Vandalism & Security Measures in The Castro

Battered by repeated burglaries and vandalism, Castro merchants enlist private security force

By Alex Barreira – Staff Reporter, San Francisco Business Times

Feb 1, 2021 Updated Feb 1, 2021, 1:33pm PST

After her store on Castro Street was burglarized for a few hundred dollars and suffered thousands more in damage last month, Terry Bennett thought she could sleep easier knowing the smashed windows were boarded up with plywood. Instead, trouble came through the door.

Three days later Bennett woke early to a phone call. Cliff’s Variety had been broken into again, this time patiently, with a blowtorch used to pop out the glass inset of the front door. A nearby merchant and police had chased down the suspect and Bennett said she recognized him immediately – she said he broke in to steal nearly the exact same merchandise in 2017.

She’s got plenty of company. While the pandemic made last year miserable for many, businesses along the Castro commercial corridor say they are bearing the added financial and emotional toll of a rising tide of burglaries and vandalism on a near constant basis. Reported burglaries increased 76% year-over-year between in the police district that includes the Castro …

The Castro neighborhood is taking matters into their own hands in response to the widespread property crimes. The Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District (CBD) is working on a program to add security cameras to high traffic areas, although some business owners have expressed concerns about privacy.

Andrea Aiello [CBD Executive Director] said. “There’s just so many broken windows in first-floor businesses.” Some of them belong to Cody Laxo. At Willkommen beer garden on 2198 Market St. he has had to replace five front windows, each at about $1,000 apiece, since last March, including twice last month. The string lights he put up to “make the neighborhood feel lively in a really dark time” were also stolen. “It’s like, ‘When are the punches going to stop?'” said Laxo. “It’s a hard trend to watch because you want to be compassionate, but you really have to protect yourself.”…

So Laxo and others have beefed up the security at their businesses with security cameras, 24-hour lighting, gates on parklets, heavy duty locks and upgraded alarm systems. … At Cliff’s Variety, Bennett felt she had no choice but to install a metal gate over her front door after someone took a skateboard to smash in the glass. She estimates she has spent between $25,000 to $30,000 out of pocket because of property crimes during the pandemic… Meanwhile, she and other merchants worry that turning their businesses into “fortresses,” as one put it, would change not only their advertising appeal but the character of the neighborhood.  “I don’t want that image for our community after dark,” Bennett said.

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Fall Gathering Time Means Membership Renewal Time!

Mark your calendars for our Fall Gathering

Online – via Zoom

Monday, October 26 from 7-8 pm

Meet your neighbors and DHIC Board members

Hear from our Supervisor Rafael Mandelman

Please REGISTER IN ADVANCE to attend!

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Be a part of DHIC by joining (or renewing) your membership. 

We take action on key issues that are shaping the future of our City. As a Dolores Heights neighbor and as a San Franciscan, help us have an impact on that future.  Start by joining (or renewing) your membership in DHIC

We’re all in this together and welcome your help!

Join at the dues level most affordable for you! 
Basic $25
Donor $50
Supporting $100

For more information or to receive our monthly e-newsletter, please email

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We Want YOU on the DHIC Board!

And our board is up for re-election. We serve two-year terms. David Pennebaker is chairing our Nominations Committee and wants to hear from any member who is interested in serving on the board. He’s also seeking volunteers to help with the election which will be conducted online this year. More details from David by Labor Day.

To get involved, please email us at

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Will There Be a DHIC Fall Party? Stay Tuned!

We’ve missed seeing you!! When the March 2020 Shelter in Place orders banned group gatherings, DHIC cancelled our Spring Fling. We fully expected to see you at our street party in early October. However, the June – July surge in SF COVID-19 cases is forcing us to pivot yet again. Stay tuned for a special bulletin later in August about our fall party and our annual membership drive.

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State Housing Legislation Action: Register your Position Now!

As reported in prior DHIC articles, San Francisco and California face a significant affordable housing shortage — housing for our teachers, municipal support workers, first responders, service workers, etc. However, a group of legislators are sponsoring bills (SB 902, SB 1085, SB 1120, and AB 3107) that give large incentives such as building height and density bonuses to construct market rate and luxury residences. These bills have lower or no requirements for affordable housing units or subsidies. Moreover, these bills limit the rights of residents to contest the negative impacts those excessive building bonuses will have on San Francisco including in our Dolores Heights neighborhood. These bills are now in the second house — to be voted on by August 13th. If you haven’t already acted, take five minutes now to submit your position via the official Cal Legislature Position Letter Portal. Numbers count! “How-to” and detailed directions are below.

The key bills that we’ve been highlighting for the past two months are listed below. Click here to read more details about each of these bills.

  • SB 902: enables the Board of Supervisors to upzone any parcel — with no citizen right of appeal.
  • SB 1085: the SF Board of Supervisors unanimously opposed this bill as it waters down the affordable housing requirements in the State Density Bonus (SDB) law. It also prohibits the impact fees that SF collects on market-rate units under the SDB – thereby reducing funding to the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Fund.
  • SB 1120: would allow lot splitting in single family RH-1 areas, and then adding 2 duplexes on each of the newly created lots (the equivalent of 4 units where one now exists), thereby destroying mid-block open space and the character of our neighborhoods.
  • SB 3107: would Manhattanize San Francisco by allowing the residential development of commercial areas to go as high as the tallest building within a half-mile radius, thus enabling scattershot high-rise buildings much taller than area zoning allows.

And we support SB 1299.  During this time of COVID-19 with its record retail business closings and high unemployment, this bill uses our valuable state resources to solve two problems. It supports converting closed big box retail and commercial shopping centers into workforce housing developments.  You can register your support for this bill using the same Portal. 

Take Action Today!

If you haven’t already, please take 5 minutes to register your position on all of these bills at one location: the Cal Legislature Position Letter Portal.

Create Account at  Cal Legislature Portal:

  • Answer “No” to the two questions: Are you a registered lobbyist? Do you represent an organization, registered or otherwise? 
  • Fill out the user details including your name, address, email and security question, then click “Register”.
  • You will immediately receive an email with a temp password and link to create your own password. 

Log in to the Portal and submit Your Stance

  • Enter the bill’s letter & number (e.g., SB 902) in the fields on the left (keep Session Type as Regular)
    • The “bad bills” are SB 902, SB 1085, SB 1120, AB 3107
    • The “good bill” is SB 1299
  • Click “Search” and table will populate with a brief description of the bill.
  • To the right, you’ll see two radio buttons (Oppose and Support), click on the appropriate button to register your stance.
  • Enter a short comment: e.g. “I oppose this bill” or “Oppose” (or copy/paste language from this article) into the comment field.
  • Click “Submit”
  • Click on the link “Return to Note Submission Page” in the upper right-hand corner. You are returned to the landing page.
  • Enter the next bill’s House (AB or SB) &  bill number and hit “Search” again.

These positions are tallied daily. It’s important that you register your position on bills. The legislators keep track of the tallies, and the comments are less important.

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Key Links & Resources for July

  1. San Francisco’s Local Re-opening Roadmap shows the latest phased re-opening plan for our City – this will be updated and adjusted based on health indicators, state guidance and new developments in our understanding of COVID-19.
  2. San Francisco Department of Public Health Indicators provides an up-to-date status report on all the local health indicators DPH is monitoring to guide their re-opening decisions.
  3. Links to comprehensive list of San Francisco’s Health Orders and Directives.
  4. Office of Economic and Workforce Development website aggregates resources for businesses and workers.
  5. Assessor Carmen Chu’s office invites you to their signature Family Wealth Forum. This webinar titled “Build Your Financial Resilience” is to help families get back on their feet under the pandemic. For everyone’s safety, the event has moved ONLINE and will be held on Saturday, July 18th at 10 am-1 pm. The event is free. Please register here:
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Black Lives Matter Demonstration

Liz Clark captured these images of the huge Black Lives Matter demonstration that happened last month in Dolores Park. This is an historic time for our city and our nation!

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The Pink Triangle on Twin Peaks

The Pink Triangle on the slope of Twin Peaks as seen from Dolores Heights. This year we celebrated Pride Month with pink lights because 50th Annual Pride activities were cancelled and replaced with online events.

(Photo by David Dea)

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Photo Gallery of Castro Art Project

A community effort has led to around 20 murals decorating the facades of boarded up businesses along the Castro’s central corridors: Castro, Market, and 18th streets. 

The project is being led by the Castro Merchants, the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District (CQCD), Paint the Void, an organization that has sprung up to create murals on closed businesses around the Bay Area, and the Castro Art Project.

Thanks to Liz Clark for these photos of the artwork and artists around our neighborhood. Keep your eyes open as you walk or bike our streets!

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State Housing Bill Action Bulletin

Despite San Francisco’s continued overachievement of market rate housing production (pacing to 246% of the 2022 goal) and ignoring San Francisco’s inclusionary and affordable housing programs which are the most far-reaching in California, our state legislators continue sponsoring bills that override San Francisco’s local planning programs and land use decisions.

Three bills would tilt the balance to developers vs. affordable housing: SB 902, SB 1085, and AB 3107. Please take five minutes to register your opposition. (Directions for using online CalLeg Position Portal at end of this article.) On the other hand, SB 1299 does use incentives to create fully affordable housing. Please read below for details.

Senate Bill 902 (Sponsor: Wiener): Misleadingly sold as “a lighter touch on SB 50” (defeated in January, 2020), it allows local governments to zone for up to ten units of housing on a lot that’s in “jobs-rich”, “transit-rich” or an “urban infill area.” Based on SF Planning’s 2019 analysis of these areas, nearly all of San Francisco’s residential parcels would be eligible for up to ten-unit upzoning. It also enables developers to submit directly to the Board of Supervisors…regardless of existing area plans or existing zoning and without environmental review. The bill explicitly overrides any local voter restrictions against such upzoning, effectively abolishing California’s 100-year tradition of voter-initiated propositions. (For example, it would have prohibited the 2013 voter initiative, “No Wall on the Waterfront” that rejected a 135 foot high development at 8 Washington Street.)

Senate Bill 1085 (Sponsor: Nancy Skinner): This bill waters down the 2018 State Density Bonus (SDB) law’s incentives to add affordable units to housing projects. Currently, the SBD provides projects of five or more units with additional height and other concessions or allowances in return for including much-needed affordable housing in the proposed project. SB 1085 would give density incentives to any project of TWO or more units — without requiring any affordable housing units. It also waters down the SDB by allowing projects to include only moderate income housing — instead of all levels of affordable housing. The State Density Bonus has successfully enabled more affordable housing in projects in San Francisco. Why gut this program when it’s working? SF Supervisors agreed; on June 16th they unanimously passed a resolution opposing SB 1085.

Assembly Bill 3107 (Sponsors: Richard Bloom & Philip Y. Ting): Upzones big chunks of San Francisco to Manhattan-size 10, 20, 30 or even 40 stories. Allows commercial parcels to be used for housing development if 20% of the units are affordable. This bill allows greatly increased height, density and floor area ratios. Any housing project meeting the affordability criteria can be as tall as any other commercial or residential building within one half mile of the project’s parcel. For example, the newly-built 40-floor 1550 Mission Street project could set the height limit for parcels in Hayes Valley or Upper Market. Or the Cathedral Hill Towers’ (1220 Gough St.) 27-floor high-rise could be used for heights as far away as Hayes, Fillmore, Clay, and Leavenworth Streets (1/2 mile radius.) Pick your local high-rise landmark to see the impact on your neighborhood on this map.

Please act now…take five minutes to tell our legislators that you oppose these bills using the same Portal. Create an account with your email & a password. Then enter the bill’s letter & number (e.g., AB 3107), hit “Search”, then click on the button for “Oppose”. Optional: enter your comments or language from this article. Click “Submit” then click “Return to Note Submission Page” to the landing page where you enter the next bill’s House (AB or SB) and bill number and hit “Search” again. These positions are tallied daily.

We will keep you posted on key bills as the legislative process continues. PDFs of the bills (as of June 28, 2020) are in this folder.

And we support SB 1299. You can register your support for it using the same Portal.

SB 1299 (Sponsor: Anthony J. Portantino): During this time of COVID-19 with its record retail business closings and high unemployment, this bill uses our valuable state resources to solve two problems. It supports converting closed big box retail and commercial shopping centers into workforce housing developments. Retail real estate is undergoing a massive transformation. These stores will not reopen; they need to be repurposed. Building more housing that is affordable to those earning BELOW MEDIAN income is a key need. SB 1299 would provide local governments with grants to replace lost sales tax revenue if they rezone big-box or shopping center parcels to allow affordable housing developments.

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