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LA LGBT Center’s ambitious Anita May Rosenstein Campus opens

A new symbol of LGBT triumph

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Anita May Rosenstein Campus across from The Village, with trees in lower left (photo courtesy the Center)

Strong women are emerging as political powerhouses in 2019. In addition to California Sen. Kamala Harris and the five other female presidential hopefuls, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Reps. Maxine Waters, Katie Hill, Katie Porter and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rivet the imagination among the 127 outspoken women in Congress.

That’s what we see in Trump’s America, strong women standing up and fighting back in their own fashion. What we may not see are the powerhouses on the ground, the strong women who are creating, funding, building achievements that blow our minds at the ribbon cutting and endure years beyond anyone remembers why that ribbon cutting moment made history.

Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean and philanthropist Anita May Rosenstein are two such strong women whose vision, commitment and determination led to the grand opening of the massive Anita May Rosenstein Campus on Sunday, April 7, marking as monumental a moment in LGBT history as the Stonewall riots did for the gay liberation awakening 50 years ago. There’s nothing like this campus anywhere in the world—and no one else has even imagined it.

LA LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean and Anita May Rosenstein. (Photo courtesy of LA LGBT Center)

Located at 1118 N. McCadden Place in Hollywood—just blocks down the street from where Center co-founder Morris Kight lived for many years—the two-acre complex on nearly one full city block directly across from the Village at Ed Gould Plaza will provide comprehensive intergenerational services for LGBT seniors and youth with emergency and transitional housing and beds, affordable housing, a new Senior Community Center, Youth Drop-In Center and Youth Academy, and employment programs. Phase II will add more apartments by mid-2020.

Additionally, the Center is moving its headquarters to the AMR Campus, turning the current four-story McDonald/Wright Building into an LGBT health center.

“Without a doubt, the Anita May Rosenstein Campus will change lives,” LA City Council member David Ryu said Sept. 7, 2018 after the council approved his motions for $850,000 in funding. “I firmly believe that when completed, the Anita May Rosenstein Campus will be the pride of Hollywood.”

The idea for the complex grew out of an in-depth planning process that began in late 2006 and culminated in February 2008. The Strategic Planning committee was comprised of Loren Ostrow, LuAnn Boylan, Marki Knox, Eric Shore, Glenn Tan and three staffers—Jean, Chief of Staff Darrel Cummings, and Chief Administrative Officer Kathy Ketchum.   

“We were trying to figure out what would be the future needs of our community,” Jean tells the Los Angeles Blade. 

They came up with five priorities: 1) medical care for the entire community (not just people with HIV); 2) housing, especially for youth and seniors who faced homelessness and discrimination; 3) expand services for seniors; 4) expand services for all youth, not just youth experiencing homelessness; 5) Build a public policy and community building department. (A 6th priority was added in Aug. 2014 to expand substance use prevention and treatment programs.)

“All of this expansion was to be in the context of making our services more geographically accessible, ensuring that we had the managerial capacity to implement plan goals and that new programs and services were financially feasible and sustainable,” says Jean.

“It was a bold vision. But it was such a bold vision, Darrel and I freaked out. We said to the board ‘We’re not sure we’re up for this!’”

Jean and Cummings previously left the Center burned out by years of around-the-clock pressure and upon their return, they promised themselves they’d find more balance in their lives. Wanting to keep the two prized executives, the board offered to change the plan. “No, it’s the right plan,” Jean recalls saying, suggesting that perhaps the two were not the right people for the job.

Jean and Cummings took a few weeks of soul searching, though they finally told the board, “OK, we’re in.”

But Jean was frank. “This is going to mean a capital campaign because the only way we’re going to be able to afford the space to do all of these things that we’ve set our sights on is we’ve got to raise it,” she remembers telling the board. “’And I have my eyes on exactly the property I want – I want that property across the street from the Village, which belongs to the state of California. And I want to get it for free.”

They immediately started working on the state of California and making their rounds, meeting with LA City Council member Eric Garcetti, in whose district is the Center headquarters. They preferred speaking with him rather than Council member Ferraro, in whose district sits the Village.

And then the stock market crashed. “So that delayed everything because nobody knew what was going to happen,” Jean says. “We put many things on hold for about a year. We were still growing in the other program areas, if we had the money to support them—but we weren’t going to launch anything dramatic in light of the crash.”

In addition to the crash, the Center was also in the No on Prop 8 coalition that 2008. Prop 8 passed and Barack Obama was elected as America’s first black president. Meanwhile, the Center kept working.

Lorri Jean, CEO Of the Los Angeles LGBT Center (Blade photo by Karen Ocamb)

“We began to achieve different bits,” Jeans says. “We became a federally qualified health center. We were setting our sights on what we were going to do for youth and what fell in our lap but Life Works. We got into the foster youth business when GLASS folded. And we began to open up other sites—Boyle Heights; last year Korea Town with our Trans Wellness Center; right now doing tenant improvements on a site in South Los Angeles; we did the new clinic in West Hollywood; Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing came to us and that was right, perfectly in the wheelhouse.”

The whole time, “we’re talking to the state of California about how we want that property. And so finally they agree to give it to us for $1. We were getting it for free!,” Jean says. 

And then comes a twist. “We found out that the federal government had equity in the property. And because it was an Employment Development Department building, it was the Department of Labor – headed by Sec. Hilda Solis! So we worked with Hilda and she agreed to let the state give it to us for a dollar,” Jean says.

And then another twist. Hilda Solis steps down to run for the board of supervisors — “before the deal was consummated. Tom Perez stepped in (as Obama’s new Secretary of Labor). He was brand new,” Jean says, “but we had a deadline running with the state that we had to fish or cut bait. And even though we got (Rep.) Adam Schiff’s help, Tom Perez did not have the guts to follow through on Hilda’s deal—and he had toured the Center!

“So I will always be very disappointed in Tom Perez for that decision,” Jean says. “So we had to pay $12.7 million for it.”

But the team was undeterred.

“During this time, we began to define the scope of what this project would be,” though it was a number of years before they were secure in knowing they actually had the two acres, getting help from a number of people, including Assembly Speaker John Perez.

“We pulled in a lot of favors to get that state building without having to go to a public competition,” she says. “Within a year after we bought the building it was appraised for more than $17 million.”

They also knew they had to “over-achieve” in their fundraising.

“We had momentum right out of the gate,” says Jean. “Before this campaign, no living donor had ever had ever made a seven-figure gift or a seven-figure pledge, excluding estate gifts. There have been a few people who’d reached the million-dollar mark in cumulative giving over the decades. But no one had ever said, ‘yeah – here’s a million dollars’ or anything above that. In this campaign, excluding some estate gifts, we have 15 people who gave seven figure gifts. Our biggest gift is $8 million from Anita.”

Jean waxes poetic about one particular night of fundraising. “We were at an amazing party at a board retreat in 2013 at Anita May Rosenstein’s Laguna Beach home,” she says. “She hosted a dinner and that night I announced how much we had raised in the first two months. I think it was almost $4 million. Well, damned if Anita didn’t say, ‘I’ll match it.’ That inspired more gifts. One donor was so inspired, he said,  ‘Maybe I ought to call my wife. What the hell – a million dollars, if Anita will match it.’

“So by the end of that night, we were at $13 million,” Jean recalls. “It was the most incredible, amazing evening of fundraising I have ever experienced in my life! And we were off and running.”

And then came 2016 and the election of Donald Trump as president instead of Hillary Clinton.

“When Trump got elected, people got scared, myself included,” Jean says. “And there were a number of people who came to me from the community, donors, members of my staff who said should we re-think doing this Campus because what if we face all these cuts and we need that money for services and not for bricks and mortar. First of all, I said to them, if we don’t build the building the money goes back. People won’t give it to us for services. That’s how capital campaigns work.” 

More importantly, she said, “we have to do this project now more than ever. We have to show that we will not be stopped, that we cannot be stopped! It’s become to me an even more powerful metaphor. Here we have a president and his team of people who want to build a wall to keep the most vulnerable out. And what do we do? We build a beautiful campus to invite the most vulnerable in.”

And an inspired LGBT community and allies raised money to make it happen. “The estimated total project cost is approximately $141.5 million,” Jean says.  “I say ‘estimated’ because two big pieces of the puzzle haven’t yet been completed, i.e., the affordable housing to be completed in Phase II (senior units and youth micro units).  Our affordable housing development partner, Thomas Safran & Associates, estimates they will cost $63 million; the remainder is for the rest of the campus.”

And powerful women are leading the campaign.

“I like to think of this project as woman powered!,” Jean says. “Two of our top three donors are women—Anita and Ariadne Getty.  And Ariadne has generously named both our Youth Academy and our Senior Housing. Moreover, 5 of the additional fourteen 7-figure gifts are partially or entirely from women.”

The Youth Academy at the new campus will be named The Ariadne Getty Foundation Youth Academy.

For Lorri Jean, the Anita May Rosenstein Campus now symbolizes the triumph of the LGBT community in Los Angeles. 

“This campus is a testament to more than those of us who worked on it. It is a testament to 50 years of Center staff and volunteers toiling. And it is a testament to this community,” Jean says.

“Our community in Los Angeles has had the ability to envision things here that no one else ever did—from the Mattachine Society or Edith Eyde (Lisa Ben) and Vice Versa, or the ONE Institute, or the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Cooper Donuts—the first demonstration against gays in the military in the early 60s. The Metropolitan Community Church. People have had courage and boldness in our community in LA. And this could not have been created anywhere else. Something like this is not even being contemplated anywhere else in the world.

“And that is a testament to this amazing Los Angeles LGBT community and increasingly, with our allies,” says Jean. “And I’m just proud of all of us. Proud of this community. LA doesn’t get its just due in terms of our role in our movement.”

Perhaps until now. 

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, we inaccurately noted that the property was appraised for $70 million one year after purchase. It was actually appraised for $17 million. We regret the error. 

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California

Following Newsom’s vaccination measures, California employers follow suit

We will work with the governor on additional ways we can help encourage vaccines without negatively impacting economic recovery

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Los Angeles Blade Graphic

SACRAMENTO – Throughout the past week, some of California’s largest employers – both private businesses and local governments – have followed Governor Newsom’s lead in implementing vaccine and testing measures for employees. After California implemented new vaccine verification and testing requirements for state and health care workers on Monday, and with President Biden following suit this past Thursday, employers have implemented similar measures for thousands of employees throughout the state.

  • City of Los Angeles: “Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Nury Martinez announced today that they would push for mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for City employees, beginning with a requirement that workers either submit proof of vaccination or a weekly negative test.”
  • City of San Francisco: “City officials said that the requirement would promote safety in municipal workplaces and among the general public, given that police officers, firefighters, building inspectors and other city workers come into regular contact with members of the community. ‘With those two things in mind — the safety of our employees and the safety of the public we serve — we made this decision,’ said Carol Isen, San Francisco’s director of human resources. ‘We believe this step is a simple one to take. It’s safe, it’s very effective, and it’s going to guarantee the safety of all.’”
  • San Diego County: “The County will begin requiring its employees to verify COVID-19 vaccination or undergo regular testing. Details being worked out but implementation expected by mid-August. Vaccination is the key to fully and safely reopening the economy.”
  • City of Long Beach: “We are announcing today that all @LongBeachCity employees will need a mandatory vaccination or be required to show a weekly negative COVID-19 test. Thank you to the 72% of employees who are already vaccinated. It’s important that public institutions model responsible leadership. I strongly support Governor @GavinNewsom’s action to do the same for state employees. The standard for those who serve the public must follow the best science available. I hope that cities and counties across the state will take similar actions. It’s time we beat this pandemic.”
  • Google: “‘Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,’ Mr. Pichai wrote. He added that the vaccine mandate would apply to U.S. office locations ‘in the coming weeks’ and to other regions ‘in the coming months.’”
  • Facebook: “‘As our offices reopen, we will be requiring anyone coming to work at any of our US campuses to be vaccinated,’ VP of People Lori Goler said in a statement. ‘How we implement this policy will depend on local conditions and regulations.’”
  • Netflix: “Netflix has become the first major studio to implement a mandatory vaccination policy for its U.S. productions. The move comes after studios and Hollywood unions last week finalized an agreement that allows producers to require vaccines for the people who are potentially at highest risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19 on set: actors and the crew who work most closely with them. Netflix was particularly quick to implement the policy. More major studios are expected to follow in the coming weeks as they work out the challenging logistics of overhauling their approaches to pandemic safety on set.”
  • Lyft: “As of August 2, all employees working in Lyft’s offices are required to be vaccinated, according to an email Lyft (LYFT) CEO Logan Green sent to staffers that was viewed by CNN Business.”
  • Uber: “Uber Technologies Inc (UBER.N) is pushing back its back-to-office date to late October globally, and all employees in the United States will have to be fully vaccinated before returning to office, a spokesperson said on Thursday.”
  • California Business Roundtable: “The governor’s approach will allow economic recovery to continue while redoubling efforts to encourage vaccinations. From the beginning of the pandemic, the business community has been a partner with the governor and public health officials by implementing mitigation protocols and testing, hosting vaccination clinics, communicating the need to get vaccinated, promoting the vaccine through its own PSA, and offering incentives to employees and customers. We will continue to look to work with the governor on additional ways we can help encourage vaccines without negatively impacting employment opportunities or our economic recovery at this critical stage, while paying special attention to continued outreach to Black and Latino communities, of which 51 percent and 49 percent remain unvaccinated, respectively.”
    • The coalition includes:
      • California Business Properties Association
      • California Hotel and Lodging Association
      • California Manufacturers and Technology Association
      • California Retailers Association
      • California Restaurant Association
      • Orange County Business Council
      • Los Angeles County BizFed
      • Central Valley BizFed
      • Inland Empire Economic Partnership

Here’s what health, labor, and other local leaders have also said about Governor Newsom’s vaccine and testing measures:

  • California Hospital Association President & CEO Carmela Coyle: “The new public health order announced today by Gov. Newsom will help ensure that California remains ahead of the curve in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The unfortunate reality is that COVID-19 is again on the rise nationally, and in California, driven by the highly infectious Delta variant. It is imperative that we all do everything possible to protect patients and our communities from COVID-19 illnesses and death. Everyone should get vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective — and they are free. The evidence is clear — vaccination against COVID-19 has prevented people from becoming seriously ill, requiring hospitalization, or dying from the virus, as well as spreading it to others. To date, 75% of eligible Californians have received at least one dose, with minimal side effects. Requiring health care settings, including hospitals, to verify the vaccination status of all health care workers — and to expect those who are unvaccinated to wear masks and be tested regularly — are important and necessary steps that must be taken in this extraordinary situation. The Governor’s announcement is essential to keeping patients and those who care for them safe.”
  • California Primary Care Association Vice President & Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mike Witte: “The California Primary Care Association supports twice weekly COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated healthcare workers. The science is clear: the vaccines work, and they are safe. Over 97% of people seriously sick or dying from COVID-19 viral infections are unvaccinated. This trend is completely preventable with increased vaccination, to the point of herd immunity of our population, when we can begin to look at the pandemic ending. Twice weekly PCR testing for all unvaccinated healthcare workers fits the model for good prevention: accessible, accurate, inexpensive and easy to administer. This is an important addition to prevention of COVID-19 infections. CPCA is in full support.”
  • Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California President/CEO Jodi Hicks: “Once again, the state of California is leading by example, using data, and following best scientific practices to protect millions of people from COVID-19. We commend Governor Newsom for today’s announcement: implementing a vaccination verification system for employees in high-risk environments – a critical step in helping curb the recent uptick in spread across the state and get us back on track. Planned Parenthood continues to work closely with providers and government officials across the state to ensure access remains equitable and the communities hardest hit by the pandemic have access to correct information about the vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and Planned Parenthood will continue to encourage every Californian who can to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
  • California Medical Association President Peter N. Bretan, Jr., M.D.: “Throughout this crisis, health care workers have been a source of strength, sacrifice and perseverance. Ensuring all of us are vaccinated against COVID-19 sends a strong message that the safety of our patients and our colleagues is top priority. It is a duty that comes with our responsibility as people who care for others. We can all do more to keep each other safe, and health care workers in particular have a moral and ethical obligation to do all we can to protect our patients. When someone comes into a health care setting, they deserve to know the medical personnel who care for them are doing everything in their power to keep them safe. Ensuring that all health care workers are protected against COVID-19 will help put patients at ease and will help us bring this deadly pandemic to an end. So many physicians, nurses and medical workers have sacrificed so much over this last 18 months. We know what this virus can do. Many of us have witnessed the devastation first-hand. After going through so much, it is heartbreaking to see cases rise once again, especially when we have vaccines that can stop the spread of this deadly disease. We’ve come too far to ease up now in our fight against COVID-19. It makes sense for the health care community to lead the way in requiring vaccines for our employees. We will continue to do all we can to help convince all Californians that vaccines are safe, effective and critical as we come together to bring this pandemic to an end.”
  • SEIU-UHW Executive Committee Member Gabe Montoya, EMT: “California’s frontline workers in health care and frontline jobs serving the public are growing increasingly concerned as the number of COVID-19 cases rises. We support Governor Newsom’s efforts to ensure vaccinations reach more Californians because these life-saving shots not only prevent death and grave illness from the virus but also prevent more dangerous variants from taking hold. Since this pandemic began, belonging to a union has given workers the strength we needed to speak up for our own safety and the communities we serve, from demanding PPE to creating the conditions for students to return to schools safely. For this reason, we will continue to bargain with our employers to ensure that implementation of the policy includes workers’ voices and push for recognition of all essential workers who have risked their lives during the pandemic.”
  • United Nurses Association of California/Union of Health Care Professionals President Denise Duncan, RN: “COVID-19 transmissions are high, we’re in a fourth surge, and we know that unvaccinated people are suffering the most. This is a forward-thinking order from Governor Newsom which will save lives by protecting patients and caregivers both. Our nurses and health care professionals are still reeling from the last year and a half of the pandemic, including staffing shortages. This is a proactive step to protect patients, workers, and the broader community.”
  • California Statewide Law Enforcement Association: “The California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, which represents peace officers across the state, responded to the order by sending a message to members reiterating the state requirements and pledging to follow up on outstanding questions. ‘CSLEA is in the process of confirming that testing will be done at no cost to the employee and on State time and how employees will be compensated for self-quarantine if mandated to do so,’ the union said in a statement. … ‘Further, the State is not presently mandating proof of vaccine, though it would likely be legal if it did. Employees can elect to decline to provide proof of vaccination if they are willing to adhere to the masking and testing requirements,’ the union said in a memo to members.”
  • California Correctional Peace Officers Association: “Glen Stailey, the union’s president, said in a statement, Gov. ‘Newsom’s new vaccine policy is a reasonable compromise that we can get behind. It provides for regular testing at work for those who have chosen not to get vaccinated — this will prevent the spread of the virus among correctional officers and incarcerated individuals alike.’”
  • Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg: “I support Gov. @GavinNewsom in requiring #Covid vaccination or regular testing of employees. I believe we should do the same in @TheCityofSac for the sake of our employees and customers.”
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California

Employees of statewide LGBTQ+ group Equality California form union

Employees at other progressive and LGBTQ+ nonprofit organizations, including the ACLU and Lambda Legal have formed unions in recent years.

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Equality California staff volunteer for congressional candidate Christy Smith, March 2020 (Photo Credit: EQ Calif. Facebook)

LOS ANGELES – A supermajority of workers at Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, announced the formation of a union, Equality Unites, with the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

In a letter sent via email Thursday, the staff urged Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur, who is leaving his post at the end of 2021, and Executive Director-designate Tony Hoang to voluntarily recognize their union, inclusive of all non-Director level employees.

The union organizers laid out issues that merit the need for the union and what is felt to be critical concerns including addressing employee hiring and retention — particularly among employees of color, trans, gender nonconforming and intersex people — salary, raise, and promotion transparency, guidelines around overtime and fair compensation, a healthy culture of feedback, and any decisions that impact their health, safety and lives.

Organizers also pointed out that the staff at the non-profit organization had exceeded all expectations and kept the organization afloat during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The organizers also want to ensure that all employees have a voice as the organization undergoes a change in and restructuring of leadership, as well as a shift in goals and mission.

“CWA Local 9003 is proud to welcome our newest bargaining unit, Equality Unites,” said CWA Local 9003 President Marisa Remiski. “We are urging management to voluntarily recognize them and CWA Local 9003 as their Union. We look forward to working together!”

Late Thursday afternoon Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur and Executive Director-designate Tony Hoang responded in a written statement;

“This morning, Equality California received notice from our employees that they intend to organize a collective bargaining unit and a request that we voluntarily recognize it. As a progressive civil rights organization, Equality California has always stood shoulder-to-shoulder with unions in support of workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain,” the statement read.

“We remain fully committed to these pro-worker values, and we intend to support our employees’ organizational efforts and voluntarily recognize a bargaining unit. We look forward to continuing to provide a supportive and equitable environment for all of our employees and to working collaboratively with them going forward,” Zbur and Hoag added.

Zbur and Hoang’s voluntary recognition of the union is significant. Employers often resist efforts to unionize by forcing employees to vote or engaging in other practices to dissuade workers from organizing.

But the outgoing and incoming executive directors of the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization immediately made clear that they have no intent to do so, and instead will support the employees’ efforts.

Employees at other progressive and LGBTQ+ nonprofit organizations, including the ACLU, Lambda Legal and the Center for Reproductive Rights, have formed unions in recent years.

Throughout the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement, labor unions have played an important role in advocating for LGBTQ+ Americans. In 2007, Pride at Work — an official constituency of the AFL-CIO — signed onto an amicus brief in support of marriage equality in In re marriage cases.

Unions like the Communications Workers of America, California Teachers Association, United Food and Commercial Workers, and more staunchly opposed California Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which sought to prohibit marriage equality.

More recently, unions have played a crucial part in advancing protections for LGBTQ+ workers, including the overwhelming 90% of union support for the Equality Act (H.R. 5) and celebration of the historic Supreme Court decision in Bostock, which affirmed that LGBTQ+ workers are protected from discrimination under federal law.

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Los Angeles

BNT: Buck case highlights intersection of race & sexual orientation

Journalist Jasmyne Cannick, said that the case “intersected race.” She joins “Black News Tonight” to discuss the case and its impact.

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Screen shot via Black News Tonight

PHILADELPHIA – Appearing on BNC’s Black News Tonight anchored by journalist Marc Lamont Hill Wednesday, Los Angeles based political strategist and journalist Jasmyne Cannick, who has covered the Ed Buck case, told Hill that the case intersected race and sexual orientation.

“As much as this case is about Ed Buck, it’s also about our housing crisis, and what it makes people feel they have to do — play Russian roulette with their lives just to have a roof over their heads,” Cannick stressed.

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