• • •  June 2017 Issue • • •

Judge orders $2.7 million in penalties against area landlord


A Castro landlord dubbed a “sociopath” and “ruthless predator” by city leaders was ordered to pay $2.7 million in a judgment that ends a two-year legal battle, which has affected the lives of dozens of renters in the area.


City Attorney Dennis Herrera praised the final ruling and injunction issued May 23 in his lawsuit against landlord Anne Kihagi and her accomplices for illegally pushing out rent-controlled tenants to raise rents to market rate. The decision voids all impending evictions against her tenants and forces her to turn over all rental property in San Francisco to a city-managed entity.


The Castro Courier first reported on Kihagi in May of 2015, when more than 30 tenants across several apartment complexes in District 8 created a working group to compare stories and organize legal defenses against Kihagi, the principal of several limited liability corporations that control six buildings in the neighborhood.


After the city began investigating Kihagi — who has Kenyan roots and was raised in London but who has identified as African American — she unsuccessfully filed a federal lawsuit against the city for racial discrimination.


Then in June 2015, Herrera filed suit against Kihagi and her associates, citing a widespread pattern of unlawful business practices. Kihagi’s tactics included fraud, harassment, threats, intimidation, verbal abuse, interrupting gas, electric, water, cable and mail service, as well as failing to cash rent checks and claiming them as untimely rent payments.


She often sent harassing text messages and would show up unannounced with expletive-ridden confrontations, according to Herrera. Kihagi and her agents also backdated correspondence and notices, entered tenants’ apartments without notice, failed to abate unsafe conditions and even retaliated against tenants who complained to city inspectors by installing video surveillance cameras aimed at the residents’ front doors.


The people Kihagi targeted for eviction have also raised eyebrows: a 70-year-old woman Kihagi claimed was a drug dealer, a cancer patient and a family with a 6-year-old daughter.


Kihagi worked with her sisters to serve four owner move-in evictions in 18 months at three different properties despite having numerous vacant units open in her buildings.


The 163-page decision from San Francisco Superior Court Judge Angela Bradstreet ruled in favor of Herrera’s lawsuit on every count, voiding all evictions pending as of Jan. 12, 2017 and awarding $2.7 million in penalties, $1.1 million for building code violations alone. But in the end, Kihagi could end up paying closer to $4 million, as she must also reimburse the city’s legal and investigative costs.


Kihagi owns a number of apartment buildings in the Castro neighborhood, including 195 Eureka St., 3947 18th St., 4018-4022 19th St., 650 Church St., 75 Hill St., 1135-1139 Guerrero St. Kihagi started buying San Francisco properties in June 2013 in Noe Valley, the Castro, the Mission and North Beach, amassing at least 10 buildings in 18 months.


Kihagi worked for Credit Suisse and then Bear Stearns as a mortgage analyst prior to their failure in 2008 as part of the global financial crisis and recession, according to the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. She subsequently began buying rental properties around Los Angeles, focusing on rent-controlled areas.


Kihagi owns a number of buildings in Los Angeles and has also been sued by the city of West Hollywood for carrying out a similar campaign of illegal evictions there. In April, she was ordered to spend five days in jail after being held in contempt of court for violating the Ellis Act.


Kihagi also goes by the aliases Ann Kihagi, Ana Swain, Anna Swain, Ann K Swain and Anne Kihagi-Swain, and she has used 15 different limited-liability shell companies through which she has run her San Francisco rental properties.

• • •  Also in the June 2017 Issue • • •

Boys Club?

Are women and lesbians represented enough throughout the Castro’s plaques? Above, the names of Carole Migden and Rikki Streicher are in local public view, but the numbers still favor the men when counting plaques in the Castro. Photo: Michael Petrelis


Lesbians underrepresented in Castro memorials

An informal survey conducted in time for LGBT Pride Month by the Castro Courier of memorial plaques or named public spaces in the Castro business district shows a higher number for gay men than for lesbians or bisexual women.


There are an estimated 26 memorials for gay men versus 11 for queer women, and these numbers include several individuals with two or more memorials.


For example, the trailblazing drag queen and office-seeker Jose Sarria has part of 16th Street named in his honor, and there is also a plaque for him embedded in the sidewalk in front of the Eureka Valley Library, while the late San Francisco police officer Jane Warner enjoys a plaza named for her at Castro and Market streets where a plaque bearing her name is located in a cement planter.


The person with the most memorials is, of course, icon and martyr Harvey Milk. The local branch of the San Francisco Public Library is partially named for him, there’s also the plaza which included a plaque near the Muni station entrance, the Harvey Milk Center for Recreational Arts, the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, a painting of him adorns the facade of the building above his former camera store and a plaque embedded in cement is in front of that location.


Among the Rainbow Honor Walk individuals selected for public recognition dotting the Castro’s sidewalks, a total of 14 diverse queer men are memorialized in bronze. However, for lesbians, the walk salutes only five queer women.


Here is the list of all known lesbian-related memorials in the gayborhood. Among the Walk’s plaques Jane Addams, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Frida Kahlo, artist and political activist, Del Martin, pioneering feminist organizer, Gertrude Stein, writer and thinker, and Virginia Woolf, novelist and publisher, are all celebrated.


The aforementioned Jane Warner is recognized with the pedestrian plaza. Then there is Rikki Streicher, who was a co-founder of the Gay Games and owned the sorely missed lesbian bars Amelia’s and Maud’s. Streicher is honored with two plaques at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center where a softball field is also named for her.


Politician and lesbian activist Carole Migden is the only living LGBT leader venerated with a plaque that is located high above eye-level on a brick wall in the bowl of Harvey Milk Plaza. Many people are unaware of this plaque. Not one person interviewed one busy evening rush hour could point to the nameplate for Migden.


Included on this list is the bronze marker at the Pink Triangle Park, which prominently mentions lesbians were among the Nazi’s victims.


The Castro Courier asked Melanie Nathan, a member of the San Francisco Pride board of directors, for her thoughts about other lesbians whose life and contributions ought to be remembered:


“I think women have not been honored enough in the Castro with regard to its public memorials. An example is Sally Miller Gearhart, who should be given a plaque in the Castro. She is a famed out lesbian, feminist, activist and scholar who fought alongside Harvey Milk to help defeat Proposition 6, known as the ‘Briggs Initiative’ which sought to ban homosexuals from academic and teaching positions, playing on the myth and fear that homosexuals were out to recruit and hurt children.

“Teaching at San Francisco State University, Sally was the first open lesbian to obtain a tenure-track faculty position in the United States, and together with Harvey, [she] co-chaired the United Fund Against The Briggs initiative, a rainbow coalition of minorities, feminists and gays that succeeded in defeating the ballot prop,” said Nathan, speaking for herself and not on behalf of SF Pride.


The out lesbian executive director of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, Andrea Aiello, echoed the sentiments of Nathan.


“Lesbians sure could use more visibility with increased visual and public recognition of their crucial roles in advancing equality for everyone in the LGBT community,” Aiello told the Castro Courier. She said Gearhart is alive and living in retirement in Northern California.


Emails to Supervisor Jeff Sheehy and Terry Beswick, executive director of the GLBT Historical Society were not returned before press time.

• • • Also in the June 2017 Issue • • •

Sausage Factory in danger of closing, community in uproar

The Sausage Factory was founded in 1968. A recent ad promised that the ground floor of the building where the restaurant is located could be delivered vacant.



The Sausage Factory is a Castro classic — and one that is not immune to the dangers of the current real estate climate.


Aside from overwhelmingly positive reviews from local citizens and out-of-towners on Yelp, legions of stories from happy customers on Facebook threads, and mentions in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, a recent real estate ad mentioned that the building was for sale (for an asking price just shy of $5 million), promising that the restaurant space on the ground floor “could be delivered vacant.”


The Sausage Factory was founded in 1968 and has been run by the same family for 45 years. While the name seems cheeky now, it was in fact named for a real factory that existed on the premises until the 1940s.


During the 60s, however, the neighborhood received a change in tone, bringing it from a working class Scandinavian, Italian, and Irish immigrant neighborhood to the character we know and love it for today.


The Azzolino family, who still operate the restaurant, bought the space in ’72 and quickly adapted to the neighborhood’s queer surroundings. By maintaining some of the interior historical facades, the restaurant space managed to be a relic of both the past and current Castro communities as well as a solid neighborhood option purely for the goods proffered.


“When my food arrives I am not staring at some small portion on some fancy plate,” says local political activist and LGBT community member Jack Song.


Despite running the restaurant in tip-top form, the Azzolino family never registered the business as a legacy business, the local policy that recognizes small, long-running businesses as historic assets. This oversight leaves the business open to interlopers of any kind and no recourse when faced with the building being sold.


The upstairs residential units, also for sale, have been the home of a large group of the Radical Faeries, a long-running queer collective who believe in being LGBT and in expressing it in some sort of spiritual way (although the group refuses to be defined by something even this narrow).


The news from the real estate description has caused quite an uproar both online and off.


Hope for the restaurant still remains. While the building is for sale, the future owners could continue to operate the business either for moneymaking endeavors or for the kindness to the traditions that have started there.


Kindness, however, is not a trait that San Franciscans have come to associate with real estate grubbers and contemporary building buyers. What else can be done?


The current residents hope that they can leverage their community impact and their already cooperative and collective space to potentially save the space as a community land trust, a system that uses city and nonprofit funding to purchase buildings for the tenants themselves.


A thread on the ‘Preserving LGBT Historic Sites in California’ has been going strong since the news was announced last week with local denizens paying their tributes with stories of first dates, first trips to San Francisco, and just good pizza.


These stories, and many others, tell of the integral nature of this restaurant to the community.


“It is a safe place,” Jack Song says. “No bottomless mimosas. No ‘rosay all day’. People can be who they are: family, tourists, drag queens, LGBTs.”


It is up to the community now to find a way to preserve this space for future generations, future celebrations, and future San Franciscans.

• • • Also in the June 2017 Issue • • •

Counseling for LGBT Couples in the Castro

Brandan Neff-Hall started the Queer Couples Center to help LGBT couples with their psychological well-being. Photo Tony Taylor


A seed was planted in Brendan Neff-Hall during his grad school practicum when he couldn’t find a space that catered to the psychological needs of LGBTQ couples. A decade later he started Queer Couples Center, the first of its kind in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Though he admits business has been challenging since opening in January, Neff-Hall faces the challenge head on. Having counseled at his own practice, The Love Therapist, he understands the struggles of a budding business but finds this part of the process exciting.


“Bringing the staff together has been meaningful,” says Neff-Hall during an interview in QCC’s Castro location at 1829 Market St. “I love seeing the relationships and support bloom, and I love what it’s giving to the community.”


To many it may be surprising that in San Francisco this is the first center catering to the specific needs of LGBTQ couples. Neff-Hall wants the community to know that the QCC serves everyone in the community, not only couples.


“Some clients have come to me because they’ve never been in a relationship and want to understand wrong,” he says.


The center is committed to social justice and their own education training.


Bi-weekly, the eight staff members of QCC consult as a group to define opportunities in their program and how to better service the community. The collective staff has experiences working with victims of trauma, anxiety and depression.


Neff-Hall says the center is still expanding. His goal for QCC is to help people feel empowered and to cultivate the best relationships possible. For the staff, he wants them to be comfortable addressing all social issues, including white privilege, race, class and gender.


“We’re putting out a hiring notification, especially for queer men, cis-men, people of color and trans-identifying clinicians because we want a diverse staff,” he says.


A diverse staff will allow for better doctor-client relationships to address the many issues of QCC patients. Both individually and as a couple, clients visit the center for a myriad of reasons.


“There are lots of affairs,” says Neff-Hall. “A lot of couples are trying to open their relationship or become non-monogamous. We see lots of sex issues, broken boundaries or lack of sexual connection.”


Grief, PTSD and shame are also issues patients face.


“The Bay Area is thought to be so liberal, but I still have clients coming out [of the closet] in their 40s, 50s and 60s,” he admits. “We explore the coming out process and their identity, because social relationships can shift. We’re here to support anyone with relationship difficulties.”


Neff-Hall says he was “practically pushed out of the closet at 15 years old,” but feels he was never really in the closet.


“I was always myself,” says the native New Yorker. “I had supportive parents. Because of harassment from straight males, my parents helped me get therapy at age 14. That process changed my whole life.”


He became an activist as a teenager in the late 90s. Transformed by his therapy, he developed a social justice identity, creating the first same-gender prom at his high school in Albany. In 2004, during grad school at USF, his internship at Queer Lifespace — a nonprofit LGBT focused center — inspired him to start his own practice.


So in 2009, after four years teaching kindergarten and first graders in San Francisco, he transitioned once more, weaving together his interests of psychology, teaching and wellness.


“I began a private practice and [counseled] a lot of gay men and LGBTQ folks,” he says. “When things were stable with my practice, I wanted to give more of this specialized expert support to the community.”


He says the community is excited to finally have a place to refer friends and colleagues and many have come forward with suggestions and ideas.


“Heklina and her partners at Oasis suggested we host a gay Mixer or a speed-dating night,” Neff-Hall says. “The networking and connections are delightful. They make me feel supported as I grow this business properly.”


QCC also has offices at 1035 Market St. and 1900 Addison St. in Berkeley.

• • • Also in the June 2017 Issue • • •

Donna Sachet To Host Signature Pride Brunch at Hotel Whitcomb


How does Donna Sachet do it? She seems to be everywhere, lending her voice and her talents and her charm and her wit to so many of the most worthy causes, fun nights, and grand affairs. During certain times of the year, including of course Pride season, that’s especially true. Her signature Pride event has to be the Annual Pride Brunch that she and Gary Virginia co-founded 19 years ago to support Positive Resource Center, which does such incredibly important work within our community. The 19th Annual Pride Brunch happens at Hotel Whitcomb (1231 Market Street), which is on the very doorstep of the Pride festival in Civic Center on Saturday, June 24th.


Wendy: You and Gary began the Pride Brunch at a time when people with HIV began to see that they could survive the AIDS crisis, and obviously PRC was such a huge help then in navigating the multidimensional logistics of what clients were facing, and of course continues to be. Has the brunch always benefited PRC?


Donna: Yes, [it’s a benefit for PRC] and it always has been. Positive Resource Center has always had two branches: one to make sure that people got the benefits they were entitled to, to get over a medical emergency, but also it’s involved with returning to work, whether it’s training for work or a different career, or finding a way to return at a limited capacity.


Wendy: Positive Resource Center is at an interesting point in it’s history because they’re about to merge with AIDS Emergency Fund and Baker Places Inc.


Donna: Right, and I think the AIDS Emergency Fund part is just about complete; Baker Places will take a little longer for various reasons. It makes a lot of sense for us as a community and both Gary and I have been big supporters of both organizations for a long time. It’s just a matter of the right mergers. You don’t want to cut a population out or unemploy people who have been working with those agencies for a long time, and most of all you don’t want to lose that grassroots support. Both agencies have been very grassroots oriented; you know the people that are volunteering; you know the people at the front door, and there’s really an effort to keep that feeling as well.


Wendy: What made you and Gary decide to begin the Pride Brunch 19 years ago?


Donna: At the time Gary was President of the Board at PRC: I’d been on the board for several years as well at his encouragement. They were going through some tough times. They were thinking of several options: we could close the agency, or we could reduce services, or we [had] to raise more money. We were not gonna hear about it closing or reducing services, so we said, “We’ll do something to raise some money.” It was one of the agencies that really didn’t have a signature annual event, so this began to [accomplish] that.


Wendy: From the beginning you’ve had great support from local celebrities as well as internationally known celebrities. You’ll have Grand Marshals from the Pride Parade speaking, and recipients of various awards speaking, and your guest list always has a few surprises to it too. I heard a funny story about how one year Nancy Pelosi arrived wearing the same Chanel suit you were wearing!


Donna: Yeah, that is a funny story! Mark Leno was the one that was most aware of that. I think he was standing near somebody that said, “Nancy, doesn’t Donna look great today?” She said, “Yeah, she looks great,” and I don’t think she was aware of it. He said, “No really, doesn’t she look great?” She said, “Yes, she looks great! What do you mean/” He said, “I think she’s wearing the same suit!” We have become friends and I’m a big supporter of hers.


Wendy: It’s great that Mark Leno is running for Mayor!


Donna: I’m very excited! I was there when he, what they call ‘pull your papers.’ You go to the registrars desk and fill out the paperwork. A big group of us went one morning, a Thursday morning, and were there with him when they pulled the papers. Just looking at the diverse group he gathered, you can tell he’s got widespread support. It’s gonna be an exciting race!


Wendy: You’ll be in that very neighborhood for your brunch! It’s so nice because it’s held from 11 until 2 on Saturday, and it’s right on the doorstep of the Pride festivities. Great way to start the day, and of course you’re sold out every year!


Donna: Yes. Many times we’ve looked at maybe changing the location because we have kind of hit our capacity; about 300 people is what we can handle. We keep thinking, “Should we go to a bigger hotel?.” but the proximity is just so perfect. We can’t hope for a better location.

Wendy: The last time we spoke it was just before your holiday season and you had something on your schedule every night, and sometimes two or three things every night. I imagine that Pride must be similar for you.


Donna: For the gay community at least, it’s one of our national holidays for sure! When we first started this event, Gary came to me and we were thinking about Pride. I said, “Gary, when are we gonna have an event at Pride? There’s already something every minute!” He said, “Well it doesn’t have to be an evening event. What if we do something in the daytime?” I said, “What kind of daytime event?” When he said brunch, I was like, “Of course! That’s a gay thing anyway!” When we were able to secure a great restaurant like Stars it just all began to fall into place and we’ve had support all along that’s just been amazing.


Wendy: There’s so much happening at Pride Brunch, aside from the brunch!


Donna: Gary and I are always on pins and needles wondering who will be the celebrity grand marshal, and will they be able to attend the brunch. Sometimes they come in on the day of the parade or on the night before, but we’ve had some real superstars. We’ve had Ian McKellen one year; we’ve had Graham Norton, Andy Bell, Cloris Leachman, all kinds of wonderful people. At the same time, the local grand marshals that are chosen are always significant. This is kind of a funny year in that Brett Andrews, the executive director at PRC is a grand marshal, so he will be at the brunch making money for the agency he represents so well. There will also be wonderful local people, whether they’re politically active, or a television personality or radio personality, [they] help make the event what it is too. [Gary and I] created the event but every year there’s a host of volunteers, and at this point with 19 years in our pocket, we’ve got a group of volunteers that start calling us a month in advance. They come in and help stuff the gift bags; they set up the silent auction; they help set up the tables, and there are so many elements that morning especially. We wanna really give them credit. They believe in the agency and they personally believe in us, and we appreciate that so much.


Wendy: And of course you’ll have entertainment....


Donna: Dixieland Dykes +3! Don’t forget them - the music, New Orleans style band music! The doors open at 11; we keep the doors closed and people are gathering out in the lobby; we wanna build that theatrical opening. We open the doors, the band hits the first song, people flow in; you can’t even bottle that kind of excitement. It’s great.


• • • Also in the June 2017 Issue • • •

SF Pride, Pink Triangle coming into focus


It’s Pride Month in San Francisco and it’s a time of celebration of the historic milestones the gay community has had over the years.


In honor of the month, The Pink Triangle — at 200 feet across, one acre in size — can be seen for 20 miles. It is made of 175 bright pink tarps and nearly 5,000 12” long steel spikes. This is the 22nd anniversary of the event.


Patrick Carney, co-founder and annual organizer has presented the installation and commemoration ceremony every year since it began. He is also the sole-founder and organizer of the annual Pink Triangle Commemoration Ceremony. The event could not have lasted all these decades without the ongoing help of Colleen Hodgkins and Hossein Carney who have been the main supporter/helpers over the decades.


To some, it’s a reminder of man’s inhumanity to man, and in the words of the event organizers, “what can happen when hatred and bigotry become law as they did under the Nazis in the 1930s & 1940s.”


Coming to the Castro on June 24-25 at the Top of Twin Peaks, the Pink Triangle will kick of weekend of festivities.


A commemoration ceremony starts early on June 24th and will be followed immediately after the installation with various dignitaries including elected officials, some of the Grand Marshals and honorees, plus the SF Lesbian Gay Freedom Band along with musical theater star Leanne Borghesi.


With LGBT rights still under fire here in the US and in many parts of the world, the event organizers want to draw attention to issues that still need work. To date, there are currently 77 - 78 nations in which homosexuality is against the law. According to organizers, the display and ceremony are not only to remember the hatred of the past, but are to also show we aren’t out of the woods yet regarding hatred and violence directed toward the LGBTQ community.


It seems the lessons of the Holocaust and the Pink Triangle have been lost on many. As they say, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. It is important to keep alive the memory of all of the Holocaust victims to help educate people to what can happen when hatred goes unchecked.


The event is billed as a community-building project. Volunteers are encouraged to sign up. The Pink Triangle “installation” will be Saturday June 24th from 7 a.m.-10 a.m.; ceremony at 10:30 a.m.


Pink Triangle “take down” will be Sunday June 25th (after the parade) from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

82-Year-Old Section 8 Tenant Faces Eviction:

Landlord Opts out of Housing Contract to Make Way for TIC Sale



Evictions in San Francisco are far from over. Ramon Garcia, a gay 40-year SF resident and 16-year Section 8 tenant in Noe Valley, fears losing his home after he was slammed with a 743 percent increase in his rent.


The Housing Rights Committee stated that with lifelong chronic conditions requiring daily bed rest, frequent medical appointments, and specific orthopedic equipment already set up in his apartment, 82-year-old Garcia faces the possibility of a shortened lifespan as the worry of possible displacement adds extra weight to his already fragile physical condition.


Garcia declined an interview with the Courier due to emotional distress.


According to the Bay Area Reporter, Garcia received a 90-day notice dated December 27 that said his landlord, Paul Winer, was terminating his contract with the San Francisco Housing Authority under the Federal Housing Choice Voucher program that subsidized Garcia's rent. The notice said that after March 31, Garcia's portion of the rent would go from $206 to the market rate of $1,737.


The notice cited the Housing Authority's "failure to perform" under the contract's terms. Problems included "unexplained and unjustified holds of subsidy payments over 60 days.” Garcia did not contact the Housing Rights Committee until mid-May, a full month after his rent had been raised to market rate. His landlord has since filed an unlawful detainer complaint and a court date was set for late May. The outcome of the case is still pending.


Winer describes himself in a public profile as a “Real Estate Developer in San Francisco” that is “always looking for opportunities on buying properties in San Francisco.” He has been working with tenancy-in-common (TIC) realtor expert Anthony Koutsos. The duo’s intention to withdraw from SF Housing Authority’s Housing Choice Voucher program appears to be a step towards a TIC sale and eventual condo conversion, as other units on the lot have already been sold as TICs.


“Over the last three months, Noe Valley has heard three reports of seniors consumed with the potential loss of housing and unable to age in peace,” said Brad Hirn of Housing Rights Committee. “In March, it was Carl Jensen, a 93-year-old tenant threatened with eviction who then passed. In April, it was Beatriz Allen, an 82-year-old elder who spoke to her daughter, Betty Rose, of inviting the landlord over for dinner to hopefully stop the ongoing Ellis Act eviction. Today, Ramon Garcia. When will it stop?”


Tommi Avicolli Mecca, also of the Housing Rights Committee, believes that when we lose our elders, we lose our history.


“This is not fair, Ramon is a disabled elder, he has a long history with the LGBT community,” Mecca said. “This should be a wake-up call to the mainstream LGBT community. They need to be there and take on the housing issue. Where is the Human Rights Campaign and Equality California? They have a lot of resources and should join the fight for homelessness and poverty in this city.”


The Chronicle reported that more than 37,000 homes in San Francisco are owned or rented by people 65 or older, and that a quarter of these seniors are considered poor and need some sort of public assistance.


“We can’t be allowing seniors to get evicted,” said Mecca, who spent the past year fighting on behalf of Iris Canada. Canada was the 100-year-old woman whose eviction became a symbol of San Francisco’s housing crisis. She died earlier this year, one month after she lost her home. “I don’t see City Hall doing anything to help. How many more seniors are going to die before something happens?”

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in Berkeley.