What a 20something Sees When He Looks at Bernalwood

Ah, to be young and single and living in Bernal Heights. Sure, there are challenges — OMG! So many baby strollers! So many restaurants with abstract names! — but overall it’s pretty chill. Or so says Zane Michael on Nabewise, a website that aspires to be the Yelp of urban geography. Mr. Michael — an aspiring literatus, it seems — wrote a description of life in Bernal Heights that provides an illuminating inter-generational perspective on this place we all happen to call home. His commentary is reprinted here in its entirety, because, really, I couldn’t bring myself to cut a single word.

If You’re in Your Twenties

I don’t do Yoga. I don’t have my own edible backyard garden. I don’t have 2.5 kids. I don’t eat at Restaurants with single word descriptors. I don’t really fit in with the Bernal Height locals, who some might facetiously insinuate are the personification of well-known San Francisco stereotypes. But I still feel amazingly comfortable living in Bernal even if the neighborhood sometimes elicits in me a sense of terror stemming from portentous visions of my amortizing, fettered, future.

Incontrovertibly, the biggest draw of this neighborhood is the location. Its location makes it the perfect fit for the East Bay or South Bay commuter; the 101 and 280 are both relatively close and accessible. If you depart in the morning prior to 7 A.M., you will generally be unlikely to encounter heavy traffic driving southward. And if you are coming north by auto in the evening, you egress prior to the real heavy freeway traffic that normally begins immediately after the Cesar Chavez exit. At the 22nd St. Station in the nearby Potrero Hill neighborhood you can catch the natty Caltrain south and travel as far as San Jose.

For the person that works in downtown SF, the North Bay, or East Bay, the 24th St. Mission BART Station lies less than a mile away and you can easily get anywhere in the entire city relatively quickly by bike or bus. Another attractive feature is the abundance of free parking especially in comparison with other SF neighborhoods where a parking space may cost two hundred dollars a month or more. In the picturesque area surrounding Precita Park where I reside on the North side of Bernal Heights Hill parking can be obtained almost any time excluding Sunday evening. I have not frequently ventured over to the quaint Cortland Avenue mini-village area and hence cannot comfortably impart any information pertaining to parking or dining in that sub-locale.

Verdant and halcyon, Precita Park itself is a lovely urban reprieve and usually brimming with canines of all shapes and sizes expending their pent up energy. On summer days, locals gather to blithely doze in the sunshine and consume organic picnic feasts gathered from nearby Cancilla Market. A short vertical hike up Folsom St. will take you to the top of Bernal Heights Hill, home to one of the largest off leash dog parks in the city and boasting a terrific panoramic view that would make any snapshot obsessed tourist jump for joy. Weather-wise, the neighborhood experiences slightly warmer temperatures being located in one of the several hot spots scattered throughout the city.

Being adjacent to the callow and infamous Mission district, where even the weather is hip, makes for a bevy of nightlife options for both young and old living in Bernal Heights. For the penurious late-night diner, there exists a plethora of relatively inexpensive ethnic restaurant options in the Mission district. It’s easy to mosey over to an exciting attraction on Mission St. or Valencia St. and return home to repose in lenitive tranquility: giving you the best of both worlds. This also works out well when my Mom comes to visit and lauds me for living in such a “cute” area with charming Victorian homes. I reward her by telling her inquiring suburban housewife friends that I live off of Cesar Chavez St. in SF—eliciting a look of fear in response. All jokes aside, I have never felt unsafe in Bernal Heights even when walking or jogging solo late at night. The only time I have felt genuine fear was when I accidently threw away a pizza box in a peevish ponytailed neighbor’s recycle bin. That’s not recyclable dude!

Of course slightly cheaper rent or home prices can be found elsewhere in SF. Few other SF nabes though can brag about having a little something for everyone: commuter, outdoor enthusiast, or dog lover. Nor can anyone deny the pleasure of having an idyllic small-town experience in a big city.

If visiting, be sure to check out Mitchell’s ice cream for tropical flavors like coconut or purple yam; the treasure trove of LPs at dilapidated Thrillhouse Records; Alemany’s Farmers Market for fresh produce; pupusas and futbol at Balompie Café 3; The Knockout for sweet tunes and cheap booze; and the adorable Bike Basket Pies.

Photo by Thomas Hawk

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12 thoughts on “What a 20something Sees When He Looks at Bernalwood

  1. They don’t call us Maternal Heights for nothing! Still, it’s nothing compared to the uber-gentrified streets of our neighbor, Noe Valley.

  2. I could edit that down to about 200 words. It reads to me like this 20-something had a pocket thesaurus in his lap.

    I met a 20-something recently who said she loved living in Bernal and going to Progressive on Saturday mornings with her dog, but hated all the rugrats that swarm around her and make it hard to get a mocha and relax. I responded by saying that it was probably me and my two kids that were bumming her high. Moms need mochas, too.

  3. I ended up in Bernal mostly because it was an area of the city with decent prices on “single-family” homes that was still close to the freeways and fairly close to the central parts of the city. I’m definitely still adjusting from years in the Lower Haight, and have to admit that the “puppies and kids” crew is about as far from my personal stereotypes as one can get. The area I ended up in (near Precita & Florida) actually seems to have a surprising number of older (as in from before the dot-com era, some many decades before) residents, but I’m pretty pleased to see an increasing number of 30-something Burner types (ie me) moving in.

  4. They have babies. They have dogs. They have unlimited lines of credit at the bank of mom and dad. They clog the sidewalks with their SUV baby carriages. They have jobs like “I blog” or “I consult on branding” or I teach yoga and visualization”. They are entitled and tend to complain to the city about every little thing. They dislike my parking my 1981 car in front of their houses. They complain to one another over their lattes about the older residents not keeping up their properties.

    And because of them:

    You just can’t get good quality crack on Cortland anymore. (that pictured gathering at Cortland and Ellsworth would have been Alemany crack dealers 30 years ago.) There’s a grocery store in the ‘hood where once was a putrid hole much worse than JC Super. You can walk on Cortland after dark. There are actually children in the playground behind the library–not drug dealers. There’s a bakery! And I won’t even mention, well OK, I will mention that they’ve done wonders for our property values.

    Having the neighborhood become a yuppie rookery is a small price to pay for the benefits of gentrification.

  5. Pingback: What an Old-Timer Sees When He Looks at Bernalwood | Bernalwood

  6. “If visiting, be sure to check out Mitchell’s ice cream [La Lengua] for tropical flavors like coconut or purple yam; the treasure trove of LPs at dilapidated Thrillhouse Records [La Lengua]; Alemany’s Farmers Market for fresh produce; pupusas and futbol at Balompie Café 3; The Knockout [La Lengua] for sweet tunes and cheap booze; and the adorable Bike Basket Pies [Mission District] .”

    Just saying.

    I find it interesting that this kid writes about Bernal Heights, but it reads more like he just sleeps there.

    • Minor quibble, but under the Bernalwood/La Lengua Joint Co-Prosperity Treaty, all businesses along the Mission Street LIminal Zone are treated as part of BOTH neighborhoods. So he gets credit for Thrillhouse and Knockout.

      Geez, now that they’re famous, those uppity La Lenguans are getting even more uppity — and ever more imperialist! *wink*

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