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District 8 Candidates

Take Big Ideas into ElectionIncumbent Scott Wiener (top left), John Nulty (top right), George Davis (bottom left) and MichaelPetrelis (bottom right) all want your vote come Tuesday, November 4.

 

 

This issue of the Courier focuses on profiles of four of the five candidates who are eligible to run for the post of Supervisor representing the Castro, Noe Valley, Diamond Heights and Glenn Park neighborhoods that make up District 8.

 

The incumbent over the last four years has been Scott Wiener, the three challengers are George Davis, John Nulty, and Michael Petrelis. Tom Basso filed to run but was unavailable for an interview.

 

Wiener has been an active legislator, proposing and getting passed a good deal of new legislation affecting the city and the district. In that and in his campaign, Wiener enjoys something of the momentum and insider knowledge that accrues to an incumbent simply because of the position.

 

The challengers, on the other hand, paint themselves as representing more the grassroots and people living in the neighborhoods.

 

Scott Wiener

 

The incumbent Supervisor of District 8, Scott Wiener, is a 15-year resident of the Castro and a former attorney in the San Francisco City Attorney’s office. In addition, he has extensive experience serving on public bodies such as the county Transportation Authority, the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and the Golden Gate Bridge District. He has also been active in the Democratic Party and at the neighborhood level in community, legal and LGBT organizations, including co-founding Castro Community on Patrol.

 

Wiener was elected to the Board of Supervisors from District 8 in 2010 and has been an active and visible member of the board, focusing on two areas of need: housing and transportation.

 

Regarding housing, Wiener has cited that historically the supply of housing in San Francisco had been stable or shrinking, “so by 1960 we had essentially stopped building new housing.” Suburban development grew but then in the mid-eighties people started moving back into the cities, a trend that continued into the nineties, for various reasons, including smaller families, an increase in empty nesters, and factors like the desire to commute less and participate in city attractions more.

 

Since 2003 the population of San Francisco has grown by 85,000 people while the city has added only 20,000 units of housing, he’s said. This growing imbalance placed an enormous pressure on the housing market. In turn, this led to unwelcome developments like greater evictions and displacement. Wiener maintains that most growth did not happen because of high tech. “We were just not prepared for the enormous growth,” he said.

 

To deal with the housing crisis he maintains that in the long run “creative and fresh approaches” are required. Toward this end he has authored legislation to allow for smaller units, to encourage new in-law units, and to create more student housing. In addition, he introduced legislation to allow for the addition of new in-law units in soft-story apartment buildings that are undergoing seismic retrofits. “In-law units are the most affordable type of non-subsidized housing, and allowing these units in retrofitted buildings” will incentivize owners to retrofit their buildings.

 

In a September 5 post, Wiener wrote that “our population isn’t going to stop growing anytime soon - long-term demographic trends will continue to bring people to cities.” The critical challenge is to provide housing “affordable to low and moderate income people”. That means providing “enough housing to avoid unending price explosions and the resulting evictions, displacement, and pressure on the middle class.” Besides building more affordable housing, however, in Wiener’s view that means recognizing that the fastest way to deliver affordable units is to couple them with market rate development.”

 

Transportation is another area where Wiener has ideas. For years our transportation system was allowed to atrophy, according to Wiener, so his focus as an elected supervisor has been principally on investing in expanding system capacity. He says he has also functioned “as a hawk, to protect and expand transit funding in the city.”

 

Wiener is also proud of the recent city purchase of next generation light rail vehicles from Siemens to replace the aging Muni fleet and provide a much larger number of vehicles. He sees this as addressing the most significant factor in Muni’s lack of reliability: not enough light rail vehicles and frequent breakdowns. He said he should know since he says he has used Muni as “my primary way of getting around town” for the past seventeen years. The first of the new Siemens fleet should come on line in 2017.

 

Other transportation agendas Scott is pursuing include the replacement of the entire 42-year-old BART fleet and agency modernization and a late-night transportation plan for the Bay Area region. Citing the great increase in ridership on MUNI, BART, and Cal Train,

 

On the subject of parks and public spaces, Wiener points to the Castro Sidewalk widening and reconstruction project. With the support of area merchants,”the Streets Bond passed and we got the funds. Now we are within one month of having it 100 percent done.” Other public space projects include transforming the Noe Valley Farmers Market to a permanent community town square.

 

Among public health accomplishments he cites the $20 million in HIV-AIDS Prevention cuts in federal funding that have been back-filled.

 

George Davis

 

Long time activist George Davis unsuccessfully ran for Mayor in 2007 and Supervisor from District 10 in 2010. He is now running in 2014 as a candidate for Supervisor from District 8. Citing his occupation as a writer of “civil liberties” books, Davis states that he has several books in print.

 

He identifies the issues he is running on as three: security, by which he means housing as a human right; civic direction and control, pointing to the pernicious power of the existing political and economic establishment from Washington to the city; and a variety of “civil liberties” issues.

 

By housing he refers to the myriad list of problems commonly associated with housing in the city today, such as the high cost of living and the difficulties faced by renters, as well as homelessness. In one specific proposal, he wants the city to put up temporary shelters for all homeless, such as the FEMA trailers in New Orleans, but believes he has been repeatedly stonewalled.

 

Beyond these issues, however, he admits that he is most passionate about what he terms civil liberties, specifically the awareness and practice of legal public nudity. This tracks with the energy and persistence he has put into publicizing his belief in “public nudism” (saying it is much deeper than we realize and would change civilization if we could) and his multiple brushes with public authorities over the years. Perhaps his biggest setback was the legislation passed by the Board of Supervisors in November of 2011 and introduced by incumbent Supervisor Scott Wiener: “This morning, Mayor Lee signed my legislation banning public nudity in restaurants and requiring nude people to cover up public seating when they sit down.” The legislation passed unanimously.

 

Surpassing his housing and political power concerns, his recent self-generated media publicity surfaced in a report by the Associated Press and the New York Daily News in early August: “Naked But Not Afraid: California political candidate campaigns nude in Times Square.” Davis spoke against the public nudity ban in San Francisco and “stripped buck naked in Times Square . . . to campaign for the right to be nude in public.” The public reaction was vociferous, ranging from “Perhaps he shouldn’t go nude, it’s hard on the eyes” to “What does this have to do with NYC? Dude should take the show back to CA.”

 

 

John Nulty

 

In a political race John Nulty must be the consummate individualist, free of the distractions of owning a cell phone and self-funding his political activities. He hails from a lineage with roots in the Castro, his father having been born on 24th Street and much of his political and civic work having been done in concert with his identical twin brother.

 

On his LinkedIn profile, Nulty cites at least 15 civic and community organizations of which he was and/or still is a member and 4 others of which he was a Founding Member (Post Office Patrons from 1989, United We Stand America from 1993, San Francisco Community Land Trust from 2002, and Central City Democrats from 2006).

 

When asked about the most urgent needs in District 8, he presents himself as a citizen of the entire city, with a distinguished record to prove it. A self-funding operative, he says he is beholden to no special interests except his own sense of what is right and needs to be done.

 

His way of working is to identify a need, gather together citizens concerned with that issue, get them started as a working group or even as a separate ad hoc organization, and then, like Johnny Appleseed with whom he identifies, leave and move on to the next need that grabs his attention.

 

Coming from a storied past, he has managed to be a participant on any number of task forces and special civic bodies that have been chaired by well known San Francisco political and civic figures like Mayor Willie Brown.

 

Johnny Appleseed comes across as a citizen of the city and the world with the best needs of the city at heart and a constant roster of neighborhood, family and civic connections to call on as his allies. Batman and Robin could do no better.

 

If this makes him a civic lone ranger with extensive experience and roots in the past, as well as a detailed interpreter of past machinations at City Hall and in certain neighborhoods, as Supervisor of District 8 he would be akin to a problem solving consultant arriving on a white horse and beholden to none but himself and his network.

 

Michael Petrelis

 

Michael Petrelis might be called the in-your-face, Larry Kramer of the District 8 supervisorial aspirants, although as his Wikipedia bio describes it, Petrelis was even too “obnoxious” for Kramer. His insistent and provocative style speaks as a passionate champion of neighborhood values to some and as an intrusive troublemaker to others.

 

A life-long community activist, Petrelis was a co-founder of ACT UP in New York in the 1980’s and relocated to San Francisco in 1995. As an early AIDS and LGBT fighter, his was a brand of activism that sought out opposing viewpoints in various organizations and locations around the country and pushed his points through confrontation and disruption. One could say that challenging authority figures with disruptive, in-your-face tactics was a way of being for him, the tactics surpassing the message.

 

It is not surprising, then, that repeated abrasive behaviors generated censure and push back over many years. While this is not the place to go into a detailed history, suffice it to say that a competing campaign charged that Petrelis “has a long history of threatening behavior toward public servants, HIV/AIDS advocates, and reporters. He has been convicted of making criminal threats, spent time in jail, and been the subject of various restraining orders.”

 

This last measure is the past repeating itself after an incident in which Petrelis attempted to take a picture of Supervisor Wiener in a City Hall restroom in 2012. Wiener obtained a restraining order against Petrelis who also received three years probation in a related charge. Wiener has said he will not participate in any candidate forums in which Petrelis takes part.

 

Petrelis’ agenda were he to be elected Supervisor of District 8 puts the current housing crisis in San Francisco at the top of his list. He asserts that economic inequality in the district is growing, putting much of the residential housing stock beyond the reach of many residents. Specifically he cites evictions and what he says are not enough affordable set-asides in a system of lax new condo construction. Overall he sees no let up in the pace of rapid growth and the need for affordable housing and aid to renters.

 

Next on his list is the need for more police and a community discussion on affordable mental health. We need a balanced approach towards crime in District 8, he affirms, between law enforcement and mental health.

 

A persistent and vocal sunshine advocate, his latest campaign successfully persuaded the Department of Public Health to have Health Commission meetings aired on public TV. He also wants to see the monthly calendars of Fire Department officials and who they meet with and wants the supervisors to institute a regular question and answer period at City Hall. His wish list would also include requiring the tech buses that go through the city to pay an applied fee of $5,000 a day.

 

 

Photos: Bill Sywak

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

​Folsom Street Fair ‘14

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

Castro Street Fair To Host Local LGBT Performers

 

 

The first Sunday in October has arrived, which means the annual Castro Street Fair is upon us.

 

This donation-only festival celebrates the neighborhood, its inhabitants, and good old San Francisco Indian Summer fun! The fair runs on Castro between 19th and 16th streets, as well as side streets like 18th and parts of Market on Sunday October 5.

 

The event, which celebrates our vibrant Castro community, was started in 1974 by none other than Harvey Milk himself. What Milk realized back in the 70s, and what we all have been realizing since, is that this neighborhood is one that likes to carouse, especially in the sunshine that the neighborhood is known for, and especially in these late fall months.

 

Although the fair is free, donations benefit local non-profits, whose names have yet to be announced. Although we can’t tell you yet who these organizations are, we can tell you that a donation sticker will get you $1 off all drinks inside the festival. On a sunny Sunday, drinks are always good.

 

Last year’s festival was the 40th anniversary, and while this year’s event won’t feature performers like ultra-famous Peaches, there are still many treats and delights to be had in each corner of the festival grounds.

 

Much of the festivities come from the festival’s performers, who will be appearing on one of the event’s five stages. Because this is officially an LGBT event, many of the day’s performers hail from this community, and range from diva-house DJs to top-notch drag performers. There will even be a showing of the Tony award-winning, gay-friendly musical Avenue Q!

 

Other acts include social media sensation Aiden James, a singer-songwriter without a record label to back him and only facebook likes to get him to the top of the iTunes charts. There will be Bellydance performance and an entire swing dancing zone in the parking lot next to Slider’s on Castro Street near the Castro Theater, affectionately termed the Sundance Saloon. For the beat-inclined out there, dance alley will feature the untz-ing techno beats you might be used to in dark clubs and recently passed Folsom Street Fairs.

 

Be sure to remember that parts of Market and Castro streets will be closed off, so be sure to avoid those with your car on this day. Or better yet, keep your car in its (most-likely coveted) parking spot and walk on over to the celebrations. After all, as a Castro resident, this event is made for you!

 

Another reason to party is that our main street’s renovations are becoming nearly complete. Finally we can dance around new street lamp and ultra-Californian palm trees. The street lamps, much like the street itself, contain extra decoration, which you will just have to see for yourself. It’s just another way to make our neighborhood super special, as the street lamps will illuminate the new sidewalk plaques all the better.

 

Although 41st anniversary may not seem as momentous as the 40th, the new neighborhood look and direction - and it’s near completion - is a great reason for a party, if we even needed one.

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

Retail Plan Targets Store Vacancies

High rents barrier to small business entry

 

 

The Castro needs your help. Volunteers are needed to conduct short surveys about the experience of shoppers and diners in the Castro & Upper Market commercial district. The information collected will be used to develop the Castro & Upper Market Retail Strategy, which in turn will help fill vacancies and bring more desirable businesses to the neighborhood.

 

The neighborhood’s 6.9 percent retail vacancy rate is nearly double the City’s 3.8 percent average. The rate is threatened to increase even more due to new large-scale construction projects that plan to add over 30,000 square feet of new ground floor space over the next few years. The area is the second busiest shopping area after Union Square. The Castro/Upper Market commercial corridor boasts high pedestrian activity and draw as both a tourist destination and a “gay mecca.” The high vacancy rate is fueled by two factors: some formula retailers, such as Diesel and The Body Shop, are leaving the area, while other small business owners can’t afford to move in.

 

To prevent the issue from getting worse, a coalition of local businesses and neighbors have come together to create the Retail Strategy Project. The Project aims to address the existing high vacancy rate and develop a plan to fill new ground floor retail in a manner that enables the commercial corridor to thrive, while at the same time preserving its unique character and draw as a tourist destination. It also strives to ensure high quality of life for area residents.

 

The effort is being led by the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District along with the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, the Castro / Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association, and Castro Merchants. The project is budgeted at $87,200. A large portion of the funding comes from the Office and Economic Workforce Development, the rest from private donations.

 

The Retail Strategy Project is currently in its initial phase. According to Andrea Aiello of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, this 12-month phase will be used to collect data through surveys and interviews, as well as through case studies that compare the Castro with other neighborhoods in major US cities. The goal is to better understand the consumer’s demand in order to meet their retail needs. One of the biggest challenges the project faces is differentiating the needs of local residents versus the needs of the tourists that shop in the area. The findings of the surveys will be presented to the public in July of 2015.

 

As much of San Francisco has experienced drastic change in the population, the Castro is no exception.

 

Mark D. McHale, a representative for the Castro Merchants, put it this way: “Visitors come [to the Castro] (at least in part) to experience the San Francisco flair, and some more specifically to witness “ground zero” of the gay movement. Gay history has become a selling point for tourists, yet we all recognize the ongoing natural transition of the neighborhood to a more diverse population, including a new generation of younger residents, often with children.”

 

McHale believes there is a demand for more upscale retailers by the new residents moving into the area. He is confident that the Retail Strategy Project will address what consumers, residents and business owners love about and want more of in the Castro consumer experience, as well as what they think is lacking.

 

“We seem to have a good representation of lower and mid-range stores and in fact, the sentiment I’ve heard is need for more high end offerings (such as restaurants) to serve the demand of the changing locals,” McHale explained. “Hecho, Beso, Fable are all responses to locals wanting more value and enjoyment for their dining experience and money.”

 

But if there is so much money to be spent in the Castro, then why are some businesses vacating the neighborhood? Escalating commercial rents are forcing businesses out. When it comes time to renegotiating their leases, current business owners are getting slammed with even higher rents from their landlords. Homelessness in the area has also been mentioned to have a negative impact on current business.

 

“Overall, I think it’s amazing that an organized format has been created to address the retail needs of the neighborhood,” said Lindsay Daunell, co-founder of D&H Sustainable Jewelers on Market. “However, I think the Project is slanted heavily towards attracting new business instead of focusing on ways in which existing businesses can also improve. I think a mixed focus is necessary for real growth.”

 

Daunell has a point. While she understands that her shop is an anomaly, due to the product selection and price points being the highest in the area, helping existing businesses should be a top priority. She also believes that catering to the new demographic in the area would benefit current business and shoppers alike.

 

“Speaking from experience, it would be great to see more luxury retailers in the area as I know the business potential is significant. Having more high-end retail would instantly help revive the Castro’s reputation as a shopping destination,” she said. “I would love to see women’s clothing and shoe stores. Female shoppers make up most of our client base and they are grossly underserved in this neighborhood. It would also be great to have a full scale bakery- something that is such a staple in most neighborhoods.”

 

But the question remains: If the current shops are having a hard time keep maintaining, how can new businesses even stand a chance of opening shop in the Castro?

 

“When I looked at commercial store fronts in the Castro they were approximately $8000/mo for 1000 sq/ft,” an SF local commented about his experience on SF neighborhood blog, Hoodline. “Then you have to deal with San Francisco’s complex, expensive and time consuming permitting process, which is even worse if you are requesting a change of use. More time and costs for build out. Wages, made more expensive by SF labor laws and the new minimum wage hike on the ballot. Crunch the numbers, and you need to be pushing a lot of product just to break even.”

 

Between figuring out how to please the residents, attract tourists, keep current business from closing and fill the empty storefronts, the Retail Strategy Project definitely has a full plate over the next 12-month period. If you would like to get involved to volunteer visit www.castroretail.com or send an email to info@castroretail.com.

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

 

Something’s Funny at Lost Weekend Video

 

Lost Weekend Video & The Cinecave is located at 1034 Valencia St.

 

Christy Colcord, Adam Pfahler, and Dave Hawkins opened Lost Weekend Video in 1997 and it soon become a beloved and thriving neighborhood business. Two years back they added The Cinecave, a small but super popular live comedy spot. The place is now at a crossroads because the success of The Cinecave doesn’t match local demand for video rentals. I spoke with Christy Colcord about what’s happening at the store.

 

Wendy:

 

The Cinecave has events almost every night of the week, including some regular weekly events. What do have coming up in October?

 

Christy:

 

We do regular shows on Thursday and Saturday; those are our regular standup showcases. Every week it’s the same hosts and the best of Bay Area comedians. The other nights of the week: Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, are more like monthly shows. Some of them are topic based, like Give Me Fiction, which is this Sunday. [It’s} comics and writers and theater professionals all writing stories on a theme; this month the theme is music. We have some [events] that are live versions of popular comedy podcasts; we have game shows; we just finished a month of shows with W Kamau Bell, who had a nightly show on FX for a couple years. He’s from the Bay Area but was in New York doing that show, and he just spent a month here on Saturday nights working at his new special. This Friday we have Talkies, which is the first Friday of the month, and that’s a multimedia show. It’s a lot of short films, PowerPoint presentations, comics basically working outside their medium doing more experimental stuff; it’s a really popular show.

 

Wendy:

 

Do you have screenings there as well?

 

Christy:

 

Not so much anymore. When we first opened it we opened it to show films but the comedy got more and more popular, so we ended up just basically doing comedy. We’ll do films as part of a show; we don’t do much just straight film anymore. This Saturday we have another comic from out of town, Ben Kronberg; he’s from LA. We kind of mix up doing our regular local showcases and headliners when they come into town. We also host Sketchfest in January; that’s for a couple of weeks. They do stuff at venues all over town and we do two shows a night during Sketchfest that are always packed out ‘cause it’s such a small venue.

 

Wendy:

 

It seems like the comedy scene in San Francisco, and all over really, is just incredibly strong.

 

Christy:

 

Yeah, I think it’s going through a little renaissance now. We started doing it just at the right time. We’ve been doing it for two years now and our first wave of people who always played here have all moved down to LA and are starting to catch on down there, and we have another wave now who are getting to that point, so it’s really fun following those people.

 

Wendy:

 

You have a broad range of comedians appearing there and shows are often sold out. Obviously Cinecave is doing very well but things on the video rental side of things are much slower. The video store is in a bit of a bind from what I understand, and that you’re looking at possibly doing what Le Video did, which is to partner with a compatible business at the store.

 

Christy:

 

Yeah, and it’s difficult because of Valencia Street restrictions; it’s difficult for us to make the comedy more of [an] income earner. The question is do we find someone else to join us here to allow us to stay open or do we move to Oakland or someplace where it’s easier to do what we’d like to do? Our lease is good until first of May so we have that amount of time to figure out what path is best for us.

 

Wendy:

 

And for you it isn’t the landlord who’s trying to get you to go; it’s the situation with video rentals.

 

Christy:

 

That’s right. Our landlord is fine; she raises our rent every time but she doesn’t jack up our rent. The issue is declining revenue, not higher expenses.

 

The CinecaveWendy:

 

Do you think that’s at all a reflection of the new population in the Mission?

 

Christy:

 

Yeah, it’s a combination of a change of technology and change of neighborhood. Obviously people have other ways to get videos, so that’s not a surprise but it’s also demographics because most of the people who are our dedicated customers, maybe because they’re cineiacs and there’s lots of stuff you can’t get online, or because they believe in shopping neighborhood stores, most of those people have moved to Oakland or to Portland, because they can’t afford to live in the city anymore. They’re being replaced by people who don’t have anything against us but don’t have a reason to shop here because they don’t have a connection to us, and also they’re younger. My generation, when you moved to a new neighborhood, one of the first things you did was figure out where the local video store was in town.

 

And new MacBook Pros don’t even have a disc drive in them, so we have a lot of customers who are like, “I’d love to rent videos but I don’t have any way to watch them.” A lot of people don’t have televisions; they just watch things on their laptop. If there’s no dvd drive they can’t even watch videos if they wanted to. It’s a combination of all of those factors so we either have to do something else or we have to move to where our customers are.

 

Wendy:

 

You and your partners, Adam Pfahler and Dave Hawkins, have already been through changes together professionally. From what I understand you all met and worked in music.

 

Christy:

 

That’s right. I owned a booking agency; I used to book European tours for American bands. I was good friends with my one business partner, Adam, and booked tours for his band. Then his band signed with a major label and I moved back to the States to work for their management company, and at the management company Adam and I met Dave, who was working at the management company. When Adam’s band broke up we decided to open the video store since film was the other interest that we shared.

 

Wendy:

 

It seems like music led you to film and film led you to comedy. What’s next? Maybe an artist’s community would be a good co-tenant for you.

 

Christy:

 

Yeah, I feel like what is drawing them all together is that they’re all community. Film is something that’s hardest to shared because everyone’s sitting alone in the dark in a move theater. You’re experiencing it collectively but as an individual. Video stores were a way that people could collectively experience films. You could go and you could ask for recommendations and you could talk to fellow customers. We have customers who met and got married and had babies all from the video store, in the same way that people met because they would go to a show of a band they liked and they met other people who liked that band, or in the same way of the community of comedians and people [who] appreciate new comedy. The thing that unites all three of those things is it’s a place for people to meet and talk about their shared interests and be enthusiastic about something. These days Valencia Street in particular, is boutiques and a lot of restaurants. Food is another thing that you kind of experience alone; you go to a restaurant; you sit with whoever you came with, but you don’t talk to the people at the other tables. Valencia Street used to be a place where the policeman knew your name; the video store person knew your name, that type of thing. What we’d hoped to do with The Cinecave was to foster that that was being lost. The Cinecave has accomplished that I think; it’s just not quite enough to pay the video store part. So, what’s the next thing? When we opened The Cinecave we thought it was gonna be a movie theater; we would have never guessed it would be a comedy club. The plan was to do one night a month of comedy and now we do five, six nights a week. We could move to Oakland planning on opening a comedy venue and like you said, maybe it’ll turn into an art gallery! Whatever works! Whatever [the] community we’re in needs at that time is what will happen. I think our experience has led us to be open to whatever comes up and if something is working to embrace it. I think now it’s more important than ever because we are so isolated, in San Francisco in particular, because it’s so tech heavy. People spend all day at work in front of a computer and then go home and sit in front of a computer, so the opportunities there are for people to talk to other people the better.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Lost Weekend Video

 

 

 

••••• ALSO IN THIS ISSUE •••••

 

Community Newspapers Featured at SF Commonwealth Forum

 

 

 

 

 

The San Francisco Neighborhood Newspaper Association and the impact of community journalism was the featured topic Sept. 22 at a forum sponsored by the city’s prestigious Commonwealth Club.

 

Four local publishers, Earl Adkins (Marina Times), Juan Gonzales (El Tecolote), Willie Ratcliff (SF BayView) and moderator Glenn Gullmes (West Portal Monthly) represented the neighborhood news collective in leading a discussion on the state of local journalism and its impact on informing and bringing together citizens for community action.

 

Gonzales, who is also a professor of journalism at the City College of San Francisco, described how over 44 years, El Tecolote has been a hub in the Mission District for the Latino community helping to define and strengthen the “community identity.” He said El Tecolote has also served as a training ground for generations of journalist and community activists who are looking to be involved in their communities and to make a difference in the future direction of their neighborhood.

 

The underlying thread of community involvement and connectedness is a unifying factor for each of the 15 community newspapers and the main differentiator between the hyper-local news in each community and the difficulties that the major daily newspapers are having. The problems of the major daily newspapers have been well documented and reported on nationwide, and the Bay Area is not exempt, with downsizing being evident at both the San Francisco Chronicle and The Examiner. Both Adkins and Gullmes spoke on the advantage that the neighborhood papers have when covering community focused events and concerns, “We are at the forefront of what is happening in our neighborhoods,” said Gullmes, “We have local journalists and citizens that are tuned into the concerns and needs of the communities and they are well represented to report on meetings at the school districts, neighborhood councils, and police stations as well as at City Hall and Planning Commission meetings.”

 

Adkins used a recent community outreach process concerning the opening of a chain restaurant on the Marina Green as the type of community involvement and coverage that local papers such as the Marina Times, can cover best. He stressed that his publication is focused on serving the needs of the residents of the Marina, primarily as a “lifestyle and local news outlet.”

 

Some of the newspapers tackle a larger scope. Ratcliff, publisher of the Bayview based SF BayView tackles both local issues as well as African-American focused issues from as far away as Haiti and the continent of Africa itself. “It’s a labor of love,” said Ratcliff, who has owned the paper since 1991. He cited important local issues such as crime, gentrification, education and the redevelopment of the Hunter’s Point shipyard as areas where the community look to his newspaper for detailed information and coverage. When asked about topics that are still relevant for his newspaper, he cited the “inequality within SF, especially for African-Americans, people of color and women.”

 

Moderator Gullmes, involved with the SFNNA throughout its 25-year history, used numbers to show the impact on the city that the 15 publications have. Together, the neighborhood publications are the largest source of print media distribution in San Francisco, with a reach of over 275,000 households each month, and advertising revenues that have reached their highest in the history of the SFNNA during this period where “print is supposedly dead.”

 

The sell-out crowd was able to ask questions of the panelists and topics ranged from the future of journalism (There will always be a need for information to be well researched and distributed – in whatever format it will be in the future), to the differences in what the major papers can do versus the smaller neighborhood based monthlies.

 

Following the conclusion of the forum, which was also broadcast via the Commonwealth Club’s affiliated radio outlets, the publishers remained to continue the discussion with individual audience members. It was an apt conclusion to the topic which helped to convey that community journalism is alive and well in San Francisco.

 

 

Photo: Mitch Bull

 

 

 

Photos: Bill Sywak

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

© Castro Courier 2014