San Francisco residents’ interest in secondary housing units or in-law units has begun. “We had about a dozen calls last week” about in-law units, said William Strawn, spokesperson, San Francisco Department of Building Inspection. Strawn said the inquiries were related to the legislation sponsored by District 3 Supervisor David Chiu.
Chiu’s legislation, which Mayor Ed Lee signed April 17, 2014, provides a citywide “process for granting legal status to existing dwelling units constructed without the required permits,” according to the ordinance. The purpose of Chiu’s work is to create more affordable housing in the City. In-law units are typically smaller and typically rent for less than standard apartments.
The same day, Mayor Lee signed similar legislation that allows for in-law units to be built in the Castro neighborhood. That law was sponsored by District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener. Both laws contain restrictions. But both have the same purpose, which is to alleviate the housing crisis in San Francisco.
“Addressing our housing affordability crisis requires a wide range of solutions, including efforts to expand new housing opportunities,” wrote Wiener in his May 2014 newsletter. The Castro-specific law allows property owners to “add one or two units (depending on the size of the building) in order to increase the neighborhood’s housing supply,” the newsletter says.
A big boost for low-income tenants, the law will allow for the creation of new rent-controlled units in San Francisco. The supervisor said it’s been more than 30 years since the City created more rent-controlled apartments.
Affordable housing in the Castro is particularly important, since the neighborhood is home to many suffering from AIDS and HIV infection. In the city recently, speculators have been buying properties and evicting tenants with the Ellis Act. At the same time, rents have been rising rapidly. Both situations put low-income tenants at risk of losing their housing.
According to Strawn, Chiu’s legislation will require the Department of Building Inspection and the Planning Department to work together to allow for the changes. And one or both of the departments will be reporting the results of its work to the Board of Supervisors in late August or early September.
“I think it’s too soon to know,” said Alan Beach-Nelson, when asked whether the new law has had any effect in the Castro. Beach-Nelson is the president of the Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association. Because people will need designs and permits, among other things, he said it may be a year before there’s enough data to know.
Chiu’s legislation affects units citywide, while Wiener’s legislation is specific to the Castro, with some limitations. In one of his recent newsletters, Chiu points out that the City has an estimated 40,000 in-law units that were constructed without proper permits. A recent survey showed these units house many immigrants, seniors, low-income residents and working families.
“It’s important that we address the current housing affordability crisis by looking at preserving existing affordable housing and protecting our tenants in addition to developing new housing,” the newsletter says. By legalizing in-law units, we can make sure that we do not lose this vital source of affordable housing.”
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International Issues at Heart of 44th SF Pride
This year marks the 44th anniversary of the San Francisco Pride Celebration and Parade. The world renowned event will be held over the weekend of June 28 and 29, 2014. With over 200 parade contingents, 300 exhibitors, and more than 20 stages and venues, the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration and Parade is the largest in the nation. The theme this year is “Color Our World with Pride.”
With the recent achievements across the U.S. including 19 states now allowing gay marriage, the fight for gay rights is shifting its focus overseas. The gay rights movement has recently had a positive impact in other countries. Just last month, the president of Costa Rica raised the gay pride flag at the presidential palace to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The Republic of Cyprus is also set to hold its first gay pride festival this month.
But according to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, an estimated 76 countries outlaw homosexuality, often with long prison terms. Six countries, and parts of several others, impose the death penalty.
“The idea behind this year’s theme is to bring attention to international issues affecting the LGBT community,” said Gary Virginia, president of the SF Pride Committee.
Virginia was proud to announce Scott Lively as the recipient of the 2014 Pink Brick. The Pink Brick is a symbol of the first brick hurled at the Stonewall Riots in 1969. This faux award is an opportunity to highlight an individual or organization that has done significant harm to the LGBT community. Lively is an anti-gay U.S. pastor accused of engineering The Ugandan ‘Kill The Gays’ bill. He allegedly said LGBT people are the ‘new Nazis’ and recommended Russia’s ‘gay propaganda’ laws. Lively beat Vladimir Putin and Goodluck Jonathan for this year’s Pink Brick with 36 percent of the votes from the community poll.
According to Virginia, another important focus is to elevate advocacy for the transgender community, which is often the most discriminated upon.
San Francisco Pride’s Grand Marshals are people who have made significant contributions to the LGBT community over the past year. The Celebrity Grand Marshals for this year include Janet Mock, a transgender woman, activist, author and former People magazine editor, Executive Director of the Transgender GenderVariant Intersex Justice Project, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, and high school survivor of bullying and abuse, Jewlyes Guitierrez. Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) is this year’s honorary Grand Marshal for the 2014 Celebration and Parade. Manning’s official representative will be trans-rights activist Lauren McNamara.
Virginia, who was a Community Grand Marshal in 2012, was elected to the Board last September. After the 2013 SF Pride Board’s controversial decision to revoke Manning’s status as Grand Marshal fueled an international controversy and created intense strife within the local LGBT and progressive communities, Virginia said that the Board Members had a mandate to elect people who were more democratic, accountable and transparent to design a new agenda for Pride. He was elected to be President that same night.
“It turns out that I was the best person for the job,” Virginia smiled. “ Now, I feel like I am volunteering full-time cleaning up the problems from the past and developing long-term strategic planning by diversifying where our funding is coming from and including more than just corporate sponsors.”
Without the corporate sponsors that contribute a whopping $750,000 to the event, SF Pride would not be able to operate on such a grand scale. The biggest contributors include Bud Light, Virgin America, Smirnoff, Xfinity and Kaiser Permanente. Hard Rock Café is a new sponsor this year. The restaurant chain will be manufacturing SF Pride tank-tops and hats specifically for the event.
The number of attendees at Pride this year is estimated at 1.5 million. More people means more money. The $ 2 million budget covers everything from the barricades, the toilets, the permits, the lease for the location. To give an idea of how expensive things are, the permit for the raising the flags alone on Market Street costs $18,000.
Over the past years, donations at the entrances to the event have gone down a great deal. This year, they are asking for minimum donation of $5. Donations from the celebration have helped San Francisco Pride to give back nearly $2.3 million in grants since 1997.
The celebration officially starts at noon on Pride Saturday, June 28, at Civic Center. The Main Stage is the largest stage at the SF Pride Celebration and is located in Civic Center Plaza next to City Hall. The Pride Parade kicks off at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 29, at Market and Beale streets and ends at Market and 8th streets in downtown San Francisco. On Pride Sunday, June 29, SF Pride offers exciting, up-and-coming cutting-edge talent, world-renowned performers, and the best of local entertainment from the Bay Area. The festivities run until 6 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
Remember: no glass or outside alcohol is allowed at SF Pride.
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State Senate Passes Leno Bill To Curb Ellis Act Eviction Epidemic
“I always think we should push the envelope as far as we can and see what happens. The more money, the better cushion people have. The reality is that for the speculators and investors doing the evictions and threats of evictions, this is part of the cost of doing business. Considering the profits they make, they can absorb it easily,” Mecca said. “The most important thing, I think, is to stop the speculators and the investors from continuing to evict or harass or buy out people.”
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But there is still time to help affect these changes before they occur. Check in with Planning Commission meetings to have your voice heard, and, as always, support your favorite local businesses when they open their doors. Because, if nothing else, this wave of new additions can only underscore the current value of the Castro neighborhood.
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Whether they’re at the annual Giants’ Until There’s a Cure game, at a local public school, or at the Gay Games, Cheer San Francisco brings with them their great spirit, fun, dedication, generosity, and spectacular cheerleading. The all-volunteer organization has been entertaining and contributing to the community locally and internationally since 1980. I spoke with Nguyen “Win” Pham, director of communications at Cheer SF, who began as a cheerleader with the group in 2002.
June’s here, Pride month, and of course Cheer SF will be performing this year not only at San Francisco’s Pride parade, but at Pride events all around the state.
In fact we start this coming Sunday, June 1st, in Santa Cruz for their annual Pride celebration, followed by Sacramento Pride in our state capital two weeks later. At the end of the month is the 44th annual San Francisco Pride celebration which is our two day event; we perform both Saturday at the festival, and Sunday at the parade and the festival. It’s probably the most exciting weekend of our year. As you probably know, the parade route is home to roughly one million plus spectators, our largest audience. It’s just a wonderfully empowering and vibrant way for us to spread our message of volunteerism and philanthropy, and also athleticism.
Which you do at many other locales, including the Castro.
One of our favorite performances is the annual Castro Street Fair, which is very near and dear to our hearts, because it was founded by Harvey Milk so many years ago. It’s a prelude to the fall and as we go into the winter months, it’s our final hurrah of our performance and fundraising season.
Even though, as you say, it’s your last hurrah before the holidays, as an organization you have events year-round.
That’s absolutely correct. The funny thing is we give our volunteers two months off from our weekly practices - one month during July and one month during December, but even during those breaks we still might have a weekend appearance or a fundraiser or a performance. For those one-off performances we’ll have a special practice, other than a regularly scheduled practice. Very much like a cheerleading program at a scholastic institution, there is no off season. Cheerleading is a year-round sport and Cheer SF is a year-round philanthropic organization.
Right, because you’re a 501c3 non-profit and you have quite a lot of beneficiaries, not just in and around San Francisco, but even internationally.
That’s correct. Our purpose is not only to raise awareness of certain [groups], but to raise money for them, absolutely. This is why we were founded in 1980 as the world’s first LGBT-identified charitable cheerleading group. We wanted a way to give back to our community. It was especially relevant during the ‘80s [with] the AIDS crisis. We wanted to inject that spirit and energy into our communities that were suffering. So wherever we go, and we do get hired to perform internationally, we try to keep the funds that we raise local. For example, four years ago when we went to Gay Games in Cologne, Germany, we were able to raise 12,000 euros, which is roughly 16,000 dollars, in cash for the Gay Games Foundation which provides scholarships, as well as [donate to] a local AIDS services organization in Cologne.
And you’ve done all eight of the Gay Games thus far. Isn’t there another one coming up soon?
Yes. we are the only cheerleading team to have appeared at every single Gay Games in history; we’re very proud of that. The next one that’s coming up is this coming August in Cleveland - Akron, Ohio - Gay Games 9. What’s very interesting is that four years ago the Gay Games was revolutionary and visionary enough to finally have a cheerleading competition, to recognize and legitimize the athletic component of cheerleading, and the competitive aspect of it too. This coming Gay Games in Ohio will be the second cheerleading competition of Gay Games.
I understand that you have tryouts every July and that your cheerleaders span a pretty wide age range.
Pretty much. Around every July, give or take, is when we’ll have our tryout cycle, and our performers do range in age from 18 to, I think we’re up to age 55 now.
I imagine that if someone wants to tryout or volunteer in some other capacity, that they should visit your website.
Absolutely. We do have both performing and non-performing volunteer work, equally important, because although it might [be] attention grabbing and glamorous to be a performer, we would be nothing without our non-performing auxiliary volunteers that help us remain successful offstage as well.
Let’s talk about the history of Cheer San Francisco; I understand that it started with another name.
Sure. In 1981, I think it was a group of five guys, founded the Hayward Raw Rahs in response to the AIDS crisis, as a means of reenergizing and invigorating a very downtrodden community. They didn’t start [by] raising money; they didn’t want money. All they wanted to do was to perform and raise people’s spirits at gay sports events. They did that for about 10 years. They became the Bay Area Raw Rahs once their membership expanded, and around the mid ‘90’s is when they became Cheer San Francisco, still very much the same core principals, same core group of members. They were also exclusively male for most of their early history. They didn’t (bring on) their first woman until about 1997. That was a really good move because they could sort of emulate the scholastic cheerleading programs that had been emerging at that time, and gaining popularity. That also added to the commercial success of Cheer San Francisco. We became more notorious and better known; we started [getting] hired by corporations to, for example kick off their weekend sales conferences. People really responded well to us. We’re high energy, we’re always positive, and we carry that mission and a message. People just really liked that and obviously, all their donations to us were completely tax deductible. We just turned around and redonated all of our raised donations to the community.
How did you yourself come to be at Cheer SF?
This brings me back a little bit. When I was still in high school, I was a junior; I was about 15 years old; I had just founded my high school gay/straight alliance. This was in Campbell, California, at Westmont High School. One of our first community social events was to organize a group of our students to attend the San Jose Pride Festival. I’d never been. My advisor and some of my classmates went to the San Jose Pride Festival in June of 2000. It was a great experience. I saw Cheer SF perform on the parade route and in the festival. At the time I didn’t really care for cheerleading; I thought it was silly, but when I saw them perform and I heard them speak about their mission, I fell in love instantly. I just had to find out how I could become a part of this organization. Unfortunately, at the time and still to this day, we have a minimum age of 18, so I had to wait a couple of years before trying out. Two years later, once I had become of age in 2002, I packed up my Nike shoes and put on some shorts and a tee shirt, drove up to San Francisco by myself, attended a tryout weekend, and that summer I made the team. It’s been a wonderful experience ever since. I’m right now just about to wrap up my 12th year [with] Cheer San Francisco. I was attracted by the sport but I’ve stayed this long because of the mission.
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