Guardian forum

Shit happened (Oct. 23-29)


Tenant proposals and Guardian forum address eviction crisis

Tenant advocates have proposed a sweeping set of legislative proposals to address what they’re calling the “eviction epidemic” that has hit San Francisco, seeking to slow the rapid displacement of tenants by real estate speculators with changes to land use, building, rent control, and other city codes.

“In essence, it’s a comprehensive agenda to restrict the speculation on rental units,” Chinatown Community Development Center Policy Director Gen Fujioka told the Guardian. “We can’t directly regulate the Ellis Act [the state law allowing property owners to evict tenants and take their apartments off the rental market], but we’re asking the city to do everything but that.”

The package was announced Oct. 24 on the steps of City Hall by representatives of CCDC, San Francisco Tenants Union, Housing Rights Committee of SF, Causa Justa-Just Cause, Tenderloin Housing Clinic, UNITE HERE Local 2, Community Tenants Association, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

“San Francisco is falling into one of the deepest and most severe eviction crises in 40 years,” SFTU Director Ted Gullicksen said. “It is bad now and is going to get worse unless the city acts.”

The announcement came a day after the Lee family — an elderly couple on Social Security who care for their disabled daughter — was finally Ellis Act evicted from its longtime Chinatown home after headline-grabbing activism by CCDC and other groups had twice turned away deputies and persuaded the Mayor’s Office to intervene with the landlord.

But Mayor Ed Lee has been mum — his office ignored our repeated requests for comment — on the worsening eviction crisis, the tenant groups’ proposals, and the still-unresolved fate of the Lees, who are temporarily holed up in a hotel and still hoping to find permanent housing they can afford.

The package proposed by tenant advocates includes: require those converting rental units into tenancies-in-common to get a conditional use permit and bring the building into compliance with current codes (to discourage speculation and flipping buildings); regulate TIC agreements to discourage Ellis Act abuse; increase required payments to evicted tenants and improve city assistance to those displaced by eviction; require more reporting on the status of units cleared with the Ellis Act by their owners; investigate and prosecute Ellis Act fraud (units are often secretly re-rented at market rates after supposedly being removed from the market); increase inspections of construction on buildings with tenants (to prevent landlords from pressuring them to move); prohibit the demolition, mergers, or conversions of rental units that have been cleared of tenants using no-fault evictions in the last 10 years (Sup. John Avalos has already introduced this legislation).

“The evidence is clear. We are facing not only an eviction crisis but also a crisis associated with the loss of affordable rental housing across the city. Speculative investments in housing has resulted in the loss of thousands affordable apartments through conversions and demolitions. And the trend points to the situation becoming much worse,” the coalition wrote in a public statement proposing the reforms.

Evictions have reached their highest level since the height of the last dot-com boom in 1999-2000, with 1,934 evictions filed in San Francisco in fiscal year 2012-13, and the rate has picked up since then. The Sheriff’s Department sometimes does three evictions per day, last year carrying out 998 court-ordered evictions, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi told us, arguing for an expansion of city services to the displaced.

At “Housing for Whom?” a community forum the Guardian hosted Oct. 23 in the LGBT Center, panelists and audience members talked about the urgent need to protect and expand affordable housing in the city. They say the current eviction epidemic is being compounded by buyouts, demolitions, and the failure of developers to build below-market-rate units.

“We’re bleeding affordable housing units now,” Fred Sherburn-Zimmer of Housing Right Committee said last night, noting the steadily declining percentage of housing in the city that is affordable to current city residents since rent control was approved by voters in 1979. “We took out more housing than we’ve built since then.”

Peter Cohen of the Council of Community Housing Organizations actually quantified the problem, citing studies showing that only 15 percent of San Franciscans can afford the rents and home prices of new housing units coming online. He said the housing isn’t being built for current city residents: “It’s a demand derived from a market calculation.”

Cohen said the city’s inclusionary housing laws that he helped write more than a decade ago were intended to encourage developers to actually build below-market-rate units in their projects, but almost all of them choose to pay the in-lieu fee instead, letting the city find ways to build the affordable housing and thereby delaying construction by years.

“It was not about writing checks,” Cohen said. “It was about building affordable units.”

Discussion at the forum began with a debate about the waterfront luxury condo project proposed for 8 Washington St., which either Props. B or C would allow the developer to build. Project opponent Jon Golinger squared off against proponent Tim Colen, who argued that the $11 million that the developer is contributing to the city’s affordable housing fund is an acceptable tradeoff.

But Sherburn-Zimmer said the developer should be held to a far higher standard given the obscene profits that he’ll be making from waterfront property that includes a city-owned seawall lot. “Public land needs to be used for the public good.”

Longtime progressive activist Ernestine Weiss sat in the front row during the forum, blasting Colen and his Prop. B as a deceptive land grab and arguing that San Francisco’s much ballyhooed rent control law was a loophole-ridden compromise that should be strengthened to prevent rents from jumping to market rate when a master tenant moves out, and to limit rent increases that exceed wage increases (rent can now rise 1.9 percent annually on rent controlled apartment).

“That’s baloney that it’s rent control!” she told the crowd. (Steven T. Jones)

Students fight suspensions targeting young people of color

Sagging pants, hats worn indoors, or having a really bad day — the list of infractions that can get a student suspended from a San Francisco Unified School District school sounds like the daily life of a teenager. The technical term for it is “willful defiance,” and there are so many suspensions made in its name that a student movement has risen up against it.

The punishment is the first step to derailing a child’s education, opponents said.

Student activists recognize the familiar path from suspensions to the streets to prisons, and they took to the streets Oct. 22 to push the SFUSD to change its ways. Around 20 or so students and their mentors marched up to City Hall and into the Board of Education to demand a stop of suspensions over willful defiance.

A quarter of all suspensions in SFUSD for the 2011-12 school year were made for “disruption or defiance,” according to the California Department of Education. Half of all suspensions in the state were for defiance.

When a student is willfully defiant and suspended, it’s seen as a downward spiral as students are pushed out of school and onto the streets, edging that much closer to a life of crime.

“What do we want? COLLEGE! What are we gonna do? WORK HARD!” the students shouted as they marched to the Board of Education’s meeting room, on Franklin Street.

They were dressed in graduation gowns of many colors, signs raised high. They smiled and danced and the mood was infectious. One driver drove by, honked and said “Yes, alright!” Assorted passersby of all ethnicities cheered on the group. The students were from 100% College Prep Institute, a Bayview tutoring and mentoring group founded in 1999 aiming to educate students of color in San Francisco. Their battle is a tough one. Though African American students make up only 10 percent of SFUSD students, they accounted for 46 percent of suspensions in 2012, according to SFUSD data. Latinos made up the next largest group, at 30 percent. (Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez)

Techies to NSA: Stop spying on us!

Thousands of privacy and civil liberties activists, including many from the Bay Area, headed to Washington DC for an Oct. 26 rally calling for surveillance legislation reform, in response to National Security Agency spying programs. It was organized by more than 100 groups that have joined together as part of the Stop Watching Us coalition. The group has launched an online petition opposing NSA spying, and planned to deliver about 500,000 signatures to Congress. Many of the key drivers behind Stop Watching Us, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation to Mozilla, are based in San Francisco. (Rebecca Bowe)

Guardian forum examines who San Francisco is building housing for


Our original intention for “Housing for Whom?” — a Bay Guardian community forum tomorrrow night (Wed/23) at the LGBT Center — was to look at the hottest items on an otherwise lackluster fall election: Propositions B and C, which would allow a controversial waterfront luxury condo project to be build at 8 Washington St.

So we booked key proponents on the each side the measure: Jon Golinger, president of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers and a key opponent of the project; and Tim Colen of the Housing Action Coalition, one of three proponents of Prop. B. We’re excited to hear what they have to say and to discuss the measures.

But in the weeks since then, there’s been explosion of public concern over the related issues of gentrification and evictions, accompanied by a renewal of progressive activism that has scored some notable victories, all of its set against a skylight of construction cranes building a glut of high-end housing in Upper Market and other areas.

So we’ve decided to broaden our discussion to look at the implications of the city’s current housing and economic development policies, examining what the San Francisco of the the future will look like if we continue on our current course and what can be done to control our destiny.

To help guide that discussion, our panel will also include Fred Sherburn-Zimmer, an activist with the Housing Rights Committee who recently went through her own personal eviction battle; and Peter Cohen of the Council of Community Housing Organization, who will offer an overview of the housing now being built and the challenges in meeting the needs of current city residents.

We’ll also be turning to you, Guardian readers, for your input and observations. And to help with that, the crowd will include veterans of the successful recent campaign to prevent high-ending clothing chain Jack Spade from opening a store in the Mission and the struggles to prevent the Lee family eviction and a mass eviction on Market Street that would be the biggest single eviction since the I Hotel.

Moderating the discussion will be yours truly, Editor Steven T. Jones, and News Editor Rebecca Bowe. So come join us from 6-8pm at on the fourth floor of the LGBT Center, 1800 Market St.   

Guardian forum sparks lively discussion


We had a packed house last night for our community forum on the future of the Bay Guardian and the progressive movement in the Bay Area, with lots of great input, advice, gratitude, and just a bit of acrimony. It was even more informative and inspiring than we had hoped for and we appreciate everyone coming out and speaking so frankly.

As Sup. David Campos (who just announced his candidacy for the California Assembly) said last night, “The Bay Guardian has been the conscience of the [progressive] movement and I think it’s important for the Guardian to continue to play that role,” and that’s a role that the new generation of Guardian leaders will continue playing while also reaching out to a new generation of Guardian readers.  

We’ll have a full rundown in next week’s paper, along with an extended letters to the editor section to make up for shutting down online comments this week, so for now let me just offer a brief overview. In addition to Campos, the crowd of around 100 people included Sup. John Avalos, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, and City College of San Francisco Trustees Rafael Mandelman and Chris Jackson.

The crowd also included Todd Vogt, CEO of the San Francisco Print Media Company, who got an earfull from progressive activists Gabriel Haaland, Chris Cook, and others over the abrupt departure of longtime Guardian Editor Tim Redmond in June, with concerns expressed over the Guardian’s credibility and editorial autonomy.

Both Vogt and those on the Guardian’s panel — which included (from right in the photo above) Publisher Marke Bieschke, Editor Steven T. Jones, Music Editor Emily Savage, Senior A&E Editor Cheryl Eddy, Art Director Brooke Robertson, and News Editor Rebecca Bowe — emphasized that the Guardian has full editorial autonomy and control over what we cover and how, and who we endorse. The mission of the paper — “To print the news and raise hell,” and to be an indispensible guide to Bay Area arts and culture — hasn’t changed.

We’re all still digesting everything what was said last night (both at the forum in the LGBT Center and an informal session afterwards at Zeitgeist that went late), and we will be factoring it into what we do and continuing this ongoing conversation with all of you. We also welcome everyone’s input and advice, which you can send to us at

A special thanks to Alix Rosenthal for moderating the public input — and to everyone who came — for somehow keeping the comments and questions clear, concise, and constructive.


UPDATE: Journalist Josh Wolf has written an excellent summary of the forum here at on the Journalism That Matters website. Check it out.

8/6 UPDATE: We just turned comments back on after shutting them off for a week-long experiment.

Guardian forum on Plan Bay Area draws big, engaged crowd


San Franciscans who want to help shape how this city grows — rather than just leaving it up to regional planners and market forces — packed a large conference room last night for a community forum presented by the Bay Guardian: “Whose Future? What Does the Regional ‘Plan Bay Area’ Really Mean for San Francisco?”

Moderated and organized by Guardian Editor/Publisher Tim Redmond, and co-sponsored by the Council of Community Housing Organizations (CCHO) and Urban Institute for Development and Economic Alternatives (UrbanIDEA), the session began with a overview of what’s now being planned for the San Francisco of 2040.

Gen Fujoika of the Chinatown Community Development Center said that Plan Bay Area, which is being jointly developed by the Association of Bay Area Governments and Metropolitan Transportation Commission (which will hold a hearing on the plan tomorrow, Fri/14, at 9:30am in Oakland), doesn’t pay for itself yet it will include strong incentives that will shape development in the region.

“It is in some sense a plan and I think we need to critique the hell out of that plan,” he said. “As we think of Plan Bay Area as a vision statement, we need to think about whether it’s our vision.”

As illustrated by the Plan Bay Area maps that the lined the walls of the LGBT Center conference room, the plan’s “priority development areas” that are slated for dense, streamlined development are also the same areas identified as “communities of concern” with vulnerable, low-income populations, making the plan a recipe for mass displacement.

Fujoika quoted a comment that Mayor Ed Lee made on Tuesday when asked by Sup. Eric Mar about the issue: “San Francisco has some of the toughest anti-displacements laws in the country.” While that may be true, Fujoika said that the plummeting numbers of African-Americans in the city and Plan Bay Area’s displacement projections for San Francisco show those laws simply aren’t up the challenge.

“If we have the toughest anti-displacement position in the country, then we are in some trouble,” he said, calculating that the affordable housing needed to prevent extreme gentrification in the city would total $6.8 billion, and that the affordable housing fund created by voters last year is only projected to raise $1.3 billion by 2030.

Fujoika said that he and the other panelists aren’t against growth and development, “but we are for equitable growth,” which would involve more community buy-in for the plan, more money for affordable housing and infrastructure needs, and more of the growth burden being shared by other Bay Area communities.

San Francisco Planning Commission Chair Cindy Wu cited growth projections for Chinatown as a good example of the problem, noting that is already a dense, complete neighborhood that would suffer from the greatly increased traffic that would be funneled through it and other negative impacts of unfettered growth.

“It’s not just growth for growth’s sake, it’s who gets to live there and who gets those jobs,” she said. Wu called for more community organizing around this and other development plans, citing as a good example the coalition-building that forced California Pacific Medical Center to agree to a multi-hospital project with far better community benefits than the deal it originally cut with the Mayor’s Office.

It was a point echoed by Maria Zamudio with Causa Justa, who said Plan Bay Area will worsen pressures that are already displacing the Mission District residents she works with, or forcing them to live in unsafe housing. “They’re going to push our families out of the city and maybe out of the region,” she said.

To combat the power that this plan and profit-minded property owners will exert over how San Francisco grows, San Francisco Labor Council President Mike Casey, head of UNITE-HERE Local 2, said that progressive San Franciscans will need to work cooperatively with organized labor, a relationship that has suffered during these tough economic times.

“Unfortunately, I think we’ve become alienated and marginalized from each other,” Casey said, calling on activists to not let differences over individual projects or issues interfere with solidarity over the larger, longer struggle for equity and justice.

“Not everyone agrees that a strong labor movement is the cornerstone of a more progressive vision,” Casey said, arguing that displacement of working class people from the city has a cascading effect in gentrifying the city. “The demographics of a city shape very much what the politics of protest look like.”

And those politics of protest will be more crucial than ever in resisting the demands that powerful capitalists will make on San Francisco in the coming years, a point that all seven panelists seemed to agree on.

Bob Allen of Urban Habitat said the planning research groups represented on the panel need to find ways to funnel more funding into grassroots organizing, both in San Francisco and regionally. Otherwise, we’ll see the “suburbanization of poverty,” with Plan Bay Area funneling the best jobs and most expensive housing into urban areas and leaving everyone else to fend for themselves in communities that don’t have the tenant protections and other hard-won social justice programs that San Franciscans have struggled for.

“Local control can be a way of saying ‘I don’t want black or brown people to live in my suburban community,” Allen said.

Ironically, Plan Bay Area is ostensibly driven by concerns over climate change and the argument that it’s better to concentrate development along transit corridors, which is why almost all of San Francisco and much of Oakland is proposed for development that would be given waivers from some California Environmental Quality Act scrutiny.

Yet the plan doesn’t fund the transit upgrades that would be needed to serve that growth or create restrictions on automobile use that might encourage more transit use. Instead, Fujoika said low-income people who actually use transit would be the diplaced in favor of wealthier residents who might not.

“Transit has become an amenity rather than a necessity,” Wu said.

The forum, which was attended by more than 130 people, included a lively discussion that involved dozens of audience members who offered their own views, ideas, and strategies for how to move forward. Among them was Brian Basinger of the AIDS Housing Alliance, who said that he is working with a coalition to reform the Ellis Act, which allows landlords to evict tenants from rent-controlled apartments.

“We could move this as early as January,” Basinger said of the reform legislation now being developed with allies in the Legislature, urging attendees to get involved.

After the audience discussion, the meeting closed with Peter Cohen of the CCHO summarizing the high points and getting people to sign up on lists that were circulated to be involved with next steps. And Rachel Brahinsky, a former Guardian staff writer who is now a professor at USF’s Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good, urged attendees to fight for San Francisco to remain inclusive and diverse: “San Francisco is the place it is because people have kept fighting.”

Guardian feminism panel calls for change, gang activity


In the interest of behaving badly, let us first say that we won’t apologize for the “roving feminist gangs” comment, nor the laughter that ensued at our July 11 “Bay Area Feminism Today” panel. In the light of the sexual attacks that have terrorized Mission District residents this year, Celeste Chan’s joke (actually a reference to comments made by Fox News in reference to the New Jersey Seven) has to be read as a self defense tactic — and source of comfort and strength to the women living in the neighborhood. Not a threat to men. Unless they’re commiting sexual assault, of course — but then, women commiting sexual assault will probably have the gang’s wrath to face as well. 

Seven women from all walks of Bay Area activism — arts, nightlife, immigrant advocacy, domestic violence organizations, and more — came together at City College’s Mission branch to discuss what our SF progressive community needs to work on, recent feminist victories, whether they even believe in the term “feminism,” and everything in between. Our “Faces of feminism” cover story announcing the event attracted a decent-sized crowd of around 120 (mainly young women, with zero male elected officials in attendance.) We laughed, we nearly cried, we came away with a lot to think about. Here’s some of the general topics that were discussed. And here’s to this being a spark for continued talks, however a Fourth Wave Bay feminism may take shape.


Reproductive justice

Reproductive justice has long been a feminist goal, but with the recent spate of attacks on birth control and abortion access it’s come up again. Are we here in the Bay Area isolated from the War On Women?Some panelists thought we can affect the country’s situation positively.

“Part of what we do here in the Bay Area is we send strong women to Washington,” the Drug Policy Alliance‘s Laura Thomas said. “We are responsible for a significant amount of women in Congress.” But California’s reproductive justice situation is more complicated than it may seem. St. James Infirmary‘s Stephany Ashley noted that reproductive health here is under attack with “criminalization of HIV-positive people,”  and that California “just cut all funding for HIV prevention for women.”


Chan, founder of Queer Rebels Productions, added that California is cutting domestic violence services through slashing CalWORKS funding. Mujeres Unidas‘ Juana Flores noted that the Bay’s Latino communities can find it difficult to support aspects of reproductive health because of religion and tradition. But she said that people need to work together and realize that “it’s a real war. It’s a real war on us.” She warned that “politicians are not going to fix things just because they want to improve our lives. We need to fight back.”

Transgender activist and member of SF’s Youth Commission Mia Tu Mutch said that part of the war on women has been a wave of anti-trans legislation across the country, as well as a wave of hate crimes, especially against trans women of color. Some legislation in Tennessee is making it more difficult for trans people to go the bathroom, she said. “Reproductive justice is important, but we also need just the simple right to pee.”

But what about the word itself?

Does feminism have power as its own concept now, or has its work been rightly subsumed into the queer movement, the civil rights movement, and other forms of activism? “A lot of us can agree that there isn’t something you can point to and say, this is the feminist movement in San Francisco,” Ashley said. “But there are many important feminist projects happening.”
Alix Rosenthal, who created a controversial women’s slate in her bid for re-election on the SF Democratic County Central Committee recalled how “30 to 40 years ago, we all had to join together because there weren’t enough of us. Now people have splintered off.” Chan brought up the bicycle scene in 1983’s feminist sci-fi film Born in Flames, and quoted Audre Lourde: “for so long, we’ve been on the edge of each other’s battles.”

Tu Mutch said that she “would rather identify as fighting for LGBT rights, progressive rights” than as feminist. But, she continued that it is “under the system of patriarchy that we’re all getting screwed over.” She said that women are treated as second-class citizens, and trans and gender non-conforming people are treated as third class citizens in our society.  Edaj, longtime Bay Area DJ and director of the Women’s Stage at Pride for a decade, agreed that the word feminism “sparks a lot of emotion in people” and can create obstacles in growing support. Said Flores: “it’s a big word. People call me a feminist when I claim my rights. When I see another women who is suffering or being abused it’s unbearable to me,” Flores said. “When someone calls me a feminist, I feel proud.”

The inward gaze: how does the San Francisco progressive community do on feminist issues?

In a word: okay. But there’s work to be done even here, in “progressive” San Francisco. Thomas led the charge, talking about the state’s current legal ability to shackle women prisoners during childbirth. Tu Mutch expressed a need to stop “pitting groups against each other,” and to get rid of a City Hall attitude that says “my budget is more important than yours.” Tu Mutch said “there’s still rampant transphobia and gender essentialism,” that affects not just women, but the “countless people born with intersex conditions and who identify outside the binary.”

Ashley pointed out that “even some of our favorite male progressive politicians, you don’t see them cultivating leadership among women, queer people, trans people.” She talked about how that’s a traditional feminist organizing principle, “mentorship and meaningful participation, not just tokenizing participation.”

As a (not) side note, there wasn’t a single male politician in the audience that day. As Ashley put it, “patriarchy is really the problem.” Ashley and panel moderator, SFBG culture editor Caitlin Donohue shared the fact that they’ve felt diminished by remarks made by and in the company of the city’s so-called “progressive politicians.”

Recent feminist victories

But enough depressing stuff. How about recent feminist victories, asked an audience member.

This question was met with a disconcerting silence. Until Chan jumped in: “I’m really inspired by the place queer arts are at right now.” She told of the “lineage of resistance” of art that deals with questions like “how do people survive the unimaginable? How do people survive the truly horrific?” Disturbing incidents like that of transgender prisoner Cece McDonald beg the question, “is the perfect victim a dead victim? If you fight back, you’ll be criminalized? Now more than ever we need a movement. We really need to come together,” concluded Chan.

Rosenthal saw hope in surprising places. “Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman,” she said. “These women are so incompetent. But they made it. They really made it.” She talked about how usually women have had to be five times better than the men they competed with, but “Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman are not five times better than anyone. But they made it.”
Laura Thomas was inspired by Julia Bluhm, the 14-year old ballet dancer from Maine whose online petition led Seventeen to promise to stop using Photoshop to alter women’s body types. Ashley acknowledged Tu Mutch’s advocacy work, and said she was recently inspired by a “take back the plaza” event Tu Mutch had organized. Edaj was inspired by being named a Pride Grand Marshall, and the feeling that the Pride organization was acknowledging the importance of the space created at the Women’s Stage. She was also inspired by Morningstar Vancil, a Filipino vet who is a two-spirit drag king, and Vancil’s commitment to disabled veterans issues.

Action items

In response to a question that asked what the 2012 action plan for Bay Area feminists should involve, Ashley said “principles of intersectionality, anti-colonialism, anti-capitalism” had to be valued more than they have been in past feminist movements. They’re there in Third Wave feminism, Ashely said, only they are “wrapped up in theory and academia.” Those guiding principles should have “more on the ground” applicability. What needs to happen right now, speaking of on the ground? Back to 2012’s spate of sexual violence in the Mission, there’s a distinct necessity for “a perfect community response that doesn’t involve the police, so that we all of a sudden feel really comfortable taking a walk at 3 in the morning through our favorite neighborhood.”

Flores said that any new form of feminism would need to be about “mutual respect” and “against any form of injustice,” to which Thomas agreed, saying it needs to be “less theory, more practice.” It also, Thomas said “has to deal with gender in a different way. A new feminism needs to go beyond gender, or deal with gender differently” in the sense of respecting gender non-conforming identities. A tricky prospect, she admitted. “How you develop a gendered movement that doesn’t use gender as a defining construct, I don’t know.” More specifically, she underlined the importance of “progressive revenue measures,” and “an end to cuts to childcare and domestic violence programs.” “Our economy’s not coming back through more cuts. We need revenue, more taxes,” she said, to cheers from the crowd. Well this was a Guardian forum, after all. 

Edaj reiterated that “that word scares off a lot of people who might otherwise want to join.” Tu Mutch underlined that it would need to “take up the idea that men and women are opposites. That only serves to degrade women.” A new feminism, she said, would be about “turning away from that and realizing there’s lots of different genders.”

Tu Mutch said she would like to see success for her organization to fight for trans healthcare rights, FEATHER. “People have to spend ridiculous amounts of money to transition,” she said. “We need universal healthcare for all, including trans people.”

Chan pondered the question. In the end, she concluded, “roving feminist gangs,” inspiring at least one angry letter from a slighted middleaged white man in the crowd. Which wasn’t the only reason why we deemed the panel a success, but an important one.

Faces of feminism


Is San Francisco still on the cutting edge of women’s issues? I recently spent a sunny Saturday morning buried in the radical archives of Bolerium Books ( — which is by the way, an amazing resource for anyone researching labor, African American, First Peoples, and queer history, among other things. Me, I was looking into our city’s rich history of feminist activism, inspiration for our upcoming Guardian “Bay Area Feminism Today” panel discussion. The event will unite amazing females from across the city who have but one thing in common: they’re pushing the envelope when it comes to the definition of what a “women’s issue” is, in a time when very few people claim feminism as their primary crusade. We’ll be talking more about their exciting projects –- but also touching on more universal issues. What is San Francisco’s role in fighting the nationwide attack on reproductive rights? How is our progressive community doing in terms of supporting women and maintaining a feminist perspective on issues?

Women’s work: it’s alive and kicking, and it deserves its moment in the spotlight. Meet our panelists here, in preparation for the real deal. 


Wed/11 6-8pm, free

City College of San Francisco Mission campus

1125 Valencia, SF


St. James Infirmary programs director, ex-president of Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club


For me, sex worker rights are a feminist issue because they are about body autonomy. As much as reproductive choice is a feminist issue, so too is the right to determine the ways in which we use our bodies, change our bodies, and take care of our bodies. When people are criminalized for their HIV status, denied access to hormones and safe gender transitions, or are afraid to carry condoms because it might lead to police harassment or arrest — these are all feminist issues. At St. James Infirmary (, we provide healthcare and social services from a peer-based model, so community is really the central aspect of the project. I was excited to chair the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club ( last year, because I wanted to keep raising sex workers rights issues as part of the LGBT agenda. At St. James, nearly 70 percent of our community members are LGBTQ, so it’s really critical that sex workers rights are treated as a queer issue, a feminist issue, and a labor issue.


Artist and founder of Queer Rebels

My partner KB Boyce and I started our production company Queer Rebels ( to honor the feminist and queer of color artists and elders who paved the way. Our main project is “Queer Rebels of the Harlem Renaissance,” a performance extravaganza which took place June 28-30. Such an exciting time! The Harlem Renaissance legacy remains with us to this day. It was an explosion of art, intellect, and sexual liberation led by queer Black artists. I’m also a board member at Community United Against Violence ( CUAV was formed in the wake of Harvey Milk’s assassination and the White Night riots, and does incredible work to address violence within and against the LGBTQ community. Another way I’m involved with women’s issues is through Femme Conference ( In a culture where femininity is both de-valued and the expected norm, Femme Con creates a vital feminist space — this year it takes place in Baltimore, Maryland.


DJ and promoter of queer nightlife

I work in nightlife to provide space for communities that often don’t have spaces to come together. For 15 years, I have been providing music for women as the resident DJ at Mango (every fourth Sunday at El Rio, I also work to support my fellow LGBT veterans by promoting their visibility through my nightlife projects. Ex-Filipino Marine and two-spirit drag king Morningstar Vancil’s story has inspired me to work on creating a space that raises awareness about LGBT veterans, especially women living with disabilities. I also think it’s important to do outreach in the Black LGBT community to help strengthen support for organizations such as the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition (, a group that is not only fighting for Black LGBT equality, but is focused on social change for all oppressed people. After 10 years of executive producing the Women’s Stage at SF Pride, I was honored as a grand marshal this year at an event hosted by the BRC and Soul of Pride. It was beautiful to see so many Black LGBT people dedicated to moving global equality forward. Although there is a need to reach out to everyone in the Black LGBT community, naturally my goal is to first focus on connecting more women, a group that has always been less visible.


Co-director of Mujeres Unidas y Activas

My organization Mujeres Unidas y Activas ( is based on a double mission: personal transformation and community power for social justice. MUA is a place where women arrive through different challenges in their lives. We try to provide emotional support and references so that they don’t feel like they’re alone, so that they have strength to begin the process of healing and making changes. Those can include issues of domestic violence, problems with teenage children, labor or housing issues — when they arrive at MUA they begin the process of developing their self esteem and becoming stronger. They also begin to participate in trainings and making changes in their community and to the system through civic and political participation. At MUA, women find a home. They feel comfortable because they’re always welcome. We’re developing strong leadership, leadership that is at the table when it comes to making decisions about our campaigns, like our letter of labor rights and the help we give to victims of domestic violence through our crisis line. Every day our members are developing their ability to be involved in the organization and community, and making changes in their personal and familial lives.


Attorney and elected member of the SF Democratic County Central Committee

As an elected member of the SF DCCC (, the governing body of the SF Democratic Party, I am working to involve the party in recruiting more women to run for political office locally. In the June 2012 election, I assembled a slate of the female candidates for DCCC — we called ourselves “Elect Women 2012.” It was a controversial effort, because it included both progressives and moderates. In the wake of a highly contentious and factional term on the DCCC, we hoped to prove that moderates and progressives can work together to re-energize Democrats in this important presidential election cycle. Running for office in San Francisco is a high stakes game; it is costly and requires an extensive political network. And so the DCCC is where many future candidates get their start — it is where they build the connections necessary to run for higher office, and where they hone their fundraising abilities. By recruiting and supporting women candidates for the DCCC, I am hoping to build a “farm team” of female candidates within the party. This year, I am proud that the seven women incumbents on the DCCC retained our seats in the June election, and that we achieved parity by electing four new women to the party’s governing board. I look forward to seeing what these women can accomplish together.


Deputy state director of Drug Policy Alliance

Ending the failed war on drugs is a women’s issue because women are far too often bearing the brunt of that failure, losing their freedom, children, economic independence, safety, health, and sometimes their lives as victims of the war on drugs. Women in prison in California can be shackled during childbirth, lose custody of their children because they use legal medical marijuana. They’re vulnerable to HIV and hepatitis C because they or their partners don’t have access to sterile syringes for injecting drugs. My major project for the Drug Policy Alliance ( is mobilizing San Francisco to show the rest of the world how effective progressive drug policy can be. I want to see San Francisco open the first supervised injection facility in the United States, to end new HIV and hepatitis C infections among people who use drugs. I want us to truly have effective, culturally appropriate substance use treatment for everyone who requests it. I want San Francisco to end the cycle of undercover drug buys-incarceration-recidivism. I want us to address the appalling racial disparities in who gets arrested, convicted, and incarcerated for drug offenses here. I want us to aggressively defend our ground-breaking, well-regulated medical cannabis dispensary system against all federal intervention. San Francisco is leading the way in the United States in addressing the harms of drug use and drug prohibition but we have a lot more we can do.


Transgender activist and SF Youth Commission officer

I’ve worked for a plethora of LGBTQ organizations and have been on several national speaking tours. I currently serve as media and public relations officer of the San Francisco Youth Commission, and use my position to promote LGBTQ safety and overall health. I’ve partnered with several city departments in order to create a cultural competency video that will train all service providers on best practices for working with LGBTQ youth. As a vocal advocate against hate crimes and sexual assaults, I’m working with local groups to create a community patrol in the Mission to prevent violence against women and transgender people. I’m also the founder of Fundraising Everywhere for All Transitions: a Health Empowerment Revolution! (FEATHER), a collective aimed at making gender-affirming transitions more affordable for low income transgender people. I work to create avenues of equality for those who benefit the least from patriarchy by creating a culture of safety and support for people of all genders.

Redistricting: A Guardian Forum


The new supervisorial districts could change the makeup of the board and have a lasting impact on local politics. There’s been a lot of discussion about individual districts — but not so much talk about how the new map will affect progressive politics citywide. We’re holding a Guardian forum Jan. 26 to look at that issue, discuss different scenarios and come up with some alternatives. Panelists include Calvin Welch (who helped draw the first district elections lines in 1976), Quintin Mecke (who was on the redistricting panel 10 years ago when the current lines were drawn), Norman Fong (who runs the Chinatown Community Development Center and Fernando Marti (a community architect and housing activist who has some proposals for new lines).

If you’re interested and want to join the discussion, the event starts at 6 p.m. at the Mission Campus of City College, 1125 Valencia. We’ll be done by 8 p.m., I promise.

Editor’s notes


Every mayoral candidate who wants the progressive vote showed up for the Guardian forum Sept. 21. Everyone except Mayor Ed Lee.

Yeah, the mayor’s a busy guy. But state senators and city attorneys and public defenders and city assessors and supervisors are busy, too, and those people managed to get to the LGBT Center, where more than 100 people were packed into the fourth floor room.

Jeff Adachi made a point of talking about “showing up” — and everyone knew exactly what he was saying. Where was Ed?

Well, maybe the mayor isn’t interested in votes from the city’s left, but I kind of doubt he’s written off such a huge sector of the population. In fact, by that standard, he would have written off most of the neighborhoods, and most of the political clubs. Because the mayor isn’t showing up much at all.

There have been more than 50 forums, debates and candidates nights over the course of the election season. Sure, some of them happened before Lee got in the race — but since the day he filed his papers, the other candidates have gone to between 12 and 15 events. Lee has made it to maybe two or three — and when he does show up, he often answers one question then leaves.

I get the strategy: Lee is pretending to be above the political fray. He’s the incumbent in the Rose Garden, refusing to lower himself to the level of all that riffraff out there trying to communicate with the voters. He’s making sure nobody gets to ask him any embarrassing questions; that way he won’t make any mistakes. And his entire reelection will be one big scripted event, paid for with big corporate money and managed from behind the scenes by the same slick operators who brought you Gavin Newsom.

Do we really want four more years of that?

Tony Winnicker, who was Newsom’s press secretary, is now handing the media for Lee. He’s just as hostile and dismissive of legitimate journalistic inquiries as he ever was, just as full of spin and vinegar. He acts as if campaigning — you know, the stuff all the others are doing — is beneath the dignity of His Honor.

Come on, Mr. Mayor. Come out and campaign like everyone else. We’re starting to wonder what you’re trying to hide.

Guardian forum: Everybody loves public power


The Guardian candidates’ forum was a blast — standing room only at the LGBT Center, a great, lively crowd, and most of the candidates for mayor showed up. Not Ed Lee, though — we invited him, but he was a no-show. That’s typical — he’s skipped the vast majority of the mayoral debates and events, and when he does show up, he leaves early.

We set out to pin the candidates down on five key issues that came out of the Guardian’s summer issues forums. Shaw San Liu, our moderator, forced the mayoral contenders to give us yes-or-no answers, and our all-star celebrity panel of answer analyzers (Sue Hestor, Corey Cook and Fernando Marti) weighed in and raised signs to tell us whether the candidate had said Yes, No, or Waffled.

The questions:

1. Will you support the creation of a municipal bank to offer access to credit to small business instead of relying on tax breaks for economic development?

 2. Will you support a freeze on condo conversions and the development of new market-rate condos until the city has a plan and the financing in place to meet the General Plan goal of 60 percent of all new units available at below market rate — and then index new market-rate housing to the creation of affordable units?

3. Do you have a viable plan to bring $250,000 a year in new revenue into the city to address the structural budget deficit?

4. Will you agree to opt out of the federal secure communities program and will you reverse Mayor Newsom’s policy and direct all local law-enforcement agencies not to cooperate with immigration authorities?

 5. Will you support a proposal to either buy out PG&E’s San Francisco facilities or build a new city grid through a bond act so that San Francisco will control its own energy distibution system?

Only John Avalos answered Yes to all five. But it was remarkable how many of the candidates supported most or all of the progressive agenda we’ve developed. Every single candidate voiced support for a municipal bank. And every one of them said Yes to buying out PG&E’s distribution system so the city could run it’s own electric utility.

They had a lot more trouble with the notion of a freeze on new market-rate housing and condo conversions, and not all of them could explain how they would bring in $250,000 in new revenue. But I give them all credit for showing up and facing the tough questions and saying that, for the most part, they wanted to promote a progressive agenda.

Here are the scores:

John Avalos: Y, Y, Y, Y, Y

David Chiu: Y, W, Y, Y, Y

Bevan Dufty: Y, N, Y, Y,Y

Dennis Herrera: Y, W, Y, Y, Y

Phil Ting: NA. NA, Y, Y, Y (He came late and missed the first two)

Joanna Rees: Y, N, N, Y, Y

Leland Yee: Y, W, W, Y, Y

Jeff Adachi: Y, W, Y, Y, Y

Terry Baum: Y, Y, N, Y, Y

So five waffles on housing policy; nobody wants to stand up and say that we’re building too much housing for the rich and that it has to stop until we catch up with affordable housing. (At least Dufty was honest and told us he doesn’t want to cut off TIC and condo conversions).

I’m waiting for the video and I’ll post it when I get it.

On the eve of our 45th anniversary–a new progressive agenda


(The new progressive agenda is at the bottom of this blog.)

In our second issue of Nov. 1, 1966, the Guardian endorsed then Gov. Pat Brown over Ronald Reagan in what we called “the most important gubernatorial election in California history.” We wrote in a front page editorial that “the repudiation of Brown and the election of Reagan would mean that a generation of progressive legislation—in medicare, in education, in welfare, in conservation, in water resources, in bringing to account the dreadful problems of growth, population and sprawl—would be in grave jeopardy.”

We were much too prescient when we wrote that “Reagan rides the crest of the latest Califorrnia breakers of ‘conservation’–like Gatsby, it looks for fulfillment in another time–”boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Reagan’s stands, we noted, “typify the temper of this cause: he is on record at various times, in opposition to the progressive income tax, social security, medicare, the anti-poverty program, farm subsidies, TVA, the city rights act, the voting rights, public housing, federal aid to education and veterans housing for other than service-connected disabilities”

And we asked the obvious question: “How can a man or a movement govern the state of California, from 1966-70, with such a political philosophy?”

Well, Reagan won, he became governor and then president and it seems as if the Guardian has ever since been fighting Reaganonics in one form or another and its deadly legacy of deregulation, ever  lower taxes, laissez-faire economics, ever higher  fees for California colleges, the me-first-and-last  culture, the pernicious idea that government is the problem and  that corporate interests are the solution, on  and on. It’s still the case and we point to the concluding Guardian forum on issues for the mayor’s race.

It’s Wednesday night (9/21) at the LGBT Center. All but one of the major mayoral candidates will be there (Mayor Ed Lee has not confirmed). And the candidates will be asked whether they support key elements of the new progressive agenda developed by several progressive organizations in five forums over the past several months. An independent blue ribbon all-star panel of experts will judge whether the would-be mayors answered yes, no—or waffled. It should be lively, fun,  instructive, and very San Franciscan.  On guard! B3

See you there: Wednesday, Sept. 2l, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., at the LGBT Center, 1800 Market St., (at Octavia) in San Francisco. And here’s the new progressive agenda:



Guardian forum: The candidates on the issues


Don’t miss the final Guardian forum on the mayor’s race — featuring the candidates. It’s going to be fun — so far, eight candidates have confirmed, and we’re going to ask them to talk about the progressive agenda that we’ve developed over the summer. Among other things, we’re going to ask the candidates whether they support some of the key elements of the program — and an independent blue-ribbon all-star panel of experts (not including me) will judge whether the would-by mayors answered yes, answered no — or waffled.

We’ll see you there.

6 p.m., Wed. Sept. 21, at the LGBT Center, Market and Octavia.

Tonight: the last of five Guardian forums on the issues for the next mayor


Join us tonight for the fifth and final installment of the Guardian Forum: a series of panel discussions and participatory debates framing the progressive issues for the mayor’s race and beyond:
Forum Five: Environment, Energy and Climate Change
Tonight, August 25 at 5:30PM
Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin St., SF
(Civic Center BART and MUNI 5, 19, 47, 49, or F Train)

Tim Redmond, San Francisco Bay Guardian
Antonio Diaz, People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights
Alicia Garza, People Organized to Win Employment Rights
Aaron Peskin, former San Francisco supervisor
Saul Bloom, Arc Ecology
Cosponsors: Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, San Francisco Tenants Union, SEIU Local 1021, San Francisco Rising, San Francisco Human Services Network, Council of Community Housing Organizations, Community Congress 2010, Center for Political Education, Jobs with Justice
All events are free. Sessions will include substantial time for audience participation and discussion. Please join us!
Save the Date
On September 21st, we’ll present our platform to the mayoral candidates and see which ones are willing to sign on.

Guardian forum tonight: Energy and Environment


We’ve got a great lineup for tonight’s Guardian forum on Energy, Environment and Climate Change. I’ll be moderating. The panelists are Antonio Diaz for PODER, Alicia Garza from POWER, former Supervisor Aaron Peskin and Saul Bloom from Arc Ecology. We’ll be talking about energy policy, environmental racism, how climate change will impact the southeast neighborhoods, the privatization of public space, Treasure Island and a lot more.

It starts at 5:30 pm, in the Koret Auditorium at the main library in the Civic Center. Lots of time for audience participation. Hope to see you there.







The Guardian Forum

This summer, the Bay Guardian — along with cosponsors that include SEIU 1021, the San Francisco Tenants Union, and the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club — has held a series of public forums framing progressive issues for the mayor’s race and beyond. This fifth and final forum focuses on the Environment, Energy, and Climate Change and the panel is Guardian Executive Editor Tim Redmond, Antonio Diaz with People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights, Alicia Garza with People Organized to Win Employment Right, former Supervisor Aaron Peskin, and Arc Ecology’s Saul Bloom.

5:30 p.m., free

Koret Auditorium, SF Main Library

100 Larkin, SF



Torture and Yoo

The California Young Republican Federation hosts John Yoo as welcoming speaker for its first state convention. Yoo has had international complaints filed against him for his complicity in torture and other crimes against humanity at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay after writing legal memos justifying harsh interrogation techniques for the Bush White House. Yoo is a professor at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law. Anti-war protestors will gather at the doors to “welcome” convention attendees and protest Yoo.

6:30-8:00 p.m., free

Marine Memorial Club & Hotel

609 Sutter Street, SF


Green Tea Party

The Tea Party Express national bus tour is kicking off in Napa, of all places. To counter the event, the Napa County Green Party is throwing a Green Tea Party with prominent progressive speakers, vegetarian cuisine, fun info booths, and iced green tea. The event will end with a march to the Napa Valley Expo Fairgrounds, where presidential candidates are expected to be speaking to Tea Party supporters. Participants are encouraged to wear green.

10:30 a.m., free

Veterans Memorial Park

Corner of Main and Third, Napa

(707) 257-7435



Preserving the Harvest

The Ecology Center of San Francisco (ECOSF) is hosting a community workshop entitled “Preserving the Harvest: Canning and Drying,” along with a potluck and solar oven pizza making. Spend time with neighbors and friends while learning how to can fruits and tomatoes in the most energy efficient way. ECOSF’s mission is to promote cooperation, community, and respect for the environment, so bring a dish made from your garden to share.

11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Near School of Arts athletic field

555 Portola, SF


Mail items for Alerts to the Guardian Building, 135 Mississippi St., SF, CA 94107; fax to (415) 437-3658; or e-mail Please include a contact telephone number. Items must be received at least one week prior to the publication date.

Guardian forum July 28: Immigration, education and youth


The next Guardian Forum on issues in the mayor’s race will take place Thursday, July, when we’ll be talking about immigration, education and youth issues. We’ve got a great panel lined up:

Sherilyn Adams, Larkin Street Youth Services
Angela Chan, Asian Law Caucus
David Campos, Supervisor, District 9
Mario Yedidia, Director, Youth Commission*
Pecolia Manigo, Coleman Advocates

(*for identification only)

It’s at the Bayanihan Community Center, 1010 Mission (at 6th), 6-8 p.m.

(Powell Street BART and MUNI 14, 19, 27, or 31)

As always, plenty of time for audience participation. Hopy you can make it.

Guardian forum: Tenants, housing and land use


Should be a great forum July 14. We’ve got a panel on tenants, housing and land-use issues, some of the key stuff for the future of the city. Great group of speakers — and, as always, we’ll be looking for ideas and input from the audience. This isn’t a mayoral debate (that comes later); it’s a chance for progressives to talk about the issues that the next mayor needs to address and come up with a platform.


Sara Shortt, Housing Rights Committee
Ted Gullickson, SF Tenants Union
Nick Pagoulatos, Dolores St Community Services
Sue Hestor, Land Use Attorney

We may have some more suprise guests, too.

Lots of time for discussion afterward.

It’s at 6 pm (until 8 pm) at the City College Mission Campus, 1125 Valencia. More details here. See you there.



Reminder: Guardian forum tonight


Come by the Local 2 hall, 209 Golden Gate, tonight for the second Guardian Forum on issues in the mayor’s race. We’ll be talking about budget, healthcare and social services, with a great lineup of speakers. And it’s all about audience participation — so bring your ideas. There will be plenty of time for discussion.


Gabriel Haaland, SEIU 1021

Brenda Barros, health care worker, SF General

Debbi Lerman, Human Services Network

Jenny Friedenbach, Budget Justice Coalition

the Unite Here Local 2 hall is at 209 Golden Gate, at Leavenworth. Couple of blocks from Civic Center BART. We start at 6 p.m. and run until 8 p.m. See you there.

Guardian Forum June 21: Budget, healthcare and social services


We’re doing the second in a series of Guardian forums on issues in the mayor’s race June 21. This one will focus on the budget, healthcare and social services. We’re looking for ideas — progressive approaches to the policy and process of setting the city budget, priorities in healthcare and social services, how to balance reveue and cuts, where new revenue should come from etc. The panelists will make some suggestions and outline some issues, but this is a community process and we want to hear from you. So come by, listen — and participate.

It’s at the Unite Here Local 2 hall, 209 Golden Gate. 6 pm. June 21.



Gabriel Haaland, SEIU 1021

Brenda Barros, health care worker, SF General

Debbi Lerman, Human Services Network

Jenny Friedenbach, Budget Justice Coalition


The Local 2 hall is easy to get to, right near Civic Center. Join us.


The Guardian Forum: Issues for the next mayor


A series of panel discussions and participatory debates framing the progressive issues for the mayor’s race and beyond

Forum Two: Budget, Healthcare and Social Services
• Gabriel Haaland, SEIU 1021
• Brenda Barros, Health Care Worker, SF General Hospital
• Debbi Lerman, Human Services Network
• Jenny Friedenbach, Budget Justice Coalition
And others to be confirmed!

June 21 • 6 pm – 8 pm
UNITE HERE Local 2, 209 Golden Gate

Outline of Programs:
June 9: Economy, Jobs and the Progressive Agenda
June 21: Budget, Healthcare and Social Services
July 14: Tenants, Housing and Land Use
July 28: Immigration, Education and Youth
Aug. 25: Environment, Energy and Climate Change

• Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club
• San Francisco Tenants Union
• SEIU Local 1021
• San Francisco Rising
• San Francisco Human Services Network
• Council of community housing organizations
• Community congress 2010
• Center for Political Education

All events are free. Sessions will include substantial time for audience participation and discussion.
Please join us!

Guardian forum 6/8 (Thursday) — join us


The Guardian, with the support of numerous progressive political groups, is holding a series of forums this summer on issues in the SF mayor’s race. The idea is to get a discussion going on what a progressive agenda looks like, what issues the candidates ought to be talking about and how that could be implemented. The first session — focusing on economy and jobs — takes place Thursday June 9, from 6-8 pm, at the USF Lone Mountain campus, room LM 100. That’s at Turk and Parker, the Balboa bus stops right in front and we’ll have vans to help people with mobility issues get up the hill. Check out the details after the jump.