Victorian NIMBYs Were Very Annoyed by Stinky Stockyards in Bernal Heights

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Solomon’s Stockyards, as illustrated by The San Francisco Call, 1893

Neighbor Vicky Walker from the Bernal Heights History Project shared this gem with Bernalwood. It’s an 1893 tale of angry Bernal neighbors, forlorn cows, miserable horses, “foul smells,” and “noxious odors.” Oh, and lots and lots of health code violations.

The story catches Bernal Heights at an awkward moment in the late nineteenth century, as the neighborhood is completing its transition from livestock pastureland to proto-gentrified residential enclave.

At the time, neighbors along present-day Coledridge Street (then called California Ave) were rather annoyed that several legacy property-owners nearby were continuing to operate livestock businesses, in clear violation of prevailing laws which, at the time, allowed no more than two cows to reside on any property in Bernal.

It’s sort of a Victorian version of squabbling over street parking etiquette and illegal sublets or soccer fields, only with lots more animal manure and rotting offal.

The noxious-smelling properties in 1893 were Solomon’s Stockyard on Mission at Fair Street (roughly the site of today’s Taqueria Cancun), and the Kahn & Levy stockyard at the corner of Mission and Cortland (approximately the site of Zante’s).

To help you get oriented, here are the approximate locations,  annotated on an 1889 map of Bernal Heights:

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And here’s the tale of “A Real Nuisance,” as it appeared in the Saturday, July 29, 1893 edition of the San Francisco Morning Call.

It’s an awesome read with some wonderful characters (viva Neighbor Seculovich! You go, Precita Valley Improvement Club!!) so… enjoy:

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A REAL NUISANCE

Salomon’s Stockyard at the Mission
ITS INDEFINABLE STENCHES
The Owner Arrested Three Times for Violating a Provision of the Board of Health

The Board of Health is determined to check the nuisance in the Western Mission known as Salomon’s stockyard. The proprietor has been arrested three times on the charge of menacing the health of the neighborhood, but still the foul smell place spreads its noxious odors itbout, and offends the nostrils of residents. The stockyard in question is situated on Mission street, and runs back along Fair avenue to California avenue. It has a frontage of about 200 feet on Mission Street, and presents an unbroken line on Fair avenue.

The large space is divided into corrals, and partially occupied by rickety sheds, while forlorn cows and distressed-looking horses wauder about the little spaces. Goats scramble over the fences and join in the general search for something to eat.

There are great piles of manure in the enclosures, and the contracted stalls are damp and odorous. In one of the small stables there were four cows crowded, while others ambled about the lot. The horses were confined in the lot that corners on Fair and California avenues, but the cows are directly on the Mission street front, nearly opposite the turn-table of the Valencia street cable road.

In spite of the unhealthful surroundings Mr. Salomon denies that the place is a nuisance, though he confesses that he has been arrested on such a charge. “It is all spitework,” he said, “and is caused by this man Seculovich, who lives right next my cow stables .”

An inspection of the premises of Mr. Seculovich showed that the rear end of Salomon’s cow stables was within a few feet of his kitchen door, and the stench of the offal was almost unendurable. Seculovich has a comfortable though unpretentious home, and his yard is filled with flowers and fruit trees. He says that the odor from the lining cowsheds has caused him no end of annoyance and that he proposes to insist upon the abatement of the nuisance.

Dr. Kseney, the nominal head of the Board of Health, said that Salomon was arrested the last time on the 26th inst., the charge being that he maintained a nuisance. “This is the third time Salomon has been arrested,” continued Dr. Keeney, “and we propose to continue our tactics, as defined by the health laws and the Board of Supervisors. The law very plainly prescribes that no person is permitted to maintain more than two cows within the city limits. There are exceptions to this law, inasmuch as the prohibitory district is not carefully defined. Its inner limits are far beyond the corner of Mission street and Fair avenue, and it is upon this definition of the law that we propose to make Mr. Salomon abate the nuisance created by his stockyard.”

The first time Salomon was arrested he’ was fined $100 by Judge Low. He appealed from this decision, and the case was carried to the Superior Court, but it has not yet been placed upon the calendar. Pending the appeal Salomon was again arrested, He was to have been tried on the 4th prox., but there was some question as to the legality of the complaint, and, upon the advice of our attorney, the case was dismissed. However, another complaint was properly drawn and he was arrested on the 4th inst.

“I have personally visited the premises and I am convinced of the justice of the complaints made against the place. The Precita Valley Improvement Club has also entered a protest against the nuisance, and we have received numerous complaints from individuals other than Mr. Seculovich.

“The slope of Salomon’s stockyard is a particularly bad feature. It drains directly into Mission Street and befouls the cellars and yards on the lower side of the street. On damp, foggy days the stench of the stockyards clings closely to the ground, and the breezes carry it directly into houses, to say nothing of offending the nostrils of every person within a radius of a mile or more. The place is a counterpart of the Seventh street dumps, though there is no occasion for its existence. The enforcement of the local health laws is all that is necessary to cause Solomon to seek other quarters, and we propose to compel him to vacate.”

I.L. Salomon, the son of the proprietor, said: “We only keep cows here occasionally. We buy ana sell and the stock is never here more than a day or two at a time.”

“But then you get fresh stock in its place, don’t you?”

“Oh yes, that’s our business. We buy and sell and use this yard as a place of inspection for purchasers. Our plane is no worse than lots of others, and I am going to fight the law in the Superior Court.”

Kahn & Levy, another firm of stockdealers, have a large yard at the corner of Mission street and Cortland avenue, about three blocks above Solomon’s place. It has precisely. the same slope of drainage and sends its filth and slime down to the residence portion of the Western Addition. Yesterday the yards were fairly filled with horses and cows, in plain violation of the sanitary laws. A sickening stench pervaded thn atmosphere, and the animals in” the corrals tramped about with a hungry air.

Dr. Keeney was asked about trie Kahn & Levy place, and he replied: “The owners have decided to lenve there, and in about two weeks the stock and buildings will all be removed. This course will practically abate the nuisance. That portion of the Mission is not very thickly populated, and consequently the complaints against this particular yard were not very numerous. However, we took prompt action when the first notice was served, and the owners at once concluded that it was to their interest to remove from the neighborhood. We will compel this man Salomon to reach the same conclusion.”

“Is there any special law against the I maintenance of stockyards in the city?” was asked of Dr. Keeney.

“No, not aside from the ordinance which I says that no person shall maintain more than two cows within certain limits. Residents at the Mission have been long enough annoyed by infractions of this law, and we propose io arrest and fine every person who continues such a course after a warning has been served. There are no exceptions inside the limits, and any person having a grievance in this respect should at once notify the Health Office.”

The hearing of the third charge against I. L. Salomon will be set this morning in Judge Low’s department of the Police Court.

ILLUSTRATION: Top: Solomon’s Stockyards, from the The Call

UPDATED: Handbill Announces Curious Cat Has Been Shipped Off to Animal Control

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This is the kind of thing that almost makes you grateful for passive-aggressive parking notes. Almost. Because rather than just complaining about an awkwardly parked car, this note explains that an awkwardly curious cat was unceremoniously shipped off to Animal Control.

Neigbor Lev reports:

I found this superlatively passive-aggressive note on my walk today. Gee, I hope this guy’s owners see it… or else it’s off to the violin factory for this cat.

The note says (in English and Spanish):

This cat keeps coming into our house through the dog door. It seems like it may have another home in the neighborhood.

The humans in the house are allergic to cats, and the dog hates them.  So the cat is now at Animal Care & Control (415-554-6364)

Yikes! Is this your cat, missing from the east side of Bernal around Mojave and Peralta? Well, now you know where he/she went.

UPDATE, 12:10 pm: The kitty’s owner saw this post, and the vagabond cat will soon be on the way home:

Thanks to Bernalwood, RKNN’s owner is on his way to the shelter right now! RKNN (aka Sebastian) just moved to Bradford and Mojave and must have gotten lost after sneaking out. Our immediate neighbors were kind enough to rescue him (thanks, JB!). I’m sure he will be chipped and collared after this.

PHOTO: Neighbor Lev

Lost and Found: The Curious Tale of the Randy Rooster Captured Yesterday Near Precita Park

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Neighbor Jeremy tells the tale of the rooster that showed up outside his home near Precita Park yesterday, how he (valiantly) captured said rooster, and how you can claim the creature if he was yours:

On Sunday I overheard the murmur of a crowd of onlookers gathering outside my house. I caught snippets such as “Wow, look! It’s a rooster”, and “How did that rooster get there?”. After what sounded like an entire class field trip stopped by to gawk, goaded by a parental “Hey look kids! A rooster!  I figured I should go out and see it for myself.

When I opened my front door, however, I wasn’t prepared for A Full-On, Actual Rooster, standing on my doorstep. I closed the door and shouted for my girlfriend:

“Honey!

“What?”

“There’s a rooster on the doorstep!”

The SF’s Animal Control dispatcher that I reached on the phone said, “We’ve only got two officers on duty today and we’re overbooked. By the time we get someone out there, he’ll probably be long gone.”

I had opened the door. The rooster was now staring back at me, intently.

“Is there any way you can keep him there?”, the dispatcher continued.

Note closely that the dispatcher hadn’t ask me to “catch” the rooster; that was just Strongly Implied. I knew this routine. My previous encounters with Animal Control have taught me that they don’t want to incur liability should a caller get injured handling an animal themselves.

“Uh, sure. I’ll try,” I replied.

“Thanks. Call back and let us know what happens. There have been two roosters in your area causing havok. We caught one of them; this sounds like his ‘brother’.”

I’m not rooster wrangler, so what I could I possibly do? Flashbacks of the vivid cockfighting scenes in Alex Haley’s “Roots” raced through my mind as we tenatively approached him with a bathroom towel. Would this end with a chalk outline of my body sprawled down the stairway? Would I end up a line item in the world “Fatality By Chicken” index?

The towel finally startled him and with a squawk he took the air and “flew”, in so much as chickens do, over to the neighbor’s stairway, landing with a muffled thunk against the railing.

By now I had attracted the attention of a neighbor. “Is that your rooster?” she asked.

She told me how she had just arrived home and found her porch a mess of bird droppings and scratch marks. “We though maybe a dog had chased a pigeon into our yard. We’ve been gone over the weekend. He must have been there the whole time.”

“Nope, I have no idea where he’s from,” I said. “Actually,” I paused, “I think he’s one of the mystery roosters that I hear crowing from the yards of one of my backyward neighbors. I’ve never been able to tell from exactly where, though.”

I called Animal Control to let them know that, alas, the rooster got away (and was no longer My Problem). I wished them the Best Of Luck.

“Ok, well, we’ll send someone out. Maybe he’ll still hang around, but I
doubt it,” said the dispatcher.

After hanging up I looked back to the bottom of my neighbor’s stairway and the rooster wasn’t there. Instead, he had walked up the stairs and nestled himself in a nook formed by the elongated railing.

“Do I really want to be a hero today?” I murmured to myself.

Catching a chicken is hard in an open space, but now there was a rare opportunity since he’d walled himself in on three sides. I sighed, picked up the towel, and walked up my neighbor’s staircase.

Cautiously, I approached with the towel fully stretched between my arms. I knew vaguely that I should try to hide my face lest he be startled the gaze of my primate, binocular, predator eyes. Peeking over the towel every now and then, however, I anthropomorphized a look of calm perplexity on his face.

Finally, I had stepped up all the way and covered the nook with the towel. He was trapped, but strangely to me, he was not alarmed. Are roosters really that dumb?

The first neighbor was back.

“You’ve got him?” She asked.

“Well, I’ve got him trapped,” I said.

“Just get the towel over his head and grab him over the wings.”, she offered, helpfully. “They calm down when you get them like that.”

I learned that she herself kept chickens in her backyard. “I hope he doesn’t get in with them,” she added.

Sure enough, using the extra courage afforded to me by the pair of gloves and protective eyewear that she ran back and got for me, I had the bird in my hands. I could not believe it.

“Genius,” said someone behind me. It was the neighbor who owned the stairway, who had opened her door during the time I had first gotten him trapped.

I placed the rooster bundle into a cat carrier and called Animal Control triumphantly.

“Randy,” as I will call him, is now at the shelter at 15th and Harrison streets. He will be held there for 5 days, at which point, I am happy to learn, he will be given to an animal rescue organization if unclaimed.

Please post his pictures so that he might be rescued.

PHOTOS: Neighbor Jeremy Cooper

Slacker Raccoon Invades Bernal Home, Plunders Cat Food, Takes Leisurely Nap

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Neighbor Rusty, who lives on the upper reaches of Treat on the north slope, recently played host to an uninvited guest, and his security camera captured the house party:

A raccoon came in through the cat door the other night while I was away. He spent about 5 minutes chowing down, then decided to chill out and finally WENT TO SLEEP for 30 minutes before leaving. (He then came back around 2 hours later for a second round of snacks, but only stayed for a few minutes that time.)

My cat seemed oblivious to the whole thing. Lazy cat!

I now have to keep the cat door locked at night.

On the bright side, Bernalwood sources say the raccoon left some very nice comments about Neighbor Rusty’s home on Airbnb.

PHOTO: Security camera images from Neighbor Rusty

Baby Snake Greets Bernal Neighbor on Front Steps

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Last night, Neighbor Kendall found a lurker on his front steps:

I came home from picking my daughter up from soccer around 6 pm and found this little baby on our front steps on the North Slope. We are aways away from any shrubbery so I’m not sure how she got here. But she climbed/slithered up several of our front steps. Some research indicates she’s a juvenile gopher snake. There’s no rattle. There must’ve been a hatching nearby. I wonder if other folks are seeing these little guys around? Super cute!

Let’s zoom and enhance for a closer look:

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Yikes!

Loudmouth Bernal Heights Frogs Want Sex, Won’t Shut Up

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Everyone knows Bernal Heights is home to lots of dogs. And some cats. And some dissident parrots. But Neighbor Lori is playing host to some really chatty Bernal Heights frogs:

They are Pacific Chorus Frogs, in my backyard pond. It ‘s breeding season, and they are loudmouths! The males make a lot of noise, mostly at night. They stop if I get too close. They are native to the Bernal area and were rescued from behind an industrial shop. I’ve had the pond about five years or so, and every spring during the breeding season they sing. They are hard to see, because they are so tiny. But in the summer when it gets dry I find them camped out around the garden hose.

These frogs are small, but they make a big noise. Here’s Neighbor Lori’s recording of the frog chorus in her back yard:

PHOTO: Frog in Neighbor Lori’s backyard, by Neighbor Lori