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

bernalsirenWAAA

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

Sexy New Parklet Completed In Front of VinoRosso on Cortland

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newparklet1

A few weeks ago, I noticed that construction had started on the new (and mildly controversial) parklet on Cortland Avenue at Anderson, right in front of VinoRosso Enoteca and the Inclusions Gallery.

Last weekend I noticed that construction was complete, and the parklet was already in use. Though last weekend’s warm weather certainly helped, the sidewalk scene in the new parklet night was booming. Very chic. Ridiculously glamorous. Rather cosmopolitan.

Opinions may vary, but I’m innnnnterested to see how/if this new parklet will influence Cortlandia’s robust social ecology.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Hey Muni, We Need a Bus to Dogpatch & 22nd Street Caltrain via Cesar Chavez

Cesar_Chavez_routeWANT

Neighbor Mark lives on Alabama Street in Bernal Heights. He’s not a transit planner, but he’s a transit rider, and he sees a gaping hole in Muni’s bus service along Cesar Chavez Boulevard to the (booming) 22nd Street Caltrain Station.

To remedy this, Neighbor Mark wants MUNI to create revive a bus line that goes from Noe Valley to Dogpatch via Cesar Chavez. Here’s his modest proposal:

There isn’t very much industry along the eastern part of Cesar Chavez, east of Hwy. 101, anymore. But there are two big reasons for a line that goes along Cesar Chavez to Third Street and thence to the 22nd St. Caltrain station.

First, Yellow Cab and FedEx drivers could take the bus to their workplaces, which are within a block of this stretch of Cesar Chavez. But primarily, Caltrain has become an essential way for SIlicon Valley workers to get to their jobs. Catrain ridership is at historic highs, and 1500 workers now board Caltrain at 22nd St. every morning, headed for points south.

Right now, there’s no easy way to get to the 22nd Street Station. Yes, you can take the 48-Quintara down 24th St. and over the hill, but this takes a very long time. It would be so much quicker for the bus to head down our remade Cesar Chavez, bypassing Potrero Hill, making a turn at Third St., and heading straight for the station. I’ll bet it would save at least 15 minutes vs. a comparable trip on the 48.

You could start the route at Castro and 26th, or (as I have it) at Church and Cesar Chavez to connect with the J-Church.

Curious as to whether Muni ever had a line down Cesar Chavez, I looked around and found a 1947 Muni map posted by Eric Fischer.

Sure enough, this map shows that a 54M bus began at Castro and 26th, went down 26th and Army Streets all the way to the very end of Army, east of Third Street. Here’s a highlighted version of the 54 line from that 1947 route map:

muni1947.54lineE

As a recovering Caltrain/22nd Street commuter, your Bernalwood editor would like to second Neighbor Mark’s proposal.

Muni, let’s do this.

Hard Hat Chic: Groundbreaking Begins New St. Luke’s Hospital Construction Effort

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Newstlukes

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There was a fashionable groundbreaking ceremony last Friday to mark the (long-debated) start of construction of the new California Pacific Medical Center facility on the grounds of  St. Luke’s Hospital at Cesar Chavez near Valencia — Bernal’s home-team hospital.

The San Francisco Appeal covered the event:

The new state-of-the-art hospital will be constructed adjacent to the old hospital on San Jose Avenue just south of Cesar Chavez Street, CPMC spokesman Dean Frye said.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee attended [Friday's] groundbreaking ceremony and dug out a symbolic shovel full of dirt. He said via Twitter that the project will provide a “new seismically safe hospital and year-round jobs for #SF residents.”

CPMC chief executive officer Warren Browner joined the mayor and members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to celebrate construction of the new St. Luke’s campus, which will begin in October, Frye said.

The new hospital comes after years of negotiations, including a 2012 development agreement that was shelved by members of the city’s Board of Supervisors, in part because of concerns over an escape clause that could have let CPMC close St. Luke’s hospital if its operating margin stayed negative for two straight years.

The new deal hashed out in 2013 omitted the escape clause, required that at least 30 percent of construction jobs go to San Francisco residents, and included higher contributions by the hospital group to the city for charity care.

The new St. Luke’s facility is scheduled to open in 2019, at which point the existing hospital building will be demolished. No major disruption in hospital services is anticipated along the way.

History buffs will note that St. Luke’s was also the site of the original Jose Cornelio Bernal homestead (which sat on the north side of present-day Duncan),  so it’s good to see a new chapter beginning, at last, on this hallowed patch of Bernal Heights ground.

IMAGES: Top: Mayor Ed Lee at St. Luke’s groundbreaking, via @mayoredlee. Rendering of new St. Luke’s Hospital, via CPMC. Jose Bernal house map via Burrito Justice.

Call Me a YIMFY: New 160-Unit Housing Development Proposed for Full Block of Cesar Chavez at South Van Ness

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NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect additional detail about the properties involved (and not involved) in the Lennar housing proposal.

At a time of remarkable economic prosperity and intense housing scarcity, there comes a moment when even the most ardent urbanist must confront their own deepest and most self-interested feelings about change, development, and the clash of old vs. new.

For your Bernalwood editor, that moment would seem to be just about now.

News has reached us that the gigantically impersonal Lennar Corporation has announced plans to develop an most of entire block of Cesar Chavez Boulevard, between South Van Ness, Shotwell, and 26th Street. Under the plan, the site will become the location for 160 units of new housing in a very large new residential development.

This block, which was once home to the former Lesher-Muirhead Oldsmobile dealership, is now occupied McMillan Electric, a few smog inspection shop, a private garage,  a rather glamorous Auto Zone, and John’s ridiculously charming British car repair businesses (though not all of these would be demolished; see update below):

John's Jaguar

Closer to home, this vast new housing complex will stand right between me and the beloved view of downtown San Francisco that Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter now enjoys from her bedroom window.

Here’s our current perspective on the proposed development site, as seen from my home:

lennarview2x

SocketSite broke the news late last week:

Lennar Urban has filed a proposal to raze the McMillan Electric building at 1515 South Van Ness Avenue, between 26th and Cesar Chavez, with plans to construct a 160-unit apartment building on the Inner Mission site which stretches to Shotwell.

As proposed, the six-story development would rise to a height of 65-feet along South Van Ness, stepping down along 26th Street to five stories and a height of 55-feet along Shotwell.  And twelve (12) percent of the 160 units would be designated as below market rate.

Aside from a proposed 1,740 square foot commercial space on the corner of South Van Ness and 26th Street, the rest of the development’s ground floor would consist of either apartments or programming for the project, including a leasing office, an amenities room for the residents and a private 7,803 square-foot courtyard.

An underground garage would provide parking for 90 cars and the average size of an apartment as designed is around 890 square feet.

Well, if this is the moment when my values and interests are tested, then sign me up me a YIMFY‚ as in Yes In My Front Yard.

I hope the new building doesn’t gobble up all of our view. But if it does, well… so it goes. That view wasn’t mine in the first place, we desperately need more housing supply, and this is an ideal location for it.

There are no proposed designs yet, but you can read the Preliminary Project Assessment (PPA) on file with with the Planning Department right here to get the details of the proposal.

Will there be quibbles? Things to dislike? Details to revise and improve? Of course. But overall, my personal sentiment is… BUILD IT!!

Neighbor Rachel wrote to Bernalwood about this proposal, and she has more specific concerns:

I’m not opposed in principle to development and this lot is pretty disgusting right now. I just think that developers who are proposing a project of this size with huge profit potential, which will take up scarce parking spaces, block views (or the sky in my case), cause noise and disruption for years, spew toxic chemicals into the atmosphere (maybe), and otherwise tax the neighborhood resources and patience, need to include lots of give-backs in their plans that will help the neighborhood.

These give-backs must go beyond the bare minimum. The commercial space should serve the hood by providing needed retail outlets and space for local businesses. The street-scaping should beautify the whole area, not just the sidewalks adjacent to the building. The set-backs should be appropriate for the neighborhood. A good solution for parking for all of the new residents should be found that doesn’t cause more strain on the existing neighbors. And more. If we just let the project go ahead without making any noise, then the developers will give no more than they are required to give by law, if that. They are counting on the neighborhood remaining ignorant and apathetic.

No doubt, there will be much to discuss about this in the weeks and months ahead. Still, until further notice, you may count me in the YIMFY camp.

UPDATE AND CLARIFICATION: It seems that the proposed development may not occupy the entire block after all. Bernalwood received this note from Dan Simpson, the manager at John’s British Car Specialist:

I read your blog post about the proposed apartment complex to be constructed at the McMillan Electric building. I hope you will be happy to hear, as it stands, the John’s British Car Specialist (formerly John’s Jaguar Service) building shall remain at the face of Cesar Chavez and Shotwell St. The planned development would knock down the 3 units behind our building. These units have already been sold to the city, our building remains with the original owner. So we hope to stay here as long as we can!

To further clarify: The AutoZone parcel is not part of the proposed development, nor is the building that contains John’s British Car Specialist. This latter detail is confusing, because while the big building that contains John’s looks continuous, it is actually two structurally separate buildings united by a common roof. So while John’s building would stay, the garages north of it would become part of the Lennar development.

And lo, hidden in plain sight at the very end of the PPA document, Dan steered us toward this diagram of the proposed building configuration (shown in blue outline). The proposed courtyard would sit in the southeast corner of the site, along Shotwell right behind John’s British Car Specialist:

SVNsiteplan2

Still unclear, however, is the question of whether the City plans to do a separate bel0w-market-rate development on the site of the garage spaces behind John’s British Car, or if that land is somehow tied up with the Lennar proposal.

IMAGES: Top, Google Earth Pro. Below, view from the bedroom, by Telstar Logistics 

Extremely Sexy, Extremely Short Raised Bikeway Coming to Part of Our Part of Valencia Street

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As we all know, infrastructure is sexy.

Not the building and construction part… that’s a big honking mess. But when it’s done, infrastructure represents an investment in our collective future, which is why Bernalwood is always glad to learn about new infrastructure projects coming to our humble corner of the citysphere. Extra credit when the new infrastructure is the first of its kind.

Recently, the City unveiled a plan to build some particularly sexy new infrastructure along the La Lengua stretch of Valencia Street, between Mission and Cesar Chavez, alongside St. Luke’s Hospital. Its all part of that proposal to improve the sewer system and streetscape for that segment of Valenica, which we told you about a year ago. Well, now the design has solidified, and it includes a plan to create a Scandinavian-style raised pathway for bicycles that will be insanely cool and the first of it’s kind in San Francisco. But oddly, this completely cool new raised bikeway will only extend along part of the La Lengua stretch of Valencia Street, between Duncan and Cesar Chavez — which isn’t very big in the first place.

In other words… for one block

Let’s visualize the proposed elevated bikeway site, using the futuristic Google Earth Pro map tool thingy that Neighbor Vanessa generously provided to Bernalwood. Shall we?

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As you can see… Infrastructure! Sexy! First of its kind! The best bikeway in all of San Francisco! But just not very much of it. Hmm.

Here’s what the San Francisco Bike Coalition said about the project:

San Francisco is set to get its first raised bikeway next year! The showcase bikeway is part of the Mission/Valencia Gateway project and will stretch southbound on Valencia Street from Cesar Chavez Street to Duncan Street. This one-block bikeway heralds a completely new type of bicycle infrastructure to our city, one that will become more common in the next few years, as raised bikeways are integrated into the Masonic Avenue and 2nd Street projects.

Raised bikeways are common in great bicycling cities like Copenhagen, but relatively new in the United States. Raised bikeways create a protected bikeway without bollards or barriers, instead building the bikeway at an intermediate level between the sidewalk and roadway.Learn more about raised bikeways and see designs here. 

The raised bikeway is an unexpected but very welcome enhancement to the Mission Valencia Green Gateway project, which wrapped up public outreach last year after three community open houses as well as feedback from hundreds of neighbors and SF Bicycle Coalition members. In addition to the raised bikeway, the final project design also includes wider sidewalks, permeable pavement and two new plazas, one at Mission and Valencia and a smaller one at Duncan and Valencia.

So when this sexy new bikeway is completed sometime in mid-2016, it may herald the beginning of a much larger elevated bikeway network that could extend… all the way across Cesar Chavez! Someday! Or maybe it will even extend all the way to the fabled Southern Crossing. Someday!

In the meantime, come mid-2016, if you want to make the new bikeway feel more substantial, you can simply ride back and forth along it a few times, very slowly. Go back and forth six times, and you’ll cover about a mile. Do that while listening to ABBA on your headphones, and you may even begin to feel like you’re in Scandinavia. So sexy!!!

IMAGE: Elevated bikeway rendering via NACTO

Scenes from the Great 2014 Bernal Heights Mini-Blackout

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There was a power outage last night in some parts of Bernal Heights. Streets were dark in many areas of Bernal, but Twitter lit up as our neighbors huddled over their mobile devices for succor and social-sharing. Neighbor Carlo filed the first report at 11 pm:

PG&E provided this well-intentioned but not particularly accurate map of the blackout area:

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The map says my house should have been dark, but the lights were still on throughout.

Not so much for Neighbor Willa, however. But she used the situation to create a romantic atmosphere:

Neighbor Ros turned her blackened home into a spa:

Bernal celebrity rockstar Jeremy Passion had no juice at his house (“just like us!”), so he had to be extra-creative to make music:

Neighbor Chuck had electricity, which he used to gloat about his south Bernal microhood:

Glen Park had power but Bernal did not, so some of our neighbors to the southwest considered launching an invasion under cover of darkness:

Upon hearing this, the Bernalwood Intelligence Agency rallied to activate our devilishly effective Eye of Sautrito defense system:

Unfortunately, Neighbor Joe reported the blackout had exposed a serious gap in our defenses:

Your Bernalwood editor decided to step outside to assess the situation. The photo at the top of this post shows the view looking south up Bernal Hill from Folsom, at the corner of Bessie. That’s Hillside Supper Club on the left. Notice the candles burning inside? So cozy! We wandered in to chat with Chef Tony Ferrari.

There was a big party gathered around the candle-lit table, and Chef Tony was in fine spirits — although he worried that his freezers could be vulnerable if the blackout lasted a long time. But then, as we were talking… the lights came back on! (Whew!)

Others reported the same:

But not everyone was so lucky. Apparently, the blackout then spread to Cortlandia:

https://twitter.com/RachelRockaway/status/506704760624676864

And this morning, Neighbor Nancy was still without power:

PHOTO: Folsom at Bessie, looking south up Bernal Hill during last night’s blackout, by Telstar Logistics