New Mission Theater Plan Will Also Bring New Housing to North Bernal Borderlands


Last week, the City’s Planning Commission approved a very exciting proposal to restore and renovate the abandoned New Mission Theater on Mission at 22nd Street. It’s a promising development that will bring some grandeur back to the old theater, which will be operated by the much-loved Alamo Drafthouse cinema chain. Yay!

In addition, the project includes 114 market-rate housing units to be built on the site of today’s Giant Value store. Yet as our journo-friends at MissionLocal pointed out, this will also result in the development of a new affordable-housing complex in the Bernalwood borderlands, on the northwest corner of Cesar Chavez and Shotwell:

The developer will dedicate a piece of land near Shotwell and Cesar Chavez streets to the Mayor’s Office on Housing to construct affordable housing to comply with the city’s affordable housing requirement.

Typically developers are required by law to dedicate 15 percent of their units to inclusionary housing or pay a fee that, once the project is completed, will go toward financing affordable housing elsewhere.

The idea behind the land dedication, which is unprecedented, is that the city can turn that land around and build up to 46 affordable housing units as opposed to settling for fewer units being built on-site.

Grande, who was among the nonprofits’ directors that negotiated the deal with the developer, said this would allow the city to have more say on how the affordable housing units are built.

“It’s better because you get more bang for your buck,” he said. “With off-site affordable housing units this also gives us more community control on how the development will happen. It means partnering with affordable housing developers, who would abide by local hiring, and hire union workers.”

However for Howard Ruy, the owner of Auto Smog & Oil Changers at 1296 Shotwell St., which is on the site of the would-be affordable housing building, was told by his landlord that he would have to leave the shop once the land is transferred to the city.

“It means I’m going to have to close shop,” he said. “Honestly I am just waiting for (the landlord) to call me to say ‘you have to move out.’”


I have yet to see any renderings of the proposed Chavez/Shotwell development, so no word on how it will look. I will be watching closely, however, if only because I live a block from the site. So for now, consider me a YIMBY-inclined, interested party.

PHOTO: The future building site on Cesar Chavez Blvd at Shotwell Street in January 2013. Photo by Telstar Logistics 

Bernal Library Reveals Unadorned Facade During Mural-Free Interlude

If you’re one of those people who spent the last decade or two wondering what the Bernal Height library would look like if it didn’t have a mural painted on its facade, you’re now in luck. The old mural was removed last month and the new mural will go up sometime in the months ahead. Yet for now — and for the first time since the early 1980s — the library is sans mural.

In a way, it’s a little disorienting; kind of like seeing Gene Simmons without his Kiss makeup. But unlike Gene Simmons, our library’s looks seem to get better and better with the passage of time.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Three Bernal Homes Selected for Schwanky Architecture Tour

Here’s some deep evidence of Bernal’s celebrity status. This year, three (3!!) Bernal Heights houses were selected for inclusion in this weekend’s Home Tour organized by the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects. So chic!

Thankfully, our real estate-obsessed friends at CurbedSF prepared an excellent executive summary:

The 10th annual San Francisco: Living Home Tours are this weekend. We thought it best to give you a preview of the featured projects on the tour. The tour aims to shine a little light on a wide variety of architectural styles, neighborhoods and residences – all from the architect’s point of view (most of which will be on hand to answer all your questions). This is a great way to get an inside look into the world of distinctive and new residences in the city. The projects are showcased on either Saturday, the 15th or Sunday, the 16th from 10am to 4pm.

The Folsom Street Residence [3407 Folsom] designed by Gary Gee Architects is a brand spankin’ new home that was built on a vacant, cross-sloping downhill lot in Bernal Heights. From the architect we learn that the design concept was “to create simple layering of living spaces stacked and interlocked to express the mass and topography of the site.” It’s a 3-level home with a 2-car garage. Our favorite property highlight is the roof deck that has views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Downtown, East Bay Hills and the Bay. [EDITOR'S NOTE: This same roof deck/helipad was much beloved by the Invisible Obamas during their recent visit to Bernal Heights.]

Bernal Heights is definitely the neighborhood of choice for this year’s tours. The Bernal Tower [66 Ellsworth] by Blue Truck Studio is a tightly-detailed modern home that re-mastered a decrepit bungalow. The architect says things about the house like “The classic bay windows and siding of neighboring Victorians were re-interpreted as a floor-to-ceiling front window and square-grooved vertical siding” and “The street level facade of nearby stucco houses was re-invented with a rough-sawn cedar siding hand-coopered to curve up under the soffit.” It has a green roof.

This single-family home [175 Ripley] designed by Zack | de Vito Architecture and Construction is a retreat in Bernal Heights for a professional couple. The residence is a spacious 3,200 sq. ft. and has “dramatic views” of downtown via floor-to-ceiling glazing and terraces from the back.

If you want to join the Home Tour, tickets are available. For everyone else, do not be alarmed if you see a lot of architect-types wandering the neighborhood over the weekend. They’re easy to spot; just look for sharply-dressed men and women wearing the telltale Daniel Libeskind glasses.

Lastly, hearty congrats to the Bernal Heights homeowners (and their architects) who are participating in the tour. Thanks to you, all of Bernal can now bask in the glory of being AIA-certified glamorous.

PHOTOS: Folsom, Mark Luthringer Photography; Ellsworth, Eduardo Navarro Photography; Ripley, Bruce Damonte Photography

Bernal Architect Creates Whimsical Steampunk Bathroom

Residential architect Andre Rothblatt lives in Bernal Heights, and he recently finished a very wild project: a Steampunk Bathroom. In an email to us, Andre explains:

The bathroom was part of a whole house remodel of a Craftsmen-style home is located in Ashbury Heights. The clients are 30-something techies; He’s a computer engineer and she reviews patent application. They introduced me to the Steampunk genre. I’ve always enjoyed industrial design influences in architecture, and I was enthusiastic to design the bathroom in that style. We were lucky to find a great contractor (Frederic Grasset, also Bernal Heights resident!) who teamed with us to realize this imaginative design.

PHOTO: via Andre Rothblatt

Controversial Bernal Library Mural Cloaked in New Controversy

Bernal Heights Branch Library

Bernal Heights Library

Just like Lindsay Lohan, the proposal to create a new mural for the Bernal Heights Library has a talent for attracting controversy.

Right now, the library is covered in scaffolding and repainting was supposed to have started this week. Instead, the project is on hold because the estate of Arch Williams, the artist who co-created the 1980s-era mural that will be replaced, wants to preserve the old mural — more or less forever.

Here’s the press release from the Williams estate:

Letter to Library from Bernal Muralist’s Heir Ensures Paint Out Stoppage for 90 Days

San Francisco, July 8, 2012 – The Victor Jara mural on Bernal Heights Branch Library got a surer reprieve from destruction this weekend, when Nancy York, sister of muralist Arch Williams, sent a letter to San Francisco Public Library’s head enclosing proof that she is the executor of his estate.

Peter Warfield, Executive Director of Library Users Association, said the action ensures that “the library will have no excuse whatever to remove the mural any time before expiration of the 90-day notice period, and we certainly hope that the mural’s survival can be permanently assured prior to October 1.”

City Librarian Luis Herrera requested that Ms. York send “documentation of your current role as executor or representative of the artist’s estate on or before July 10, 2012.” It continued, “if you are unable to remove or pay for the removal of the mural before October 1, 2012, the City will proceed with its Bernal Heights Branch Library renovation project as planned, including the removal of Mr. Williams’s mural.”

Ms. York asserted her rights to 90-day notice of removal — and the right to remove the mural or have it removed — under the California Art Preservation Act (CAPA), which she faxed in a letter on June 8, 2012.

Under CAPA, the artist of a work of fine art that is to be destroyed must be notified so that he or she may remove the work, or have it removed. The right passes to the heir or personal representative in case of the artist’s death, and continues for 50 years. Arch Williams died in 1996, so the rights would be valid until 2046, 34 years from the present.
Ms. York’s letter encloses a copy of her brother’s “hand written will in which he names me (Ms. York) as his executor of his estate.”

Ms. York continues, “I must say that it concerns me that you are only now complying with the California Art Preservation Act, Civil Code 987 especially as the Bernal Mural was already altered in 2008-09.” She continued, “It was only through the efforts of Peter Warfield, Executive Director of Library Users Association, that I became aware of the pending June 11 destruction of the mural, resulting in my fax June 8th asserting my rights.”

The Library had planned scaffold erection for June 8th, which went ahead, and paint out of the mural starting June 11th . That work was suspended and continues to be suspended to date.

The existing mural was painted by muralists Arch Williams and Carlos Alcala in 1980-1982, with participation by many adults and children. Approved by the Arts Commission and Library Commission at the time, it covers three sides of the building. The front includes the important Chilean musician Victor Jara playing his guitar, with his name, and words in Spanish and English from one of his songs. Jara was tortured and killed by the Chilean military when they seized power in 1973; the stadium in Chile’s capital where arrestees were brought after the coup is now named after Jara. The front panel also includes singer Holly Near’s name and words in Spanish and English, and the image of an African American singer modeled on Roberta Flack. The mural also honors working women, and Native Americans. The proposed mural omits Jara, Near, working women, a local history, children, the UN symbol and more.

Citizens of Bernalwood, please discuss.

PHOTOS: Bernal Library mural by Arch Williams and Carlos Alcala, by Telstar Logitics, January 2012

Before and After: Backstage During the Curb Appeal Home Makeover on Bocana

Bernalwood is all about the celebrity star-sightings, so you probably remember when we told you about the home on Bocana that was getting a big makeover as part of a reality TV show called Curb Appeal.

The project and the show are done, and Bernalwood is told that the episode about the home on Bocana will air tomorrow, Saturday, June 23 on HGTV-HD at 2:30 pm.

Meanwile, in an exclusive interview, Bernalwood asked the owner of the house, Neighbor John, to tell us what it was like to do a remodel and shoot a TV show all at the same time:

Oh, it definitely got weird. Besides the fact that we were about to give up control of the renovation process (with a little input), my downstairs neighbor and I had to be sure we were available to talk about how everything was going on camera, then watch big chunks of our front yard disappear and come back as a totally (and wonderfully) different house, all while keeping a smile on our faces.

That last part was a little hard when they pulled out some framing on the side of the house and discovered that water damage that had rotted out one of the support beams in front. The time that it took to replace that beam that was very…interesting. I think I spent most of it on tiptoes trying not to trigger an earthquake!

The hosts were great to work with.  John Gidding is incredibly talented at both design and hosting, very professional and willing to listen to us when we had questions or request. And they also knew when to tell us to just relax and trust them – not an easy task when paint colors are going on. I have to mention too that the contractor and his workers were amazing as well, staying late and making sure that it was done in a way that would last far beyond the last camera shot. I hope he can do projects for me in the future.

Add in being recorded throughout all of this, miked up and posed all sorts of ways for angle and lighting, second and third takes because the 24 bus wheezed and blatted it’s way across the street, and it’s a complete whirlwind. We would come home every night and everything had changed all over again. We spent a lot of time just staring at the house every night, going from “Wow, do you think this will look good?” to “Wow, I hope the house doesn’t fall over!” and finally to just “Wow, that’s my house.”.

We are definitely spending a lot more time in the front yard now, and a LOT more time watering plants. There are still times it’s hard to believe this is our house. With all the chaos and the trepidation, the excitement and fantastic experience of it all is something I would do again in a heartbeat!

PHOTO: After shot, courtesy of Neighbor Sarah

Star Sighting: “Curb Appeal” Filming on Bocana

Neighbor Jon contacted us via the Twitter yesterday with this hot news flash:

O-M-G! HGTV’s “Curb Appeal!”  Fliming on Bocana! So where are the photographs of glamourous celebrity hosts and tasty Craft Services food trucks? We asked Neighbor Jon to zap his paparazzi photos to us. He sent us this bizarre reply:

“I was phone-less!”

The Bernalwood Newsroom was stunned. Whuuuuuuut? Phoneless? In the twenty-first century? How sad. How befuddling.

Instead, Neighbor Jon sent us a “before” photo of the house that’s getting the Curb Appeal makeover. So watch that space, to see how the makeover goes down.

PHOTO: Neighbor Jon