This Is the New Bernal Heights Graphic from Artist Amos Goldbaum

bernalshirt.amos

Pro Tip: If you’re heading to Fiesta on the Hill this Sunday — and you are going to Fiesta on the Hill this Sunday, aren’t you? — look for Bernal-born artist Amos Goldbaum’s booth on Cortland.

That’s where you’ll find the t-shirts with Neighbor Amos’s sexy new Bernal Heights graphic, shown above. So lovely! So detailed! So locavore!

Here’s the closer look:

bernalhill.goldbaum.

If Two Homes Are Built on This Bernal Heights Property, Will It Explode in a Giant Scorching Fireball?

bernaldevsite2

There’s a design review committee meeting happening tomorrow night, Wednesday, May 28 at 7 pm at the Precita Center.

The topic on the agenda will be that proposal to build two single-family homes at 3516 and 3526 Folsom on the southeast slope of Bernal Hill, on the undeveloped lot just below Bernal Heights Boulevard at Folsom and Chapman. There are questions to consider. Like, how is the new right-of-way going to work, since there’s no road there now, and the slope is so hella steep? And what about drainage, and the garden that’s now on the site, and the existing character of the neighborhood? Also, if homes are built here, will the site explode in a gigantic, scorching, San Bruno-style fireball?

The mortal peril associated with the giant scorching fireball scenario introduces a dramatic new element to the usual Bernal Heights design review fare. The giant scorching fireball scenario has been popularized by some neighbors around the proposed development site, and they have detailed their concerns in a flyer:

blastradiusposter

Let’s zoom and enhance for better legibility:

blastradiusposter.detail

Blast radius! Oh my.

But is this true? Is this pipeline the same type that blew up in San Bruno? How likely is it that a giant scorching fireball scenario will ultimately engulf everything inside the red circle?

Remain calm, Citizens of Bernalwood. Let’s walk through this piece by piece.

The gas pipeline that runs through Bernal Heights is called Line 109, and it is definitely serious business. The 2010 San Bruno explosion is fresh in Bay Area memory, but that was Line 132 — a different pipeline altogether. That said, Line 109 also exploded once, in a giant scorching fireball, right here in Bernal Heights, back in 1963.

So there’s that.

pgepipelinebernal.2014

Bernalwood reported on the present-day status of Line 109 back in 2011. At the time, we said:

The good news is, our section of Line 109 is relatively new [installed in the early 1980s], and thus hopefully does not have any of the shoddy, 1950s-era welds that were blamed in the San Bruno explosion. Likwise, it seems that an active inspection regimen is in place to validate the line’s integrity.

And so, we concluded:

Given the magnitude of PG&E’s recent mismanagement of its pipeline infrastructure, and the tremendous potential for harm, unwavering diligence will be required by both Bernal Heights residents and our local authorities to ensure the pipeline will remain safe for decades to come.

So, diligence.

That brings us to the present day. Bernalwood has been contacted by a group of neighbors around the proposed development who have been raising alarm about the giant scorching fireball scenario and rallying to oppose construction on the site. We also sent a series of technical questions to PG&E, to get additional information about the status of the pipeline at this location.

We will hear from both sides.

Writing on behalf of the neighbors who oppose the project, Neighbor Maiyah tells Bernalwood:

The site is at Folsom and Chapman, right next to the community garden. There’s a huge gas transmission line right next to the two plots… just like the one in San Bruno. It’s the same line that exploded in 1963 near Alemany and injured 9 firefighters (one also died of a heart attack) and blew up a house. I’m now a part of a small group of concerned Bernal residents who are trying to bring to light the facts of this situation and to inform others of the potential dangers.

I saw the developer (Fabien Lannoye) at the East Slope Design Review Board Meeting in April and he seemed to be not very concerned about the pipeline, not knowing the exact depth of it. He sort of shrugged when he said PG&E had no record of it. Bernal residents had asked him for a comprehensive site plan, the exact location of the pipe, the impact on the nearby community garden, and many more questions and his answer was that he didn’t ever receive the letter in the mail. It made me feel uneasy to say the least.

Just thinking about that huge transmission line with heavy construction equipment digging and moving earth over and around it on one of the steepest grades in San Francisco (35%), makes me cringe.

One of our members recently emailed Robert Bea, Professor Emeritus at the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management at UC Berkeley, who investigated the San Bruno disaster. She asked him if she should be concerned about the pipe line here in Bernal. He replied yes, with the facts that have been gathered so far: (1) the pipeline is old (1980’s) installed in an area with highly variable topography, (2) there are no records on the construction, operation and maintenance of the pipeline, (3) there are no definitive guidelines to determine if the pipeline is ‘safe’ and ‘reliable’, (4) there is apparent confusion about who is responsible (government, industrial – commercial) for the pipeline safety, reliability, and integrity.

This list is identical to the list of concerns that summarized causation of the San Bruno Line 132 gas pipeline disaster.

I live about a block from the proposed construction site, so I’m not too worried, but those of us who live right next to the pipeline are thinking twice about their safety right now.

That’s the argument against building two homes on the lots at 3516 and 3526 Folsom.

To better understand the technical issues, Bernalwood reached out to PG&E with a detailed series of questions related to Line 109 in Bernal Heights and potential construction hazards at the proposed development site. PG&E was very responsive, and we received answers to our questions late last week.

Bernalwood’s questions, and PG&E’s responses, are provided here in their entirety:

1. When was the section of pipeline under the the proposed home site installed? When was it last upgraded?

The line was installed in 1981. PG&E has a comprehensive inspection and monitoring program to ensure the safe operation of this line.

2. How often is this section of 109 inspected? What does the inspection entail? When did the last inspection take place? What were the results of that inspection?

This section of L-109 was successfully strength tested (via a hydrostatic pressure test) at the time of installation. PG&E records show no history of leaks for L-109 in this area.

PG&E has a comprehensive inspection and monitoring program to ensure the safety of its natural gas transmission pipeline system.  PG&E regularly conducts patrols, leak surveys, and cathodic protection (corrosion protection) system inspections for its natural gas pipelines.  Any issues identified as a threat to public safety are addressed immediately.  PG&E also performs integrity assessments of certain gas transmission pipelines in urban and suburban areas.

Patrols:  PG&E patrols its gas transmission pipelines at least quarterly to look for indications of missing pipeline markers, construction activity and other factors that may threaten the pipeline.  L-109 through the [Bernal Heights] neighborhood was last aerially patrolled in May 2014 and no issues were found.

Leak Surveys:  PG&E conducts leak surveys at least annually of its natural gas transmission pipelines.  Leak surveys are generally conducted by a leak surveyor walking above the pipeline with leak detection instruments.  L-109 in San Francisco was last leak surveyed in April 2014 and no leaks were found.

Cathodic Protection System Inspections:  PG&E utilizes an active cathodic protection (CP) system on its gas transmission and steel distribution pipelines to protect them against corrosion.  PG&E inspects its CP systems every two months to ensure they are operating correctly.  The CP systems on L-109 in this area were last inspected in May 2014 and were found to be operating correctly.

Integrity Assessments:  There are three federally-approved methods to complete a transmission pipeline integrity management baseline assessment:  In-Line Inspections (ILI), External Corrosion Direct Assessment (ECDA) and Pressure Testing.  An In-Line Inspection involves a tool (commonly known as a “pig”) being inserted into the pipeline to identify any areas of concern such as potential metal loss (corrosion) or geometric abnormalities (dents) in the pipeline.  An ECDA involves an indirect, above-ground electrical survey to detect coating defects and the level of cathodic protection.  Excavations are performed to do a direct examination of the pipe in areas of concern as required by federal regulations.  Pressure testing is a strength test normally conducted using water, which is also referred to as a hydrostatic test.

PG&E performed an ECDA on L-109 in this area in 2009 and no issues were found.  PG&E plans to perform another ECDA on L-109 in this area in 2015.  This section of L-109 also had an ICDA (Internal Corrosion Direct Assessment) performed in 2012, and no issues were found.

Automated Shut-off Valves: There are two types of automated shut-off valves recognized within the natural gas industry: Remote Controlled Valves (RCV’s), which can be operated remotely from PG&E’s Gas Control Center, and Automatic Shutoff Valves (ASV’s) that will close automatically as a result of rapidly falling pipeline pressures and/or increased flows at the valve location. There is an RCV on L-109 in Daly City that can be used to isolate the section of L-109 that runs through this neighborhood.

3. Is this section of pipeline 109  “the same type that blew up in San Bruno?”

No. Line 109 operates at a much lower pressure and is smaller in diameter, and is of a much more recent vintage.

4. What safety procedures does PG&E put in place when home or street contruction occurs on the site of a major gas pipeline like 109?

Anytime a contractor or resident makes an excavation on franchise or private property, they must call 811 (State Law for Underground Service Alerts [USA]) in advance so we can identify and properly locate our UG facilities.  When our Damage Prevention group gets the USA request and identifies a critical facility like a gas transmission line in the scope of work, they notify the caller that they must contact PG&E for a standby employee.  PG&E must observe a safe excavation around our lines if any digging is within 10’ of it.  We must be present when they dig around this line.  Our standby inspector will instruct and guide the excavating party to avoid damage.  Excavators who violate this Law are subject to fines.

5. Does the steep grade of the Folsom site have any impact on Pipeline 109? Given the grade at the proposed site, are any special provisions or procedures required to ensure the safety of the pipeline during construction?

The grade of the street have no impacts on the operation of the line.  If the cover is not removed or disturbed within 10’ of the line, there are no special precautions needed.

6. Are there any specific technical or safety challenges posed by the proposed home site, and if so, how does PG&E plan to address them?

As long as the structures are built within the property lines similar to the existing [homes on Folsom Street], they will not pose any issues for us patrolling and maintaining that line.  The proposed home sites are not on top of line 109, and are no closer to the line than existing homes in the neighborhood.

Additional Background: In the area outlined in the map [Bernalwood sent PG&E, shown above], PG&E’s natural gas transmission pipeline L-109 runs down Folsom Street and turns east to follow Bernal Heights Blvd.  Line 109 in this area is a 26-inch diameter steel pipeline installed in 1981 and has a maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) of 150 pounds per square inch gage (psig), which is 19.8% of the pipe’s specified minimum yield strength (SMYS).  This provides a considerable margin of safety, since it would take a pressure over 750 psig to cause the steel in the pipe to begin to deform.

Whew. Someone should turn that into a TED talk.

Bernalwood’s conclusion from the above is as follows: The handbill that has been posted around Bernal Heights by concerned neighbors contains several errors. Line 109 in Bernal Heights is not the same type of pipeline as Line 132, which exploded in San Bruno. The inspection history provided by PG&E undermines the assertion that “there are no records on the construction, operation and maintenance of the pipeline.” Line 109 has been the subject of a recent and ongoing inspection regimen, and if the developer follows the required safety protocols, the hazards associated with construction on the proposed development site should be routine and manageable.

Here too, rigorous diligence will be required to ensure the project is executed and managed properly. If such diligence is applied, the Citizens of Bernalwood may soon enjoy the company of a few new neighbors on the upper reaches of Folsom Street, without having to endure the hardship and mortal peril associated with a giant scorching fireball emanating from the new home site.

Reasonable minds might reasonably view this matter differently. Either way, see you at the design review meeting, 7pm on Wednesday, May 28 at Precita Center.

Wednesday: Community Meeting to Review Home Construction Plans Below Bernal Hill

folsomhomesites

Neighbor Alicia is spreading the word about a community meeting that will happen tomorrow, Wesdnesday December 11 at 7 pm at the Precita Neighborhood Center, to review a proposal to build two single-family homes on a patch of undeveloped land on Folsom near Chapman, on the south side of the hill just below Bernal Heights Blvd.

Here’s the meeting announcement:

Chapmanplots2

TONIGHT: Bernal Designer Invites Us All to Launch Party for His Fabulous Lumio Light

lumio-book-lamp-0

Lumio_LaunchParty_Invite

Last February, Neighbor Max Gunawan made waves in the gadget design world with his Kickstarter campaign to launch Lumio, a brilliant and beautiful articulated lamp that folds like a book. As Bernalwood reported at the time, Neighbor Max had hoped to raise $60,000 to begin production, but in the end his campaign raised an eye-popping $578,000. Wow.

Well, now it’s November, Neighbor Max is ready to begin selling Lumio, and he’s invited all of Bernal Heights to attend the launch party tonight:

The products are finally here!

We are having Lumio launch party on November 7th from 6 to 8 pm at Zinc Details (1905 Fillmore), and I would love it if you could attend. We’re very excited about the event, and I’d like to extend the invite to our Bernal Heights community.

Here’s the link to RSVP.

PHOTO: Neighbor Max

Celebrity Interview: Meet the Bernal Author Who Wrote the New Book About Apple Design Guru Jony Ive

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you own an iPhone or iPad, you’re probably familiar with the work of Jony Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of industrial design. Likewise, if you’ve recently upgraded your iDevice to iOS7, you’re now intimately familiar with Ive’s approach to design, which, in simplified terms, seeks to make the form of the interface follow its function more closely.

Ive is famously media-shy, but neighbor Leander Kahney of Moultrie Street just completed a much-anticpated a book about him. It’s called “Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products,” and it goes on sale Nov. 14.

Neighbor Leander’s wife told Bernalwood that the book represents the culmination of “14 long, painful stressful months of blood, sweat, tears and lots of swearing,” so we decided to do a celebrity interview with Neighbor Leander to find out more about his prose-creation process:

Bernalwood: How much of the writing for your book did you do in Bernal Heights?

Neighbor Leander: I did the majority of the writing in Bernal, mostly at Martha & Bros coffee shop and Progressive Grounds. I’d go to Martha in the morning and fuel up on coffee — it’s the best on the hill. At lunchtime, I’d go over to Progressive for a bite to eat and spend the rest of the afternoon there.

Did you find any places in Bernal Heights that were good for your muse?

It’s non-fiction, so it was less muse, more head-in-hands crying and deadline terror. Writing is torture for me. I have an office in the Mission but found it impossible to concentrate there. I’d spend all day surfing the net or cleaning. I need the buzz of a busy coffesshop to help me focus.

What about the dread writers block? Did you discover any Bernal-based remedies for that?

Walking certainly helps clear the mind. I’d often pace up and down Cortland. Sometimes I’d hike up to the top of Bernal Hill. That would sometimes help, but most of the time I just wanted to fling myself off a cliff.

There are a lot of people in Bernal Heights who write books. It’s kind of like having a dog. Why do you think Bernal is home to so many writer-types? Is there something in water here?

I’d say that’s true for San Francisco generally, although Bernal is definitely a hotspot for creative-types. Up until a few years ago, it was your classic semi-affordable, bohemian neighborhood. We’ve been here for 13 years, and back then it was the only place we could afford. Our house was a half-derelict crack house. There were bars on everyone’s windows. Now people worry about their succulents.

If Jony Ive had to do a midday meeting in Bernal Heights, which coffee shop do you think he’d choose?

I think he’d forego the coffee shop and chose a nice discreet bar, like the Lucky Horseshoe. He does all his deals over a drink, according to people like Bono, although he frequents much fancier places like the bar at the Clift Hotel. However, he could hang out at the Lucky Horeshore and not draw too much attention to himself. He’s a shy guy.

Neighbor Leander’s book is called “Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products,” and it is available for pre-order now.

PHOTO: Neighbor Leander, avoiding the temptation to throw himself off a cliff

A Brief History of How Cesar Chavez/Army Street Became So Damn Awful in the First Place

chavez2008

The photo above (Thanks Mark!) shows a view of Cesar Chavez Boulevard looking west from Folsom in 2008, a few years before the current/ongoing sewer and streetscape improvement project got underway. As you can see, it is very unlovely.

In the comments to Monday’s item about the removal of the ugly-ass, freeway-style road sign across Cesar Chavez Boulevard, Neighbor Andy was prompted to wonder how Cesar Chavez Boulevard became so awful and so highway-like in the first place.

The short explanation is simple: Cesar Chavez — formerly Army Street — WAS designed to be a highway. Sort of. The wide thoroughfare as we now know it was carved out in the 1930s and 1940s, with the intention of using the road as a major east-west route to carry automobile traffic, first to the US101 Bayshore Freeway (which was built in the early 1950s), and eventually to the Southern Crossing, a second transbay bridge that was planned to terminate in the area around Army/Chavez and Third Street.

Wait. A second transbay bridge??? At the foot of Army/Chavez?? WHAT??!!

Follow along as we take a quick survey of Army Street history, give-or take a few years here and there:

1859: Here, Precita Creek runs unfettered down the present-day Cesar Chavez Boulevard corridor, providing a primary route for water drainage for the eastern slopes of Twin Peaks. It also functions as a sewer. Present-day Precita Avenue shadows the route of the former Precita Creek. Army Street not created yet, but Navy Street ran parallel:

1888: Precita Creek still a creek. Army street is a jankey east-west road that runs alongside it:

mission-army-1888jpgx

Circa 1900: Precita creek channeled underground, Army street built on top

1931: Check out this amazing view of Army Street, looking west from Harrison, when it was a relatively normal San Francisco City Street (with a streetcar line!). That’s Le Conte Elementary School (now, Leonard Flynn) on the left, with the St. Anthony’s church steeple behind it. The church burned in the 1970s.

armyatharrison-1931

1936 and 1937: Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge open to traffic.

Late 1930s: Army Street widened from a normal 4-lane city street to an 8-lane surface throroughfare. This is why many of the houses on the street are so close to the curb, with no front yards. Eminent domain is a bitch.

1940: View west on Army at Harrison again, showing both widened and unwidened portions. The caption on this photo hopes “the city soon may have the money to finish the widening.” Good times.

AAB-2898

1940s: Flush with bridge-building ardor and postwar can-do, Southern Crossing bridge proposed.

1947: Here’s a view looking south from Potrero Avenue at the Army Street intersection. That’s Bernal Heights in the top right, with the stairs leading up to Holladay. The US101 freeway was built here 10 years later.

potrero.army.1947

1948: A Southern Crossing was envisioned as part of an urban freeway network that would have encircled Bernal Heights in a maze of concrete viaducts, including one that followed Mission Street:

1948_San_Francisco_trafficwaysplanx

This scenario is so grim that we must zoom and enhance to see how bleak it really was (while also admiring the map’s realistic attention to geographic detail). Note the Army Street interchange on the proposed Mission Freeway, at the western end of Precita Avenue. Oh my:

1948_San_Francisco_trafficways_Bernal

1948: Here’s another view of the City’s proposed freeway network, showing more clearly how Army Street would have played an important role as an east-west artery to the Southern Crossing (and how thoroughly all of this would have sucked for Bernal Heights):

trafficwaysplan.1948x

1949: California Department of Public Works map shows the Southern Crossing linked to the Bayshore Freeway via a dedicated highway, with Army Street feeding southwestern San Francisco

SouthernCrossing.1949

Check out the Army Street detail:

1949.SCdetail 2

1950: Shortly before US101/Bayshore Freeway construction begins, aerial view shows the now-complete Army Street widening, and the undeveloped approach to the proposed Southern Crossing:

bernalhill1950x

1953: Army Street, shown from street-level at South Van Ness, a few years after the Army Street widening was completed. Notice how then-and-now photos reveal that today’s nasty-ass Army St. streetscape design is basically unchanged from this time:

Then and Now: South Van Ness at Army Street, 1953

1950s: US101 converted from Potrero Avenue/Bayshore Blvd. routing to the elevated limited-access freeway. A roundabout under the Freeway connects Army, Potrero, and Bayshore.

1960s-1970s: I-280 constructed in San Francisco

1968: Steve McQueen begins iconic “Bullitt” car chase on Army Street at Bryant in Bernal Heights. Location looks just as unpretty then as it does today.

1970: San Francisco Chronicle declares “Southern Crossing Should Be Built,” arguing in favor of a “missing link the Bay Area’s traffic system” that would carry 36 percent of all transbay traffic to San Francisco, diverting 45,000 vehicles a day from downtown.

1971: Even after most other San Francisco freeway projects have been abandoned, California Freeway Planning Map still shows proposed Southern Crossing:

sffreeway1971-1

1972: Sierra Club freaks out over proposed Southern Crossing. Voters reject a bond measure to build a Southern Crossing bridge terminating in Hunter’s Point.

1973: Army Street/US 101 Spaghetti Bowl interchange built, replacing the roundabout that previously linked Army with Potrero Ave. and Bayshore Blvd. The new interchange was intended in part to serve traffic coming from and going to a future Southern Crossing:

army1011973

Late-1980s: No means no. Another proposal to build a Southern Crossing dies amid widespread opposition from environmentalists.

1995: Amid much grumbling, Army Street renamed Cesar Chavez.

1995-2010: Southern Crossing proposals basically dead in the water, although Diane Feinstein advocated the idea yet again in 2000. Cesar Chavez Boulevard remains very ugly.

2012: Big, sexy new sewer main installed under Cesar Chavez:

chavezpipe

2013: Work begins on Cesar Chavez Streetscape improvements intended to strike a better balance between cars, pedestrians, bikes, and adjacent neighbors (not necessarily in that order). When finished, the basic configuration will look something like this:

CesarChavezPlanview

So there you have it.

Looking back on the last 80 or so years, the unifying thread in Army/Chavez history is that, first and foremost, the street was intended to serve as a high-volume route within a regional transportation plan that envisioned freeways and a future transbay bridge as its core elements. Like Precita Creek that runs underneath it, Army/Chavez was designed to carry traffic flowing from Twin Peaks eastward toward the shoreline of the Bay.

In that sense, the conspicuous ugliness of Army/Chavez is simply part of its function, because it was designed serve as a backbone of a car-centric vision of what San Francisco’s future required.

For a whole host of reasons, that’s not quite how the future turned out. So now — at last! — Cesar Chavez is being reimagined around a different vision for a different kind of future; a future in which Chavez continues to serve as an important artery, while also doing more to serve the neighbors who use it and live near it.

Of course, that may or may not be how the future actually turns out. So check back with again us in 80 years for another retrospective.

UPDATE: Let the bonus photos begin!!

Neighbor Joel dug into his photos archives and pulled up some more Army Street gems.

Here’s a view of Army Street during the street widening, circa 1940. Looks to me like Army at Harrison, shortly after the properties on the north side of Army were condemned and removed. (This block then became a rather notorious public housing project.) I believe the building visible just to the left and behind the (now-demolished) school-like building is the northwest corner of Army and Shotwell; that’s the same garage workshop space that’s now home to John’s Jaguar Repair:

ArmyStreet.Harrison

Google Street View confirms the location; notice the two houses on the far right:

chavezharrisonstreetview

Neighbor Joel also sent a clean aerial shot of the Army-Potrero-Bayshore roundabout under the 101 freeway, probably sometime during the 1960s.

Army and 101 interchangeX

Bernal Designer Creates Fabulously Cool Folding Lamp That Looks Like a Book

lumio-book-lamp-0

Neighbor Max lives on Folsom near Eugenia. He tells Bernalwood that he left his corporate job about a month ago to work on a lighting project he invented. It’s called Lumio, and it’s totally spiffy:

Three days ago Max launched a $60,000 fundraising drive on the Kickstarter to begin production. Now — get this! — he’s already blown through that goal, with a colossal $111K pledged. Wow. (Engadget FTW!)

Go Max, Go! Bernalwood gives you a neighborly high-five, and we can’t wait to buy one on Cortland.

PHOTO: Neighbor Max with a Lumio