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


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:


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):


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:


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


Again, let’s zoom and enhance:


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:


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:


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


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

What Is the Mysterious, Reverberating Sound We Hear in North Bernal?


This week, several residents of Precitaville have heard a strange, deep-throated rumbling sound echoing through the air.

It’s been a topic of discussion in various neighborhood mailing lists — and Bernalwood’s inbox.

Indeed, your Bernalwood editor has actually heard the sound a few times as well. Personally, I thought it sounded like a very large diesel engine at idle, or a massive extraterrestrial spacecraft hovering over Bernal Hill. Or, at least, what I imagine a massive extraterrestrial spacecraft would sound like, if it was hovering over Bernal Hill.

Yesterday Neighbor John wrote to Bernalwood:

Does anybody know what that rumbling sound is?  I’ve heard it for a couple of days now, runs through the night too.  Weird.

Neighbor Linda heard it again this morning:

The noise is back. Time for some sleuthing.

As far as I can tell, it started on Monday afternoon/evening and continued until Tuesday morning. It started again Tuesday around noon, but quieter. I’m going to attribute that to the weird atmospheric noise bounce we get sometimes (remember Beyonce?). It’s also possible it was going the entire time and I just didn’t hear it.

Right now it’s loud and clear.

I can’t figure out where it’s coming from.

Yesterday evening I set out to figure it out. I walked Bessie to Precita to Shotwell, across to Cesar Chavez, down Cesar Chavez to Folsom, all around St. Anthony’s, up Folsom to Precita to Flynn school, and down Harrison to Cesar Chavez. Most of the time it was really quiet and of course the noise from Cesar Chavez made it inaudible. But when I crossed the pathway in the park I could hear it distinctly on Precita between Treat and Harrison.

I gave up and went home. Based on this I’m guessing it’s coming from the other side of Cesar Chavez, maybe down Harrison. I might try to drive around later but don’t have much time.

Maybe an intrepid reader of Bernalwood knows what this strange sound is.

Neighbor John says it sounds familiar:

Back before the Iraq invasion, the Navy did lots of training on the Bay. Might be the same. Seaborne pilot rescue. As I recall, they were doing some kind of mine clearing operations back in ’02 that had those big Sea Stallion helicopters dragging some kind of device thru water. Sound carries real well over water. Might be it.

I had a somewhat similar thought; that the noise might somehow be connected to Fleet Week, which happens this weekend. Or, possibly, the arrival of the amphibious assault ship USS America in town on Monday morning, which could validate Neighbor John’s Navy helicopters-at-sea-level theory.

Neighbor Andy was on the scene to report the USS America’s arrival:

So, maybe that?

Or, a massive extraterrestrial spacecraft hovering over Bernal Hill. Possibly with a cloaking device.

UPDATE 5;17 pm: Neighbor Rusty did some field research, and he thinks the noise is definitely coming from the USS America:

I’m 99% certain it’s the USS America (LHA-6) which is docked at the end of Bryant street at Pier 32. It’s the same sonic signature that I hear from north Bernal. I drove down to Mission Rock and could hear it coming from the direction of the Bay Bridge. Drove down the Embarcadero and sure enough the sound was quite apparent over the sound of traffic right in front of where LHA-6 was docked.

Here’s a visual of USS America here, now, courtesy of Raul:

USS America (LHA-6)

And, a corroborating video!

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

This Is the Tasty New Wine Book by Bernal Oenophile Alder Yarrow


A while back, we told you about the book that celebrity oenophile (and Bernal Heights neighbor) Alder Yarrow was working on:

Neighbor Alder Yarrow is the founder and editor of the famous Vinography wine blog, and he’s launched a Kickstarter campaign to secure pre-orders for a coffee table book called “The Essence of Wine.”

Well now the fundraising is done, the words have been written, the pages have been proofed, and copies have been printed. Neighbor Alder’s book is finished, and wouldn’t you know it… it pairs nicely with a good glass of vino.

Here’s what the literary foodies from Omnivore Books in Noe Valley had say about it:

Alder Yarrow is widely regarded as the original and most influential wine blogger on the Internet. His award-winning site, Vinography, has been around for nearly 11 years, and in 2011, he was a finalist for the James Beard journalism award. Now after more than a decade online, Yarrow has turned his attention to print, marrying his eye for design and penchant for poetic writing into a 150-page hardcover coffee table book that celebrates the singular flavors and aromas found in wine.

Bernalwood got a taste of the book. We noticed that the layouts are sophisticated and well-balanced, with hints of exotic flavor:


The photography is bold and exuberant, with earthy notes:


Plus, with only 78 days remaining until Christmas, you may want to pick up a copy of “The Essence of Wine” for that special oenophile in your life. You can buy the book here, and don’t hesitate to boast that the author just happens to be one of your Bernal Heights neighbors.


IMAGES: Courtesy of Alder Yarrow


Sexy New Parklet Completed In Front of VinoRosso on Cortland



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