San Francisco Bay Area Thursday Morning News Round Up

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Castro Rally Gathers LGBT Community to Celebrate Same Sex Marriage Ruling

It was hard not find a smile at San Francisco's Castro District as hundreds of gay rights supports gathered Wednesday evening to celebrate Wednesday's U.S. Supreme Court rulings on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

Rainbows were everywhere from flags to balloons to feather boas as supporters gathered at Castro and Market streets for a rally organized by a coalition of advocacy groups including Marriage Equality USA, March4Equality and Unite Here Local 2. Local performers were also staged at 19th and Castro streets. Cleve Jones, founder of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, praised Wednesday's "milestone in our long struggle to equality and social justice" however he noted work still needs to be done.

Jones also took the time to acknowledge Nelson Mandela's efforts towards equality in South Africa. He said Mandela is in critical condition and encouraged the crowd to chant "Viva Nelson Mandela." People were waving mini red and blue flags with yellow equal signs as speakers continued to pump up the crowd.

Laura Snodgrass, 32, of Eureka, arrived earlier Wednesday from New York for a wedding and found out about the news through Twitter. She said she and her partner Julie Strubinger, 34, cried with others while waiting for their connecting flight in Newark, N.J. Snodgrass and her partner were married five years ago and were glad to hear that the federal Defense of Marriage Act was ruled unconstitutional. People were dressed in all sorts of costumes from puffy dresses to wedding veils or in some cases wore no clothing at all.

"Overjoyed" was the word David Miner chose to describe his feelings towards Wednesday's rulings. Miner, 53, is an Associate Priest and Project Coordinator at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in San Francisco, who was at the rally with his partner Matthew Chacko.

The couple has been together for 20 years and married five years ago at San Francisco City Hall. People held multiple signs including ones that read "Today We Are More American" and "Marry Who You Love." Naan White, 56, of San Francisco was enjoying the rally with her partner Barnie Simpson and their kids, Rashaad and Rashidah Simpson-White. When asked about his feelings towards Wednesday's Supreme Court rulings Rashaad simply gave two thumbs up.

Brother Junipero of the Society of St. Francis in San Francisco was supporting the LGBT community at the rally. Junipero said he was in a prayer group with his fellow brothers Wednesday morning and they were all glancing their phones to check the latest news on the U.S. Supreme Court rulings. "This is a great landmark opportunity for us to build bridges," he said.

Lori Katz, 59, was wearing a "bride-to-be" headband at the rally. Her girlfriend, Bea Coll 55, proposed to her three weeks ago and the couple is planning their wedding for next summer. Melinda Kendall, 55, had an "overwhelming feeling of safety" when she heard the news on the U.S. Supreme Court rulings Wednesday morning. She is a teacher at West Portal Elementary School and remembers the threat of the Briggs Initiative, a state ballot proposition which would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching at public schools.

Tonight's rally allowed the LGBT community to come together and celebrate, Marriage Equality USA national media director Stuart Gaffney said. With the San Francisco Pride Celebration and Parade coming up this weekend "the timing of these decisions couldn't be better," Gaffney said.

Wildlife Rescuers Attempting to Capture Marmot in Bernal Heights

Wildlife rescuers have set a trap hoping to capture a wayward marmot that was spotted in the backyard of a home in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood.

A resident reported the marmot in the yard Wednesday morning. The call was forwarded to members of Wildlife Emergency Services, based in Moss Landing, who were on scene Wednesday afternoon trying to coax the marmot from underneath a shed, said Rebecca Dmytryk, an animal expert with the organization.

Dmytryk said she believes the animal made its way to Bernal Heights by hitching a ride on the undercarriage of a truck or car on the drive from the Sierras or other mountainous location and has likely been in San Francisco for about a week. She cited a phenomenon in which marmots get into automobile engines and chew through the engine hoses to drink antifreeze.

Marmots are not from the Bay Area, and typically live in colder climates at elevations of 5,000 feet or higher, she said. Outside of its normal habitat, the marmot could die.

In addition to capturing the marmot, WES is attempting to learn where the animal came from so that rescuers can return it to its home once it is captured. Rescuers have set up a trap in the yard to capture the marmot and the home's resident has volunteered to keep an eye on it and alert WES if the marmot is caught, Dmytryk said.

Anyone with information about how the marmot came to San Francisco or who recently returned to the city from the mountains is asked to call WES at (866) 945-3911. "Just in case we catch this guy, give us a holler so we can take him back home," Dmytryk said.

Local Faith Leaders Celebrate, Others Denounce Prop 8, Doma Rulings

The Bay Area faith community responded to the U.S. Supreme Court rulings regarding same-sex marriage with dozen of religious leaders gathering in San Francisco Wednesday afternoon. A coalition of about 60 clergy of myriad faiths stood on the steps of Grace Cathedral at the top of Nob Hill to celebrate the high court's decisions on marriage equality.

The Rev. Phil Lawson from the Easter Hill United Methodist Church in Richmond praised the Supreme Court for bringing justice to California and beyond. "Thank God they got it right today," he said.

From Berkeley's Beyt Tikkun synagogue, Rabbi Michael Lerner said the religious community owes the gay community an apology on behalf of the many congregations that in past years have not recognized same-sex love and civil rights. "We are fully and 100 percent with you," he said. "Thank God that the gay community vigorously sought the right to marry."

The Rev. Kamal Hassan from the Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church in Richmond lauded the decisions that will allow same-sex marriages to resume in California, but said he will remain wary. "Celebrate this moment, but be cautious at the same time," he said.

As a black and openly gay pastor, the Rev. Deborah Johnson from Inner Light Ministries in Santa Cruz spoke about fighting injustices for people in and beyond the LGBT community. "Our message to the world is not, 'We won,' but 'We are one,'" she said.

Mitch Mayne said he has been optimistic about when -- not if -- gay marriage would become legal. As an openly gay Mormon he said he has to have a good attitude. "We will prevail," he said. He noted that as a Mormon he believes discriminating against any family is wrong.

Before a closing prayer, the Rev. Amos Brown said he and the San Francisco chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People stand in solidarity with the LGBT community. He serves as president of the NAACP San Francisco chapter. "An injustice to one is an injury to all," he said. He urged attendees to not walk away Wednesday "in a state of euphoria" but to be mindful that marriage equality is still sought nationwide and that other struggles plague other minority groups. "We must continue the conversation," Brown said.

The Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone denounced the Supreme Court decisions Wednesday morning in a joint statement with Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Cordileone issued the statement while in Rome Wednesday, archdiocese spokesman George Wesolek said. The pair called Wednesday a "tragic day for marriage and our nation. "The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage," the statement read. The statement continued, "Marriage is the only institution that brings together a man and woman for life, providing any child who comes from their union with secure foundation of a mother and a father."

Shark Bites Kayak Off Coast of Pacifica Beach, No One Injured 

Warning notices have been posted at the Pacifica State Beach Wednesday after a man in a kayak fishing off the coast said a shark bit his boat before swimming away.

Pacifica police Chief Jim Tasa said in a report that the attack occurred around 4:55 p.m. Tuesday when the uninjured man in a kayak called police. The victim said a shark bit the kayak then briefly circled the watercraft before swimming away.

The victim in the kayak was able to return to shore unharmed, according to Tasa. The Pacifica Department of Public Works posted signs at the beach Wednesday warning of the incident, but the attack occurred outside the area where surfers and swimmers tend to frequent.

The beach will be monitored nonetheless, Tasa reported.

City Officials Break Ground on Decades-Long Hunters Point Project

San Francisco city officials broke ground Wednesday on a massive, decades-long redevelopment project in the city's Hunters Point neighborhood.

Mayor Ed Lee, former Mayor Willie Brown, Supervisor Malia Cohen and former Supervisor Sophie Maxwell were among the dignitaries on hand to celebrate the start of construction on the first phase of the nearly $8 billion project.

Developed by the company Lennar Urban, the Hunters Point project is expected to create more than 12,000 new residential units, as well as new retail space and more than 350 acres of parkland over the next 20 years, according to the mayor's office.

"The promise is being delivered," Lee said. "It's no longer promises, the dirt is being turned over and buildings are getting started." The project has had "at times a somewhat complicated journey" in getting to the groundbreaking, said Kofi Bonner, who is overseeing the redevelopment for Lennar.

The site has undergone extensive cleanup of hazardous materials from the former naval shipyard while project organizers have also dealt with the uncertainty over whether the San Francisco 49ers were going to stay in their stadium at Candlestick Park. With the team moving down to a new stadium in Santa Clara in 2014, the stadium will be demolished and new retail space will take its place in the second phase of the redevelopment project, Bonner said.

He said the first residential units will be completed on the site in the next three years. Cohen, whose district includes the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhoods in the southeast end of the city, said those neighborhoods "have had significant challenges" with crime and blight but said the new project will bring better days ahead. "We're moving beyond that old narrative of fear and hatred ... and walking lockstep into a prosperous future," she said.

Brown said, "There is no other piece of soil in any other urban area that's as potentially lucrative." "It's going to be an ideal place to live," he said.

Away from the celebration, dozens of members of the job advocate group Aboriginal Blackman United protested what they said was a lack of job opportunities for neighborhood residents on the project. ABU president James Richards said his group has not been consulted in negotiations over who will be hired for the project.

The city's Building Trades Council signed an agreement with Lennar in 2007 tasking another group, the local nonprofit Young Community Developers, to oversee local hire efforts for the Hunters Point project, council secretary-treasurer Michael Theriault said.

Richards said his group will continue to protest at the site in the coming days until Lennar and the city engage them and other neighborhood groups about jobs on the project. "We'll be back tomorrow and the next day and the next day, until we get justice on these jobs," he said.

Bonner from Lennar said, "We know them well, they know us well ... they want to make sure nobody forgets them and we appreciate that." More information about the Hunters Point project can be found online at

Weather Forecast

Partly cloudy skies and patchy fog are likely in the Bay Area this morning, becoming sunny later in the day. Highs are expected to be in the lower 60s to mid 70s, with westerly winds up to 30 mph in the afternoon.

Clear skies with patchy fog are expected this evening. Lows are likely to be in the mid 50s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph.

Mostly cloudy skies with patchy fog are expected Friday morning. Highs are expected to be in the upper 50s to lower 70s. Southwest winds up to 20 mph and gusts up to 35 mph are expected in the afternoon.


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