2 million was lost for Bay Area scouts but $1 million of new money came in. Around the same time, Scouting For All, a nonprofit activist education and advocacy group, published the names of 54 individual United Ways nationwide that withdrew their funding from the BSA.

 

According to CEO Ruppanner, the reaction was mixed. United Way of the Bay Area received literally thousands of angry phone calls with especially virulent reactions from right wing radio. The UWBA team even received death threats yet hung together, creating a special “boiler room” and bringing in police to safeguard their offices.

 

On the other side, there were hundreds of positive phone calls as well. However, most other United Ways did not support the San Franciscans’ action because they feared losing funds upon which they normally depended. And with UWBA leading on this issue, support from national United Way was “not helpful” as well.

 

According to Ruppanner, the UWBA executive director at the time, the negative reaction was “awful, uninformed and mean spirited.” BSA headquarters in Texas even conducted an inflammatory press conference to the horror of progressive scouts in the Bay Area.

 

Counter Organizations - the “Forgotten Ones,” Scouts for Equality, Scouting for All

 

Dragging on as it did over nearly a quarter century, a number of counter organizations developed. We have already mentioned “Scouts for Equality,” a scout alumni organization dedicated to ending the BSA’s ban on gay members and leaders. Besides affirming that “as Scouts, we believe discrimination goes against the values our movement teaches us and has no place in Scouting’s future,” their material cited one Jonathan Groff, a 22-year-old actor and singer who had won a Tony Award for his work in the Broadway musical, Spring Awakening. “Jonathan is not qualified to teach the music merit badge,” said the organization, “because he is gay.” Other groups included an early one called somewhat touchingly The Forgotten Ones and another called Scouting for All.

 

2000 and the Supreme Court is Unmoved

 

James Dale was a student at Rutgers University and co-president of the Lesbian/Gay Student Alliance. In July 1990 he attended a seminar on the health needs of lesbian and gay teenagers and was interviewed by a local newspaper and stated he was gay. BSA officials read the interview and expelled Dale, an Eagle Scout, from his position as assistant scoutmaster of a New Jersey troop. Dale filed suit in the New Jersey Superior Court, which ruled against the Boy Scouts, who then appealed to the United States Supreme Court. On June 28, 2000, the Supreme Court reversed the Jersey court and decided 5-4 for the Boy Scouts.

 

With Chief Justice William Rehnquist crafting the majority opinion, the dissenting opinion was written by Justice Stevens, joined by Justices Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer. Stevens wrote, “it is plain as the light of day that neither one of these [scout] principles—‘morally straight’ and ‘clean’—says the slightest thing about homosexuality.”

 

In the dissenting opinion, there is guidance given by BSA to scoutmasters to direct “curious adolescents” to their family, ministers, doctors and the like. In addition, BSA offered these specific guidelines: (1) Do not advise scouts about sexual matters because it is outside the expertise and comfort level of most scoutmasters; (2) If a scout brings specific questions to his scoutmaster, the scoutmaster should answer within his comfort level, remembering that a “boy who appears to be asking about sexual intercourse . . . may really only be worried about pimples.” And finally, (3) Boys with “sexual problems” should be referred to “an appropriate professional.”

 

The Last Word

 

Despite Gates’ declaration of a new policy direction for adult scout leaders, Dale’s rejection by the Supreme Court, and the continuous and current roster of long-time Eagle Scouts whose involvement was abruptly terminated when it was known that they were gay (James Dale in New Jersey, Geoffrey McGrath in Seattle, Brian Peffly in Ohio, and Pascal Tessier in New York are examples), in the face of all this we are left with these words by James Dale:

 

Looking back it’s been pretty phenomenal what’s happened. We have won in the court of public opinion and we continue to win when we tell our own stories. I don’t know if it’s any one story. I think it’s probably the voice of all our stories coming together.

 

When people see the damage that this is doing and the friction it’s creating in families and communities, I think that both America and the media will understand what justice is.

 

People need to come and stand up for their rights and the rights of other people, because each of us is empowered to make positive change. I think change only happens when you share your story and share your voice. Let that be heard. Instead of accepting any type of discrimination, make change for the positive.

 

 

 

 

••• ALSO IN THE JULY-AUGUST 2015 ISSUE •••

 

Pride and Prejudice

45th SF Pride makes history

 

 

Age often mellows and calms what was once wild and unruly, but in the case of San Francisco’s Gay Pride Parade, which officially became middle aged this year at 45, nothing could be further from the truth.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to outlaw same-sex marriage bans throughout the country, the party was bigger and better than in any of its younger days. More than one million people were estimated to attend the Market Street parade, which lasted close to five hours and featured more than 220 marching contingents, 300 exhibitor booths and 23 community stages and venues.

 

The theme was Equality Without Exception, chosen to draw attention to the growing religious exemption laws negatively impacting the liberties of women and LGBT people. The theme was invoked by many as a way of celebrating the newfound inclusiveness of LGBT families into America’s legal framework based on the decision of the nation’s highest court.

As a way of consummating marriage equality at the events, Glide’s pastor, the Rev. Cecil Williams, joined Hydie Downard and Beate Siedler in matrimony on the main stage in front of City Hall after 33 years together.

 

Many who attended did so for the first time, some out of curiosity, others out of a fear of missing out on what became one of the most perfectly timed parties the city has ever seen.

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“It’s a new experience,” said 60-year-old daycare provider Annette Herron from Stockton. “I wanted to try something new — to see people united and make new friends.”

“I wanted to see all the happy people,” said 41-year-old Rebecca Ward from Oakland, who also attended for her first time.

 

Morrison Chea, 23, from Sacramento also came out for his first parade. He and his boyfriend weren’t planning on attending until he heard the news on Friday.

 

“We wanted to celebrate this momentum,” he said. “I’m looking forward to discovery, crazy adventures and everlasting memories.”

 

Chea’s boyfriend, 28-year-old Fabian Hernandez from Sacramento, said he was a Pride veteran who convinced Chea to make the drive to the city.

 

“It’s definitely worth the trip with a bunch of friends and the people you meet as well,” he said. “I definitely like watching all the love around here.”

 

Even though SFPD Chief Greg Suhr called it the largest Pride celebration ever, crime remained relatively minor. The parade saw fewer than a dozen public drunkenness and felony arrests. Two handguns were confiscated at the event.

 

The main police incident came Saturday night at Civic Center when several groups of men got into an argument, leading one of the suspects to allegedly pull a gun and fire several shots. A 64-year-old man was shot in the arm and taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where he was listed in stable condition. Police seized four handguns at Saturday’s Civic Center celebration.

 

The event was also a huge economic drivers, estimated at generating more than $350 million in total visitor impact to the Bay Area.

 

Photos: Ted Andersen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

••• ALSO IN THE JULY-AUGUST 2015 ISSUE •••

 

Nation’s First LGBT Adult Shelter Opens Its Doors

 

The nation’s first LGBT homeless shelter for adults officially has officially opened in the Mission.

 

Dubbed Jazzie’s Place, the shelter has 24 beds, divided into three sections for those who identify as female, those who identify as male and those who don’t identify as either. Jazzie’s place will provide education in life skills ranging from laundry to finding a job to knowing what is necessary to survive.

 

A need for such a shelter has been documented in the city as the SF Human Services Agency gathered sexual orientation homeless data for the first time in 2013, which revealed that 29 percent of respondents identified themselves as LGBTQ.

 

The five-year process of creating the shelter started with a phone call by activist and SF Housing Rights Committee member Tommi Avicolli Mecca to his long time co-conspirator and friend Brian Basinger, executive director of AIDS Housing Alliance. This shelter has been a long time coming, according to Mecca, who headed the creation of several temporary LGBT youth shelters in the Castro in the 1990’s, after the first dotcom boom left many teens in the community without a place to sleep.

 

Brian Basinger at opening of Jazzie's PlaceBasinger was a core part of the sit-down supper program known as Simply Supper. When the church that housed them changed hands, they were left without a location. They stumbled upon the space at 1050 South Van Ness Ave. between 21st and 22nd streets, and it being much bigger than what they needed to have a dinner, the idea to start a shelter was born.

 

Supervisor David Campos spoke of the progressive and conscious attitude that prevails in the neighborhood when he said that the common response he gets from the community about building a shelter is no, “but in this case the answer was absolutely yes, they are welcome.”

 

Mayor Ed Lee declared the opening day of June 17th to be Jazzie’s Place Day in San Francisco and the SF Lesbian Gay Freedom Band played “If you could see me now,” the same song they played at the city’s inaugural Pride Parade in 1978.

 

Former California Assemblymember and LGBT activist Tom Ammiano captured the message the shelter is sending to the community. He characterized NIMBYs and the people who stigmatize mental health and criminalize poverty as those who have not yet “internalized the issue.”

 

Sadaisha Shimmers, a trans youth in Oregon who was kicked out of her house at 10 years old, said speaking through her own perssonal experience, “We see broken people and it is easier not to look at them because we have to look at ourselves and how we have created this.”

 

The name comes from Jazzie Collins, a transgender African American woman and LGBT homeless activist who helped conceive of the shelter and passed away in 2013.

 

Gabriel Haaland, a close friend of Jazzie, told of her power being “in real talk” and how “she brought strength to every thing she did.” He then pointed to the mosaic on the wall behind the speakers, a butterfly with its multicolored wings spread against a blue backdrop and spoke about how Jazzie’s spirit lives on through the creation of the shelter and continues her mission to improve the situations of homeless people in the LGBT community.

 

You might also be interested in:

 

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••••• ALSO IN THE JULY-AUGUST 2015 ISSUE •••••

 

 

Is the Castro Becoming Less Gay?

Survey data reflect demographic change

 

 

 

 

 

The notion of the Castro turning less gay has become a hot topic over the last few months after the Castro & Upper Market Retail Strategy released statistics on the percentage of LGBT residents in the neighborhood from a recent survey.

 

The survey asked 1,200 people a series of demographic questions, including whether they identified as LGBT. Danny Yadegar, project coordinator for the Retail Strategy, was surprised to discover that out of the 600 residents who answered that question, 72.5 percent affirmed their LGBT identity. Yadegar thought the number would have been lower, but this high percentage proves that Castro is still a long way away from turning straight.

 

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener explained the neighborhood has always been home to a mixed population.

 

“For 50 years, the Castro has had many LGBT residents and many straight residents,” Wiener said. “We’ve always had a large straight population, and that is still the case. While it is true that many straight people are moving into the neighborhood, a lot of LGBT people continue to move into the neighborhood as well. Even with the demographic change noted by the survey, a significant percentage of newer Castro residents are still LGBT.”

 

Looking more closely at the numbers presented in the survey, it is clear that the less amount of time respondents have lived in the neighborhood, the less likely they are to identify as LGBT. While a whopping 77 percent of the respondents that had lived in the Castro for more than 10 years identified as LGBT, this number dropped to 66 percent for those living there for five years or less, to 61 percent for those living there two years or less and to 55 percent for those living there for less than a year.

 

According to Trulia, an online real estate company, the Castro was the gayest neighborhood in the U.S. in 2012. Since then, several hundred new condos have popped up on Market Street, and more straight people are indeed moving into the area. Housing rights advocate and local Castro resident, Tommi Avicolli Mecca, has noticed a difference in the demographic.

 

“The signs of the changing Castro are everywhere,” Mecca explained. “In the morning when I leave for work, I see niñeras pushing baby carriages down the street. I see as many straight couples holding hands as I do queer ones. I see that more and more of my new neighbors are not queer.”

 

So how does it feel to be the straight minority living in the Castro?

 

One hetero woman that moved into the neighborhood five years ago still overhears snide comments coming from gay men when she walks down Castro with her husband such as, “Didn’t they get the memo?” She wonders why some members of a community that has fought so hard against bias, and is so much about pro-inclusion and acceptance would behave in such an outwardly exclusionary and hurtful way towards those who aren’t LGBT. But many others in the neighborhood are warm and friendly towards her regardless of gender and sexual orientation.

 

Change in the Castro has been a common thread throughout its history. Castro Street was named after Jose Castro, a Mexican leader, in the 1800s, and the neighborhood became officially known as the Castro in 1887. Before the 1906 earthquake, the Castro hosted a primarily Finnish population. In the early 20th century, the area was known as Little Scandinavia, due to the large number of residents with Swedish, Norwegian and Danish heritage. The Castro gradually became a working-class Irish neighborhood from the 1930s-1960s. It wasn’t until 1963 that the Castro’s first gay bar, called the “Missouri Mule,” opened for business. This paved the way for the neighborhood’s reputation as a gay mecca over the next five decades.

 

Today, some members of the LGBT community are trying to embrace the changing dynamic of their beloved home. Ron Williams, who refers to himself as an “old queen,” is one of them.

 

“I lived at several places around the Castro since 1967, I have witnessed its rise and fall several times, but this change looks to be pretty much the end of the ‘Gayborhood’ as we have know it for the past several decades,” Williams commented on Hoodline’s blog. “LGBTQ culture is being assimilated into mainstream culture, that’s the price of achieving our equality. We can’t stop change, but we can create an LGBTQ Heritage for future generations to learn from and enjoy.”

 

Supervisor Wiener agrees with Williams that more LGBT people are living in more neighborhoods across the city these days. Because being gay is not as taboo as it was in the past, there is less concentration in the Castro.

 

“All historically LGBT neighborhoods in the United States have experienced change, including the Castro,” he said. “However, based on my perceptions, the Castro has experienced significantly less loss of LGBT population than other neighborhoods. There’s still a very large and concentrated LGBT population of all ages in our wonderful neighborhood.”

 

Now that gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, neighborhoods like the Castro may eventually turn into a thing of the past. But for now, most people agree that the Castro remains very gay.

 

 

 

••• ALSO IN THE JULY-AUGUST 2015 ISSUE •••

 

From Castro Housing to Airbnb Listing

SF’s lax enforcement allows operators to transform

the city’s housing stock into tourist hotels

 

Apparent unpermitted construction work at the site of what was once rental housing at 4060 17th St. and is now an Airbnb hotel.

 

Courtesy of 48hills.org

 

At a couple of points during the debate on tighter enforcement for short-term rentals, members of the Board of Supervisors argued that there’s been too much focus on Airbnb. There are, after all, other platforms that offer a similar product.

 

True: There are big outfits like Vacation Rentals by Owner, and smaller operations. Some of them use different models.

 

That, of course, doesn’t mean the city should ignore Airbnb (by far, the biggest game in town). And the regulations that Supervisor David Campos is proposing would also apply to other short-term rentals

 

But it’s worth taking a look at some of the existing places that are operating commercial hotels in residential neighborhoods, openly offering vacation stays of less than 30 days, sometimes in direct violation of the existing laws, which require that the owner of a property actually live there, at least some of the time.

 

So it appears that, beyond the Airbnb debate, plenty of illegal hotels are operating right now, without permits – and with complete impunity.No, it’s not just Airbnb – it’s a bigger problem, and the Planning Department admits that it lacks the staff to even begin enforcing the law.

 

For example, it took me only a few minutes on Google (and the help of some of my 48hills commenters) to find Casa Luna SF. It’s a multi-unit property on 17th near Castro that used to be a three-family housing unit. Now it’s a full-time commercial hotel.

 

The building is at 4060 17th. It’s owned by Casa Luna SF LLC, a California corporation. Records on file with the Secretary of State show that Casa Luna LLC is associated with Srinivas Katragadda, who owns a house on Everett Avenue in Oakland.

 

Until Katragadda bought the place in 2012, according to SF property records, it was a two-family house. There is also a carriage house in back, which records show was a one-family house. So there were at least three housing units on the site.

 

Now, according to the Casa Luna SF website, there are four hotel rooms. They rent for $225 to $419 a night. And they are available for as few as three days, according to the reservation link.

 

Gina Simi, the information person at the City Planning Department, told me that there is no Bed and Breakfast Inn or other commercial license at that address.

 

Since every available place on the property is listed as a vacation rental, it’s hard to see how the owner could be living there – particularly since Katragadda also owns a house in Oakland.

 

Taking a look at the reservation site, it appears the “vista apartment” has already been rented for 13 nights in June, bringing in $5,447. The garden apartment is booked for most of June and July, and will bring in more than $11,000 a month.

 

So in this case, it seems clear that hotelization in a neighborhood has replaced several housing units.

 

I called the contact number on the website and left a message for the general manager. I also sent an email. I have received no response.

 

The website is pretty clear: It offers the following:

 

Eco-friendly luxury vacation rentals in the heart of the city. Luxurious Egyptian cotton linens, goose-down comforters, premium firm memory foam mattresses, tasteful artwork, hand-blown Italian glass lighting fixtures, bathrooms with floor-to-ceiling marble tile, full soaking tubs with Jacuzzi jets, separate walk-in showers and European faucets and fixtures are just some of the touches that offer you both beauty and function.

 

All the basics are covered and complimentary as well. High-speed (30mbps) internet with secure wireless, dedicated private phone with answering machine and unlimited calling, premium satellite DIRECTV with movie channels, LED flat screen TV, and Blu-ray player. A clothes washer and dryer are free to use and we even supply eco-friendly detergent.

 

Even though you will be staying on a serene residential street in San Francisco, you’ll be just a half a block from Market Street, the palm-tree lined main artery of San Francisco.

 

Each of our apartments are designed and outfitted to be homes we would love to live in. We’ve made a home for you in San Francisco.

 

The last remodeling permits issued by the city were in 2003. Maybe all that work was done back then – there are two $60,000 kitchen and bath upgrades. But not for the rest of the units.

 

There are so many more examples: This place has quite a selection of rentals that are available for less than 30 days. Hard to tell without trying to book whether you can get an STR (short term rental) here.

 

As I say, I was tipped off by comments on my site and then spent an hour or so looking around. It wouldn’t take someone at City Planning much longer.

 

But the city doesn’t do that. So it appears that, beyond the Airbnb debate, plenty of illegal hotels are operating right now, without permits – and with complete impunity.

 

The Planning Department’s Gina Simi told me:

 

“Our best guess at this point is something around 50-60 [STR sites], but that is not verified. It isn’t uncommon for people to build their own website to rent out their room/unit, so it’s very difficult to determine an exact number.

 

Limited resources do not allow for dedicated staff to watch or monitor the sites. We are, as always, complaint based. All staff time goes to registration efforts and investigating/enforcing complaints.”

 

I get the limited resources, but jeez: It’s not that hard. One staffer dedicated to searching for illegal hotels would be able to find way more than I did in just a couple of days.

 

So yes: Airbnb isn’t the only violator. But the Campos bill would require any hosting platform, presumably including the ones for all these other rentals, not to list a place that isn’t registered with the city (which would mean the owner had to live there).

 

And Campos wants serious fines for violators – which would help, perhaps, pay for just a couple of enforcement staffers to go after the obvious violations.

 

Supervisor Scott Wiener talked about his desire to go after the “bad actors” but leave alone the folks who occasionally rent out an extra bedroom to pay the mortgage or put their kids through college. Nobody – not Campos, not Share Better SF, not me – wants to stop that practice.

 

But right in his district, a block off Castro Street, is a hotel that does not appear to be run by a resident who is renting out an extra room. These are, as far as I can tell, housing units that have been taken off the market and turned into hotels. And there are plenty more in the city.

 

The reason is simple: The ordinance that was passed last year, written in part by Airbnb and promoted by Sup. David Chiu, sent a message that the city wasn’t serious about cracking down on illegal hotels. So all sorts of other platforms and individual operations have sprung up and expanded, knowing that the city won’t do anything about them.

 

That’s why the existing law is a failure.

 

 

 

Photo: Courtesy of 48hills.org

••••• ALSO IN THE JULY-AUGUST 2015 ISSUE •••••

 

Local GirlVentures Creates A Diverse Community of Female Intrepidness

 

 

 

GirlVentures gives girls a chance to get away from the often not so supportive messages of mainstream society and media, including social media, and gets them into an outdoor environment where they can learn to appreciate their strengths and the earth. Taara Hoffman is executive director of GirlVentures, which operates out of The Women’s Building at 3543 18th Street.

 

Wendy:

 

GirlVentures has it’s home in The Women’s Building. It must be wonderful working in that environment.

 

Taara:

 

It’s fantastic. It’s a staple of the community. All the sister organizations are incredibly effective and powerful and the people that work there, the staff and the volunteers, really share resources and we promote each other and we get together on a monthly basis. It’s amazing to come there every day to work. I feel so fortunate.

 

Wendy:

 

What a perfect place too, for what you do.

 

Taara:

 

Empowering girls.

 

Wendy:

 

Absolutely. It’s such an important thing when you consider all the messages that girls get, not only from mainstream media, but now from social media as well. What sorts of positive messages does GirlVentures put out there to balance all of that?

 

Taara:

 

GirlVentures was founded on the belief that girls have innate strength; they have creativity; they have courage; they have confidence; they have leadership skills. During the transition in adolescence, which as we know now goes up to age 24, some of these skills and innate qualities get hidden. There’s a time in a girl’s life in those middle school years where they are not as prominent. We come from a perspective of strength, not that there’s a problem to get rid of, but there are inner strengths to be nurtured. GirlVentures is unique in that we combine emotional learning with outdoor adventures and create connection for girls with nature where they push back their comfort zone, have an opportunity to try things that are new for them and in doing so witness their own strengths and also have time for relaxation and reflection and connection with nature. We’re doing adventures like rock climbing, kayaking, backpacking, while also talking about social [issues] and trust. Two things that I love about this organization, and we’re nearly 20 years old now and the board has been dedicated to this from the beginning, is economic diversity of our participants. A third of our girls come from families that can pay the full tuition; a third of the girls get full scholarships, and a third are sliding scale. Girls are learning about class and race and qualities that they share - they’re learning across real boundaries and perceived boundaries. Within each course they’re also building allies with folks that they may not otherwise be exposed to. That’s a really deep part of our program, this diversity and the connection that girls form. We also provide all gear and transportation for our courses and we have our own [wonderful and experienced], talented educators that not only know how to do all these technical adventure skills, but also know how to facilitate overnight expeditions for adolescent girls, and how to allow their voices to be heard and allow time for their own discussions and reflections. It’s really amazing.

 

Wendy:

 

And your instructors are also representative of the diversity that you look for in your students and overall at GirlVentures.

 

Taara:

 

Yes we strive for that. The field of outdoor education used to be a man’s game—­­still [is] primarily—and then women started getting into the field. Now there’s a need and a push and a desire to make the field more diverse and to include people of color. We really strive to hire field instructors who reflect our girls as much as possible.

 

Wendy:

 

You also look for volunteers from the community for some of your day hikes.

 

Taara:

 

We have two resupply hikes over the summer and we call from the very beginning. Those volunteers are called fairies because they hike in food and supplies, leave them at a beach or a campsite, then hike out. The girls arrive there at the end of their day and see welcome signs and glitter and fresh fruit. We have two fairy resupply hikes; one happened already and one is coming up and both are full. Those are pretty popular, an 11 mile round trip hike. We also have a lot of other volunteer opportunities. Particularly we’re interested in corporate relationships because that [tends] to allow us access to corporate philanthropy dollars. Google just came to us recently and they worked on journals that the girls take out on course or they wrote and decorated personal letters that the girls get when they get a mail drop in the middle of their course, in a field. We also have two major events over the year. One is in the spring and one is in the fall. In the spring our girls’ advisory board hosts a hike for girls and children, so we look for corporate teams, so they’re doing fundraising for us. They’re raising a scholarship; they’re raising $2,500 or $5,000 dollars for a girl to go on course. In the fall we have a business breakfast; it’s from 8 - 9 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency. This year it’s going to be November 11th. We’re always looking for corporate sponsors but also volunteers to help us at the registration table. We also have a couple of summer spots still open to help us with course starts and course finishes.

 

Wendy:

 

You have programs that don’t just happen in the summer, but that happen all year, like after school rock climbing. Do you need volunteers for those?

 

Taara:

 

Right, we also have [an] after school rock climbing program at two rock climbing gyms. One is the Great Western Power Company in Oakland and one is Mission Cliffs in San Francisco. Here we work with women who wanna commit to one day a week after school. In San Francisco it’s Mondays from 4 - 7:15, and they get paired one on one with a girl in 6th, 7th, or 8th grade. They work on rock climbing skills but also do curriculum around those curricular areas I mentioned: trust, leadership, social justice, and then they go rock climbing outdoors at the end of the semester. That’s pretty popular. There’s a mentor application on our website that people can go to and fill out. If they know of a [student] that they want to mentor they could sign up together; the girl applies and the mentor applies. That’s a great way to set up a semester long mentorship that’s really meaningful for a girl.

 

Let me tell you a couple more things. we have an ambassador’s circle, which is like a young board of directors for people in the workplace who want to advocate for us, and fundraise, and get involved. We meet every other month at the office and every other month we serve a social dinner. [They] can talk to Brice Lovell about getting involved with our Ambassador’s Circle; this is for people who are new to board service. Again, we’re always looking for corporate connections so if there’s somebody at a director level or above and is looking to get involved with the community I would be happy to talk to people about potential board service, men and women.

 

Wendy:

 

How did you get involved with GirlVentures?

 

Taara:

 

I started out in journalism and then I moved into high tech marketing and public relations and then I worked for WIRED Magazine for a little while and then I did a 180 and ended up becoming the executive director of Coastside Children’s Programs in Half Moon Bay, where I used to live. My only daughter was in preschool at the time. Then I had my second daughter, took a year off, and moved to Bernal Heights here in San Francisco and through the Center for Volunteer Non-profit Leadership, CVNL, it’s an executive transition firm, found GiirlVentures. My daughter ended up going to Project Courage when she was going to 7th grade. I was on the First 5 San Mateo County Commission and now I serve on the board of Children’s Council, so I’ve always been involved, at least for the last decade, in the non-profit, management, and child development world.

 

Photo courtesy of GirlVentures

 

••• ALSO IN THE JULY-AUGUST 2015 ISSUE •••

 

TV, Movie Filming Rises in San Francisco

 

 

It’s been awhile since Vertigo showed us city sights and Bullitt created the most loveable, albeit geographically impossible, chase scene. This doesn’t mean that San Francisco is not still host to a number of locally shot films and television shows. Some of these films are huge productions, like San Andreas and Terminator Genisys while others like the television program Looking operate on smaller budgets, although enjoy large media visibility.

 

The SF Film Commission is the go-to for these kinds of things and they let us know a bit about how films get made in the city.

 

First off, it depends on what kind of film you’re making and what kind of budget you’re working with. The streets are public space and permits must be acquired for all shooting that takes place outside of private spaces.

 

The permits range in price depending on what kind of shoot it is. If you’re shooting television or film, it will be in the highest tier at $300 for each day of shooting. If you’re planning on making a film in the city on a tight budget, it’s best to plan a tight schedule. For certain shoestring budgets, negotiation is possible.

 

And then there are incumbent costs for shutting down a street or having policemen handy to protect the shoot and the neighborhood at large.

 

Some of the most vied for locations in the city, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, require their own permits, which can have a four day turnaround, but sometimes negotiations between the Film Commission and filmmakers take weeks.

 

These rules and regulations are pretty standard for filming but some detractors are decrying difficulty or high prices for the supposed lack of films being shot in San Francisco. Some even blame the city for Looking’s demise.

 

Unfortunately, this show that featured the Castro neighborhood was not cancelled because of monetary forces but simply a lack of viewership.

 

Some critics have berated the show for being too overtly San Francisco, and thus unrelatable to citizens of other cities.

 

It is hard for San Franciscans to understand this problem as we love to see our town on screen. There is nothing like playing “Guess the Street Corner” with friends or recognizing that you live near a filmed sequence. We’re famous!

 

And perhaps this doubt of the city is only based in just that: a doubt. The city has been host to shoots for another popular HBO series, Silicon Valley and Universal Pictures’ Steve Jobs just wrapped 44 days of shooting.

 

The city’s current tech bubble and proof as a center for gay culture is proving to be interesting fodder not just for news media but for popular film media as well. Even Looking will be back to film their anticipated movie wrap-up.

 

The Film Commission, despite the costs and the number of days it takes to have your permit approved, really does love films, television and other photographic arts in our city. Aside from our being a great landscape (the hills, the ocean, the Victorians) that we love to show off, putting our culture and our citizens in the limelight is always a great way to increase tourism. And let’s not forget the boost the local economy which comes from hiring local workers, extras and even actors film crews.

 

Any thoughts of less filming have been debunked by Executive Director of the SF Film Commission, Susannah Robbins, who says that filming is up in SF 7 percent since the last fiscal year and 44 percent since the 2010-11 season.

 

While many of these shots are commercial (fancy cars on big hills), and may not get as much press coverage, they do indeed create an economy and jobs for the workers and artists in the city.

 

Be prepared for some indie flicks, commercials, and probably some satire-esque web series heading to your screens, but first your streets in the coming months. We may not be Los Angeles, but everyone knows it’s better to be a little under the radar.

••• ALSO IN THE JULY-AUGUST 2015 ISSUE •••

 

The Curator on Castro Street

 

 

Audio-visual editor Kevin McLaughlin has digitized images and video from the new and old Castro in the Cove Cafe to create an experience that brings the area’s history to the screen.

 

 

 

 

Kevin McLaughlin got his start as the informal editor and screener - these days we would call him a curator - of photos and video clips of people and life in the Castro about 15 years ago. With his most recent job at an audio-visual company in Los Altos, he certainly had the technical skills to handle the challenge and years of experience in a variety of jobs and professions.

 

How he landed at The Cove on Castro was the way many regulars do, finding it their daily dining room and social club. What is special about the Castro is that it is home to a number of welcoming communities and is a natural gathering place for friends and acquaintances.

 

On the walls were original photos in frames of probably 80 percent of the regular customers over the years. Seeing this rich trove of Castro lore and history, Kevin scanned the photos and set up three commercial Panasonic screens that played DVDs on walls in the restaurant. Meanwhile, at this time the AIDS plague was at its height, says Kevin, and people kept dying. It was very depressing, especially seeing the pictures on the screens of friends who had passed.

 

The screens used 20 low compression DVDs, and generally the DVD collection was in bad shape. In their rush to serve customers, the waiters got an occasional splash of syrup on the DVDs. So Kevin and his volunteer crew rolled up their sleeves and washed and polished the DVDs, using a commercial grade polish.

 

Now he uses digital media players and each screen can handle 38 different shows, each up to 18 minutes long. Once the earliest waiter showing up had to turn on the 3 TVs in the morning. Now there is no handling of disks, and the three screens are on continuously.

 

The original content came from the old wall photos. The “old guard” liked it because they could see and recognize themselves on the screens and even their friends who had passed on. It’s a truism that people like to see themselves, so there have been screenings of local Bears, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and anything to promote Castro life and events, including programs with historic shots of the Castro and even a show of local pets somewhere in the collection.

 

His main focus in programming the screens is to represent the community. So far as he knows there’s nothing else like this in the country. From the beginning, Kevin mixed the old wall photos with some comedies and even with photos and videos of Castro events, such as the Bare Chest Calendar Boys who posed for the Bare Chest Calendar contest.

 

He is also arranging for new videos such as segments from the various gay pride events around the country taking place this summer. He expects to include these Pride celebrations in programs later this season.

 

Solange Darwish, the long-time owner and manager of The Cove on Castro, is in Kevin’s words a very generous person with no limits on what he can program, trusting him to select material that is the best, the most interesting and most representative of the Castro community.

 

He makes special mention that, though it is her business, Solange refuses to censor program content. If a diner is offended by what is showing on the screens, it is usually a visitor to San Francisco or the Castro. Kevin has seen Solange, once she is aware of the complaint, go up to the offended person, apologize for making him or her uncomfortable, offer to refund in full what they paid for their meal, and suggest other restaurants in the neighborhood that might be more to their liking.

 

This attitude of openness and generosity is shared by Kevin as well in the extensive archive he has collected over the years. One-third to one-quarter of the content is specifically gay-oriented, covering everything from the obituaries of the well known to celebrations of gay marriage and fast-moving developments on the contemporary scene. Kevin accepts donations of stills, video clips, U-Tube productions, and other material from a variety of sources, including some relevant commercial productions.

 

In addition to accepting new content, if a viewer or customer would like to see specific material of general community interest, they should contact Kevin at kevinjhn@aol.com.

 

Photos: Bill Sywak

© Castro Courier 2014 No part of this website or artwork portrayed may be redistributed or republished without the express permission of the Castro Courier. Opinions expressed are strictly those of the writers and do not reflect the opinions of the publisher or staff.

Even though SFPD Chief Greg Suhr called it the largest Pride celebration ever, crime remained relatively minor. The parade saw fewer than a dozen public drunkenness and felony arrests. Two handguns were confiscated at the event.

The main police incident came Saturday night at Civic Center when several groups of men got into an argument, leading one of the suspects to allegedly pull a gun and fire several shots. A 64-year-old man was shot in the arm and taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where he was listed in stable condition. Police seized four handguns at Saturday’s Civic Center celebration.

Former California Assemblymember and LGBT activist Tom Ammiano captured the message the shelter is sending to the community. He characterized NIMBYs and the people who stigmatize mental health and criminalize poverty as those who have not yet “internalized the issue.”

••••• ALSO IN THE JULY-AUGUST 2015 ISSUE •••••

 

Local GirlVentures Creates A Diverse Community of Female Intrepidness

 

 

 

GirlVentures gives girls a chance to get away from the often not so supportive messages of mainstream society and media, including social media, and gets them into an outdoor environment where they can learn to appreciate their strengths and the earth. Taara Hoffman is executive director of GirlVentures, which operates out of The Women’s Building at 3543 18th Street.

 

Wendy:

 

GirlVentures has it’s home in The Women’s Building. It must be wonderful working in that environment.

 

Taara:

 

It’s fantastic. It’s a staple of the community. All the sister organizations are incredibly effective and powerful and the people that work there, the staff and the volunteers, really share resources and we promote each other and we get together on a monthly basis. It’s amazing to come there every day to work. I feel so fortunate.

 

Wendy:

 

What a perfect place too, for what you do.

 

Taara:

 

Empowering girls.

 

Wendy:

 

Absolutely. It’s such an important thing when you consider all the messages that girls get, not only from mainstream media, but now from social media as well. What sorts of positive messages does GirlVentures put out there to balance all of that?

 

Taara:

 

GirlVentures was founded on the belief that girls have innate strength; they have creativity; they have courage; they have confidence; they have leadership skills. During the transition in adolescence, which as we know now goes up to age 24, some of these skills and innate qualities get hidden. There’s a time in a girl’s life in those middle school years where they are not as prominent. We come from a perspective of strength, not that there’s a problem to get rid of, but there are inner strengths to be nurtured. GirlVentures is unique in that we combine emotional learning with outdoor adventures and create connection for girls with nature where they push back their comfort zone, have an opportunity to try things that are new for them and in doing so witness their own strengths and also have time for relaxation and reflection and connection with nature. We’re doing adventures like rock climbing, kayaking, backpacking, while also talking about social [issues] and trust. Two things that I love about this organization, and we’re nearly 20 years old now and the board has been dedicated to this from the beginning, is economic diversity of our participants. A third of our girls come from families that can pay the full tuition; a third of the girls get full scholarships, and a third are sliding scale. Girls are learning about class and race and qualities that they share - they’re learning across real boundaries and perceived boundaries. Within each course they’re also building allies with folks that they may not otherwise be exposed to. That’s a really deep part of our program, this diversity and the connection that girls form. We also provide all gear and transportation for our courses and we have our own [wonderful and experienced], talented educators that not only know how to do all these technical adventure skills, but also know how to facilitate overnight expeditions for adolescent girls, and how to allow their voices to be heard and allow time for their own discussions and reflections. It’s really amazing.

 

Wendy:

 

And your instructors are also representative of the diversity that you look for in your students and overall at GirlVentures.

 

Taara:

 

Yes we strive for that. The field of outdoor education used to be a man’s game—­­still [is] primarily—and then women started getting into the field. Now there’s a need and a push and a desire to make the field more diverse and to include people of color. We really strive to hire field instructors who reflect our girls as much as possible.

 

Wendy:

 

You also look for volunteers from the community for some of your day hikes.

 

Taara:

 

We have two resupply hikes over the summer and we call from the very beginning. Those volunteers are called fairies because they hike in food and supplies, leave them at a beach or a campsite, then hike out. The girls arrive there at the end of their day and see welcome signs and glitter and fresh fruit. We have two fairy resupply hikes; one happened already and one is coming up and both are full. Those are pretty popular, an 11 mile round trip hike. We also have a lot of other volunteer opportunities. Particularly we’re interested in corporate relationships because that [tends] to allow us access to corporate philanthropy dollars. Google just came to us recently and they worked on journals that the girls take out on course or they wrote and decorated personal letters that the girls get when they get a mail drop in the middle of their course, in a field. We also have two major events over the year. One is in the spring and one is in the fall. In the spring our girls’ advisory board hosts a hike for girls and children, so we look for corporate teams, so they’re doing fundraising for us. They’re raising a scholarship; they’re raising $2,500 or $5,000 dollars for a girl to go on course. In the fall we have a business breakfast; it’s from 8 - 9 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency. This year it’s going to be November 11th. We’re always looking for corporate sponsors but also volunteers to help us at the registration table. We also have a couple of summer spots still open to help us with course starts and course finishes.

 

Wendy:

 

You have programs that don’t just happen in the summer, but that happen all year, like after school rock climbing. Do you need volunteers for those?

 

Taara:

 

Right, we also have [an] after school rock climbing program at two rock climbing gyms. One is the Great Western Power Company in Oakland and one is Mission Cliffs in San Francisco. Here we work with women who wanna commit to one day a week after school. In San Francisco it’s Mondays from 4 - 7:15, and they get paired one on one with a girl in 6th, 7th, or 8th grade. They work on rock climbing skills but also do curriculum around those curricular areas I mentioned: trust, leadership, social justice, and then they go rock climbing outdoors at the end of the semester. That’s pretty popular. There’s a mentor application on our website that people can go to and fill out. If they know of a [student] that they want to mentor they could sign up together; the girl applies and the mentor applies. That’s a great way to set up a semester long mentorship that’s really meaningful for a girl.

 

Let me tell you a couple more things. we have an ambassador’s circle, which is like a young board of directors for people in the workplace who want to advocate for us, and fundraise, and get involved. We meet every other month at the office and every other month we serve a social dinner. [They] can talk to Brice Lovell about getting involved with our Ambassador’s Circle; this is for people who are new to board service. Again, we’re always looking for corporate connections so if there’s somebody at a director level or above and is looking to get involved with the community I would be happy to talk to people about potential board service, men and women.

 

Wendy:

 

How did you get involved with GirlVentures?

 

Taara:

 

I started out in journalism and then I moved into high tech marketing and public relations and then I worked for WIRED Magazine for a little while and then I did a 180 and ended up becoming the executive director of Coastside Children’s Programs in Half Moon Bay, where I used to live. My only daughter was in preschool at the time. Then I had my second daughter, took a year off, and moved to Bernal Heights here in San Francisco and through the Center for Volunteer Non-profit Leadership, CVNL, it’s an executive transition firm, found GiirlVentures. My daughter ended up going to Project Courage when she was going to 7th grade. I was on the First 5 San Mateo County Commission and now I serve on the board of Children’s Council, so I’ve always been involved, at least for the last decade, in the non-profit, management, and child development world.

 

Photo courtesy of GirlVentures

 

••• ALSO IN THE JULY-AUGUST 2015 ISSUE •••

 

TV, Movie Filming Rises in San Francisco

 

 

It’s been awhile since Vertigo showed us city sights and Bullitt created the most loveable, albeit geographically impossible, chase scene. This doesn’t mean that San Francisco is not still host to a number of locally shot films and television shows. Some of these films are huge productions, like San Andreas and Terminator Genisys while others like the television program Looking operate on smaller budgets, although enjoy large media visibility.

 

The SF Film Commission is the go-to for these kinds of things and they let us know a bit about how films get made in the city.

 

First off, it depends on what kind of film you’re making and what kind of budget you’re working with. The streets are public space and permits must be acquired for all shooting that takes place outside of private spaces.

 

The permits range in price depending on what kind of shoot it is. If you’re shooting television or film, it will be in the highest tier at $300 for each day of shooting. If you’re planning on making a film in the city on a tight budget, it’s best to plan a tight schedule. For certain shoestring budgets, negotiation is possible.

 

And then there are incumbent costs for shutting down a street or having policemen handy to protect the shoot and the neighborhood at large.

 

Some of the most vied for locations in the city, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, require their own permits, which can have a four day turnaround, but sometimes negotiations between the Film Commission and filmmakers take weeks.

 

These rules and regulations are pretty standard for filming but some detractors are decrying difficulty or high prices for the supposed lack of films being shot in San Francisco. Some even blame the city for Looking’s demise.

 

Unfortunately, this show that featured the Castro neighborhood was not cancelled because of monetary forces but simply a lack of viewership.

 

Some critics have berated the show for being too overtly San Francisco, and thus unrelatable to citizens of other cities.

 

It is hard for San Franciscans to understand this problem as we love to see our town on screen. There is nothing like playing “Guess the Street Corner” with friends or recognizing that you live near a filmed sequence. We’re famous!

 

And perhaps this doubt of the city is only based in just that: a doubt. The city has been host to shoots for another popular HBO series, Silicon Valley and Universal Pictures’ Steve Jobs just wrapped 44 days of shooting.

 

The city’s current tech bubble and proof as a center for gay culture is proving to be interesting fodder not just for news media but for popular film media as well. Even Looking will be back to film their anticipated movie wrap-up.

 

The Film Commission, despite the costs and the number of days it takes to have your permit approved, really does love films, television and other photographic arts in our city. Aside from our being a great landscape (the hills, the ocean, the Victorians) that we love to show off, putting our culture and our citizens in the limelight is always a great way to increase tourism. And let’s not forget the boost the local economy which comes from hiring local workers, extras and even actors film crews.

 

Any thoughts of less filming have been debunked by Executive Director of the SF Film Commission, Susannah Robbins, who says that filming is up in SF 7 percent since the last fiscal year and 44 percent since the 2010-11 season.

 

While many of these shots are commercial (fancy cars on big hills), and may not get as much press coverage, they do indeed create an economy and jobs for the workers and artists in the city.

 

Be prepared for some indie flicks, commercials, and probably some satire-esque web series heading to your screens, but first your streets in the coming months. We may not be Los Angeles, but everyone knows it’s better to be a little under the radar.

••• ALSO IN THE JULY-AUGUST 2015 ISSUE •••

 

The Curator on Castro Street

 

 

Audio-visual editor Kevin McLaughlin has digitized images and video from the new and old Castro in the Cove Cafe to create an experience that brings the area’s history to the screen.

 

 

 

 

Kevin McLaughlin got his start as the informal editor and screener - these days we would call him a curator - of photos and video clips of people and life in the Castro about 15 years ago. With his most recent job at an audio-visual company in Los Altos, he certainly had the technical skills to handle the challenge and years of experience in a variety of jobs and professions.

 

How he landed at The Cove on Castro was the way many regulars do, finding it their daily dining room and social club. What is special about the Castro is that it is home to a number of welcoming communities and is a natural gathering place for friends and acquaintances.

 

On the walls were original photos in frames of probably 80 percent of the regular customers over the years. Seeing this rich trove of Castro lore and history, Kevin scanned the photos and set up three commercial Panasonic screens that played DVDs on walls in the restaurant. Meanwhile, at this time the AIDS plague was at its height, says Kevin, and people kept dying. It was very depressing, especially seeing the pictures on the screens of friends who had passed.

 

The screens used 20 low compression DVDs, and generally the DVD collection was in bad shape. In their rush to serve customers, the waiters got an occasional splash of syrup on the DVDs. So Kevin and his volunteer crew rolled up their sleeves and washed and polished the DVDs, using a commercial grade polish.

 

Now he uses digital media players and each screen can handle 38 different shows, each up to 18 minutes long. Once the earliest waiter showing up had to turn on the 3 TVs in the morning. Now there is no handling of disks, and the three screens are on continuously.

 

The original content came from the old wall photos. The “old guard” liked it because they could see and recognize themselves on the screens and even their friends who had passed on. It’s a truism that people like to see themselves, so there have been screenings of local Bears, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and anything to promote Castro life and events, including programs with historic shots of the Castro and even a show of local pets somewhere in the collection.

 

His main focus in programming the screens is to represent the community. So far as he knows there’s nothing else like this in the country. From the beginning, Kevin mixed the old wall photos with some comedies and even with photos and videos of Castro events, such as the Bare Chest Calendar Boys who posed for the Bare Chest Calendar contest.

 

He is also arranging for new videos such as segments from the various gay pride events around the country taking place this summer. He expects to include these Pride celebrations in programs later this season.

 

Solange Darwish, the long-time owner and manager of The Cove on Castro, is in Kevin’s words a very generous person with no limits on what he can program, trusting him to select material that is the best, the most interesting and most representative of the Castro community.

 

He makes special mention that, though it is her business, Solange refuses to censor program content. If a diner is offended by what is showing on the screens, it is usually a visitor to San Francisco or the Castro. Kevin has seen Solange, once she is aware of the complaint, go up to the offended person, apologize for making him or her uncomfortable, offer to refund in full what they paid for their meal, and suggest other restaurants in the neighborhood that might be more to their liking.

 

This attitude of openness and generosity is shared by Kevin as well in the extensive archive he has collected over the years. One-third to one-quarter of the content is specifically gay-oriented, covering everything from the obituaries of the well known to celebrations of gay marriage and fast-moving developments on the contemporary scene. Kevin accepts donations of stills, video clips, U-Tube productions, and other material from a variety of sources, including some relevant commercial productions.

 

In addition to accepting new content, if a viewer or customer would like to see specific material of general community interest, they should contact Kevin at kevinjhn@aol.com.

 

Photos: Bill Sywak

 

••• ALSO IN THE JULY-AUGUST 2015 ISSUE •••

 

Ending Scouting Discrimination

 

Organization contradicts new inclusiveness

 

 

On May 21 former Defense Secretary and Eagle Scout Robert Gates was elected President of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). In his acceptance speech at the organization’s 2015 national conference in Atlanta, Gates announced that he supported the full inclusion of gay adults as scout leaders and called for an end to BSA’s national ban on gay adult leaders.

 

“We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be,” he said. “The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained.”

 

In the words of Zach Wahls, executive director of Scouts for Equality, a scout alumni organization dedicated to ending the national ban on gay members and leaders, “This is another step forward for the Boy Scouts of America . . . Americans are no longer willing to tolerate discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

 

Just two years earlier in 2013, the Boy Scouts of America had finally begun to allow membership as scouts to openly gay youth. Yet remaining in the BSA website was this statement: “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”

 

Gates saved his comments on membership for near the end of the meeting’s agenda. He cited “urgent challenges” which he had not foreseen and which the BSA could not ignore. Specifically, he said “more and more councils [are] taking a position in their mission statements and public documents contrary to national policy. Nor can we ignore the social, political, and juridical changes taking place in our country,” he said. That’s where he inserted his oft quoted “we must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be.”

 

What course of action did Gates recommend, though? The BSA has the authority to revoke the charters of non-conforming councils, but Gates asserted “I will not take that path.” Instead, we can “seize control of our own future” by allowing “unit sponsoring organizations,” 70 percent of whom are churches, “to determine the standards for their scout leaders.” To this he added the conservative reassurance that “we must, at all costs, preserve the religious freedom of our church partners to do this.” In other words, in meeting the major changes in a world characterized by change, nothing significant was going to change.

 

Eagle Scout Timothy Curran’s Male Date

 

As the Los Angeles Times reported in 1990, “Timothy Curran was 17 when the Boy Scouts awarded him its highest honor—the Eagle Scout badge.”

 

“On that spring night in 1980, family and friends sat in a Berkeley church proudly listening as [Timothy] was held up as an exemplary scout, possessing the character and leadership qualities coveted by scouts everywhere.” Months later, however, he was summoned to a meeting at the Boy Scouts’ Mount Diablo Council office in Walnut Creek. It was there that he was told that he could not continue in scouting because officials had learned he had taken a male date to the senior prom at Berkeley High.

 

The senior prom was a non-scouting activity but it had occurred within the Council’s geographic territory, whereupon Council Executive Director Quentin Alexander informed him that “homosexuality and Boy Scouting are not compatible.”

 

Nearly a decade later Curran filed suit to rejoin the scouts as an adult leader. By then he was a 28-year-old freelance journalist who had moved to Los Angeles to attend college. He was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

 

The Los Angeles Times commented in 1990 that “Timothy Curran’s suit against the Boy Scouts for denying him the opportunity to serve as a scout leader is a prime example of the pernicious discrimination lesbians and gays suffer daily. The leadership of Mount Diablo’s Boy Scouts has proved itself to be bigoted against Curran, by basing its assessment of his suitability to lead on a vicious stereotype rather than on his spotless record of achievement. The big lie here is that gay men seduce young boys. It is a stereotype well-known to legitimate sex researchers to be completely baseless.”

 

An observer present at the time corroborated this assessment, characterizing the Mount Diablo BSA response as mean spirited and based on the faulty belief that a gay person was inherently a child molester.

 

The Bay Area Champions Nondiscrimination

 

Around the time that the Curran case went to trial in Los Angeles, the United Way of the Bay Area had begun to look at the policies of the local Boy Scout councils for which United Way provided funding. As a rough measure, in 1996 the Boy Scouts of America overall received nearly $84 million from 1,400 United Way organizations.

 

Before the trial began, United Way of the Bay Area (UWBA) had adopted a nondiscrimination policy which prohibited grant recipients from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation when providing services. When it was determined that a council was adhering to BSA’s discriminatory policies, the San Francisco United Way would engage in a dialogue with that council to determine the process for changing those policies or face the loss of its funding. In effect, United Way of the Bay Area took the lead in challenging BSA’s policies.

 

The BSA Reaction

 

According to a story in United Press International at the time, facing the possible loss of up to $1 million in funding, Boy Scouts of America leaders “refused to budge . . . on the organization’s hard-line stand forbidding homosexuals from participating in the youth group.” Buford Hill, BSA’s western regional director, said they “were not going to be intimidated into change by the threat of a loss of funds from the Bay Area United Way.” Scouting would have to walk away from “the solid values upon which the BSA has been built,” and “we will not allow that to happen. Our values and principles are not up for negotiation.”

 

The Business Community’s Reaction

 

Although this was the era when the San Francisco council was economically conservative and represented a lot of Bay Area companies, the decision to withhold funds from service provider agencies that would not sign a nondiscrimination clause was supported by the major San Francisco employers: Levi Strauss, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, PacBell, AT&T, the San Francisco Chronicle and others. Through all this, however, it was not an issue of the LGBT community pushing for justice, but the Bay Area community as a whole saying this policy of discrimination is just not right.

 

The United Way Boy Scout Task Force

 

From September 1991 through January 1992 a broad-based group of volunteers met at United Way every two weeks to clarify issues and develop a policy on nondiscrimination. The 24-member task force included representatives from the San Francisco Boy Scout Council, the United Way board of directors, labor, gays, youth, religious and people from the public and private sectors.

 

The result was a document with six major conclusions. Following the prevailing policies of non-discriminating organizations like the Girl Scouts and Big Brothers-Big Sisters, sexual orientation was viewed as a personal and family matter. This was in contrast to the BSA Texas model where sexual orientation was seen as a screening device. It is worth noting that none of these organizations tolerated misbehaving or abusive relationships.

 

The Bay Area Council’s new policy, in the words of Steve Barnes, its new CEO, did not bar membership for simply being homosexual, but it forbade scout officials from investigating a member’s or leader’s sexual orientation. According to the policy, “We allow youth to live as children and enjoy scouting and its diversity without immersing them in the politics of the day.” Barnes went on, “Sexuality is an adult issue. We don’t think kids should be part of that. Most of these kids are Cub Scouts, aged 8 to 11, and there’s nothing appropriate about anybody having a discussion with an 8- or 11-year old about sexuality.”

 

The focus of the report was on services to youth, with emphasis on those in greatest need. The Task Force was clear that “in a multi-cultural society, The United Way must continue to respond to all of our citizens in a nondiscriminatory manner” and that all funded agencies must join in that effort. It was recognized that not everyone sees the world from the perspective of the diverse Bay Area, and national BSA would take time to change. Plans were immediately made to work with the individual scout councils to implement the new policy.

 

Funding Withheld and the Expected Firestorm

 

The United Way cut off nearly $500,000 in annual funding to Bay Area councils in 1992 because of the Scouts’ anti-gay policies. Ultimately $2 million was lost for Bay Area scouts but $1 million of new money came in. Around the same time, Scouting For All, a nonprofit activist education and advocacy group, published the names of 54 individual United Ways nationwide that withdrew their funding from the BSA.

 

According to CEO Ruppanner, the reaction was mixed. United Way of the Bay Area received literally thousands of angry phone calls with especially virulent reactions from right wing radio. The UWBA team even received death threats yet hung together, creating a special “boiler room” and bringing in police to safeguard their offices.

 

On the other side, there were hundreds of positive phone calls as well. However, most other United Ways did not support the San Franciscans’ action because they feared losing funds upon which they normally depended. And with UWBA leading on this issue, support from national United Way was “not helpful” as well.

 

According to Ruppanner, the UWBA executive director at the time, the negative reaction was “awful, uninformed and mean spirited.” BSA headquarters in Texas even conducted an inflammatory press conference to the horror of progressive scouts in the Bay Area.

 

Counter Organizations - the “Forgotten Ones,” Scouts for Equality, Scouting for All

 

Dragging on as it did over nearly a quarter century, a number of counter organizations developed. We have already mentioned “Scouts for Equality,” a scout alumni organization dedicated to ending the BSA’s ban on gay members and leaders. Besides affirming that “as Scouts, we believe discrimination goes against the values our movement teaches us and has no place in Scouting’s future,” their material cited one Jonathan Groff, a 22-year-old actor and singer who had won a Tony Award for his work in the Broadway musical, Spring Awakening. “Jonathan is not qualified to teach the music merit badge,” said the organization, “because he is gay.” Other groups included an early one called somewhat touchingly The Forgotten Ones and another called Scouting for All.

 

2000 and the Supreme Court is Unmoved

 

James Dale was a student at Rutgers University and co-president of the Lesbian/Gay Student Alliance. In July 1990 he attended a seminar on the health needs of lesbian and gay teenagers and was interviewed by a local newspaper and stated he was gay. BSA officials read the interview and expelled Dale, an Eagle Scout, from his position as assistant scoutmaster of a New Jersey troop. Dale filed suit in the New Jersey Superior Court, which ruled against the Boy Scouts, who then appealed to the United States Supreme Court. On June 28, 2000, the Supreme Court reversed the Jersey court and decided 5-4 for the Boy Scouts.

 

With Chief Justice William Rehnquist crafting the majority opinion, the dissenting opinion was written by Justice Stevens, joined by Justices Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer. Stevens wrote, “it is plain as the light of day that neither one of these [scout] principles—‘morally straight’ and ‘clean’—says the slightest thing about homosexuality.”

 

In the dissenting opinion, there is guidance given by BSA to scoutmasters to direct “curious adolescents” to their family, ministers, doctors and the like. In addition, BSA offered these specific guidelines: (1) Do not advise scouts about sexual matters because it is outside the expertise and comfort level of most scoutmasters; (2) If a scout brings specific questions to his scoutmaster, the scoutmaster should answer within his comfort level, remembering that a “boy who appears to be asking about sexual intercourse . . . may really only be worried about pimples.” And finally, (3) Boys with “sexual problems” should be referred to “an appropriate professional.”

 

The Last Word

 

Despite Gates’ declaration of a new policy direction for adult scout leaders, Dale’s rejection by the Supreme Court, and the continuous and current roster of long-time Eagle Scouts whose involvement was abruptly terminated when it was known that they were gay (James Dale in New Jersey, Geoffrey McGrath in Seattle, Brian Peffly in Ohio, and Pascal Tessier in New York are examples), in the face of all this we are left with these words by James Dale:

 

Looking back it’s been pretty phenomenal what’s happened. We have won in the court of public opinion and we continue to win when we tell our own stories. I don’t know if it’s any one story. I think it’s probably the voice of all our stories coming together.

 

When people see the damage that this is doing and the friction it’s creating in families and communities, I think that both America and the media will understand what justice is.

 

People need to come and stand up for their rights and the rights of other people, because each of us is empowered to make positive change. I think change only happens when you share your story and share your voice. Let that be heard. Instead of accepting any type of discrimination, make change for the positive.

 

 

 

© Castro Courier 2014

The main police incident came Saturday night at Civic Center when several groups of men got into an argument, leading one of the suspects to allegedly pull a gun and fire several shots. A 64-year-old man was shot in the arm and taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where he was listed in stable condition. Police seized four handguns at Saturday’s Civic Center celebration.

 

 

••• ALSO IN THE JULY-AUGUST 2015 ISSUE •••

 

Nation’s First LGBT Adult Shelter Opens Its Doors

 

The nation’s first LGBT homeless shelter for adults officially has officially opened in the Mission.

 

Dubbed Jazzie’s Place, the shelter has 24 beds, divided into three sections for those who identify as female, those who identify as male and those who don’t identify as either. Jazzie’s place will provide education in life skills ranging from laundry to finding a job to knowing what is necessary to survive.

 

A need for such a shelter has been documented in the city as the SF Human Services Agency gathered sexual orientation homeless data for the first time in 2013, which revealed that 29 percent of respondents identified themselves as LGBTQ.

 

The five-year process of creating the shelter started with a phone call by activist and SF Housing Rights Committee member Tommi Avicolli Mecca to his long time co-conspirator and friend Brian Basinger, executive director of AIDS Housing Alliance. This shelter has been a long time coming, according to Mecca, who headed the creation of several temporary LGBT youth shelters in the Castro in the 1990’s, after the first dotcom boom left many teens in the community without a place to sleep.

 

Brian Basinger at opening of Jazzie's PlaceBasinger was a core part of the sit-down supper program known as Simply Supper. When the church that housed them changed hands, they were left without a location. They stumbled upon the space at 1050 South Van Ness Ave. between 21st and 22nd streets, and it being much bigger than what they needed to have a dinner, the idea to start a shelter was born.

 

Supervisor David Campos spoke of the progressive and conscious attitude that prevails in the neighborhood when he said that the common response he gets from the community about building a shelter is no, “but in this case the answer was absolutely yes, they are welcome.”

 

Mayor Ed Lee declared the opening day of June 17th to be Jazzie’s Place Day in San Francisco and the SF Lesbian Gay Freedom Band played “If you could see me now,” the same song they played at the city’s inaugural Pride Parade in 1978.

 

Former California Assemblymember and LGBT activist Tom Ammiano captured the message the shelter is sending to the community. He characterized NIMBYs and the people who stigmatize mental health and criminalize poverty as those who have not yet “internalized the issue.”

 

Sadaisha Shimmers, a trans youth in Oregon who was kicked out of her house at 10 years old, said speaking through her own perssonal experience, “We see broken people and it is easier not to look at them because we have to look at ourselves and how we have created this.”

 

The name comes from Jazzie Collins, a transgender African American woman and LGBT homeless activist who helped conceive of the shelter and passed away in 2013.

 

Gabriel Haaland, a close friend of Jazzie, told of her power being “in real talk” and how “she brought strength to every thing she did.” He then pointed to the mosaic on the wall behind the speakers, a butterfly with its multicolored wings spread against a blue backdrop and spoke about how Jazzie’s spirit lives on through the creation of the shelter and continues her mission to improve the situations of homeless people in the LGBT community.

 

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