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SDGLN's top local news stories of 2016

The end-of-the-year wrap up of local stories in 2016.
Photo credit:
eromuhely.com

The year 2016 was one like no other. It was unpredictable, and filled with ups and downs. Locally, the news was just unpredictable. Check out our top local news stories of 2016 below.

Hillcrest's revolving storefronts: San Diego's LGBT neighborhood, Hillcrest, is an important place for many people, residents and visitors alike. People care about the places in the neighborhood, and when a popular business shuts down, it's big news. This year saw high-profile neighborhood establishments close down, including Lava Sushi, Mess Royale, Salt & Cleaver, and Filter. Heat Bar & Kitchen changed hands and became Pardon My French. Some business the neighborhood gained include LeStat's, Rolled Up, H20 Sushi, Clandestino, and Spitz.

Hillcrest's future: What Hillcrest will look like in the future has been a hot topic for many years, but with the Uptown Community Plan Update finally passing muster, the road has been paved for new types of development in the neighborhood.

Homelessness: As the homeless problem in San Diego has exploded over the last couple of years, the situation has become a big issue for Hillcrest. The Hillcrest Town Council held a forum in May to discuss homelessness; while the Hillcrest Business Association insitituted a security program throughout the neighborhood's business disctrict.

Preserving our history: In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about preserving places of importance to San Diego's LGBT history. One such place, the Truax House, played an important role in caring for people living with AIDS in the darkest days of the epidemic. The house was being considered for demolition or sale this year, and many in the community wanted to make sure it was saved in some way.

San Diego Pride: While most accounts say the 2016 San Diego LGBT Pride festivities were a success, that's not what made the news. A few months after the celebration ended, it was announced that Stephen Whitburn, who had served as the San Diego Pride organzation's executive director, was terminated. Many in the community were unhappy to learn of Whitburn's termination, and opened up all sorts of issues related to the organization's board of directors. This dominated much of our local news coverage throughout the fall. All of coverage on this issue can be found here.

Will Walters: Sadly, we learned just yesterday that Will Walters, who had been entangled in a legal battle for several years over his wearing of a loin cloth at the 2011 San Diego Pride festival, died by suicide. A verdict on his case had just been reached earlier this month.

San Diego Gay Men's Chorus/San Diego Padres: This story got international attention after the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus were left to sing on the field to the wrong track - of a woman's voice - at a Pride-themed Padres game.  

Conservative religious groups: The LGBT community continues to struggle with some conservative religious groups that believe "homosexuality" is a sin. At least twice this year, billboards created by conservative religious groups were placed in Hillcrest. Morris Cerrulo International wants to build a giant Christian theme park just minutes from Hillcrest, and we learned that a life-sized replica of Noah's Ark will come to San Diego. Finally, some community members are gearing up for a "Gay Conversion Therapy" conference that has been announced for San Diego in June 2017.

Safety: Feeling safe is important in a neighborhood like Hillcrest, but there were many reported incidents this year that made many in the community feel unsafe. A man was ambushed and beaten while walking home from a nightclub; a nightclub employee was attacked when walking to her car after work; there was an armed robbery and a stabbing in Hillcrest; and a North Park man was pistol-whipped.

Urban Mo's vandals: Many consider Urban Mo's Bar & Grill, a long-time popular hangout, to be somewhat of a community center. Customers and fans of the bar were not happy to hear that two women, who had been customers earlier in the night, threw rocks at and vandalized the building. Luckily, their actions were caught on camera, and they saw their day in court.

Notable deaths: Longtime community leader and activist Bill Beck died at 74; and George Pernicano, longtime owner of a property that is said to be one of Hillcrest's biggest eye sores, died at 99. Also local drag performer Flo Floé passed in September. "Our community has lost a light and the sky has gained a star," said San Diego's Glitz Glam upon hearing of Flo's death. 

Elections: 2016 was an election year, and while our National News coverage spent much time covering the Presidential Election, we had some notable local elections as well. Chris Ward beat Anthony Bernal in the race for City Council District 3 and was sworn in earlier this month. Todd Gloria, who was termed out of the district 3 seat, has moved on to the California State Assembly. Dave Roberts, the first openly-gay member of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, lost his re-election bid.

Orlando: The LGBT community around the world was shaken to its core by the massacre at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida this summer. While our National News coverage reported on this event in detail, locally, several rallies and remembrances were held, and security measures were beefed up at San Diego Pride, which took place just a month later.

Officer Christine Garcia: The San Diego Police Department is proud to employ Officer Christine Garcia, a transgender woman, who transitioned while on the force. A misunderstanding at the San Diego LGBT Community Center, though, led to Garcia being banned from entering the building to attend a transgender event.