Bel, the New Belgian-Style Gastropub, Now Open on Mission

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Belgian beer lovers and moules frites fans rejoice! Inside Scoop brings the news that Bel has at last opened for business at 3215 Mission Street near Valencia. They write:

Some foods were just made to go with beer. This is nothing new to Richard Rosen and Jennifer Garris, the team behind the Mission’s craft beer and pizza joint, Pi Bar.

With the opening their brand new Bernal Heights’ gastropub, Bel, the pair are at it again — this time, tackling the beers and foods of Belgium. Located in the former Locavore space on Mission, at Valencia Street, the restaurant opened its doors Sunday night (5/25).

On the beer front, expect a range of saison, Trappist, sours and fruit beers, among others. According to Garris, of the twelve drafts, four will be dedicated to a rotating roster of Belgian beers. Also available, a variety of California-made Belgian-style brews and a bottle list of about 45 Belgian bottles. Wines will be mostly French and German. (The full drink list is online.)

Rosen’s menu, which is comprised of small and large plates, looks promising, and of course, includes an obligatory interpretation of moules frites. Other classic Belgian offerings include a Ghent-style fish chowder made with prawns, mussels and cod called seafood waterzooi and carbonades flamandes — a dish made with beef brisket and Flemish sour beer, Rodenbach. On the side, in addition to frites, you’ll find a chiffonade of Brussels sprouts and a Belgian endive gratin.

Here’s the menu.

Oh, and be advised, Bel has even installed their very own Manneken Pis. What’s a Manneken Pis? Apparently, that’s Belgian for this fella:

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PHOTOS: via Bel

Bernal Filmmakers Successfully Complete Fundraising Drive, But Still Need Our Help

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They did it! Bernal neighbors Joe Talbot and Jimmie Fails pulled it off!

During the last few weeks, they blew out their goal and raised more than $59,000 on Kickstarter to produce their oh-so-promising feature-length film, The Last Black Man in San Francisco. Woo hoo!

But now that they’ve gotten the money, the next step is to build the base:

You guys are rockstars. The incredible support we’ve received from you has not only helped us hit out 50k goal — it’s demonstrated there’s an audience for this film. And that’s gotten the attention of folks in the industry.

So for the final week of our campaign, instead of aiming to hit x amount of dollars, we’re setting a goal of 1200 backers. That means even if you only have $1 dollar to give, your contribution sends a loud message to those watching that you want to see this movie get made. And that is priceless.

This stuff really matters; brilliant a media project that comes with a proven fan-base is vastly more bankable than a brilliant media project without a demonstrated audience. So if you’re at all inclined, please donate a few shekels to Neighbor Joe and Neighbor Jimmie before the June 3 deadline, so that they might go forth to bring cinematic glory to all of Bernal.

Still need convincing? They made this death-defying video, just for you:

Designs for Bonview Homes Revealed at Tense Review Meeting

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Your Bernalwood editor attended last night’s meeting of the Northwest Bernal Heights Design Review Board at the Bernal Library to see the big reveal of the proposal to build two new homes at the top of Coso at Bonview.

You can read the background on the project here.  There was a capacity crowd of 45 at last night’s session, making it by far the biggest northwest Bernal design review meeting in a very long time.

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As you can see up above, the architects shared some renderings of what the completed project might look like.

Here’s the front elevation:

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The rear elevation:

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And the site plan:

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As for the meeting itself, in general it was tense but civil. A small number of Bernal neighbors seemed dead-set against the project for reasons that seemed to combine aesthetic disgust with an enthusiasm for class conflict. But overall, most neighbors had perfectly reasonable questions about how the proposal might impact their own circumstances in one way or another.

The architects were not particularly polished, and their presentation tools were clunky, but they had a very good grasp of the details and were (mostly) able to provide clear answers to probing questions. Their responses probably didn’t satisfy everyone in the room, but they did convey the sense that they had tried to create a design that was sensitive to existing neighbors and the neighborhood.

One issue seemed a little dodgy: As proposed, the height of 6 Bonview raised some eyebrows, because it was calculated via some quirky ways the designers chose to measure the undulating elevation of the site. Time will tell how this issue plays out, but otherwise, the design appeared to meet Bernal’s existing codes.

And most exciting of all, there will be more meetings just like this one to continue the review process.   So don’t worry if you missed last night’s session — you’ll soon have another chance to watch your design review board in action as our Bonview adventure continues…

Tonight: Design Review for Two Proposed Homes at the Tippy-Top of Coso

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There will be a lively meeting of the Northwest Bernal Heights Design Review Board tonight at the Bernal Library, as members of the board consider a proposal to build two single-family homes on two undeveloped lots at the northwest corner of Coso and Bonview.

The parcels in question have sat empty since basically forever, but with housing in short supply, private developers have now put forward a plan to build there. However, given the site’s high-profile location, and the fact that it has functioned as a de facto extension of Bernal Heights Park for a long time, the forces of no are rallying to oppose the plan.

Posters around the proposed housing site proclaim “No Big Box Houses in Bernal,” while showing an image of an unrelated project in Corona Heights that is being built by the same construction company. (On the bright side, at least this poster does not include a simulated blast-radius.) When Bernalwood visited the site over the weekend, one neighbor described the proposed homes as “McMansions.”

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Such designations are subjective and intentionally pejorative, however, so here are a few concrete facts about the proposed development that Bernalwood has been able to uncover: The proposal calls for the construction of two adjacent single-family homes, on privately-owned land at 6 Bonview and 409 Coso. The former will be 2225 sq-ft; the latter will be 2558 square-feet. Each will provide off-street parking. Design-wise, both generally and generically reflect the “Dwell-inspired” style that is so common for new urban homes these days, which is to say the facades are a mix of rectangular forms, stucco, horizontal wood slats, metal, and glass. Most crucially, however, both homes appear to conform to the strict planning, design, and height guidelines of the Bernal Height Special Use District.

Of course, when it comes to new construction in San Francisco neighborhoods, facts and feelings seldom align. That reality will likely be on full display this evening, so if you’d like to partake of the spectacle, the design review board will meet tonight, May 26, at 7:30 pm in the Bernal Library on Cortland. Bernalwood will also share drawings of the proposed development when they are available.

UPDATE, 27 May: The designs for the two new houses have now been revealed.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Recent Photography Reveals Bernal Heights Gorgeousness Hiding in Plain Sight

springtime.markus Hear that sound? That’s the sound of a reminder telling us that it’s been waaaaaaaaaay too long since we’ve shared some of the retina-sizzling Bernal Heights photography shared in the always-fashionable Bernalwood Flickr group. Here are some pictures to make your eyeballs happy, so get ready to go fullscreen on your monitor or pinch and zoom on your mobile.

The perfect springtime moment you see up above was taken by Neighbor Markus Spiering. It’s so luscious you can almost smell it.

Superstar Bernal photog Ed Brownson snapped this achingly beautiful shot of the mysterious tree shrub thingy on the east side of Bernal Hill: bernaltree.browson

Ed’s photos kick so much ass that we can’t just show one.  He also captured this hilarious canine group photo on the hill:

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June snapped this shot of some Bernal branding on a car in the ‘hood:

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Clifton Reed shot this magical image of the container cranes on the Southern Waterfront, as seen from Bernal Hill:

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Neighbor Ben got a sublime still-life ofAndover at Ellert:

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Pugawug Tiny Puna took this photo of some Bernal Hill glory:

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It’s easy for Bernalese to take this view for granted, but Erin Malone’s pic reminds us that it is always spectacular:

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Ultisusan snapped this timeless moment of Precita Park family zen:

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Neighbor Jane Underwood always finds beauty in the subtle details of Bernal Heights, and here she found it in branches near a rooftop:

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And here’s one I took back in February, when the poppies first started to pop:

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And of course, whenever you capture a snap that put the Bernal sexy in your shutter, please share it with the rest of us in the Bernalwood Flickr Group.  As always, special thanks to all the amazing photographers who help us see this place in new ways.

Neighbor Finds Vintage Valentine in Bernal Heights Home

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Neighbor Tom found something mysterious and wonderful hidden in the rafters of his Bernal Heights:

Look what I found while renovating my house!

It’s an olde-stylee valentine card. From some brief googling, I think it is:

  • Circa 1920s, maybe 1930s
  • From a woman with a German name (Jizella)
  • To a man with a German name (Helme ?)
  • Made in America

I found it in the ‘side attic’ in our 1907 house on Mullen Ave, under some insulation.

The question is, was it lost there? Or squirreled away for safe keeping? Or left for future generations to find?

Glen Park Neighbors Propose Plans to De-Uglify the Bernal Cut

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Once upon a time, during the Age of the Ancient Druids, the peoples of southwestern Bernal Heights and northeastern Glen Park were united as one. During that time, our Bernal lands extended continuously to the west, and the Lost Tribe of College Hill was not yet lost. Bernal soil filled the void that divides us today.

The void that divides Bernal from Glen Park today is called the Bernal Cut, and it now carries a streetcar line and auto traffic that speeds along San Jose Avenue to and from I-280. It is very unlovely:

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Originally, the Bernal Cut was a Southern Pacific railroad line carved out of a low shoulder of Bernal Hill’s west slope during a series of late ninteeenth century excavations. Here’s a view of the Bernal Cut during the railroad days, looking north toward modern-day La Lengua from the Richland-Miguel overpass in April 1922:

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Throw in some smokey steam locomotives, and you can see why The Cut became particularly daunting to cross. This is a train chugging through the Bernal Cut in 1905:

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Then came the age of the automobile, and in the late 1920s, the cut was widened and expanded to create an arterial road into San Francisco’s urban core. Here’s another north-facing view, this time from 1929, when the construction of the roadway was almost complete:

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The vision at the time was that the Bernal Cut would become the first stage of a new Mission Freeway that would carry high-speed traffic into downtown San Francisco. Here’s a crop from a 1948 planning map that shows how all that would have worked, in rather horrifying detail:

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Basically, in much the same way that Army/Cesar Chavez used to suck because it was designed to feed a freeway that never actually got built, so too the Bernal Cut now sucks because it too designed to serve a future that never really materialized. The Bernal Cut has been dominated by vehicular traffic for more than 100 years. That may have been a necessary and worthwhile thing, yet it also divided the neighborhoods on either side, and for the neighbors who live there, it’s a big bummer.

Fortunately, there are a few armchair urban planners and civil engineers who live on the Glen Park side of the Bernal Cut — an area which they (quite revealingly, and charmingly) call “Bernal Glen.”  In recent years, our kin in Bernal Glen have hatched a few brilliant plans to re-unite the mainland people of Bernal Heights with our descedents from Bernal Glen. One such plan is described here by Bernal Glen neighbor Erika Ehmsen:

In 2013, a College Hill/Bernal Glen neighbors asked renowned landscape and urban design firm SWA Group to visit San Jose Ave. SWA designers and planners walked with neighbors along San Jose Ave., the Bernal Cut Path, the Arlington Path, and our bridges and pedestrian overpass to experience the grim current state of San Jose Ave.—from its freeway-like speeds to its trash-strewn and encampment-prone slopes and sidewalks.

SWA designers asked us to suspend our current reality in order to reimagine and reinvigorate our blighted speedway. We showed SWA the Glen Park Community Plan and asked them to envision an extension of that plan that could incorporate the slopes above San Jose Ave. while reflecting our College Hill Neighborhood Association’s greening and safety goals. And then SWA got to work sketching the plans in that above Google Doc presentation—all pro bono.

Here is that SWA presentation; it is rather trippy and mind-expanding. One proposed scenario would involve re-filling the Bernal Cut with soil after creating a tunnel for the tracks and roadway underneath. It’s just a simple “cut and cover” tunnel design, basically — but the cut part comes pre-excavated 150 years ago.

This idea would seamlessly re-unite Bernal with Bernal Glen by eliminating the trench between them, while also creating 13 acres of new land that could be used for a mixture of new housing and parks. And though the proposal itself doesn’t suggest this, in theory at least, the sale of land to build that much-needed new housing could actually go a long way toward paying for the whole thing.

Here’s what it might look like, as visualized by SWA:

bernalcuttunnelMind blown?

If a tunnel seems too sci-fi, another scenario envisioned in the exercise would narrow the roadbeds and terrace the walls to create land for urban agriculture. This is what tomorrow’s “Bernal Cut Farms” might look like:

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Innnnnnnnnteresting, no? We might quibble about some of the details, but the big breakthrough here is that it gets you thinking about the Bernal Cut in all sorts of crazy new ways. There’s a lot of land in there! And it’s really under-utilized! So many possibilities, even while retaining The Cut’s core transportation functionality. Yes! Yes! Yes!

Meanwhile, and more recently, Bernal Glen neighbor Mike Schiraldi decided to pick up on this basic idea and pare it back to the bare essentials to develop his own plan for how to heal the Bernal Cut. Mike says:

Well, the Glen Park Community Plan spends a couple paragraphs dreamily talking about undoing San Jose Avenue, but doesn’t get into any details or explain the benefits. So while I’m not the first to talk about ripping it out (duh), I tried to get down to brass tacks, to see how it could actually get done. And I wanted to illustrate how transformative it would be, since it can be hard to see that from the Glen Park Community Plan.

Inspired by the improvements that recently transformed the once-awful Cesar Chavez/Army into today’s much more glamorous boulevard, Mike’s let’s-do-this idea is to do the same basic thing to the speedway portion of San Jose. To slow traffic and make it easier to move between the two microhoods, he proposes re-connecting a few of the surrounding streets via new intersections with San Jose.

Specifically, his plan would create a new traffic light/intersection at Natick, Arlington, and Wilder Streets in Glen Park and one linking College Ave. in Bernal with Mateo Street in Glen Bernal. He calls this scenario “San Jose Boulevard”:

Both of the two new connections could be full intersections, with traffic lights, allowing traffic to flow in any direction between San Jose, Natick, Arlington, and Wilder, or between San Jose, College, and Mateo. There could be crosswalks too, so pedestrians and cyclists can get across without having to use an overpass, which is awkward, often dirty, and can be scary at night.

Oh, and to further activate the areas and create even more pedestrian activity, Mike also proposes adding a new J-Church stop along his new San Jose Boulevard, since the streetcar already runs there anyway:

Large sections of Glen Park which are currently underserved by transit would suddenly become extremely transit-accessible, both because of the new J-Church stop, and the new crossing opportunites.

You can read all about it in Mike’s brainstorming presentation, where he makes the case in a lot more detail. It’s clever. It’s not complicated. It may even re-activate the Bernal Cut as a shared space that joins the Dominion of Bernalwood with our kin from Bernal Glen. Let’s do (something kind of like) this!