Neighbor Chuck Finds New “Everyday Sights in Bernal Heights”





Neighbor Chuck got a job, which has been great for his finances but bad for fans of his blog. Luckily for those patient fans, Neighbor Chuck found some time recently to go for one of his horticultural walks around Bernal Heights, and the result is a new installment in his occasional series of  posts on “Everyday Sights in Bernal Heights”:

I don’t get to do this much anymore — walk around my neighborhood. Because I work all the time. Well, it’s nice to be wanted (for work). Up to a point. And then, blech.

This edition is huge and beautiful and full of gorgeous Bernal perspectives, so put on your virtual walking shoes and let Neighbor Chuck show you around.

PHOTOS: Neighbor Chuck/My Back 40 (Feet)

Posted in Photography, Plants and Gardening | 3 Comments

New Bernal Journal Goes on Hiatus, as Neighbor Tim Redmond Hatches Plan to Revive It


Regular readers might have noticed something odd on the front page of the most recent (April/May) issue of the New Bernal Journal, the bimonthly print newspaper published by the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center.

Below the fold, a small item explained that the New Bernal Journal planned to temporarily cease publication:


What??? Why? What does this mean? And what’s the plan?

Bernalwood reached out to BHNC executive director Rachel Ebora for insight, and she explained that producing New Bernal Journal had become difficult in its current form, and that there was a desire to make the newspaper “more community driven vs. completely staffed by BHNC.”

She also said Bernal neighbor and veteran progressive journalist Tim Redmond had expressed in interest in overseeing the New Bernal Journal’s revival.

This was an innnnteresting potential development, so Bernalwood asked Neighbor Tim Redmond for comment as well. Via email, Neighbor Tim tells us:

Yes: We want to bring back the New Bernal Journal. The staff at BHNC doesn’t have the time to do it anymore, and besides, they would like it to be more than a BHNC publication and more of a neighborhood pub.

So I have volunteered to put together a group of local editors and writers (and as you know, the hill is full of editors and writers) to create some sort of editing committee that would assign out, write, and edit the copy for a bimonthly NBJ. We want it to reflect all of Bernal.

And yes, I am very much looking for volunteers who want to be part of this collective effort to recreate and rebuild the NBJ. Please let Bernalwood readers know that they can contact me at this email <timredmondsf AT gmail DOTCOM> if they want to help out.

PHOTOS: by Telstar Logistics


Posted in Media | 12 Comments

Supreme Court Decision Amps Up Protestors at Valencia Planned Parenthood Clinic

Recently, a unanimous US Supreme Court decision invalidated a Massachusetts law that created protest-free “buffer zones” around clinics that provide abortion services, on the grounds that the law violates the First Amendment right to free speech. San Francisco has a similar buffer-zone law, which has been much appreciated at the Planned Parenthood on Valencia Street in recent years.

Yet because of the Supreme Court ruling, San Francisco’s law also is in jeopardy, and Bernal’s Plannned Parenthood clinic reports that incidents of harassment by protesters are on the rise — although City officials are reluctant to do much about it. The Chronicle has the story:

Planned Parenthood executives say San Francisco police and the city attorney aren’t doing enough to protect patients and staff from “harassment and intimidation” at the organization’s health center on Valencia Street.

“Each week, as the harassment and intimidation escalate … the city’s ordinances are violated ever more flagrantly,” Planned Parenthood’s Bay Area chapter leader, Heather Saunders Estes, wrote in a July 22 letter to City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

And when center staffers call police, they are told that “there is nothing they can do,” Saunders Estes wrote.

The latest protest rift was brought on by last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down Massachusetts’ 35-foot no-protest zone around clinics.

The protesters now ignore San Francisco’s 25-foot buffer zone as they pass out literature, and film staffers and patients entering the building, clinic reps complain.

SFist adds that “Planned Parenthood’s Bay Area chapter asks volunteer escorts to sign up here.”

Hat Tip: SFist

PHOTO: Protestors outside Valencia Planned Parenthood clinic in 2011, by peephole

Posted in Activism, Politics | 11 Comments

UPDATED: Heavy, Handmade Community Bench Recovered After Late-Night Theft



Last Saturday morning, Bernalwood received an urgent communication from Neighbor Annice on Prospect. Overnight, someone had stolen the beautiful new community bench she’d helped install:

Please send an ALERT for a beautiful community bench taken [Friday] night from Prospect. There is a wonderful story behind the bench; it was handcrafted for the neighborhood from a single tree felled in a forest north of Tahoe, milled and designed by a woodworking artist. [On Friday] night around 1:30 a small commotion was heard. The bench had only been in place for fifteen days, and was already appreciated as a welcoming addition to our neighborhood. We are heartbroken it disappeared.

As the saying goes, “this is why we can’t have nice things.” *sigh*

Happily, however, the story had brightened considerably by Sunday. The bench was recovered! It seems the urchins had not gotten far with it, in no small part because the bench is just so damn heavy.

But that has created a different problem, as Neighbor Annice explains:

The good news is the bench was found! Please ignore my earlier request unless you think there is a story about nightly rowdiness. Apparently drunken people tried to carry this ton bench, managed to get a block away. and abandoned it.

A neighbor took it in for protection and then saw our plaintive notice, posted like hopes for missing pets. My immediate neighbors were in an upset over the stolen bench. None of held high or even any hope. So perhaps the story mingles malicious behavior with the best of human behavior.

We still need a posse to return it a block away if any samaritans (strong) want to help, much appreciated if you could pass the word along.

UPDATE, 29 JULY: The Bench is Back!


Neighbor Annice is overjoyed:

The bench returns!
Many strong men ahoy!
Carried this lovely bench back to Prospect.
A feat!
We benchwarmed with wine and will try to handle security without compromising looks.
A small film is being made about the bench by a SOTA student.
Will keep you posted. May be a footnote to public art issues on the hill.
Merci beaucoup!

PHOTOS: Top, @TheRealWBTC. Below, courtesy of Neighbor Annice. 

Posted in Crime | 14 Comments

Bernal Chefs Organizing Tasty Taco Pop-Up

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Neighbor Jasper is organizing a pop-up evening of tasty taco madness. The event happens on Friday, August 22, but reservations are being accepted now (and are expected to sell out). Neighbor Jasper tells Bernalwood:

I will be hosting the second incarnation of a pop-up dinner in Bernal Heights on Friday, August 22nd.  I am a Bernal resident – currently living just off of Cortland – and I would love for community members to join for the evening.

The first event was a few months ago in lower Pac Heights, and this time around we have secured a space in Bernal for our dinner. It’s a single seating of 40 guests for a multi-course meal at $65.

Here’s some additional detail, from the Tacos Gringas website:

All tacos are good tacos. The worst you’ve ever had was still pretty good. As the great peasant foods from around the world make their way into and out of the spotlight, tacos – and more generally, antojitos – remain an unmovable staple. Simplicity collides with incredible flavors. Modest cuts braised until they become treasures pair with bright herbs and cutting salsas inside humble corn tortillas.

Tacos Gringas pays homage to the drunken nights when greasy mystery meats satisfied a primal craving, and every leaf of cilantro and piece of onion made perfect sense even to the most intoxicated. Ironically, real tacos gringas don’t make sense at all. A flour tortilla stuffed with al pastor and slathered in melted cheese is the bastardized, yet delicious version of the trompo classic slung on the streets of Mexico City.

Tacos Gringas is just that. A delicious re-imagination of traditional flavors. Nothing fancy. Just good ingredients, thoughtfully combined, and expertly cooked.

Reservations are required; make your reservation right here.

PHOTO: Tacos Gringas

Posted in Events, Food and Drink | 16 Comments

Saturday: Band Called “View From Bernal Hill” Is Not From Bernal Heights, But Will Perform Near Bernal Hill



The View from Bernal Hill is a “chamber-flavored jazz” group that used to be called the Camille Mai Trio, until recently, when they decided to change their name to “The View from Bernal Hill.”

This is confusing, because the musicians in The View from Bernal Hill do not live in Bernal Heights — they just think we’re rather sexy and inspiring.

Band member Camille Mai tells Bernalwood:

Well, we don’t live in Bernal, but I had an out of body experience for the first time while on that hill.. and Fred, who shoots our videos, lives there, so I spend a lot of time over there editing video and going to progressive grounds :) We actually just shot a music video on the hill too! It’s such a truly amazing place…

Still confused? Don’t worry, it’s not you — it’s just confusing. But so what. Let’s just roll with it. Because we’re famous like that, and we do this to people. Especially creative-types.

Anyway, The View from Bernal Hill will perform at 7:30 pm on Saturday, July 26 at the Red Poppy Art House (2698 Folsom at 23rd) — which also is not in Bernal Heights, although it is, admittedly, sort of nearby.

In the meantime, you can also listen to this beautiful song, which was originally recorded by the Camille Mai Trio but is now performed by The View from Bernal Hill, which is the same thing, only different and a little more confusing. Plus, there’s a Bernal name-check at around 02:16…

PHOTOS: Poster by Telstar Logistics. Band by The View from Bernal Hill.

Posted in Bernal Hill, Events, Music | 7 Comments

New Book About Bernal Library Mural Is Required Reading for San Francisco


Bernal Story 4.25x6 Postcard SMALL FILE

Bernal neighbor Beth Roy has written a short, must-read book about the challenges San Francisco faces as the city polarizes along the fault lines of new vs. old, Anglo vs. ethnic, progressive vs. centrist, forward-looking vs. backward-remembering, and high-tech vs. working class.

Blessedly, that’s not the subject of Neighbor Beth’s book. The subject of her book is the new mural that covers the exterior of the Bernal Heights Library on Cortland, and the intense mediation effort that was undertaken in 2010 to resolve the then-contentious question of whether the old, 1980s-era mural should be restored, or if the facade of the Works Progress Administration (WPA)-era building should returned to its original, mural-free appearance.

Neighbor Beth is a professional mediator, which is a handy thing, because her services were called upon in 2010 to help formulate a plan for the Bernal library that all parties in the controversy could support and feel good about.

That’s what the book is all about. The committee of neighbors who joined the library art committee began as antagonists and cultural rivals, but by the end of the mediation process —and with a lot of patient, hard work — they developed a plan for the library based on a very real, no-bullshit foundation of mutual respect and collaboration.  Even more impressive (if the general absence of substantial grumbling is any indication), the new library artwork that emerged from the process has been a creative success as well. Trifecta!!!

In practical terms, the Bernal neighbors who participated in the library mural mediation a) got some actual stuff done while also b) learning to appreciate each other’s point of view, and c) moving beyond the theatrics and confrontationalism of direct action and political organization. San Francisco could use a lot more of that these days.

Neighbor Beth’s new book is called “The Bernal Story: Mediating Class and Race in a Multicultural Community,” and it was just published by Syracuse University Press as part of their Peace and Conflict Resolution series. Don’t let the academic pedigree and subtitle deter you —  this book is a highly engaging and insanely relevant read. Plus, you probably know a few of the main characters, because they’re your neighbors. Which is fun.

If you’d like a copy, you can get one as you congratulate Neighbor Beth at her glamorous book party this Saturday, July 26 from 5-7 pm at the Inclusions Gallery on Cortland.

Until then, here’s an excerpt from The Bernal Story that gives a good sense of what transpired:

Shortly before the meeting, Johanna called me for help formulating some feelings she was having about Mauricio and his campaign. She had caught a radio broadcast of an interview with him and others from his Save the Bernal Library Mural group. She was upset at what seemed to her to be a misrepresentation of the process we were in, as well as some harsh rhetoric she feared would rekindle flames of opposition just as we were coming together to craft a shared solution.

I supported her to speak her mind and coached her to formulate what she felt in the forms I had taught. When we gathered at the Neighborhood Center the evening of February 24th, Johanna opened the dialogue by addressing Mauricio with her “Held Feelings” and “Paranoias”. Mauricio heard her respectfully, demurring that the sharpest rhetoric had come not from him but from others in his group. Brandon joined the conversation with the “Paranoia” that it nonetheless represented what Mauricio thought. Mauricio validated that such language once might have come from him but he was seeing the value of a non-abrasive approach.

What was true, however, was that, as we approached consensus, he was uncertain how to turn the organizing campaign he had initiated in the direction of collaborative problem-solving. He suggested it was a bit too soon; his people needed more tangible evidence that their voices were in fact being heard before they’d be willing to lower the volume. With all the sweetness and authority at his command, Larry urged Mauricio to accept both the influence he had on his community and the responsibility to use it to support the mediation process.

Once again, this pivotal exchange helped focus the group’s good will on crafting a viable solution, helping to convince people that Mauricio was indeed on board. Terry led off the discussion. He had come into the mediation grounded in his knowledge of the library’s history and wishing it restored to the WPA façade. Now, however, he declared full support for the direction we were taking, looking forward with an historian’s eye to making new art. “What we have here,” he said, “is an opportunity to do a significant event in the neighborhood. This is the time people will look back to fifty years from now, just as we look back fifty years to the original painting.”

Giulio, who had spoken so vividly for the restoration of the mural, now said, “The library’s history is so much about struggle. In the new work, we can incorporate the WPA struggle as well.”

Each person spoke in turn about their hopes for the new work. People imagined plazas reaching to the recreation center, improvements to the playground, and more. With the keen eye of a practical visionary, Mauricio again re-focused the discussion on the library walls.

I very much appreciated the spirit of the meeting. Clearly, every individual in the room leaned toward a creative conclusion. But I knew that there were still major disagreements as well. We had formed a direction in theory, but we still had not truly come to agreement about the thorniest issue: the Cortland wall. Now, as we began to craft the final details of the agreement, I once again named that elephant in the room. I worried that the waves of good feeling might sweep people into an agreement that hadn’t deeply enough addressed the conflict. That was the dynamic that had happened at the end of the second session, and I could well imagine it’s happening again now. I wanted people to look squarely into the face of division and emerge with a stronger consensus.

The group rolled up their collective sleeves and proceeded to take my draft statement apart, line by line. Now and then the discussion stalled on a particular point: on a range from restoring the mural to eliminating it, where should we fall? Would the walls end up mostly bare with a few pale remnants of what was now there? Or would we reproduce the current mural, only in a smaller scale that better respected the architecture? Each time we hit one of those hard disagreements, someone – often Michael or Monique, the two participants least fixed in a position and therefore most able to access creative new ideas – suggested something that re-opened the sense of possibility and re-engaged the group in collaboration.

Michael, for instance, fantasized free-standing objects illuminated at night, perhaps even with changing images projected in space. Monique nudged the discourse away from old-timers and new-comers, or Anglos and Latinos, reminding us of all the young uncategorizable people in the community who were not well described by those terms: same sex families, multi-racial couples, returned descendants of generations-old residents.

As we proceeded, we changed words, substituting, for instance, “Revitalizing the Mural” for “Updating the Mural”. We adjusted the emphasis to focus on meanings of the work and the process by which it would be produced, resisting our own creative imaginings of the artwork itself. “Leave the artwork to the artists” became the motto of the group, even though it was difficult to restrain the flow of creativity released by our process. Finally, we all agreed that the consensus statement should end by quoting the statement Terry had made at the beginning of the evening: We were making history right along with art.

PHOTO: Top, Cortland facade of new Bernal Library artwork, 2014, by Telstar Logistics

Posted in Books, Events, Politics | 3 Comments