UPDATED: New Merchant Association: “We Don’t Know What to Call It Yet, But It Will Certainly Not Be La Lengua”

Well, this is awkward.

The initial seed of discontentment over the nomenclature used to describe the flat portion of the Dominion of Bernalwood along Mission Street has now become an outright counter-rebellion. MissionLocal reports that business-owners along Bernal’s Mission corridor are in the process of creating a merchant’s association, and the group’s first task is to settle upon a name for the area that is something other than “La Lengua”:

Every revolution has its line-in-the-sand moment. For one architect south of Cesar Chavez, the moment came when locals — and even allegedly some city officials — started using “some hipster name” to refer to the neighborhood: La Lengua.

That translates to “The Tongue” in English, and it left a bad taste in the merchants’ mouths. In fact, they are forming their own merchants association — first meeting today — to rebrand themselves and define their commercial interests in the microhood where Bernal Heights and the outer edges of the Mission meet.

“That stupid name really got everyone listening,” said Harlan Hoffman, an architect with an office and a building on Mission Street, who is one of the main members of the association’s formation committee. “In a good way, that kind of spurred us on, and we decided to go ahead with this plan.”

Harlan Hoffman goes on to say:

 “It’s not the Inner Mission, it’s not the Outer Mission — it’s its own thing,” Hoffman said. “We don’t know what to call it yet, but it will certainly not be La Lengua.”

See? Ouch. Awwwwwwkwaaaaaard.

Since the disputed area is, and always shall be, an integral part of the Dominion of Bernalwood, we have no stake in the nomenclature controversy, except to treat it is a local matter that requires local resolution among the indigenous people.

However, we would remind the merchants in the disputed region that there is precedent for what they seek to accomplish, as Bernalwood revealed in this old storefront decal:

Hiding in plain sight on a vacant Mission Street storefront just north of 30th Street, [Neighbor Ben] found a vintage decal which pledges fealty to the “South of Army – Mission Merchants Association.”

Who were these proto-La Lenguans? What can we infer about the people who roamed the flatlands in the days before Army Street became Cesar Chavez Boulevard? The decal’s intimation that “He Knows You – You Know Him” suggests they were a paternalistic tribe that was closely bound by kinship ties and sharply-defined notions of geographic solidarity.

Unfortunately, since Army Street is indeed now called Cesar Chavez, the new merchants association is unlikely to embrace its historic antecedent in toto — which is sort of too bad, because that old graphic is ridiculously fabulous. (Memo to Secession Design: That logo. On a t-shirt. PLEASE!)

Bernalwood has reached out to rebel spokesblogger Burrito Justice, leader of the La Lenguan autonomy movement, for comment on this matter. He promised to release a statement soon, but in the meantime, his activity on Twitter suggests there will be more to come in the days ahead:

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DEVELOPING….

UPDATE: 1/14/14, 10 am: Burrito Justice has released a statement, and meme-ready image, regarding the burgeoning nomenclature controversy:

Harlan, here’s what you don’t get — La Lengua doesn’t care what you think. La Lengua just… is. We didn’t try very hard, and La Lengua took off. We are having fun.

You seem angry, Harlan. But the more you try to hate on La Lengua, the stronger it will become.

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Smile! Look Happy! Google Street View Car Surveys Bernal

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Hopefully you brushed your sidewalks and flossed your expansion joints recently, because several neighbors spotted the Google Street View car in Bernal Heights over the weekend, presumably to update our visual data to reflect our look in late 2013.

Fortunately, Neighbor Mark did his part to ensure we present a clean, well-groomed appearance to cyber-tourists and future historians:

PHOTO: Street View car on Alabama at Precita on Saturday, by Don Derheim.

Unbuilt Bernal Heights: Our Future That Never Was

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The only thing Bernalwood loves more than a good local history lesson is a strong dose of local fantasy science-fiction. Luckily for us, some recent synchronicity has conspired to provide a tasty mixture of the two.  Here’s how it unfolds…

Part One: A few weeks ago, I took Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter to visit the new Exploratorium. While we were there, we wandered down a long hallway and into the Bay Observatory Gallery at the northeast corner of the museum. And in the Bay Observatory Gallery, we found a very cool collection of maps:

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As you can see, the Cub Reporter was fascinated with a map visualization created by the amazing Eric Fischer (which quite speaks well of her).

Simultaneously, your Bernalwood editor was intrigued by a map of an ambitious redevelopment plan that envisioned San Francisco as a kind of Paris by the Bay, with grand boulevards and ornate gardens slicing through our familiar street grid. Naturally, I took a particular interest in the Bernal Heights portion of the map:

BernalBurnham1905.A

So much to absorb! To facilitate later study, I snapped a few quick photos, including one of the map legend:

1905MapDetailThe legend identified the map as:

Plan, showing system of highways, public places, parks, park connections, etc., to serve as a guide for the future development of the city, recommended in his report to the Association for theImprovement and Adornment of San Francisco, by D.H. Burnham – September 1905

Hmmmmmmmm. We’ll explore all the details of the map in a moment, but first, let’s consider that curious synchronicity, which arrived in the form of…

Part Two:  Have you heard of 99% Invisible? It’s a contemporary and wonderful radio documentary series created by producer Roman Mars here in San Francisco as a project of public radio KALW and the American Institute of Architects.

99% Invisible is a show “about design, architecture, and the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world,” with an emphasis on that 99% part — which is to say that 99% Invisible is about the history, personalities, and contextual quirks from which meaningful design and architecture emerges. This sounds heady and theoretical, but the show is anything but; it’s quirky and vibrant with an emphasis on people and great storytelling. Listen to it — it will make you see the world with shiny new eyes.

As fate (and synchronicity) would have it, the most recent episode of 99% Invisible is called “Unbuilt,” and it happens to be about unrealized urban master plans in general — and Daniel Burnham’s 1905 master plan for San Francisco in particular. So while listening to 99% Invisible this week, I finally got the backstory about Daniel Burnham’s vision for the future of San Francisco:

Daniel Burnham was the mastermind behind the White City at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago It was the pinnacle of “The City Beautiful” movement, with big civic centers and grand neo-classical structures to stir the soul.

Burnham was hired by big-time downtown business owners of San Francisco to turn this raggedy (if well-off) city into something majestic. Danial Burnham’s team shows up and they set up shop in a cottage on the summit of Twin Peaks so they can survey the city and craft the perfect plan…which was completed in the fall of 1905.

And the legend goes, all the books were delivered to city hall for distribution on April 17, 1906–the day before the great earthquake pulverized San Francisco.

Burnham’s grand master plan was derailed by the 1906 earthquake. The devastation of the quake might have seemed like a perfect opportunity to implement the more disruptive aspects of his urban design, but the reality was that traumatized San Franciscans simply wanted to rebuild quickly and in a manner that felt familiar. So they did.

Burnham’s San Francisco plan went unbuilt.

But what had he envisioned for the future of Bernal Heights? Let’s zoom and enhance the map I found at the Exploratorium:

burnhambernal2Burnham saw Bernal Hill as the grand southern terminus of two criss-crossing promenades, which presumably would have looked somewhat like The Mall in Washington DC.

The “Mission Parkway” promenade would have run east to west along an axis between 23rd and 24th Streets. Meanwhile, the north-south “Mission Arcade” promenade would supplant today’s South Van Ness Avenue, with a grand interchange crossing the Mission Parkway around 24th and South Van Ness.

Looking even more closely…

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Precita Park survives in slightly modified form, but Burnham proposed creating a wide garden on the north face of Bernal Hill, roughly along the axis of contemporary Shotwell Street, running continuously from Army (Cesar Chavez) to Stoneman Street.

Burnham also wanted to erect a large, neo-classical building on Bernal Hill to overlook the Mission. He did not indicate what this monumental building would be used for, but we can safely assume it would have been Something Very Important, like a world-renowned collection of Dried Macaroni Arts and Crafts or the urban palace of Lord Mark Zuckerberg, the Duke of Facebook.

A set of smaller monument-style buildings would stand on the northeastern side of Bernal Hill, overlooking a huge playground, while the summit of the hill would feature several small gardens (with grand fountains, perhaps?) for leisurely recreation.

On the south side of Bernal, Burnham envisioned a continuous promenade linking Holly Park to the soutwest side of Bernal Hill, while a similar promenade would link Holly Park to Mission Street before continuing on to an expanded Glen Park open space:

burnhamhollypk

Personally, what I like best about Burnham’s plan for Bernal Heights is how easy it is to visualize. For example, it’s not difficult to imagine the view looking south from 24th and South Van Ness, with that long carpet of green grass rolling toward Bernal, the manicured, European-style garden zig-zagging up Bernal’s north slope, and that neo-classical palace presiding over everything below as Bernal Hill’s feral summit looms proudly behind it.

It would have been magnificent.

It likely also would have been a disaster. The ambiguity surrounding the purpose of Burnham’s neo-classical palace on the north slope of Bernal pervades every aspect of his plan for San Francisco, and it’s unclear who would have actually used all the grand boulevards and promenades he proposed to build in the Mission District. After all, when you really stop to look, his promenades basically extend from Nowhere to Nowhere, and Burnham doesn’t provide much detail to indicate what kind of amenities or infrastructure would activate these sprawling public spaces to give them a reassuring urban bustle.

Indeed, Burnham doesn’t seem to have ever given much thought at all to the stuff that really matters in a city like San Francisco; namely, the myriad small exchanges and interactions that happen at street level, block-to-block, corner-to-corner, and doorstep-to-doorstep. Instead, his 1905 master plan was optimized for viewing from above, as I did when I saw it on the table at the Exploratorium, or as a satellite might see it while snapping photographs for Google Maps, high above, in the empty vacuum of space.

Burnham’s vision of Bernal’s future might have been lovely, but it wasn’t designed with us in mind.

IMAGES: Top: Daniel Burnham Plan, courtesy David Rumsey map collection, via 99% Invisible. All other images, Daniel Burnham 1905 Plan, as photographed at the Exploratorium.

Viva La Contra-Revolución! La Lengua Dissidents Dislike Funny Name, Seek to Rejoin Dominion of Bernalwood

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Fellow Citizens of Bernalwood, this is a day we’ve long awaited.

We have endured years of rebellious bluster and seditious propaganda seeking to undermine the integrity of the Bernal Heights motherland. Yet we now have indications that the La Lengua separatist movement may be collapsing under the weight of its own geopolitical absurdity.

Last week, the Greater Bernalwood Signals Intelligence Unit received this encrypted communication from Neighbor Lisa, who resides deep within La Lenguan territory:

My neighbors and I have a problem. We have been saddled with an absolutely awful nickname for our little corner of San Francisco (La Lengua) and we don’t know how to get rid of it.

The blogosphere, including your esteemed and oft quoted blog, seems to think it is a great term, but the only person on our block who likes it is Burrito Justice himself. Every time someone shares a link to an article containing the hated term, our street mailing list fills up with emails suggesting alternatives. Even when the article is about a pot smoking bear, people get more excited about That Name.

We’d be happy to be referred to as Bernal Heights at this point.

So, how do we get people to use a different name for our microhood? I actually have some pretty strong feelings about what we should call my ‘hood, but unfortunately nobody likes my suggestion as much as I do. Anything but La Lengua.

And yes, every good revolution needs a splinter group.

Rest assured, Lisa, the Citizens of Bernalwood will be happy to welcome you back into our nurturing embrace!

IMAGE: Historic map from 1889 clearly includes the so-called La Lengua territories with the geographic boundaries of Bernal Heights. (On the other hand, this same map also includes six different streets named California Avenue, so draw your own conclusions.)

Beautiful New Map Shows Bernal Heights, Even More So

bernal.topourbanismFast Company Design carries a story about a new map of San Francisco that  happens to include a particularly tasty representation of Bernal Heights:

In San Francisco Contours, a topographical print by Abe Bingham … urbanity has been stripped away to highlight the hills of the city.

The piece was inspired by a combination of San Francisco’s unique landscape and the general failings of traditional topographical maps, which are, on one hand, a triumph of data visualization, and on the other, very difficult for the average person to decipher. As a fix, Bingham built his maps in full 3-D, exaggerating altitude by 2.5x to simulate the view of a pedestrian rather than a flyby.

The map is gorgeous, but the exaggerated proportions make it somewhat difficult to orient yourself to the image of Bernal Heights shown above. So here’s an annotated guide:

bernal.topourbanism.edit

Abe Bingham is a SF-born graphic designer, and he wants to sell images of his maps, so you can find out more (and buy a copy) on his Kickstarter page. A $50 contribution qualifies you as a “Bernal Hill Level” donor, which is actually rather flattering.

IMAGES: Via Abe Bingham

Census Visualization Reveals Racial Geography of Bernal Heights

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Dustin Cable is senior policy researcher and statistician with the Demographics & Workforce Group at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. He recently completed a “Racial Dot Map” that uses data from the 2010 census to illustrate “geographic distribution, population density, and racial diversity of the American people in every neighborhood in the entire country.”

Each dot represents one person, with each race shown in a different color. The result is a vast, visual map that Wired calls “the most comprehensive map of race in America ever created.”

The image above is the racial dot map of San Francisco. The resolution of the interactive version of the dot map is limited, but we can zoom and enhance to get closer look at Bernal Heights:

Bernal.2010census.overlay

Innnnnnnteresting.

There’s an impressive amount of mixing going on here in Bernal, even as there are also some very clear patterns of clustering. What you see here could quite literally be described as a kind of ethno-geographic Rorschach Test.

So shall we discuss? Let’s discuss.

MAPS: via the interactive Racial Dot Map

Ye Shall Walk These Bernal Streets, And Know They Are (Still) the Steepest

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Waaaaaaay back in 2011, Bernalwood posted an item about an independent researcher who had concluded that, despite some “official” lists which claim that the steepest streets in San Francisco are in Nob Hill and Noe Valley, the actual data indicates that four of the City’s eleven steepest streets are right here in Bernal Heights.  As we concluded at the time:

Bernal Heights may not always be the smartest, or the prettiest, or the most popular neighborhood in the world. But we may rest secure in the knowledge that we will always be the steepest.

Well, it’s two years later, and now 7×7 Magazine has taken another look at the data to determine which City streets are the steepest. And once again, according to writer David LaBua, the streets of Bernal Heights are the steepest in town, capturing the number 1, 3, 4, and 6 slots:

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So Bernal’s reign of urban verticality continues. But what’s it like to actually live at the top of Bradford, which is now reaffirmed as the steepest of the steep streets in all of San Francisco? Neighbor Lupe tells it:

As the owner of the last house on Bradford, both my legs and my car brakes can attest to the cliff-like steepness of the street. Most of my friends have “mastered” coming up the hill, and a few have learned to drive up in reverse to simplify getting back down. I marvel at Recology, UPS and FedEx rambling up and down with nary a care. Some of the postmen appear as if they are ready to have a coronary, some are clearly athletically inclined, barely breaking a sweat after reaching the “summit”. Not sure how the Chronicle finds its way here, but the paper sits on my doorstep every weekend, neatly wrapped in its bag. The foot traffic increases on Saturdays and Sundays, and it is easy to see who has not ventured up the hill in the past – the lenghty pauses and wide-eyed look on the faces of these virgins is easy to spot.

IMAGE: Top, Bradford’s 41% grade. Photo by Data Pointed