Chiu’s In-Law Unit Legalization Bill Spurs Response


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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Showing Spirit

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


Ousting tenants made costlier by City



The California Legislature is considering a bill to close loopholes in the Ellis Act. S.B. 1439, authored by State Senator Mark Leno, which would require a five-year moratorium on Ellis Act evictions to prevent speculator-driven activity that has affected San Francisco.


The bill passed the State Senate by a 21 to 13 vote on May 29, with a commitment from the senator to work on amendments. Those amendments will address the difference between small family property holdings and holdings by businesses “that are abusing the intent of the Ellis Act,” a press release from the senator’s office says. This summer, policy committees in the California Assembly will take up the bill.


“Mark Leno’s bill to require someone to own a place for five years before reselling it begins to attack the problem of speculation,” said Tommi Avicolli-Mecca, a San Francisco housing advocate with the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco. “Hopefully, it will pass and have some effect before it’s too late.”


On his .gov website, Leno cites the results of a study by a San Francisco-based group, Tenants Together, to underpin the importance of passing S.B. 1439.


The report is the product of a collaboration between Tenants Together and the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. A San Francisco based group, the Mapping Project, has led efforts to create visualizations of evictions in San Francisco.


In addition to assisting with research and data analysis, the Mapping Project created a unique online portal for the report that includes interactive visualizations. Titled “The Speculator Loophole: Ellis Act Evictions in San Francisco,” the report is available online at


The timeline of evictions reveals the dominance of speculators in the market. Data show that 51 percent of the Ellis Act evictions are done by owners within the first year of their ownership, and 78 percent by owners within their first five years of ownership.


“This data underscores the importance of passing Senator Leno’s legislation,” said San Francisco’s District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener.


Ellis Act Evictions Get More Expensive


You’ve lived in the same apartment for 15 years, your rent is low, your landlord is cool and the neighborhood is on the up and up. Then suddenly, poof, the building is sold to a group of owners with a business name and the next thing you know there’s an Ellis Act eviction notice on your door.


Sound familiar? While the familiarity of this predicament has become almost pedestrian in San Francisco’s most gentrified neighborhoods, the cost of doing business in such a fashion has recently risen.


But the process became more expensive for landlords in the city looking to oust longtime tenants. The Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 on April 8 to force landlords invoking the Ellis Act to effectively boost compensation to longtime tenants on rent control.


If a landlord uses the Ellis Act, the evicted tenant will receive the greater of two payments from the landlord. Either, the tenant will get the City’s existing rent relocation payment, “or the difference between the tenant’s current rent and the prevailing rent for a comparable apartment in San Francisco over a two year period,” the law says.


landlords can obtain a different payment obligation, however. If they can show the prescribed obligation would cause “undue financial hardship” or if they can show that the City’s calculation doesn’t reflect the market rate for a comparable unit, the landlord’s payment can be changed.


“We must keep people stable in their housing during this time of explosive housing prices,” said Wiener, who voted for a law to up the payouts. “If people do lose their housing, we need to give them a fighting chance to stay in our community.”


“I think the new law is good because it gives displaced tenants a better chance to stay in the city,” Mecca said. “The previous amount was outdated, given the city’s high rents, the highest in the country – and rising all the time. What could one do with $5,200? Even with the household maximum of $15,795, it’s not possible to relocate, considering that it’s going to cost more to put down first, last month and security deposit on a new place.”


How much will it help? “Time will tell,” Mecca said. “I wish it were higher, but I understand that the City attorney’s office thought the law was more defensible at this level of relocation.


“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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Myriad companies set up shop in area



Although spring is now turning gradually into summer, there are still new beginnings in store for the Castro neighborhood as it prepares to welcome a collection of new businesses in the coming months.


These stores range greatly in variety. Some of them teeter dangerously close to, or surpass, the cut-off for San Francisco laws towards formula retail chains (11 national locations). Others are completely locally owned, some even so by neighborhood business owners.


It is easy to consider the issues inherent in this influx of new businesses, especially in such a discerning neighborhood as the Castro. Stores like See’s Candy have been allowed despite the aforementioned rules on franchises in the city. See’s, which is based in South San Francisco, will be opening in the old space of Wolf Camera and must abide under the jurisdiction of the franchise law and take out permits from the Planning Commission. Its introduction to the upper Market region might bring into consideration new laws regarding the number of franchises within a 20 foot radius, mostly in regards to this addition right next to large chain store Jamba Juice and chain grocery Safeway.


The See’s location, however, has not appeared to be heavily challenged, but another addition has, in fact, been facing an uphill battle towards joining in the food race along the Castro corridor near 18th Street.


Hamburger Mary’s is attempting to open up a new location at 531 Castro St. in order to bring this burger joint, originally started on Folsom Street in the 70s, back to the gay community. However, since it left the SOMA decades ago, Mary’s has gone on to become what the City, again, determines a chain: more than 11 locations nationwide. Mary’s even has one location in Berlin! That being said, certain parties argue that this not a ‘formula’ retail, while others might consider this to be a simple case of rules are rules, as Mary’s attempts to forgo certain policies due to its purported nature of being “intrinsically San Franciscan.” Time will tell how this opening goes as multiple business owner Les Natali pushes forward with his plans to open.


Other entries to the ‘hood are being warmly welcomed to the bright assortment of the retail, food and drink offerings.


Project 22, which will open at 2200 Market St., is the brainchild of previous Castro neighborhood bar owners of Blackbird in the Duboce Triangle. Their new plans are to make Project 22 a video game and arcade bar, paired with a chic and sleek interior design, which has seen some excitement from neighbors, especially those looking to brush up on their nostalgia and their video game skills with machines like Mrs. Pac Man, Mortal Kombat, and more. Hopefully in the next 4 to 6 months you’ll be twiddling joysticks at the bottom floor of the Century Building.


With these planned openings, as well as other upcoming additions like S16, a home decor retail outlet, and a CVS Pharmacy, one might have to question: why now? Perhaps it is the temptation of increased business once the Castro streetscape is completed. Perhaps it is just the natural tide of businesses turning over in a newly refreshed economy. Regardless of the reason, it appears as though locals have been contributing thoughtful consideration to the change in the area.


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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Cheer SF Takes Spirit to the Superlative



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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Chiu’s In-Law Unit Legalization Bill Spurs Response

Ousting tenants made costlier by City

Myriad companies set up shop in area

Cheer SF Takes Spirit to the Superlative

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