Single in the City

Written by Katie Sweeney | Photography by Craig Lee

We called these stellar singles — hailing from hospitality and health care to fashion and activism — to the Neiman Marcus Rotunda last month. Back row, from left: Linda Gebroe, Shirin Hashem, Phil Dillard, Pernella Sommerville and Vasanth Mohanraj. Front row: Tim McMullen, Madison Ginnett, Manny Yekutiel, Scott Wiener and Tricia Sweeney. (Makeup by Neiman Marcus San Francisco.) | Photo courtesy of Craig Lee.
What is it like to be single in San Francisco right now? The Gazette attempts to answer this question in our annual search for the Bay’s most eligible, who represent a wide-ranging and adventurous dating pool. This year, we discovered two significant common denominators among the answers. The first is that hardly anyone wants to find love on a dating app. “They frustrate me to no end,” Senator Scott Wiener says. And hospitality expert Madison Ginnett concurs: “They’re the worst.” Hence, communications director Pernella Sommerville looks for love everywhere but the apps. “I’m still the person that is the hopeful romantic — that I’m going to bump into someone’s shopping cart while I’m at Mollie Stone’s.”

The second similarity is a renewed affection for San Francisco and the hope the City inspires. “I love how open-hearted we are,” Manny Yekutiel says. “This is the best city in America to be a queer person, in my opinion, between the amazing art, culture, music and community. I love being gay in San Francisco.” Nurse practitioner Tricia Sweeney notes that “a lot of people will tell you that there’s not a lot of available men in San Francisco, but I don’t find that to be the case. I think if you believe that there are people out there and you go out there and do the things you love, you will meet people.” But it’s Wiener who puts it best: “San Francisco is like the ultimate candy store. There is so much to do and so many options. That’s one of the reasons why I think there are a lot of single people in San Francisco — because you can have a very, very awesome life.”

While none say being single in the City is easy, the 10 eligibles highlighted here are diverse in their backgrounds and interests. But they share something else in common — they are openly and honestly available and ready to find love. Learn more about them on the following pages. And if someone sounds interesting, don’t be afraid to seek them out!

Eligibles 2022

Shirin Hashem

Consultant and founder of Fashion Community Week, a San Francisco–based organization that supports emerging designers, Hashem is passionate about bringing people together and empowering women from developing countries. She is always “on the hunt to learn and discover more” and serves as a mentor in the global fashion community she has helped create. She considers a relationship a partnership where both people communicate and understand each other while maintaining independence. “It’s not that I have to be the team leader or he has to be, but we’re equal partners and we complement each other. We can have our own hobbies and our own friends, but we also have our own things that we like to do together.” The Saudi Arabian beauty is looking for a spontaneous, adventurous and intelligent man who can handle himself well in public. “I like a good party,” she says, “and if I see them in the corner and they’re not having fun … ” She rolls her eyes and shrugs her shoulders, indicating that all suitors have to pass a social test before they’re given the key to her heart.

Fun facts: Hashem is a cat lover whose favorite color was black but is now red. She’s given a TED Talk and has traveled to 40 countries.

Manny Yekutiel

“I have a passion for life that trickles down to everything I do and how I spend my time,” Yekutiel says. “That’s probably my best quality: my urgency to live fully and purposefully.” Yekutiel is the founder of Manny’s, a community meeting space and nonprofit restaurant on 16th Street, and a member of several boards, including of the Jewish Community Center and the SF Municipal Transportation Agency. Yekutiel’s activism is contagious, and he hopes to find a partner “who wants to suck the marrow out of life, someone who cares about what they do and lives with reason and drive. Oh, and they can’t be better than me at board games.” His perfect first date includes a picnic while watching the sunset over Bernal Hill, and he can’t live without his portable speaker. “I have been carrying around a portable speaker since high school, the reason being that I want my life to be like a movie, and so I play my own soundtrack,” he explains. “I’m listening to music constantly, letting it color my days and everything going on in them.”

Fun facts: Every Saturday morning, Yekutiel reads the New Yorker and the Economist at Noe Cafe. He plays in a gay dodgeball league, has a celebrity crush on Robert Pattinson, and makes a spectacular Afghan chicken and rice dish with tons of turmeric, spices and cinnamon.

Pernella Sommerville

For the past 19 years, Sommerville has shared a positive thought of the day on social media. “I declared it on Myspace,” Epi Center MedSpa’s director of communications reminisces. “I wrote [that] from this day forward, I’m going to give a positive thought of the day, and I started building this following of people that were waiting for positivity.” Today, Sommerville is a ray of sunshine online (find her on Instagram @pernella_rose) and among her circle of friends. Her ideal partner “would have EQ and AQ,” she says. “I want him to be emotionally intelligent as well as actually intelligent, book-wise smart” with a good sense of humor and “a connection with God.” Bring Sommerville to a beautiful, dimly lit restaurant like Marlowe or a local charity event if you score a date with her. The longtime Junior League member supports everything from the classical arts to stopping human trafficking. Her grandmother was a chef, so cooking is in her genes. Sommerville’s specialties include Mexican and Italian cuisine — and scrambled eggs with spinach and cheese.

Fun facts: Sommerville is the baby of 10 siblings, five girls and five boys, and she is the only one who has never been married. She can’t live without French fries and is eager to revisit Paris.

Vasanth Mohanraj

Ladies, if you’re looking for a charming and funny man who will leave surprise love notes in your purse, allow me to introduce Vasanth Mohanraj. A self-proclaimed “cheesy, hopeless, fairy-tale romantic,” Mohanraj believes that chivalry is not dead. (Please don’t get mad at him for opening the door for you.) The Midwest native is “a big proponent of treating a lady like a lady.” He likens his affections to that of a loyal canine companion — unconditional and abundant — and is looking for someone “whose smile lights up” his world. An entrepreneur who is passionate about meeting new people and experiencing new things, Mohanraj is currently building SoundLabs, a game-changing technology platform that reimagines the way people and products connect to music. In his spare time, he runs a public health initiative that helps businesses reemerge safely postpandemic. He is also working on a book called The Boyfriend Manual, which encourages men to become better at pleasing their female partners by engaging in more acts of kindness.

Fun facts: Mohanraj gave his high school graduation speech as a rap, and when he was growing up, he wanted to be a race car driver. His power animal is a tiger, and his favorite color is orange.

Linda Gebroe

Gebroe has achieved what many spend their entire lives trying to do. “I loved what I did and felt that it mattered,” the retiree says of her career as a communications specialist and freelance writer. Today, the avid baseball fan is enjoying the fruits of her labor. She spends her time “meeting friends for lunch, walking, working out in the pool, cooking, going to Giants games or watching them on TV, watching movies, reading, participating in book and writing groups.” Gebroe is on the Women’s Foundation California board and says philanthropy has become incredibly important to her since retiring. She wants to date a woman whose values are similar to hers and who “can balance intimacy with independence.” Naturally funny, Gebroe also describes her perfect first date as “one with an escape hatch!” or “something time-limited,” like a walk or coffee.

Fun facts: Gebroe never forgets a birthday, collects T-shirts from souvenir shops and hopes to visit Iceland sometime this summer. She lives with her cat, Roz Catz, named for Roz Chast, her favorite cartoonist at the New Yorker.

Scott Wiener

At 6’7″, Senator Wiener is often the tallest man in the room — and he’s not afraid to stand out in a crowd or stand up for what he believes in. The state senator needs no introduction to San Franciscans. Wiener served on the Board of Supervisors for four years before setting his sights on Sacramento. These days, he splits his time between his office in the capital and his longtime home in the Castro. Wiener describes himself as a loyal, respectful and persistent partner but doesn’t believe he has the alpha personality typically associated with politicians. “In my private life, I’m more introverted and I’m the opposite of domineering,” he says. Wiener acknowledges that dating an elected official can be challenging but promises prospects his undivided attention. “I get along best with men who are laidback with a great sense of humor and someone who treats everyone with respect. That’s so important to me.”

Fun facts: Wiener speaks fluent Spanish, loves both dogs and cats, and his power animal is a giraffe. His theme song? “Good as Hell” by Lizzo or anything by Kylie Minogue.

Tricia Sweeney

“I’m newly single and very ready to mingle,” Sweeney quips. The nurse practitioner and women’s health advocate — she works in reproductive care and at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center — describes herself as “independent and adventurous.” As a member of the South End Rowing Club, she frequently swims without a wetsuit in the frigid waters of the Bay. She’s looking for a man who is “excited about the same things that I’m excited about,” she says, and that includes cycling, camping, climbing and other outdoor pursuits. Sweeney is “passionate about helping people be their authentic selves, women’s health, reproductive rights and informed consent.” Sweeney, a natural redhead who believes in magic, says, “I’m a very caring person. I think when I choose to love somebody, I love them intensely.”

Fun facts: Sweeney, yours truly’s little sister, spent three years living in the Dominican Republic working for a nonprofit that empowered local women. She can’t live without sunscreen, and loves dancing bachata and making Alison Roman recipes.

Tim McMullen

Born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, McMullen came to the U.S. at age 19 to be Oregon State University’s punter — even though he had never played American football before. After college, he fell in love with the Bay Area, where he worked as a personal trainer before ultimately settling into a luxury real estate career. McMullen uses his creativity — for example, making videos and building websites — to market properties such as the new Four Seasons Private Residences on Market and Third Streets. He loves a first date that involves adventure, like paddleboarding from his home in Tiburon to Angel Island, and prefers to “explore and have a deep conversation outside.” In the past, women he’s dated have worried that he’ll end up moving back to Australia, but McMullen is here to stay. “I’m looking for a deep, transcendent-level connection where a woman and I can understand and relate on higher frequencies.”

Fun facts: McMullen can’t move back to Australia because he’s addicted to the local Mexican food scene. The dog lover’s favorite song is “Say Something,” by Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton.

Madison Ginnett

As a marketing and public relations guru, Ginnett specializes in restaurant hospitality. For the past decade, she has worked behind the scenes putting on local events such as Eat Drink SF and helping destinations like Nancy Oakes’ Boulevard attract new diners. “I love to know everything about restaurants, bars and hotels,” Ginnett says. “I always read about them and go out to new restaurants and love to talk about them.” Describing herself as honest, driven, thoughtful and adventurous, she is looking for someone to spend time with at the new home she is renovating in Calistoga. “I like being outside. I work out a lot. Whether hiking, skiing or playing golf, I want an active man,” she says. “They don’t have to be overly passionate about food and wine, but somebody who loves to go out, check out a new restaurant and have a good cocktail.” An avid traveler, Ginnett recently dropped everything to meet her sister in Colombia and has plans to cross climbing Mount Kilimanjaro off her bucket list this August.

Fun facts: Ginnett wears all-black clothing 99 percent of the time, is irrationally afraid of being eaten by sharks in a pool and studied patisserie in Paris. She lived in Alaska until she was 10 and attended NASA’s official space camp twice as a child.

Phil Dillard

Dillard’s parents have been a couple since the sixth grade, so he knows what true love looks like. And he knows what he’s looking for in a woman: “A mix of brains, beauty, charm and kindness,” he shares, adding that she must be “passionate about something that matters in her profession, community or artistic world.” Dillard describes himself as intelligent, curious, outgoing, loyal, kind and energetic. He enjoys outdoor activities, especially on the water, like stand-up paddleboarding. While the entrepreneur, impact investor and mission-driven capitalist is constantly on the go — traveling from Saudi Arabia to Singapore to San Francisco and back again for business opportunities — when he’s home, he loves throwing dinner parties. So a partner to help host and cook is also a plus.

Fun facts: He was a member of the Naval Academy Glee Club, has spoken about his experience as a Black man on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and worked out with Muhammad Ali.

When Douglas Spreng met Peggy Lucchesi, it was all thanks to perceptive, patient matchmakers and a first date
dip in the pool. The happy couple now lives together — and has sage advice for others looking for a mate. | Photo courtesy of Craig Lee.

It’s Never Too Late for Love

Love can happen any time in life. Take the modern love story of Douglas Spreng and Peggy Lucchesi. Spreng, a retired 77-year-old executive, decided to try online dating in 2020. “I dated through the pandemic,” he says. He used Our Time, a website and app geared toward adults over 50. “There were peaks and valleys. I was dating the whole time and I probably dated 20 women in a year.” Tired of striking out, Spreng contacted a fellow Harvard alumnus who started a boutique matchmaking service in San Francisco. “People usually reach out to me,” says Shannon Lundgren, the founder of Shannon’s Circle, “and I get to know them and find out, can I help them?”

Any person can sign up to be in her database of singles, but paying clients benefit from being set up on dates and finding a potential match. “When Douglas came to me, I did a lot of getting to know him,” Lundgren recalls. “The most common qualities that people tell me they’re looking for is someone intellectually curious and kind.” Lundgren set him up on several Zoom dates, but no sparks flew. Having combed through the possible candidates in Shannon’s Circle, Lundgren called Amy Andersen, another local matchmaker, to see if anyone in her database might be a good fit for Spreng.

Enter Peggy Lucchesi. When Lucchesi moved from New Jersey to the Bay Area in 2014 to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren, she met with Andersen, founder of Linx Dating. “I got a call from Amy Andersen after about five years,” Lucchesi recounts. “She said, ‘I think there’s somebody you might be interested in. Do you want me to send you his profile?’”

Spreng and Lucchesi agreed to an online date. It was supposed to last 45 minutes but extended for hours. She invited him to join her for lunch and a swim at the house she shared with her daughter’s family — and the rest is history. “Just imagine a couple of 70-somethings in their bathing suits, jumping around the pool,” Spreng says enthusiastically. “We didn’t kiss on the first date. That would’ve been premature. But there was something about her that made me feel settled and relaxed.”

Their relationship progressed rapidly from there. Was it love at first sight? Not quite, but almost. Now the couple lives together, and although they have yet to celebrate their first anniversary, they haven’t ruled out a proposal. What’s their advice to older people looking for love? Don’t let yourself go, stay in good shape, pursue hobbies and be social. But most important: “Accept the idea that it’s possible,” Lucchesi says. “You can find the love of your life at this stage of life.”

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