Business Briefs: Bravo show stars gay Bay Area real estate agent

Debuting amid heated debate over the Bay Area’s sky-high
real estate prices is Million Dollar Listing San Francisco
, the latest installment of the hit Bravo
TV show. And among the new season’s three stars is Andrew Greenwell
, a gay man who owns his own firm based in the East
Bay city of Pleasanton.

Before the first episode had even aired Wednesday night, the
show had already generated a fair bit of controversy and media attention.
Complaints focused on the lack of female agents in the cast and the show
glorifying expensive housing being scooped up by newly minted tech millionaires
as longtime residents are priced out of the city and region.

While a writer for San Francisco
magazine said
the three stars of the show – the other agents are Justin Fichelson
and Roh Habibi – are plenty
entertaining to watch and “easy on the eyes,” they also described watching
the series as having “a front row seat to your own wake” for anyone
without deep enough pockets to purchase the multi-million dollar properties
being featured.

In promos for the new season Greenwell, 31, boasts that he
expects to sell $100 million worth of real estate this year. During a recent
phone interview with the Bay Area Reporter,
Greenwell said real estate agents are not behind the high housing costs, nor is
the TV show to blame.

“I definitely follow that a lot of people don’t like
how tech money has influenced housing values. But at the end of the day, the
show doesn’t have control over that. It is just telling a story,” said Greenwell.
“Cities change and we are not the catalyst for that change. We are a part
of it. It is just the way things are; cities evolve and San Francisco is
evolving again.”

The benefits of participating in the show far outweighed any
risks, said Greenwell, who relocated to the Bay Area from Seattle in 2011 after
being recruited by real estate firm Keller Williams
to be CEO of its East Bay office. Last fall he
opened his own firm, Venture Sotheby’s International Realty
in Pleasanton, where he serves as CEO and

“It was a really great opportunity that was too hard to
pass up,” said Greenwell, who in April married Paal Salvesen
, a fellow East Bay Realtor he met four years ago
who now works for Greenwell’s firm. “It gives our clients great exposure
for their property, that is the most important thing.”

A native of the Sunshine State, where he earned a bachelor’s
degree in political science from Florida State University, Greenwell founded
his first brokerage at the age of 19 while a freshman in college. In 2007, Realtor
magazine named him one of the “Top 30
Realtors in America Under 30.”

Today he specializes in multi-million dollar properties,
from historic Victorians in San Francisco to high-priced houses in Marin and
the East Bay. Prior to signing on to the Bravo show, of which he has only seen
the first episode, he was friends with fellow cast mate Fichelson.

He was pleased with how he was portrayed in the first
episode and isn’t concerned about being pigeonholed into a reality television
trope of an effeminate gay man.

“When we decided to do this, we made the decision to be
ourselves. The way we looked at it was to do what we do everyday. We just
happened to have a camera crew follow us,” said Greenwell, who hosted a
premiere party for his friends Wednesday night. “The difference in our
show than most reality shows is it is a business show. It is about the real
estate. Other reality shows are great, but this is not about us going to dinner
and throwing wine at each other.”

He said the experience of taping season one was “really
awesome” and is looking forward to having the show be picked up for a
second season.

Million Dollar Listing San Francisco
airs on Bravo Wednesday nights at 10 p.m.

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James Aarons’ “Untitled(Flock) 2015″ was commissioned for
the Montgomery County Circuit Court in Maryland. Photo: Courtesy James Aarons

SF craft show features gay artisans

Fourteen years ago James Aarons
and his husband, Mark Taylor, left San Francisco to move to Mokelumne Hill, an
old Gold Rush town an hour due east of Stockton.

Faced with rising rents during the city’s last dot-com boom,
Aarons, 53, mentioned to a friend he was thinking of moving to New England. She
suggested the couple instead visit her in the Sierra foothills and buy a place.

“I started looking around. It is a very beautiful and
very special town,” said Aarons. “In the 1960s many gay men bought
property up here.”

A dancer turned ceramicist, Aarons set up his studio in town
to produce his award-winning works of pottery, ceramic arts, and drawings. His
creations can be found hanging in hotels, medical settings, and other buildings
throughout the country.

“Honestly, my work is much more urban than it is
country,” said Aarons, who owns a pied-a-terre in San Francisco with Taylor,
a media studies professor at the University of San Francisco, that the couple
often uses. “I don’t use a rural sensibility creatively. But the colors of
the Sierra have found their way into my work.”

In late July he will be back in San Francisco to take part
in the 40th annual American Craft Council Show being held at Fort Mason Center. At the 2011 craft show, Aarons
received an Award of Excellence.

“It is really nice to do a home show, as in close to
home. It gives me an opportunity to experiment a little more,” said
Aarons, who has been accepted to take part in the craft council’s event about
10 times since 1996. “The investment is less cumbersome. I can feature things
I might not elsewhere because I feel it is too much of a risk to drag it across
the country to another show.”

At this year’s show Aarons’ work will also be featured in
the Make Room: Modern Design Meets Craft showcase, where four designers are
creating room vignettes based on a “Four Elements” theme. Designer Gustave
selected two pieces by Aarons for
his “air” vignette.

At his own booth, Aarons will be displaying examples of his
dot compositions, “round pieces of clay that hang on the wall in a
specific pattern,” he said.

The works can range in price from $300 for a smaller
installation to upwards of $1,200 or more for larger pieces meant for an atrium

“It is all based on the constraints of the space and
the needs of the client,” he said.

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Brian Murphy, left, and his husband, Randall Darwall,
are participating in the American Craft Council Show. Photo: Mark Markey

Also presenting at this year’s craft show are Randall
and Brian Murphy
, who have been together 30 years and taken part in
the annual showcase since 1980. The men, both in their 60s, live on Cape Cod in
Harwich and married 11 years ago when Massachusetts legalized same-sex

Murphy, a former psychotherapist, began designing clothing
after meeting Darwall, a noted hand weaver who dyes his own silk fabrics. Each
year they bring “new colors, new fabrics, new styles,” to display at
the San Francisco show.

“We try and excite the base we have developed
there,” said Murphy, adding that this year they will be displaying a quilt
that “is representative of 40 years of Randy’s weaving.”

They will also be selling a variety of silk and woven silk scarves
and shawls as well as hand woven jackets and silk dyed jackets. The clothing
ranges in price from $60 to $2,000, with quilts costing $10,000 to $15,000.

“As we like to say, we will have a little bling in the
booth this year, meaning the fabric has some rhinestones in it,” said

More than 220 artisans will be taking part in this year’s
show, showcasing everything from textiles, jewelry, metal and clay sculptures, to
woodwork and furniture. The American Craft Council bills the San Francisco show
“as the largest craft show West of the Rockies.”

People “may have heard of the show or visited before,
but the show changes every year,” said Aarons. “Our work evolves, so
come and see what we are up to and share in the delight of handmade

The show takes places from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, July
31; from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, August 1; and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, August 2. It is located in the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason Center, off
Marina Boulevard at Buchanan Street along the city’s northern waterfront.

One-day $12 tickets can be purchased in advance online at

Local lawyers named the best

Four Bay Area-based lawyers landed on the National LGBT
Bar Association
‘s 2015 “Best Under
40″ list of young LGBT legal professionals.

The honorees include Julie Wilensky
, a shareholder in the Oakland firm Lewis,
Feinberg, Lee Jackson
; Peter
, a partner at Manning
Kas, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester LLP
San Francisco; and Zachary B. Allen,
an associate at Arnold Porter LLP in San Francisco.

Also on the list is Shin-Ming Wong
, a supervisory helpline attorney at the San
Francisco-based nonprofit the National Center for Lesbian Rights
. Equality California
legislative manager Jo Michael
, who is based in Sacramento, was also selected.

All 38 attorneys named to this year’s list will be honored
at the legal organization’s Lavender Law Conference and Career Fair in Chicago
on August 6.


Honor Roll

Bay Area Reporter
Bestie readers’ poll winner Valencia Cyclery‘s annual sale in
June benefitting Project Open Hand netted
$9,750 for the San Francisco-based nonprofit that provides meals to people
living with AIDS and other diseases. Over the past 20 years the yearly event
has raised $132,754 for the agency.

The Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen Foundation
has given a $165,000 grant to Lesbians
Who Tech
, the San Francisco-based organization
that holds events around the country for LGBTQ women in the tech industry. The
philanthropy’s namesake and director is a high profile Silicon Valley leader
and is married to venture capitalist Marc Andreessen
, who founded Netscape.

The nonprofit plans to use the money to launch a mentorship
program it is calling Bring a Lesbian To Work Day and to fund a Coding
Scholarship Fund, which will subsidize tuition for women who need financial
assistance to attend coding academies.


Got a tip on LGBT business news? Call Matthew S. Bajko at
(415) 829-8836 or e-mail

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