SF Pride Prepares for Parade, Party
San Francisco LGBT Pride organizers are preparing to welcome visitors from around the globe to the city this weekend for the 44th annual parade and celebration.
George Ridgely, executive director of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee, is particularly enthusiastic about one community that's gained recognition in the past year.
"I am so excited about the amount of visibility that the transgender movement is getting nationally already through the Time magazine coverage," said Ridgely, referring to transgender actress Laverne Cox appearing on a June cover of the newsmagazine. He also noted the local Trans March is this year's Pride organizational grand marshal; East Bay high school student Jewlyes Gutierrez, a transgender teen who defended herself in a schoolyard fight, is a community grand marshal; and transgender author Janet Mock is a celebrity grand marshal.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a transgender woman and longtime activist, is also a grand marshal this year.
"I think that's the most exciting part for me," said Ridgely.
The celebration runs from noon to 6 p.m., Saturday, June 28 and 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Sunday, June 29 at Civic Center. This year's theme is "Color Our World with Pride."
The parade begins at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Market and Beale streets and ends at Market and Eighth streets. The festival is free, but there's a suggested donation of $5 to $10. Donations from the celebration have helped Pride contribute nearly $2.3 million to nonprofits since 1997.
The celebration includes more than 20 community stages and venues, and over 230 contingents have registered for the parade.
A prominent feature of the festival each year is the main stage, where this year's entertainers will include dance diva Debby Holiday and San Francisco natives The She's.
Each year, numerous community groups have a presence at the Pride festival to help people learn about services and to provide space for them to connect with others.
Larkin Street Youth Services will have a Queer Youth Space where people under 24 can ask about getting assistance with emergency shelter, health care, education, employment, and other needs. Free, rapid, and confidential HIV testing and counseling will also be available.
But Jamie Fountain, Larkin Street's associate director for workforce development, hopes people will also have fun.
Asked what he'd like people to walk away with, Fountain said, "Having a good time at Pride. That's really what I'm hoping they walk away with."
The youth space will go from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Civic Center Plaza, in front of the elevators that lead to the underground parking on McAllister Street.
Asian and Pacific Islander community groups will be represented at the API pavilion and stage Sunday. HIV testing and screening for hepatitis B and C will be offered, among other services.
Organizer Nikki Calma, who's also known as Tita Aida, said she wants people to come away with "being part of the entire celebration and having a sense of their own cultural independence" as Asian and Pacific Islander LGBTs. Non-APIs are "absolutely" welcome, she said.
The pavilion will be available from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday on Polk Street between Eddy Street and Golden Gate Avenue.
The stage, which will feature entertainers including the Rice Rockettes, will run from noon to 6:30 p.m. at Polk and Golden Gate.
It seems like there is controversy surrounding nearly every Pride event and this year is no exception.
In May, Trevor Gardner, who was shot at last year's Pride festival, filed a lawsuit against the Pride Committee in San Francisco Superior Court, claiming organizers neglected to provide adequate security.
Ridgely, who became Pride's executive director in January and will be overseeing his first parade and festival, previously helped run large outdoor events such as the Bay to Breakers foot race and the Castro Street Fair. He declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit.
"We have been looking at the security plan," Ridgely said, echoing comments he made to the Bay Area Reporter earlier this year. "One of the things I've been looking at most closely is working with the San Francisco Police Department on their plans, as well as our internal security plans."
People attending the festival will not be patted down or have their bags checked. Ridgely said there wouldn't be changes as people enter the celebration.
However, he said, "We are looking at increasing our private security, and we've been working with the police on their deployment plans overall" to see how much staff they'll have at the event.
Police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said the department would have "a significant increase in visibility," with additional patrols beginning Friday, June 27 and going through Sunday night, June 29 in the Castro, Civic Center, and Market Street areas.
Esparza, who declined to say exactly how many additional officers would be on hand, said police have "increased patrols and staffing for all specialized events" since last April's Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three people and injured scores more.
The lack of affordable housing in the city has drawn much attention over the last year, including protests and legislation, and the issue has also come up in discussions around Pride.
As it has numerous times in past years, AIDS Housing Alliance-San Francisco will be one of the nonprofits participating as a community partner this year. The group will have a beer booth at the festival Sunday.
Brian Basinger, the housing alliance's director, said that this year he'll join the parade contingent of grand marshal Tommi Avicolli Mecca, a queer activist and housing advocate.
Among the other issues Basinger, who was a grand marshal nominee this year, wants to bring attention to is state Ellis Act legislation. Gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) authored Senate Bill 1439 to help mitigate the negative impacts of a recent surge in Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco.
The Ellis Act, a state law, has particularly hard hit LGBT strongholds like the Castro and Latino enclaves such as the Mission. The law allows landlords to evict tenants in order to get out of the rental business. SB 1439 would require San Francisco property owners to own their buildings for at least five years before they could invoke the Ellis Act.
By a 3-4 vote, the bill recently failed in the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee. It was granted reconsideration, but given legislative deadlines, it's unlikely to get another hearing in the committee in time to progress this year.
Basinger said lesbian Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) "did not exercise her leadership to secure the votes, so her reputation has quickly been spoiled and I think that we all should contact her office and voice our displeasure."
In comments emailed to the B.A.R., Will Shuck, a spokesman for Atkins, said, "The speaker lets the committee process work and respects the votes of the committee. She would have supported the bill if given the opportunity to vote on it."
Leno said in a statement, "Speaker Atkins and I did our very best before a less than tenant friendly committee. I know her commitment to affordable housing is steadfast."
Additionally, some people criticized the Pride Committee's recent announcement that Airbnb, the Internet-based lodging sharing company whose name is often associated with San Francisco's eviction controversy, had joined the parade and celebration as a major sponsor at the $100,000 level.
This year's Pride parade and celebration come just a year after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed California's Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban and gutted the Defense of Marriage Act, which banned federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
The victories brought a sense of jubilation to last year's Pride. In recent years, Pride officials have estimated attendance at a million people or more, although precise figures are impossible to determine.
"I sort of feel like last year helped to set a new bar for us," said Ridgely, and although attendance is hard to predict, "I actually expect attendance to be close" to what it was in 2013.
The city controller's office is expected to develop an economic impact study of Pride and other outdoor events, Ridgely said. Some have complained that despite the benefits the parade and celebration bring to the city, the committee gets little financial assistance in return.
Volunteers will be out with "short" surveys Saturday and Sunday, and Ridgely encourages people to complete them.
This year's Pride budget is $1.8 million. Sponsorships are expected to exceed $800,000. Ridgely said most of the funds have come in.
The unofficial Pink Saturday street party, organized by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, takes place Saturday, June 28 from 5 to 10:30 p.m. in the Castro. The event will include DJs and food trucks. No alcohol will be allowed.
For more information, visit www.sfpride.org