SFFD Staffing Changes May Slow Paramedic Access in Bernal Heights


Neighbor Will emailed Bernalwood to share some concerns about emergency medical team staffing at SFFD Station 32 in Holly Park. He also calls your attention to a Fire Commission meeting that’s happening tonight:

There are some changes afoot with how the San Francisco Fire Department assigns paramedics to neighborhoods, and Station 32 in Holly Park is one of the fire houses that are affected.

Until this week, Station 32 was “high priority” enough to have an Advanced Life Support (ALS) engine. This meant that one of the engine crew was always a paramedic. However, in the last few days the SFFD has reorganized this priority list, which in effect means that Engine 32 will almost never have a paramedic assigned. Bernal Height’s engine will become Basic Life Support (BLS) only. This means that medical calls will be attended to by an EMT until an ALS engine or an ambulance arrives with a paramedic on board. Paramedics are trained and licensed to administer life-saving drugs; EMTs are not.

Particularly in the light of the poor response times of SFFD ambulances that have been widely reported, Bernal residents should be concerned about this sudden change in paramedic coverage. Someone in the neighborhood in cardiac arrest will now have to wait for an ALS engine from Station 11 (26th @ Church), Station 9 (Jerrold @ Upton), or for one of the overstretched ambulances in order to receive the drugs and paramedic care that may save their life.

A further concern is that the engine at 32 is a compact apparatus which is able to maneuver well in the narrow streets of Bernal Heights. The regular sized engines which will be rushing to the neighborhood have a far more difficult time negotiating these streets, which will potentially affect the response time to a medical emergency.

I am very close to an employee of SFFD; they do not wish to publicly question or criticize the Department because of the fear of disciplinary action. I think it would be great if somebody from Bernalwood called the Department to find out what is behind these changes. Concerned citizens might want to ask questions at an SF Fire Commission meeting; the next one will take place on October 9 at 4pm at SFFD Headquarters, 698 2nd Street.

PHOTO: Engine 11 in Bernal Heights, by Telstar Logistics

Meet the Man Who Makes Tuesday Emergency Siren Tests Go “WAAAAAAAAAAAA!”


Every Tuesday at noon, for about as long as anyone cares to remember, the City of San Francisco has conducted a test of its emergency alert siren system. If you need  reminder of what that sounds like, just listen right here. Or, wait a few minutes, and the siren will play today. At noon. Like always.

If you’re out of town, and feeling nostalgic for the weekly test, you can also get it via Twitter:

San Francisco’s Outdoor Public Warning System has been in place since 1942, and the system now includes 109 siren towers sprinkled around the City. Here in Bernal, there’s one (strategically) perched on Bernal Hill right next to Sutrito Tower, as well as one atop Leonard Flynn Elementary School in Precitaville.

The Tuesday tests are managed from the Department of Emergency Management headquarters in Western Addition. The test features a 15 second “wail” tone, followed by a recorded message that says, “This is a test. This is a test of the Outdoor Public Warning System. This is only a test.” (FUN FACT: Apparently, the voice on that recorded message is Dave Morey, the former KFOG DJ.) In the event of real emergency, the sirens will play continuously for 5 minutes, followed by instructions and announcements for the general public.

Another fun fact: The Tuesday siren tests are actually conducted manually, by a guy named Cesar. This awesome little video will introduce you to Cesar and show you how he makes the siren tests go “Waaaaaaaaaaaa!”

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

City Finalizes $15 Million Settlement for Svanemyr Family in Holly Park Hit-and-Run


The City of San Francisco has finalized a $15.1 million settlement with the surviving family of Christy Svanemyr, the woman who was killed in the heartbreaking 2013 hit-and-run incident involving a Recreation and Parks Department truck in Holly Park.

KCBS has the details:

The family of a 35-year-old woman who was run over and killed by a city employee driving on the grass in San Francisco’s Holly Park last September has been issued a settlement by the city of $15.1 million.

Vegar and Isa Svanemyr, the husband and toddler of Christine “Christy” Svanemyr, will receive the settlement as a result of a claim filed in November 2013.

The settlement was approved by the city’s Recreation and Park Commission in July and adopted by the city’s Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

The funds will be paid to the family in three installments.

PHOTO: Incident scene at Holly Park on Sept. 5, 2013. Inset, Christy Svanemyr

Meet Joseph McFadden, the SFPD’s New Top Cop at Ingleside



Neighbor Sarah, Bernal’s valiant liaison to the San Francisco Police Department, was unable to attend this month’s community meeting at Ingleside Station. In her stead, your Bernalwood editor attended the meeting to take notes as a (vastly inferior) substitute.

But that wasn’t the big news. The big news was the debut appearance by Capt. Joseph McFadden, the brand-new captain at Ingleside. Capt. McFadden used the meeting to introduce himself to a packed room of curious community folk, and my notes that follow summarize his presentation.

SFPD Ingleside Community Meeting
19 Aug, 2014

SFPD Captain Joe McFadden presiding (for the first time)
Captain’s email: joseph.mcfadden@sfgov.org

Mc Fadden is the new captain at Ingleside; he started in early August.

McFadden grew up on 24th Street in the Mission. Third generation San Franciscan. His father was a doctor in Noe Valley, and he’s one of 10 children. He still lives in San Francisco, “about 8 minutes from this station.”  Hobbies: Football, boxing, hiking.

McFadden requested Ingleside because of proximity to his home, his familiarity with the area, and good diversity of people — It’s the “most diverse in the city by far,” he said. “It’s a great melting pot of San Francisco. Being here feels like being back home. I want to stay here for a while.”

(McFadden blasted through this, so I may have missed or munged a few details.)

Started in 1989, trained at Northern Station, then Taraval for his probationary period. Then served at Ingleside from 1991 to 1994, working undercover at Alemany street projects and Sunnydale. Then Violent Crime Suppression Unit. Then went to Mission, and SWAT Team  Became a sergeant, and went to Tenderloin undercover unit. Then domestic violence crime unit for 9 years. Then Internal Affairs for 4 years, including duty as the officer involved shooting coordinator. Then headed up the Film Coordination Unit (which manages street logistics for film crews). Made Lieutenant, then went to Bayview to lead their Station Investigation Unit under Greg Suhr At Bayview, Suhr emphasized community outreach. Then did Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) and some Homeland Security. Became a Captain, and lead the Major Crimes Unit. Then went to Special Victims Unit.

Most of McFadden’s career has been focused on investigations. He is very investigations-focused. Says he also brought one of the City’s best investigators to Ingleside as his lieutenant.

McFadden says he is “adamant” about working with the community. He’s a big fan of Project SAFE.

Recidivism rate shows that about 5 percent of people commit 80 percent of the crimes. Main focus will be bringing down violent crime and robberies. Actively tracks violent crime arrests, to keep tabs on who will be coming out of jail in a year or two, to familiarize officers with the individual’s MO.

There are lots of young officers in the SFPD now, following a big wave of retirements. Several rookies in Ingleside. McFadden  always reminds officers that they are all on video now — tells them to live their lives like they are always on video. Wants them to always follow through on investigations — especially if they wrote the reports. Very focused on report-writing as a way to encourage ownership of an incident. Ingleside will be a learning station for many of the new officers.

Says that one of the ways he will measure his own success will the length of the list of officers requesting duty at Ingleside.

Current high priority is Visitacion Valley robberies. Reaching out to Asian-Pacific Islander associations to educate and train up the neighbors in the area. Establishing Safe Haven programs with local merchants to enable people to find shelter when they feel threatened.

Keeping an eye on auto burglaries, with plans to conduct decoy operaitons, etc. “One thing about criminals, they work an area until they get caught,” he said. “If you arrest one or two people, it will often take down a large percentage of people who are committing the crimes.”  Wants to help establish bloc-by-block neighborhood watches (via Project SAFE), esp via neighborhood organizations.

Keenly interested in Ingleside’s gambling houses. Aware of them, and wants to close them, but it’s hard to do. Coordinating with DA’s office on this. For example, 4837 Mission Street, the gambling hall in the City Business Center. Several gambling halls have closed recently, such as NetStop and Cybertimes. But City Business Center has not closed. Court cases are in progress, but the law is in flux at the moment. This is a citywide issue, but very prevalent in Ingleside. A new hotshot DA is also on the case. This is very high on the priority list.

Other concerns: crime hosues, drug houses, grow houses.

Regarding car break-ins: This is often the very same people, over and over again. Police try to get the guys who are saturating an area. Again, there’s an active effort to review parolees who are returning to the neighborhood, since criminals tend to continue in the same area of crime. If you have surveillance videos that show a crime, make copies and send to SFPD, so officers can familiarize themselves with the suspects. Familiarity with criminals on the street is very powerful, and videos do a lot to help with that.

Now that school is back in session, paying attention to traffic and safe schools, and assigning units to problem areas.

Wants to hear about officers who are rude, as well as officers who are especially good. Knowing when officers do a good job is just as important as knowing when they don’t. Giving recognition for exceptional behavior is a very powerful incentive. It really matters when good behavior gets recognized in a daily station line up — goes a long way toward encouraging more of the same.

If you see a cop on the street, introduce yourself — “Tell them Capt. McFadden told you to do it.” (McFadden said this several times during the meeting) You will see that officer again; policing works best when two-way relationships exist.

At CSI, McFadden learned that one of the biggest trends in contemporary investigation is the importance of the phones people now carry with them: Pictures, video etc., “Video is gigantic.” The video camera’s in ATMs and so on are incredibly important tools to determine where a suspect was, and where they went, etc. Even a bad video can be very useful.

Evidence from the community has become increasingly important , and it’s important to know how to be a good witness. Wants to train-up the community to be proactive. If you see something, write it down immediately. Note clothing, facial hair, scars, license plates, etc. Specifics, as much as possible Unique features. Note the shoes — criminals can shed a shirt or a jacket, but they can’t change their shoes. Document everything, with as many details as you can get.

When in doubt call 911 — “I’d rather get the call than not get the call.” No response from police? Follow up again. There’s power in numbers. Call your neighbors; have them call 911 too.


QUESTION: What are your strategies for strengthening relationships between youth and police ?
MCFADDEN: A big emphasis on approachability. McFadden encourages all officers to carry “junior officer stickers” for kids at all times. Hates to hear when officers are rude. Wants officers to be polite. Special focus on kids in Middle School; very important to reach out to teens. Encourages police participation in BBQs, community activities, etc.

QUESTION What If you find a item that was used in a crime?
MCFADDEN: Don’t touch the stuff. Photograph where you found it, in place. Get a wide angle and tight shot (to capture the whole scene, and the specific location.) Wear gloves if you have to touch it, to avoid contamination of evidence. Put it in a bag.

QUESTION: If you could get one thing done at Ingleside, what would it be?
MCFADDEN: I’ve always been better as a strategist than an analyst, but that’s changed a bit as I’ve gotten older. For my station people, I want everyone to return here. For the community, I want everyone to trust in the officers here, and to have lots of people to know me like I’m the mayor of this place. I’m a firm believer in foot-beat officers, and encouraging officers to be outgoing. Wants his people to get to know the community, and the community to know the officers. Wants cops to bond with the community.

PHOTOS: Capt. Joseph McFadden, by Telstar Logistics

Nieto Family Files Wrongful Death Complaint in Federal Court





Grieving families. Medical examiner reports. Demands to release the names of the officers involved.

There is a grim parallelism to many of the recent officer-involved deaths across the country, including the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York City, and Alex Nieto here in Bernal Heights. But there are also important differences. In Ferguson and New York, medical examiners’ reports have been completed and released, and the identity of the officers involved in the incidents has been made public. But that hasn’t happened in San Francisco.

Against that backdrop, last Friday’s memorial for Bernal resident Alex Nieto on Bernal Hill was noteworthy not just because it was entirely peaceful, tightly focused, and well-organized, but also because it underscored the fact that, even after five months, Alex Nieto’s family still seeks the kind of basic information about their son’s death that has already been made public in high-profie cases elsewhere.

Friday’s march coincided with the Nieto family’s filing of a wrongful death complaint in federal court regarding the officer-involved shooting of Alex Nieto on March 21.

KQED reports:

The parents of a 28-year-old man shot and killed by San Francisco police officers on March 21 filed a federal lawsuit against the city and its police chief Friday.

The lawsuit disputes statements SFPD Chief Greg Suhr made just days after the shooting, and supporters of the slain Alejandro Nieto are suggesting a cover-up. Attorneys for Refugio and Elvira Nieto say witnesses came forward to dispute the assertion that Nieto pointed a Taser stun gun at officers just before he was shot.

A crowd of about 150 marched from the site of Nieto’s shooting to San Francisco’s federal courthouse Friday. Protesters’ chants referenced several controversial shootings by Bay Area police and the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri that has recently dominated national news.

Nieto’s death sparked anger in San Francisco’s Mission District. He was well known in the neighborhood and a criminal justice student at City College of San Francisco where he was studying to become a juvenile probation officer. He had been an intern with the city’s probation department.

He also worked as a security guard at a nightclub near the Mission and carried a Taser for the job. Nieto stopped to eat a burrito atop the city’s Bernal Heights Park on his way to work the evening he was shot.

Someone saw the holstered Taser and called police, according to Suhr’s statements and SFPD scanner traffic from the night of the shooting.

Suhr told an angry crowd at a March 25 town hall meeting that officers approached Nieto and asked him to show his hands. He said Nieto drew his Taser, which automatically emits a laser sight. Officers only shot after they noticed the red dot “on them, tracking,” Suhr said.

“They believed it to be a firearm, and they fired at Mr. Nieto,” Suhr said. “Mr. Nieto went to the ground. He assumed a prone position, again he acquired the dot, continued to track as other officers arrived.”

Suhr said at the time Nieto was prohibited from owning a firearm “for mental health reasons,” a statement also disputed by his supporters.

Oakland-based attorneys John Burris and Adante Pointer are representing Nieto’s parents. Pointer said sustained protests in the Mission District compelled witnesses to contact their office.

“The notion that he was waving a Taser, displaying a Taser, acting out violently with this Taser in any way toward the officers just flies in the face of what independent parties have come forward to say,” Pointer said.

SFPD Chief Suhr’s March 25 community meeting stands as the most up-to-date official account of the events that culminated in Nieto’s death, but it beggars belief that the City still cites that meeting as its official version of events. The problem is not that the March 25 meeting was chaotic and emotional — which it was. The problem is that it was preliminary and unverified. In the five months that have elapsed since the meeting, its credibility has been undermined by the City’s failure to complete the medical examiner’s report in the Nieto case and the unconfirmed nature of the SFPD’s accounting of what happened on Bernal Hill during the evening of March 21.

The City and the SFPD are doing themselves no favors here.

This is Elvira and Refugio Nieto, in the right foreground, carrying a banner during Friday’s march to the Federal Courthouse. Neighbors Refugio and Elvira live on Cortland Avenue, and Alex Nieto was their son:


In the absence of a more complete and credible set of facts about the March 21 incident, it’s not hard to understand why Alex Nieto’s grieving family and friends — our Bernal neighbors — are using whatever means possible to develop their own narrative about how and why his life was taken.

PHOTOS: Alex Nieto Memorial on Friday, August 22, 2014 by Telstar Logistics

UPDATED: One Year After Tragedy, Why Are Rec and Park Vehicles Still Driving in Holly Park?




It was a tragedy when Christy Svanemyr was killed by a hit-and-run San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department vehicle in Holly Park last September. Yet if any possible good might come from such a horror, it is the knowledge that policies were put in place to ensure that such a thing will never happen again.

That probably explains why Neighbor Roger Solin became livid when he saw a Rec and Park vehicle driving through Holly Park last weekend, apparently in violation of the department’s new guidelines for operating vehicles in City parks.

This is Neighbor Roger’s open letter to Rec and Park General Manager Philip Ginsburg, D9 Supervisor David Campos, and Mayor Ed Lee:

Dear Messrs Ginsburg, Campos, Lee:

As a result of the 2013 debacle in Holly Park where a SF Parks employee ran over and killed a person, I was pleased to recently read in several local publications that Mr. Ginsburg has implemented new policies for operation of vehicles in the public park system, including, “…installation of a toward-moving aural signal,” as well as “…drivers who are alone must exit their vehicle, walk the anticipated route through the park and inform park users about the intended passage”.

I was therefore shocked, when walking through the park with my two daughters when I observed a SF Parks truck with a single employee, who drove his truck through the park, This happened on August 16, 2014 at approximately 11:10 am, when the driver did none of the following:

  • Did not use a forward-moving aural signal
  • Did not walk the anticipated route and inform park users about the intended passage.

Attached are photos documenting this most recent incident.

As a SF and Bernal Park Resident, I request to know who is accountable and responsible for this continued mishap and negligence and what steps will be taken to rectify the situation? Do we need another death in Holly Park, or perhaps some other changes?


Roger Solin,
Resident, Bernal Heights

UPDATE: 20 August, 4:45 pm - Inspired by Neighbor Roger’s example, Neighbor Jack also wrote to our City officials regarding the incident described above. He received the following response from Dennis Kern, director of operations for Rec and Park:

From: Kern, Dennis (REC)
Date: Wed, Aug 20, 2014 at 1:25 PM
Subject: FW: Continuing SF Park & Rec negligence in Holley Park
Cc: “Ginsburg, Phil (REC)”, “Campos, David (BOS)”, “Lee, Edwin (Mayor)

Dear [Jack] –

I am responding on behalf of our General Manager, Phil Ginsburg, to your e-mail supporting Mr. Roger Solin’s recent e-mail regarding vehicle operations in Holly Park. Attached below is Department’s response to Mr. Solin.

Thank you for your interest in our parks. I hope that this information is helpful.

Dennis Kern
Director of Operations
SF Recreation & Parks


From: Kern, Dennis (REC)
Sent: Monday, August 18, 2014 4:40 PM
To: Roger Solin
Cc: Ballard, Sarah (REC); Chan, Connie (REC); Ginsburg, Phil (REC); Campos, David (BOS); Lee, Edwin (Mayor) (ADM)
Subject: FW: Continuing SF Park & Rec negligence in Holley Park

Dear Mr. Solin,

Thank you for your recent e-mail regarding your concern for vehicle operations within our parks. We immediately log all such communications when received, investigate what occurred, and take appropriate action. I am responding on behalf of Phil Ginsburg, our General Manager, to your recent e-mail regarding vehicle operations within our parks.

We take the issue of safe vehicle operation in parks very seriously and — as you mention — last year we instituted new policies for vehicle operations within our parks as we perform our park maintenance mission. I have looked into your description of your observation of our maintenance worker and his vehicle in Holly Park this past Saturday and can provide you the following information:

* Our Vehicle Operations Policy requires all staff to operate vehicles within parks on paved access roads to the maximum extent possible. When doing so, the driver is to maintain a maximum speed of 5mph or no faster than a person can comfortably walk. The use of a spotter or the requirement for the driver to walk the intended route of travel is only required by our policy when the vehicle must leave a paved access road and travel over unprepared surface (e.g., grass) to perform the required maintenance. In the photos that you provided with your observation, all photos show the vehicle to be on the paved access road in Holly Park. Further, a check of our GPS records for this vehicle at the time in question show that the vehicle’s speed while in Holly Park was 3mph. This being the case, our driver operated his vehicle in full compliance with our Vehicle Operations Policy.

* In your e-mail, you point out that this vehicle did not utilize a forward-moving aural signal. Your are correct. This vehicle does not yet have the new signaling device installed. Due to the size of our fleet (over 600 pieces of rolling stock), we are installing these new aural signals in vehicles in phases. This particular truck is scheduled to have its aural signal device installed within the next month.

Thank you for your interest in our parks and bringing your concern to our attention. I hope that this additional information is helpful and that you and your family continue to enjoy Holly Park and all of our beautiful San Francisco parks.

Dennis Kern
Director of Operations
SF Recreation & Parks

PHOTOS: Rec and Park vehicle in Holly Park on August 16, 2014, by Roger Solin

Bernal Neighbor’s Essay Ponders Housing Prices, Public Policy, and the Future of San Francisco’s Middle Class


Neighbor Hina Shah is associate professor at the Golden Gate University School of Law. She rents in the La Lengua Autonomous Zone, on 29th at Mission — for the moment. Her housing situation has been stressful, and she wrote about that, and some possible solutions, in last Friday’s Chronicle:

The discussion about the housing crisis has focused exclusively on how the burgeoning tech industry is affecting low-income residents. However, middle-class, moderate-income families like mine are also being squeezed out of the city.

My family lives in a non-rent-controlled unit in the Mission-Bernal Heights district. My husband and I moved into our apartment 10 years ago, when we were still dating. Since then, we got married and had two children. When it was time for our daughter to go to elementary school, we chose our neighborhood public school. We occasionally considered buying a place but, with our incomes as nonprofit and public-sector workers, owning seemed like a financial stretch.

In January, however, our commitment to raising our children in the city was severely tested. We were notified that our rent would increase by $600 a month.

So what is to be done? Neighbor Hina proposes:

To ensure economic diversity in our communities, the city must embrace nonmarket solutions, such as:

Increase city-owned land that can be developed into subsidized housing for all income levels. Vienna offers an excellent model for how San Francisco could be a major player in social housing. In Vienna, the city controls 25 percent of the housing stock and indirectly controls another quarter of housing built and owned by limited-profit, private developers. Housing cannot be controlled solely by the private market, as irrational exuberance is once again overvaluing housing and pushing long-term residents out of the city. Here in San Francisco, the city must become a key player by owning and managing housing stock.

San Francisco’s Housing Trust Fund should be used to build affordable housing units, with a mix of diverse price points, limited equity units and rental units.

Induce tech giants such as Google to invest in community land trusts or other funds to help build more affordable housing. Google’s recent gift to fund free Muni passes for youth for two years is inconsequential. The public and the city officials who represent us should demand more from our tech neighbors.

Preserve and expand rent control: Units constructed after 1979 (like mine) are exempt from rent control. The state’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act exempts from rent control single-family homes and condominiums where the tenancy began on or after January 1996. The act also removed vacancy controls, allowing landlords to set new rents when a unit becomes vacant.

Change the Ellis Act to stop speculator evictions of rent-controlled tenants. Preserving and expanding rent control will need full public engagement and the city’s muscle, as it did in 1979 when the city passed emergency legislation to stem the tide of quadrupling rents in the Mission District.

There’s a lot to consider in all this, so discuss in the comments if you’re so inclined.

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics