March 2015 Issue

Tales From The Evicted

Local Group Brings Stories of Jilted Renters to LifeFrancisco Romano pays $750 to live near Dolores Park, but it might not be for long. He is being evicted. A data-driven advocacy group, the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, is releasing his story and dozens of others in mid-March as part of an oral history of those evicted in the city.

 

 

 

 

A middle-aged gay man with AIDS who survives off of disability payments is now counting the days until his eviction court date. He fears it’s only a matter of time.

 

An elderly woman — a lifelong nurse who has served in nearly every San Francisco hospital — now faces a similar fate inside her decades-long apartment with her husband, a veteran of the Korean War.

 

These two are among a mass whose stories have fallen through the cracks. In an urban scene powered by tech money, venture capital and exorbitant real estate, speculation-based evictions are driving a wedge between the old images of free love and the new reality of pay-to-play where a one-bedroom apartment can go for $3,500 per month. Evictions are the new norm, and while some tenants under rent control opt for a mandated buyout or even an under-the-table negotiated settlement to relocate, others have elected to fight the legal battle to keep their rent-controlled units.

 

On the edge of Dolores Park, 51-year-old Francisco Romano and 74-year-old Lotta Garrity represent those fighting to hang on.

 

“San Francisco has changed but I feel it’s my home. I have my friends and my medical support here. It’s the only place where I can live and talk about everything that’s going on with my life,” says Romano, who points out that people living with HIV/AIDS without stable housing are five times more likely to have their life expectancy drop. “If you are homeless, you can’t shower or go to the bathroom when you want. It’s very stressful.”

 

For Garrity, who pays $829 per month for a four-room flat on Guerrero Street that she says could go for $5,000, the clock is ticking. She and her husband have already been served an Ellis Act eviction and will be presented with an unlawful detainer notice by the end of March. She said there is still a chance to have the eviction thrown out of court, but after three decades in the neighborhood, she and her husband are now coming to terms with painful exit strategies.

 

“We are not poor — we have some money — but it’s not going to go very far. Our costs are going to jump. We are going to have to pay $25,000 more a year just to stay in town,” she said. “I signed up for the lottery for that low-cost housing. But chances are pretty slim.”

 

Romano and Garrity are not the same. He’s a lodger renting a room in his landlord’s unit and she is a longtime tenant under rent control. But they are both being removed. And they are not alone. Many others are currently being displaced and each has a story to tell. But instead of fading away into obscurity, the stories of those displaced by gentrification will become public in March thanks to a new project by the volunteer advocacy group, the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. By collecting the audio histories of roughly 40 people evicted from all parts of San Francisco and plotting them on a map, the group has created a living archive that documents the granular level of neighborhood-by-neighborhood evictions.

This map shows the eviction of seniors and disabled tenants over the last three years. Red bubbles show evictions enacted by serial evictors — landlords or speculators that have Ellis Acted more than one property. Of Ellis Act evictions filed in 2012, 71 percent were against a senior or person with disabilities.

 

The Narratives of Displacement Oral History (NDOH) project consists of roughly 40 audio recordings of first-person eviction experiences in San Francisco. Many of the stories, which are up to an hour long, come from the Mission and Castro neighborhoods. The idea behind documenting the voices is to create discussion around the evictions in the city to shed light on the wider political economy, according to Erin McElroy, founder of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project.

 

“We’re always working against the clock. We are in the midst of what people call hyper-gentrification, whereby evictions are happening too quickly to combat in their entirety,” she said. “Small businesses are going under left and right as rents go up and as new gentrifiers don’t frequent local shops, so we’re losing people that way too. Once people lose their homes or sources of employment in the city, they often lose the city as a home altogether since rents are too high.”

 

A dozen volunteers have worked for a year to put together the oral history project, enlisting the help of university students. McElroy, a current doctoral student at UC Santa Cruz and trained cultural anthropologist who has documented forced evictions of Roma communities in both Romania and Northern Ireland, said 16 students in a University of San Francisco urban politics class paired up to interview tenants, edit and transcribe the interviews and take photographs.

 

She said the NDOH project will be online by mid-March for public viewing at www.antievictionmappingproject.net, which features a host of other data-driven graphics on its site ranging from a “Dirty Dozen” list of the biggest evictors in the city to the loss of the Bay Area’s black population from 1970-2013.

 

Volunteer Karyn Smoot, who joined the project last year, said producing the NDOH took an untold number of emotionally involved hours. More people are becoming familiar with the issue of no-fault evictions, she said, but in order to understand extent to which people are affected by gentrification, it’s important to hear personal accounts directly.

 

“Something that people in the project have asked me to think about is the disappearance of stories once someone is evicted and displaced to another city, county, state,” Smoot said. “I think the idea for the oral history project came from wanting to bring humanity to the little dots on the eviction map and to share the experience of talking to actual residents to remember and learn from the stories that are actively being lost through this process.”

 

San Francisco is losing 650 units of rent-controlled units every year on average, according to Jennifer Fieber, one of the organization’s principal contributors who worked on a report commissioned by Tenants Together regarding Ellis Act reform. This state law allows owners to trade a payout of more than $5,000 to relocate a tenant in order to go out of the rental business. Ellis Act evictions require a one-year notice for senior or disabled tenants (120 days for all others) and are often used by landlords to convert rental space to condos, TICs or luxury homes. She said it surprised her how 51 percent of new owners used the Ellis Act within the first year and 78 percent within the first five years.

 

“It had always been a theory that the Ellis Act was being used for speculative flipping rather than its stated purpose of getting out of the landlord business,” she said. “But when we calculated the period from purchase to Ellis, it became really apparent that the Ellis Act is overwhelmingly a tool of speculation and not an escape hatch.”

 

Fieber also said she was shocked to find that 71 percent of tenants removed by the Ellis Act in 2012 were seniors or people with disabilities.

 

“That is really tragic, and heartlessly cruel of the new owners,” she said. “What kind of society chooses to protect ill-gotten profits over our elders? It’s not like the city has set up other options for our elders who contributed so much to the city.”

 

State senator Mark Leno, who represents San Francisco, has recently proposed a bill to the California Legislature to make Ellis Act evictions illegal in buildings that have been owned for fewer than five years. The idea is to cut down speculative buying and flipping at the expense of ousting renters. Leno introduced a similar bill last year that passed the Senate only to get killed in an Assembly committee by one vote.

 

Meanwhile, Lotta Garrity and her husband, Lucky, pore over their options. Having already sought the help of a number of pro-tenant organizations, they saw the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project’s oral histories as something of greater importance for the community at large.

 

“I wanted the story to get out,” she said. “All kinds of people are getting it and that needs to get out there.”

 

As for Francisco Romano, who fears a possible reality of sleeping on a friend’s couch, or worse, in a shelter, he participated as something of a last-ditch effort.

 

“I’m really hoping for a miracle,” he said.

 

Photo: Ted Andersen / Graphic courtesy of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project

 

Affordability crisis continues into 2015

 

Prop G Addresses Speculation

 

Senior Being Evicted Is Part of Larger Area Trend

 

State Senate Passes Leno Bill To Curb Ellis Act Eviction Epidemic

 

Legalizing illegal units may not fill gaps

 

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

Searching for Solutions to Housing

 

Wiener, Campos have different approach

 

 

As is often the case, it’s easier to agree on the problem than on the solutions.

 

This is especially true when a problem like outrageous housing costs is staring most of us in the face. Not only is San Francisco experiencing a housing crisis, but major urban cities across the US such as Washington DC and New York are in the midst of one as well.

 

What has emerged here in the City by the Bay are two fundamentally different approaches to solving the present housing situation. What’s more, besides the advocates, developers, residents, tenants, property owners, politicians, builders, designers, architects, financiers and a host of other interested stakeholders, it looks like the final acts may take place in the chambers of the Board of Supervisors.

 

At this point in the ongoing debate, one approach has been laid out by Castro Supervisor Scott Wiener and another by Mission Supervisor David Campos.

 

Wiener’s approach has been to look back in time and see how the plight of housing in the city got to its present state. In his essentially supply-and-demand analysis, people in the 60s and 70s both in San Francisco and in other metro areas participated in a flight to the suburbs, which was expressed as “hostility to everything urban.” No longer did your dad commute into the downtown business area for work. Instead, he — remember this was 50 years ago — drove on one of the new freeways to a suburban business or commercial park.

 

As a result, the populations of cities like San Francisco shrank and the need for new housing diminished. But starting in the 1990s, claims Wiener, and accelerating into the past decade, people wanted both the convenience and the attractions of an urban environment. Consequently the population of San Francisco is now nearing a historic high of 850,000 and looking to reach a million residents in coming decades.

 

What this has meant, according to Wiener, is the net addition of around 10,000 new residents annually, paying average rents of around $3,000 per month. Looked at in another way, since 2003, San Francisco has grown by nearly 100,000 people, while producing only 24,000 units of housing. Last year the city produced 2,000 units of housing, and currently has 50,000 units waiting “in the pipeline.” The supervisor concludes, “We are deep in a hole, slowly climbing out, and facing continued pressure on our housing stock due to population and job growth.”

 

What are Wiener’s solutions? Market-produced housing, inclusionary below-market-rate housing, new types of housing such as co-housing and micro-units, and more flexibility toward in-law units. On the latter strategy he introduced legislation to allow the construction of new in-law units in buildings undergoing seismic improvements, which was recently endorsed unanimously by the planning commission and goes to the full board next Tuesday.

 

As to increasing the supply of affordable housing, Wiener maintains that “market-produced housing, through our inclusionary housing program, is the most significant source of new affordable units coming online.” Though “we need to invest aggressively in subsidized below-market-rate housing ... publicly funded housing will never solve the problem by itself, and market-produced housing is essential to getting the job done.” In short, “We need market-produced housing both to meet our significant housing production needs overall as well as to enhance the available resources, through our inclusionary housing ordinance, for subsidized below-market-rate units.”

 

Supervisor David Campos, on the other hand, has an entirely different approach, one that focuses on the current supply of affordable housing and stems from his conviction that market-rate housing projects do not deliver enough affordable units, calling it “trickle-down economics.” As reported by Real Estate reporter Cory Weinberg, the options Campos was considering were a moratorium on new market-rate projects or creating a special-use district.

 

According to Campos’ office, the supervisor is working on a legislative proposal to introduce to the board which would establish a limited moratorium on market-produced housing in the Mission, other than government-funded housing, to fight explosive housing costs. Responding to data that show that the Mission District has lost 1,400 Latino families in the last 20 years, a neighborhood group funded by the supervisors and the Mayor’s office — Calle 24 — is focused on “protecting the character of the Southern Mission” and preventing the displacement of residents and small business. Taking up the challenge, Campos has written, “If the city needs more affordable housing, then let’s build affordable housing.”

 

According to a recent article in the Examiner, Calle 24 is calling for fast tracking the development of affordable housing in the Mission, passing interim controls to preserve land for affordable housing, and forming a special district “to preserve the neighborhood’s unique historic and Latino character.”

 

Opposed to the idea of a moratorium are the Residential Builders Association and the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition. Meanwhile, private developers have been actively pitching proposals to neighborhood groups for ostensibly creative approaches to specific pieces of real estate that would meet the objectives of increasing new affordable housing and slowing down the gentrification of the Mission. In fact, this past Wednesday Maximus Real Estate Partners and Walden Development and the Prado Group were each making presentations of projects in different locations in the Mission.

 

Affordable housing and housing policy in general is an extraordinarily complicated arena and one that has given life to a goodly number of community groups with honest and intense objectives. Hopefully our city and communities will prosper in the discussions and search for creative and achievable solutions.

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

Radio Shack in Castro To Stay Amid Bankruptcy

 

 

The RadioShack store nestled between Cafe Flore and CVS pharmacy on San Francisco’s Market Street may stay put for now. But with the corporation’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in early February, the personal electronics retailer launched in 1963 may take on a new look with fewer outlets.

 

Amid struggling sales, net losses and heavy debt, the company said it needed to craft a plan to pay its creditors. As part of a purchase agreement with wireless communications company General Wireless Inc., the Dallas-based company will acquire up to 2,400 of RadioShack’s U.S. stores. In up to 1,750 of those stores, a deal with Sprint Corporation will create a “store within a store” experience with the phone service company the primary tenant in the electronics store.

 

RadioShack said it plans to close about 1,784 underperforming stores posted on a list released by the company. In court documents, closure plans detailed a first set of 162 stores closing by mid-February, a second group of 986 by the end of the month, and the last wave or “tranche” of 636 stores closing by the end of March.

 

The Castro location is not slated to close, but in the coming weeks, eight other San Francisco outlets, including stores in West Portal, Union Square, and Sloat Boulevard’s Lakeshore Plaza, will close their doors for good.

 

Castro RadioShack store manager John Robbins said the future of his store was “up in the air” but would be unchanged for now. He said that his shop’s six employees still have their jobs, and store structure and inventory will remain unchanged pending any change of plans by top management.

 

There’s been no word yet regarding any changes to the Market & Noe Center where Radio Shack has operated since 1989, said the Castro Merchants, a local business association of which RadioShack is not a member.

 

In bankruptcy court filings made through mid-February, 143 claims had been filed, the largest for nearly $3 million from Tarrant County, Texas, where RadioShack’s Fort Worth headquarters is located. Media reports have said 20 stores are expected to close in that county.

 

In the company’s latest quarterly earnings report released in December, RadioShack recorded $161.1 million in losses and $841.4 million of debt. Quarterly sales for the period ended Nov. 1, 2014 were $650.2 million, down 16 percent from $775.4 million in the same period a year earlier.

 

“We have also begun a detailed set of cost reduction initiatives,” Chief Executive Officer Joseph Magnacca said, “designed to enhance earnings by over $400 million annually, encompassing a range of operating cost reductions, related to headquarters, field, stores, and store support to improve operational efficiency and right-size our business, as well as the benefit of targeted store closures.”

 

The company is calling the bankruptcy proceedings a restructuring. On its corporate website, a post reads, “We intend to transition a portion of our stores to new ownership and begin a sale process for other company owned assets…”

 

A spokesperson for the company declined to elaborate on the bankruptcy filing beyond what had been posted on the RadioShack website.

 

RadioShack, which had its heyday in the early days of home electronics, has been faltering with the advent of online sales, said UC Berkeley Haas School of Business professor John Morgan, who specializes in competition in online markets.

 

Many of the products RadioShack has offered are not items consumers need to pick up and feel inside a store before purchasing, Morgan said. When online outlets improved logistics, such as the online store and delivery service Amazon Prime, those types of products could be delivered within two days. This eliminated RadioShack’s advantage of offering it now and with available sales experts, he said.

 

Morgan called the ailing retailer a “dinosaur” that should have moved away from the brick-and-mortar model that had continued to fail despite a previous nationwide store remodel and brand change.

 

“They should have been able to take the brand equity of RadioShack and parlay that into a serious web presence,” the professor added.

 

RadioShack was a recognizable brand and known as a supplier for tech hobbyists and electronic geeks. The TRS-80, a PC microcomputer released in the late 1970s, put RadioShack on the map and aimed to position the stores to lead the way in PC sales. That focus never fully materialized, Morgan said. Instead, he said that RadioShack became known as “a place to get techy gadgets around the holidays.”

 

For Erik Miller, who runs the Bay Area DIY Electronics group, RadioShack is where he goes for parts for the electronics and guitar amplifier repair shop he runs at his home in Alameda. Although he orders most of his parts from online distributors for a fraction of the cost at RadioShack, he said their fuses and transistors are “handy” and the store’s physical presence essential for when a performer has a busted amp 24 hours before show time.

 

Miller called the store his “back-up emergency source,” but noted other Bay Area electronic stores exist. “If RadioShack shut all their doors it would be sad. It would be inconvenient,” he said. “But I would still be able to do brick-and-mortar shopping for parts.” He said he considered himself blessed that the Bay Area is a place where many electronic hobbyists and pros still connect.

 

The bankruptcy proceedings and closures will be like losing a neighborhood market, Miller said, making it harder to nurture future electronics hobbyists.

 

Consumer Electronics Association analyst Chris Ely said even if RadioShack is suffering flagging sales, it doesn’t mean all brick-and-mortar shops are doomed. Many products, such as televisions, are products consumers want to see, he said.

 

“The landscape for consumer electronics is certainly changing,” Ely said. Arlington, Virginia-based CEA, which researches the tech, electronic and retail industry and is known for its annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, tracks spending and trends. Ely said consumer electronics sales are forecast to increase this year to $223.2 billion in wholesale U.S. purchases.

 

He lauded RadioShack’s decision to implement a “store within a store” under the purchasing agreement with Sprint. He said this could make the future RadioShack a highly specialized store, which is a successful model to piggyback, as seen at Apple with its genius bar concept.

 

Still, the RadioShack bankruptcy filing is a big loss for the electronics industry, Ely said. The hardest hit will be consumers who expect and appreciate customer support and a personal level of service that can’t be replicated online.

 

Photo: Sasha Lekach

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

A New Safe House for the ArtsSAFEhouse Arts hosted a kick-off party on February 22, which featured performances by Theatre Flamenco SF, one of the artist groups in residency at the 1 Grove St. location.

 

 

The Garage morphs into Market St. venue

 

 

It’s true that San Francisco is, undoubtedly, undergoing deep changes amidst the rise of tech companies and the concurrent rise of salaries and residency influxes. In this city that has historically focused on the arts, where anything out of the mainstream seems to be the mainstream, there remains fellows like Joe Landini and his organization, SAFEhouse Arts, that continue to create new and different spaces for emerging artists in the performing arts.

 

Perhaps unbeknownst to many San Franciscans, whether new or native, there are a host of performances put on by underground arts organizations. These groups, which Landini calls “live performance presenters,” are hiding around the 7x7 city in much the same way that local punk bands and techno raves stay subtle amidst Internet media and tech booms.

 

Landini’s project, SAFEhouse Arts, which aptly stands for Saving Art From Extinction, started over seven years ago in another incarnation. The space is now located at 1 Grove St., situated above the Civic Center Burger King, but SAFEhouse was previously located on Howard Street in a garage aptly named The Garage.

 

“For the first five years of being on Howard, we refused to have a sign,” Landini says. “Part of the reason was that I really wanted to facilitate the underground kind of feeling. We just told people to look to the red door. The website was 975 Howard. You walked in and it was a garage.”

 

With this elusive visibility, The Garage was able to focus on cutting-edge performance artworks that were not always as aesthetically pleasing as the city’s other, more mainstream, offerings. These shows would often feature provocative themes and even included acts of penetration and use of bodily fluids as part of their performances.

 

Say what you will about this kind of art, but The Garage was a place that thrived on a community and a scene that was interested in questioning society and aesthetics through their performances. Without any funding at the time, the organization was sustained through love from leader Landini as well as artist participants and volunteers from the arts community. Shows, which usually had next to no press, were attended by other artists, volunteers, friends and family members.

 

But art, much like the city of San Francisco as a whole, is not immune to change. And this change does not always have to be a bad thing.

 

SAFEhouse Arts’ name change and move from SOMA to Mid-Market was motivated by their situational shift from one-man-run underground art space (that would be arts angel Landini) to an official nonprofit with funding from city, state and national funding.

 

“Well, basically I needed a salary,” Landini says candidly, “and an underground art space doesn’t pay a salary.”

 

The funding is an opportunity to do more and at a level of higher visibility. Landini says that having more money requires the SAFEhouse artists and organizers to be more cautious with their programming. Where radical queer dances used to be the norm, now such risks are less available to SAFEhouse, when selling tickets has become such a part of their day-to-day structure, without which they would have to start cutting down programming.

 

“I need to sell roughly 200 tickets a week. This is easier when the programs are fun to watch,” says Landini. He focuses on pleasing musical accompaniment, aesthetically appealing dances and beautiful costumes.

 

It’s true that this might be a change from before in the anything-goes era of The Garage and before art contemporaries like Counterpulse were purchasing mortgages which they now must struggle to pay off. Whereas before these organizations were by and for their own communities, the city itself is now supporting these institutions to bring them to the public eye, perhaps for the benefit of appearing to be not only supporters of Big Tech.

 

With Twitter’s massive offices literally around the corner from SAFEhouse’s new space, it is almost impossible not to think about the changes in the geography, demography and culture of the area when considering the future and newly created presence of SAFEhouse. It seems that this was not a fact that the mayor’s office overlooked. As these artists have always functioned as important part of the fabric and identity of the city, their role is shifting from focusing on inward-facing goals to focusing on outward facing ones.

 

“People come to San Francisco because it is a cool place, not because of tech,” says Landini.

 

With the mayor’s office now working to highlight these cool things like the arts, music and alternative cultures, we can only hope that San Francisco’s newest inhabitants can also become citizens of the city and join in by continuing the story of the town that is a little bit different.

 

SAFEhouse Arts is located at 1 Grove St. and online at safehousearts.org.

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of David Senk

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

Will Durst’s My Two Cents:

 

Message. Message.

Who’s Got the Message?

 

 

Don’t look now, but the Democratic Party is undergoing an identity crisis of such monumental proportions, the Dissociative Identity Disorder people have called and are requesting artifacts for their Hall of Fame. Going to put Obama’s basketball hoop right next to Sally Field’s purple crayon.

 

In the realm of improbabilities, it’s hard to beat… Democrats and their message. A lot like saying the Eskimos and their convertibles. The Mormons and their all- night dance marathons. ISIS and their art appreciation seminars.

 

In the wake of suffering what can only be described as the most gruesome drubbing in the history of midterm elections, and yes, that includes the Republican sweep following The Panic of 1893, the Democrats commissioned a report to investigate what the hell went wrong and how to get their mojo back. Although, Harry Reid using the word “mojo” is probably not something you want to be ruminating upon right before bedtime.

 

Ironically, this was the same self- analysis Republicans turned to after losing the presidency in 2012 to a guy named Hussein in the middle of a lousy economy. There’s a word for contemplating your navel as a form of meditation: omphaloskepsis. And who can dispute that Democrats are the most naturally omphaloskeptic of the major parties? With Tea Partiers suffering from sesquipedalophobia- fear of long words. And Libertarians most likely to be ablutophobic- which is fear of bathing.

 

This election post- mortem was based on interviews and studies and surveys and astrological forecasts and ratings on IMDB of the first two Hobbit movies and some random notes found on the backs of spindled lunch receipts and fortune cookie messages but only from indigenously correct restaurants in the Chinatown sections of 4 large metropolitan areas on the west coast.

 

Though the official report isn’t scheduled to come out until May, preliminary findings of the soul- searching have been released, and the Dems have come to the considered opinion that it isn’t their message keeping them from a humongous pile of electoral victories, but the delivery of it. This time they really do blame the messenger. And it’s them.

 

Yeah, and Domino’s would be renowned for terrific pizza if only they could figure out how to keep it from arriving cold and mealy with congealed cheese stuck the inside top of the box. And they used quality ingredients. Oh yeah, there’s that.

 

Amazingly, this is the same exact conclusion the GOP reached in their post- Romney autopsy. You have to wonder if these guys use the same consultants. And guess what, they do.

 

Former Democratic National Chairman and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, blamed his party’s inability to get their point across because “our message is reasonable and intelligent, and almost inherently nuanced.” Well, there’s your problem right there. Inherently nuanced? Yeah, that floats down the middle of Main Street like a buzzard on a zephyr.

 

Hey guys, the answer is pretty simple. You want to be the smart party, stop doing stupid stuff. You want to be known as a party with a winning message, quit being such losers. Want the middle class to turn to you for opportunity, provide some middle class opportunity. For crum’s sake, stand for something. Anything. Besides the national anthem, that is.

 

Will Durst is an award- winning, nationally acclaimed political comic. Go to willdurst.com for info about “BoomeRaging: From LSD to OMG,” and the documentary film “3 Still Standing” plus a calendar listing future personal appearances.

 

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••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

Cheer SF Drums Up Support,
Money for AIDS Housing Alliance

 

 

Cheer SF turns 35 in 2015! The generous organization has launched the 35 for 35 campaign in celebration of their anniversary; they are working toward donating $35,000 to their worthy chosen beneficiary, AIDS Housing Alliance. Nguyen ‘Win” Pham, Director of Communications at Cheer SF, spoke with me about 35 for 35 and what’s coming up in the Castro.Members of Cheer SF perform at City Hall during last year’s SF Pride parade. The adult cheerleading team, whose mission is to raise money for people with HIV/AIDS through cheerleading, celebrates 35th year of existence this year.

 

Wendy:

 

Happy 35th anniversary!! The big news is 35 for 35: Cheer SF plans to donate $35,000 by year’s end to AIDS Housing Alliance.

 

Win:

 

That is the goal. AIDS Housing Alliance is our chosen main beneficiary for the 2015/2016 fundraising season. Our fundraising season runs from July to June and the goal for our landmark 35th anniversary year is to be in a position where we can donate just one lump sum, $35,000 check to our main beneficiary. We’ve never done this before so it’s pretty groundbreaking in many ways. Donations are actually down slightly compared to recent years, probably because we expected the economy to rebound a little bit stronger than it actually has, but that’s not going to keep us from striving for this ambitious goal.

 

Wendy:

 

Absolutely. AIDS Housing Alliance really is a wonderful organization that helps people with HIV/AIDS maintain their homes or secure homes when they are in need of assistance. Obviously when dealing with HIV/AIDS or any type of health concern it’s especially important to have a consistent, peaceful living situation.

 

Win:

 

Absolutely. You know one of our main beneficiaries in recent years was the AIDS Emergency Fund, which very similarly to AHA, provided those emergency gap grants, so that the recipients could just enjoy continuity of services, of standard of living. With AHA it’s literally a place to live, so the continuity piece is what really speaks to us.

 

Wendy:

 

They’ve been around for a long time now, and just like Cheer SF they’ve grown and grown. They not only help people with HIV/AIDS with housing, but they also employ them. AHA was started by two people from the HIV community; they know what they’re doing, what people are dealing with from a personal perspective. They’re a wonderful organization that could not only use the funds but also could use more people to recognize and support them through Cheer SF and any other means possible.

 

Win:

 

Yes, that’s one of the reasons we selected them. We could have easily gone with a more widely known organization but the thing about Cheer SF is that we often provide a platform for organizations that might be able to leverage us as a marketing partner. That’s why we wanted to lend our energy and our spirit our voice to share the story of AHA. It just seemed like they could be able to use the gift and really value what we can give them, as opposed to a large organization.

 

Wendy:

 

You support so many deserving community organizations through your Cheer for Life program on a very regular basis. You’re always doing fundraising events it seems.

 

Win:

 

Absolutely. Much like in the scholastic world, junior high schools and high schools and college, cheerleading is not a seasonal sport; cheerleading is a year round sport. When it’s not cheerleading competition season we are supporting the basketball games and the football games, so very much like that, we take the same approach to our fundraising; it’s very much a year round activity. Some of us like to say, “Philanthropy takes no holiday”; we always have charity on our minds. That is the reason why we joined Cheer SF and that is the reason it was created in 1980.

 

Wendy:

 

Do you have any fundraisers coming up in the near future in the Castro?

 

Win:

 

I’m glad that you asked. We do have two public fundraisers that are both taking place at bars within the Castro neighborhood. The first one is going to be a beer bust at HiTops on March 22nd, and that runs 3 - 6 p.m. on that day. The second event occurs on April 12th at Beaux; that’s a beer bust that takes place 4 -7PM that day.

 

Wendy:

 

And people can find out more about Cheer SF at those fundraisers too. You have your cheerleader tryouts in July, but you’ve also recently, in February, been recruiting new volunteers, yes?

 

Win:

 

Correct. We are kind of constantly always looking for ways to expand our family, including performing roles as well as non-performing production roles. These upcoming fundraisers are not only a chance for [people] to support wonderful causes, just having fun at the bar on a Sunday; each one of us volunteers is also basically an ambassador for our charity. Anybody can speak to anybody regarding what we do, how we do it, and how to get more involved. There’s a place for everybody. They can also connect with us on Facebook; find us at Cheer San Francisco; you can also find us on Twitter and on Instagram at Cheer SF. Our website is the quickest way to donate for the causes that we support and of course, this being our landmark 35th anniversary year, we’re asking our nearest and dearest, all the fans, to chip in maybe $35 if you can, for our 35th anniversary year.

 

Wendy:

 

That would be a great way to celebrate your 35 years. I think it even says on your website that if 1000 people do that you’ll make your goal for AHA.

 

Win:

 

Absolutely, and that is the goal that helps us all.

 

For more background information on Cheer SF and Nguyen “Win” Pham, please visit Castro Courier’s archives, the June 2014 issue:

 

www.castrocourier.com/interview-sf-cheers.html

 

 

Photo courtesy of Cheer SF

© 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.

Cheer SF turns 35 in 2015! The generous organization has launched the 35 for 35 campaign in celebration of their anniversary; they are working toward donating $35,000 to their worthy chosen beneficiary, AIDS Housing Alliance. Nguyen ‘Win” Pham, Director of Communications at Cheer SF, spoke with me about 35 for 35 and what’s coming up in the Castro.Members of Cheer SF perform at City Hall during last year’s SF Pride parade. The adult cheerleading team, whose mission is to raise money for people with HIV/AIDS through cheerleading, celebrates 35th year of existence this year.

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