Food Fight! Critic Calls Bernal Heights a “Food Desert”

Jessica Battilana is a local food writer who has penned articles for 7×7, Sunset, Martha Stewart Living, and Gastronomica. Recently, in an otherwise positive review of the new Sandbox Bakery spinoff at 903 Cortland, Ms. Battilana wrote:

We can thank Sandbox Bakery–and owner Mutsumi Takehara–for many things: miso-filled buns, hot dogs wrapped in brioche, saving Bernal Heights from its food-desert status.

Hmmmm. Upon reading this, Neighbor Beth from the Bernalwood Culinary Self-Defense Forces took umbrage…. and sprang into action. Beth’s back-channel exchange with Ms. Battilana transpired follows:

FEB 15, 2012  |  03:48PM EST
Beth wrote:

I take strong issue with TT’s statement that “We can thank Sandbox Bakery–and owner Mutsumi Takehara–for many things: miso-filled buns, hot dogs wrapped in brioche, saving Bernal Heights from its food-desert status.” Food desert? in less than half a mile we have 4 Zagat-rated restaurants, the 331 Marketplace – which has 3 articles on Tasting Table, Avedano’s Market, the Good Life grocery, as well as many other decent, casual places to eat. Has the writer ever actually BEEN to Bernal?

Beth’s note prompted this response from Ms. Battilana:

FEB 19, 2012 | 07:24PM EST
Jessica B. replied:

Hi Beth,

Thanks for your note. I appreciate you taking the time to write. I have actually spent quite a lot of time in Bernal, and while I agree that Avedano’s and 331 are both bright spots, I still think the neighborhood has a long way to go, at least restaurant-wise. Food desert is hyperbolic, of course; I do understand that there are, as you say, many decent, casual places to eat. But a place as great as Bernal deserves more interesting, dynamic, food, like what Sandbox (and now 903) have brought.

Thanks again for reading, and for writing. And if there’s anything else in Bernal that you think I should check out, please let me know!

Well, gentle readers… is there anything that you would like Ms. Battilana to know?

PHOTO: Jessica Battilana

Your Bernal Heights Crime Report for February 2012

Reader Sarah, who valiantly covers the Bernalwood Crime Beat, attended the SFPD’s Ingleside Station Chief’s Meeting this week (so you didn’t have to). Here’s her summary of the latest Bernal Heights crime and crime trend news:

Notes from Ingleside Community Meeting, 2/21/12

Captain Mahoney led the meeting. I chatted with him for a while before the meeting and mentioned the recent resurgence of succulent thefts and dumping incidents. Regarding the latter, the captain said this is a police issue if there’s anything they can act on (which requires witnesses) – so obviously report license plates, truck descriptions, etc. if you see anything suspicious. There do not seem to have been witnesses in the above incidents, so then it becomes a DPW issue.

His first topic was staffing. It’s now one of two times each year when staff can request new assignments — like moving shifts or beats — so you may see some new faces. Staffing in general is getting more challenging. When Captain Lazar was at the station, there were 123 officers. It’s now down to 112, and there will be bigger losses with impending retirements. There’s a Police Academy class of 35 starting in May. The Chief has asked the Supervisors for four classes in 2013, and three per year after that, in order to partially fill in the holes that will be left by the big wave of retirements.

Because emergency calls take priority, reduced staffing can mean hits to other initiatives – at Ingleside, that’s been to the investigative team, where some members have had to go onto patrols. He has not made any reductions to the gang task force, which some other stations have done.

He is down one lieutenant – one was reassigned to the administrative/legal unit, and another to Homeland Security. A new lieutenant, Mike Dudoroff, has arrived.

CRIME STATS & TRENDS:
For the period from January 22 to February 18:

Everything was down this month vs. last month; the biggest issue continues to be auto thefts.

Incident/Number of Incidents/% Change (Mo.)/% Change (YTD)/Number of Arrests
Aggravated Assault/28/-26%/24%/14
Robbery/16/-41%/-39%/9
Sexual Assault/0/0/0/0
Burglary/20/-5%/-24%/1
Auto Theft/39/-34%/19%/3
Theft from Auto/26/-35%/-52%/0

Regarding the stolen cars, he said that this is a major problem in our district. He estimates 90% of the stolen cars are Hondas from the late 1990s, and that it takes “three locks and a dog in the front seat” to prevent them from being stolen. [Editor's note: we have a stick-shift 1999 Honda, and the manual transmission also appears to thwart today's car thieves.] Interestingly, he said 98% of stolen cars in SF are recovered, suggesting that there’s a kind of high-risk, informal ZipCar system. The recovery location often points to where the thieves live. They made three car-theft arrests in the past week; also use bait cars, work with CHP, and visit people on parole for auto thefts.

There was an incident in Crocker Amazon Park where someone took out the pylon and backed a truck into the park, then began to steal the bleachers (presumably for metal). Someone scared them off mid-way through, but then that person failed to call in the incident for several hours, so the thieves were not caught.

All across SF, bicycle thefts are high. Lt. Dudoroff put together a sting in the district where someone set up a meeting to buy a stolen bike, and this led to the police finding 23 other stolen bikes and a stolen iPad. The captain and his CPAB are putting together a project to get people to voluntarily register their bikes in a database at the station. At the very least, you should keep your bike’s serial number somewhere handy. They often find bikes that they believe are stolen, but no one has reported them missing and given the serial number.

The captain mentioned a couple of notable arrests. Officer Jones singlehandedly arrested several people spraying graffiti on the 3100 block of Mission. Officer Phillips, also working solo, stopped a car driven by a parolee with a stolen gun, a pound of marijuana, and $1400 in cash.

The captain ran traffic enforcement/safety operations at Alemany/Niagara (where there had been two major accidents in four hours one day – one involving a pedestrian and one a motorcyclist) and somewhere off of Cesar Chavez, where they gave warnings to 29 people who were speeding and/or running red lights. He emphasized that they do these operations for safety, not revenue.

Upcoming events – March 17 (St Patrick’s Day) is always a busy day for police; March 20 is the next Ingleside community meeting.

Three marijuana dispensaries were approved by the Planning Commission; two are on the same block (addresses are 4218 Mission, 5258 Mission, and 5234 Mission). Neighborhood groups were upset. There are still some additional approvals that need to be granted before the dispensaries open.

Jon Shepherd from SFSAFE was there. He has started several neighborhood watches recently. If you’re interested in starting one on your block, call him at (415) 553-1983.

A representative of Recology was there as well. There will be a cleanup program on Saturday, 3/10, from 8am to 12pm in the playground parking lot at Crocker Amazon Park. You can bring bulky items, hazardous materials, etc. Info here.

Someone asked about reporting graffiti. The captain said you can report this through 311 or by filling out a report on the SFPD site. At Ingleside, the officer in charge of graffiti is Marty Ferreira, but his area of focus is gang-related graffiti, and he’ll refer other graffiti to DPW or the City Attorney, which enforces property owners’ removal of graffiti.
Speaking of the City Attorney, Jana Clark has been assigned to a new division within the office, and the new City Attorney rep for Ingleside will be Michael Karnes – michael.karnes at sfgov dot org.

PHOTO: Steve Rhodes

“Cut Hair, Not School Budgets” A Benefit for Flynn School

Feeling a little shaggy? Here’s a way to keep yourself looking glamorous while also benefitting the students at Leonard Flynn School at Precita Park. Neigbor Sarah, who has a kid at Flynn, writes

Cut Hair, Not School Budgets!

2nd Annual Flynn Cut-a-Thon
Great haircuts from top Ginger Rubio and Zindagi stylists
Haircuts $50, Blowouts $30
All proceeds benefit Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School PTA

When: February 26th, 9am-4pm
Where: Zindagi Salon, 55 Grant Ave., San Francisco
To schedule appointments contact:
Amy Armas amydevlinarmas@gmail.com, 415-609-9091

Bernal Hill Trail Restoration Design Meeting, TONIGHT

Sorry for the late notice, but the City’s Department of Recreation and Parks is having a design review meeting TONIGHT at 6 pm in the meeting room of the public library on Cortland Street to discuss the plan to restore and upgrade the Bernal Hill trail network.

For additional background, visit the Rec and Park website about the Bernal Hill project, and click on the “Key Links and Documents” tab to view the project overview presentation as well as the notes from the January 25 kick-off meeting.

IMAGES: Department of Recreation and Parks

Confirmed Bikini Jogger Sighting, Monday Evening

Reader Lynn from the Bernalwood Intelligence Agency shared three photos to document a confirmed Bikini Jogger sighting that took place on Monday evening at approximately 5 pm:

The Bikini Jogger was sighted doing several laps around Bernal Hill on Monday evening amongst hundreds of wondrous neighbors and dogs. The last picture is my husband, trying to fake like I’m actually taking the picture of him.

PHOTOS: Reader Lynn

Gorgeous New Children’s Book Was Made in Bernalwood

Neighbor Ashley Wolff has a new children’s book that’s just been released, and it was created right in here in Bernal Heights:

I wanted to share the news that my new picture book is out at last. Baby Bear Sees Blue was conceived, designed, and executed at my studio on the 300 block of Highland Ave, the home of the magnificent palm tree.

Red Hill Books on Cortland just ordered copies of Baby Bear Sees Blue, and he has a Facebook page now with insider info that my fellow Bernalistas and dudes will want to know.

Here’s what the critics have to say about the book:

Inspired by the mother bear and cub in Blueberries for Sal, Wolff creates a gentel story for toddlers that introduces colors and images from the natural world…. Wolff’s lovely compositions feature inked linoleum block prints that render those bears a strinkingly deep, matte black. Lush, washy watercolors illuminate the scenes–colors in the downpour’s puddles reflect a rainbow. Curious Baby Bear is 100-percent toddler, and Wolff skillfully captures both the bear-ish…and the human…. Imbued with a spirit of exploration, fostered by parental protection, Baby Bear’s colorful adventures will enrich repeat bedtime read-alouds.” –Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2011

“Wolff’s watercolor-tinted linocuts make each page of this story simultaneously cozy and dramatic—cozy because they star a fuzzy bear cub and his mother, and dramatic because each one contrasts dark shapes with washes of light and color…. Children will be absorbed by the complex textures of Wolff’s linocuts, the Japanese woodblock–style graded shades of the sky, and the reassuring comfort of a world that is always safely guarded by Mama Bear.” –Publishers Weekly, December 5, 2011, *STAR

Right ON! And hey, and what’s a book these days without a video trailer? Like the book, this one is beautiful:

Hearing Scheduled to Save Bernal’s Historic Coke Sign

The effort to save the historic Coca-Cola sign that survives on the side of Richard Modolo’s home in Bernal Heights has been long, dramatic, and (thus far) mostly successful. But it is not over yet.

There’s a hearing scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 23 to consider the conditional use permit required to allow the sign to remain, and Richard Modolo needs all the support he can get during the hearing. In an email to Bernalwood, he writes:

It has almost been a full year since we started the effort to Save the Vintage Coke sign. One might have thought it was over by now, but that is not the case — though we are close. A few months back I was allowed to pull a Conditional Use permit which will allow me the keep and maintain this vintage sign. The final process in the permit is the public hearing with the Planning Department, and that has now been scheduled for Thursday, February 23, at 12 noon in room 400 of City Hall. The hous has been posted with two very big signs informing the public of the hearing. It could be a very interesting hearing, and I may need all the support I can get.

If you can attend the hearing to support the historic sign, Richard would be very grateful for your time and effort.

BONUS! Richard also sent Bernalwood this photo, circa 1991, which shows what his building looked like shortly after the asbestos siding was removed — revealing the vintage sign that had been hidden underneath. As you can see, the photo shows not only the Coca-Cola “ghost sign,” but also a sign from Amoroso Grocery, the corner market that used to occupy the structure. Very cool:

PHOTOS: Richard Modolo