Saturday: Share Your Memories of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake

Crowds in Candlestick Park after the earthquake

Where were you when the last big earthquake struck?

On Saturday afternoon from 2 – 4 pm at the Bernal Heights Library, the Bernal Heights History Project and the SF Public Library are hosting a jello-fueled earthquake event called “Shaken Not Stirred: Your Story 25 Years Later”

It’s a neighborly remembrance of the October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Share your earthquake stories. Learn how to prepare for the Next Big One. Talk about your deep fondness for chert in a supportive, like-minded environment.

The Bernal History Project brings this announcement:

In tandem with our friends at the Bernal Heights Branch Library, we’re proud to present “Shaken But Not Stirred: Remembering the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake”on Saturday, October 18. We want to hear what you remember about the earthquake that hit the Bay Area on October 17, 1989!

Come to the library at 2 p.m. for an extended slideshow of historical images of San Francisco earthquakes and earthquake refugee cottages (a large number of which survive in Bernal) in the downstairs meeting room.

We’ll give you a replica Red Cross meal ticket you can exchange for a Jell-O treat (our favorite shaky quakey snack!), and then you can visit a “ghost” refugee cottage and take a shelter selfie. We’ll be inviting kids of all ages to build shake-proof houses out of Legos. Meanwhile, SFPL volunteers will be standing by to record your memories of the Loma Prieta earthquake for our archives. We’ll have representatives from San Francisco Fire Department Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) on hand to talk about earthquake preparedness and what you need to do to be ready for the next big quake — because you know it’s going to come someday.

Shaken-not-Stirred-final

PHOTO: Top, Candlestick Park on October 17, 1989, shortly after the earthquake. 

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:

bernalstockyards1889edit

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:

thecall1893banner

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

Then and Now: 90 Years of Auto Biz at the Former Mission Chevrolet Dealership

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Recently, Bernalwood noticed a big For Sale/Lease sign on the facade of our locavore auto partsmonger, the stylish O’Reilly store on Mission at Precita.

More changes, afoot?  Perhaps. Eventually. Inevitably. Because change is the only constant.

Come what may, the thing to remember about this particular building is that it was originally constructed in the late 1920’s as the showroom for Mission Chevrolet, an automobile dealership established during the early years of the motorcar revolution, at a time when this corner of Bernal Heights was making a dramatic transition from equine industries to internal combustion.

Here’s the location of today’s O’Reilly store, as seen in 1927 on Mission Street looking north at Precita:

MissionChevrolet2

Mission Chevrolet was still under construction in left-center of the image, so let’s zoom and enhance to take a closer look at the facade. The Chevrolet bow tie sign is clearly visible, just to the right of the Delicatessen Grill (which is now home to Virgil’s):

MissionChevrolet2x

It’s nifty to see the front of the old Chevy dealership. But the back side of the building was way cooler.

The front door to the Mission Chevrolet showroom was on Mission Street, but the Service entrance was on Valencia, just south of Army/Cesar Chavez. This contemporary aerial photograph from the Bernalwood Intelligence Agency makes the building’s configuration clear to see:

MissionChevroletAerial

Now, here’s what Mission Chevrolet’s Valencia facade looked like in the late 1920s, courtesy of a photo from the Bernal History Project:

missionchevrolet

Again, let’s zoom and enhance:

missionchevrolet.detail

First. OMG! Look at Bernal Hill in the background. So naked and soooo cuuuuute! No Sutrito Tower. No trees. No party hat!

In the 1920s photo of the Valencia side, some of the architectural details are a little hard to distinguish. But they’re easy to visualize… because they’re still there today! Here’s the same spot, in 2014:

missionchevy2014

The flagpole remains on the far right side of the building, as well as the Spanish-style roof, and the arches from the original entrances. But the coolest detail is the bas–relief roundel right above the arches. The reliefs are still there, and if you look closely, you can still see a Chevrolet from the late 1920s embedded in the facade:

chevdetail

It’s a fun element, because it’s a representation of a late 1920s Chevrolet that’s baked into the building facade, rather like a bug in amber.

Picture it: Here’s what you’d get for your hard-earned Bernal dollars if you wandered down to Mission Chevrolet in 1928.

1928 Chevrolet Ad

 

Jack London Lived in Bernal Heights Before He Was Cool

Jack-London.bernalwood2

You might have noticed that Bernal Heights is today home to a rather impressive roster of fabulous writers and authors. All Bernalese can feel justifiably proud of our rich literary landscape, but Bernal Heights has been fertile ground for writerly genius for well over 120 years. For example, thanks to some impressive new research published by La Lengua’s rebel propagandist Burrito Justice, we now know Jack London once lived in Bernal Heights.

Yes, you read that correctly: Jack London once lived in Bernal Heights.

Okay, so Jack London was just one year old when he called Bernal home, and he didn’t live here for for long. Nevertheless, his later success provides clear proof that there’s something in the air in Bernal Heights that nurtures literary excellence.

Burrito Justice points to an excerpt from Irving Stone’s 1903 biography of Jack London:

londonexcerpt2

(Side Note: Jenny Prentiss does not appear to be the namesake for the Prentiss Street in Bernal today. That Prentiss was likely the Civil War hero General Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss.)

Anyway, if Jack London lived in Bernal Heights, Burrito Justice moves on to the obvious question:

But where in Bernal? Jack London was born on January 12, 1876, and John London married his mother either in September 1876 or February 1877.

The 1878 SF city directory gives a potential answer:

1878-john-london-precita5

Jack’s adopted father was John London, a Union veteran who married Jack’s mother Flora after Jack’s birth. But there are two John Londons! Which one? Also, how does 27th meet up with Harrison? And where is Gunnison Ave and Precita? And how does 28th have anything to do with Precita?

After some further sleuthing, we learn that Gunnison Avenue in Bernal Heights was a short stretch between Precita and Ripley that was contiguous with Harrison Street — until  1895 when it was renamed Harrison. But in this 1889 map, for example, the street was still called Gunnison Ave:

1889-bernal-gunnison2

So baby Jack London lived somewhere just south of Precita Park, along present-day Harrison Street, which today maps out like this:

moderngunnison

That’s just a quick summary of the evidence, but Burrito Justice dug up lots of fun stories and maps and historical geekery to identify where Baby Jack London lived when he lived in Bernal Heights. It’s fascinating stuff, and he did all the homework, so you absolutely must read the entire story on the Burrito Justice blog.

And from here on out, whenever you see some snot-nosed toddler being pushed around Precita Park in a stroller, just remember: That kid might just might turn out to be Bernal’s next Jack London.

IMAGES: Historical maps and text excerpts via Burrito Justice

San Francisco of the Early 1990s Is Alive and Well and Open for Business at Thrillhouse Records

thrillhouse2

Amid all the current whinging about gentrification, The Change, tech buses, and coffee boutiques, it’s good to know the “real” San Francisco of bohemian memory is alive and well — if you know where to look for it.

Thrillhouse Records is such a place. Hiding in plain sight on Mission Street at Kingston right here in Bernal Heights, Thrillhouse is an enduring monument to underground San Francisco, circa 1991.

Want to know what counterculture looked like in the analog days before Tim Berners-Lee unleashed his Prometheus on our unsuspecting planet? What were the sensibilities of a young and alienated generation in an age of ascendant Reaganism, cassette tapes, and desktop publishing euphoria? What were the totems and signifiers of this edgy, halcyon time?

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What did it look like?  What did it smell like??

Wonder no more: It looked and smelled exactly like Thrillhouse Records.

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BONUS: This is what Reddit looked like way back then:

thrillhouse1

A woman named Caitlin was behind the counter when Bernalwood visited Thrillhouse on a recent afternoon, and she told us that the place is run by volunteers. They’re open from noon to 8 pm on most days, unless things are really really slow, in which case they may close a little earlier.  Stop by soon, before the 21st century reasserts itself.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

After That Earthquake, Have You Hugged Bernal’s Chert Today?

chertislove2

Last weekend’s dramatic 6.0 earthquake was centered around American Canyon, but it caused substantial damage in the nearby town of Napa. Get well soon, drinky Wine Country neighbors!

But did you feel the quake here in Bernal when the earth shook at 3:20 am? The answer to that question seems to vary depending on a) the precise location of your home, and b) how heavy (or light) a sleeper you are, and c) if you have dogs.

Regardless, this earthquake provided a vivid demonstration of the importance of personal earthquake preparedness, and even better, NERT training.

It also provides yet another opportunity for all Bernalese to give thanks for the blessed chert that has endowed our neighborhood with such a stable foundation of earthquake-resistant bedrock. As Julian Lozos, our Senior Seismologist, previously explained:

Geologically speaking, Bernalwood is actually closer to the San Andreas than downtown, but the solid chert bedrock that makes up Bernal Hill didn’t shake nearly as hard as the soft sediment and artificial fill of the Financial District, Mission, or SoMa. That same chert explains why Bernal residents often miss smaller quakes that rattle people in other parts of the City.

(SIDE NOTE: If you’re not following Julian on Twitter, you’re missing his awesome guided tour of last weekend’s quake.)

But what exactly is this blessed chert, for which we all should be so grateful? Where did it come from? And how did it end up in Bernal Heights? Here’s a basic 411 on chert from Gelology.com:

Chert can form when microcrystals of silicon dioxide grow within soft sediments that will become limestone or chalk. In these sediments, enormous numbers of silicon dioxide microcrystals grow into irregularly-shaped nodules or concretions as dissolved silica is transported to the formation site by the movement of ground water. If the nodules or concretions are numerous they can enlarge and merge with one another to form a nearly continuous layer of chert within the sediment mass. Chert formed in this manner is a chemical sedimentary rock.

Some of the silicon dioxide in chert is thought to have a biological origin. In some oceans and shallow seas large numbers of diatoms and radiolarians live in the water. These organisms have a glassy silica skeleton. Some sponges also produce “spicules” that are composed of silica. When these organisms die their silica skeletons fall to the bottom, dissolve, recrystallize and might become part of a chert nodule or chert layer. Chert formed in this way could be considered a biological sedimentary rock.

Bernal’s chert is a local type called (…wait for it...) Franciscan chert, and Franciscan chert comes from compacted sediments formed by zillions and zillions of  tiny protozoa critter skeletons. Over the course of zillions and zillions of years, these sentiments hardened into layers on the bottom of the ocean, and today those layers are clearly visible in the cross-section of our chert.

The Wikipedia page for Bernal Hill explains how our chert became our hill, and why it’s that stylish reddish color:

Bernal Hill, along with the other hills in the San Francisco area, is a folded hill, created by the “wrinkling up” effect of the Pacific plate subducting under the North American plate, when the North American and Pacific plates were converging, around 150 million years ago. Near the summit you will find folded layers of very hard rock called radiolarian chert. It is a sedimentary sillicate rock which gets its sillica content from the shells of microscopic creatures called radiolaria. The red color comes from iron oxide.

So that’s how Bernal ended up with all our chert, and how it got its coloring. And here’s how our chert is distributed, as seen through the spiffy Google Earth Geology layer:

bernalgeology4

 

The red areas are Franciscan chert, purple is Franciscan volcanic rock, green is Franciscan serpentine rock, blue is Great Valley serpentine rock, and yellow is rock fragments in the form of hillslope deposits. The yellow-gray and lighter yellow are alluvium soil. The light gray is (eek!) artificial fill.

Here’s the reverse angle, looking at Bernal Hill from the north:

Bernalgeology.northview

As Julian explained a little while back, our beloved chert anchors Bernal Heights and absorbs much of the energy created by seismic waves.  So if you happen to be on Bernal Hill in the next few days, go ahead and find one of our rakish exposed chert formations. Then, approach the chert reverently, and give it a big wet kiss. Someday, the home that chert saves could be your own.

PHOTO: Chert on Bernal Hill, by Telstar Logistics

This Is What Bernal Heights Looks Like from Atop Sutro Tower

BernalfromSutroE

Every citizen of Bernalwood knows what it’s like to gaze out to the west from Bernal Hill and feel the sculptural, sci-fi presence of Sutro Tower standing proud above the City, Twin Peaks, and even Karl the Fog. For example, yesterday.

But have you ever wondered what it’s like to stand on Sutro Tower and look back at Bernal Hill?

Well, now you know, courtesy of the screengrab image above. From way up there, we look… unbig.

Earlier this month, the ever-awesome Exploratorium released a short documentary that provides a very satisfyingly geeky tour of the Sutro Tower complex, as well as lots of satisfyingly geeky history about how the tower works and how it came to be.

Of particular note to local YIMBYs will be the section at the end where the Sutro Tower spokesman considers the structure in the broader context of San Francisco’s other landmarks— while backhandedly suggesting that each generation’s Enemies of Progress should get over themselves:

“Everything that gets built in San Francisco is generally a problem when it gets built. The Transamerica Pyramid, certainly, and Sutro Tower very soon thereafter. Both have become icons of the City. People opposed the Golden Gate Bridge when it was built. But over time, people come to recognize it, and cherish it, and it’s become an icon and a real symbol of the City.”

Amen, and Hail Lord Sutro!

Here’s the video. The Bernal Hill cameo comes at around 02:15…