Some More Recent Photographs by Bernalwood Shuttberbugs

underwood.ruralbernal

It’s a holiday weekend, so let’s slow down for a moment to appreciate some of the scenery here in this place we are fortunate to call home by taking a peek at some of the photos shared in the Bernalwood Group on Flickr.

Regular Bernalwood readers know that shutterbug Jane Underwood is exceptionally good at seeing the beauty in everyday Bernal life, and her photo of Bernal Hill (shown above) is so vivid you can almost smell it.

Here’s a magnificent shot of the semi-secret swing on Bernal Hill, by Saulo Mohana:

pinkswing

Neighbor Markus Spiering took a moment to appreciate a recent summer night, as seen from his home in Santana Rancho:
summernight

Here’s another one from Neighbor Markus; a totally retro, color-coordinated set of a vintage VW beetle and a matching Bernal shoebox house.

markus.vwhouse

Speaking of old VWs, bmeabroad captured this scene of the Bernal backwoods:

bernalbackwoods

Neighbor Laurie Wigham has been busy with her watercolors, and I love this view looking east at a dog-walker, as seen from atop Bernal Hill:

wighamdogwalkers

Photographer m_travels has been on a quest to capture all the hills of San Francisco. This is her entry for Bernal; a loovley perspective on the camera-shy west slope, as seen from San Jose Ave:

bernal.westslope.mtravels

If you go for a stroll around the neighborhood during the long weekend, take a few photos along the way, and share your very best with us in the Bernalwood Flickr Group. Happy wandering!

Ye Shall Walk Bernal Streets, And Know They Are (Really, Still) Steepest

bernalgrades

Every few years, a young quant-geek with a passion for data analysis and a sadistic taste for urban cycling attempts to answer an important local question:  If San Francisco is a city famous for its steep hills, which streets in San Francisco are really the steepest?

The question was asked in 2011, and in 2013, and (like clockwork) it was asked again this week, as a young quant geek from the excellent Pricenomics blog studied the topographic datasets for San Francisco and concluded (once again) that Bernal Heights has the steepest streets in San Francisco — and quite possibly the world.

To which any hill-toned Bernalese can only say: DUH!

steepestchart

Pricenomics writes:

Containing 5 gradients over 25% (four of which are over 30%), Bernal Heights claims bragging rights as the city’s steepest living quarters. Prior to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the neighborhood was largely undeveloped due to its hilliness. But shortly thereafter, merchants settled there, and houses were built along some unusually steep pitches.

steepneighborhoods

They were particularly fascinated by the steep block of Bradford at Tompkins just above the Farmer’s Market:

With an astonishing 41% grade, Bradford Street, in the hilly Bernal Heights neighborhood, is the city’s steepest (at least of those surveyed). Admittedly, this stretch is quite short: the majority of Bradford Street climbs steadily at about a 24% grade before exploding into a 30-foot stretch of 41% paved road. “On such a slope,” writes Von Worley, “gravity alone pulls a one-ton car downhill with 800 pounds of force, accelerating it from zero to sixty in 7.2 seconds.”

“My (totally unsubstantiated) theory,” he tells us, “is that if you somehow got a high-center-of-gravity vehicle (like an SUV) sideways on the 41% section, then wiggled it the wrong way, it might actually roll over.”

bradfordsteepsx2

They act surprised.

Anyway, this brings Bernalwood back to our original conclusion about the intense steepness of our streetscapes, and what this means for our identity and self-image as a neighborhood. As we wrote in 2011:

Let’s face it: Bernal Heights may not always be the smartest, or the prettiest, or the most popular neighborhood in the world. But we may rest secure in the knowledge that we will always be the steepest.

GRAPHICS: via Pricenomics

Coming Soon: Ampersand, a Tiny New Shop from Team Heartfelt

409Cortland2

Neighbor Darcy Lee, a resident of Alemanistan and owner of Heartfelt on Cortland, has a new shop in the works. The new place will be just across the street, in the tiny former storefront at 409 Cortland, near Bennington between Epicurean Trader and Vega.

We’ve heard Neighbor Darcy describe Heartfelt as a “general store for the 21st century,” and her new place will take that idea in a slightly different direction.  She tells Bernalwood:

Wanted to let you know that I signed a lease for a storefront on Cortland in our block (409 Cortland Ave). It will be a small shop called Ampersand, and we will carry women’s clothing, accessories, books and good cheer.

When I incorporated Heartfelt, the name Heartfelt was taken so I added an “&” and it has brought me good luck ever since. Thus the name.

There will not be a ton of books, but I can special order almost any title and for those who like our smattering of clothing found at Heartfelt, there will actually be a changing room! And more choices! We plan on soft opening October 1st, if not before. Promise to keep you posted.

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Heartfelt

Former Tenant Sues Over Eye-Popping Rent Increase at 355 Bocana

bocanarental3

The dust has settled in the messy matter of 355 Bocana, the house where renter Deb Follingstad was hit with a shocking 315% rent increase by property owner and lifelong Bernal resident Nadia Lama last March. Since then, Neighbor Nadia has moved into the house, and Neighbor Deb has been stringing together temporary arrangements while she looks for a more stable place to live.

Yet the incident still stings, apparently, and last week Neighbor Deb filed a wrongful eviction lawsuit. Lamar Anderson from San Francisco Magazine broke the story:

The complaint, filed on August 18 in San Francisco Superior Court, characterizes the rent increase as an effective eviction and a violation of the city’s Rent Ordinance. According to the suit, which also names Lama’s sisters, ontime property managers Claudia and Antoinette Lama, Nadia Lama moved into the unit after Follingstad left. Instead of going through the no-fault eviciton procedure allowed under the Rent Ordinance for owner move-ins, the suit alleges, Lama attempted to go around the law by forcing Follingstad out with a drastic rent increase. In a normal no-fault eviction, Follingstad would have been entitled to a relocation payment of $9,258.67, according to the suit. Instead, she got no relocation money, and Lama even kept her $1,500 security deposit, Follingstad says.

Her attorney, Joseph Tobener, says, “I think it’s unfortunate that it’s come to this.” When Nadia Lama gave notice of the rent increase, he says, “We sent a letter saying, Let’s resolve this. This client’s willing to work with you.”

Follingstad’s story, which swept local media last spring and provoked neighborhood backlash against the Lama family, gave San Franciscans a crash course in the intricacies of tenant law. Through a loophole in the law, Follingstad’s sudden $6,755 rent hike appeared to be legal. In San Francisco, rent control covers most rentals with a certificate of occupancy predating June 1979, if they are in multiunit buildings. Follingstad lived in a two-unit building and was covered by rent control. But the lower-level unit was illegal, which made it easy to demolish—that is, remove the plumbing that made it a habitable dwelling unit—without permission from the Planning Department. When Lama pulled the toilet out of the lower-level unit, in February, it became de-facto “storage space” for Follingstad’s apartment, and voila, she was suddenly living in a single-family home, and no longer protected by rent control. (Lama had only taken over the property in January, after resolving a legal dispute with her sisters, Claudia Lama and Antoinette Lama, who had been acting as landlords ever since the original landlord, their father Chuck Lama, died in 2012.)

This is a complicated, two-sided tale, so it’s time well-spent to read the whole thing.

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

During Pup Season, Coyote Whisperer Warns of Canine Encounters

coyote.kessler

If you’re a pet-owner, you may have already heard about the small dog that was attacked by a coyote near Stern Grove last week. Turns out, it’s pup-season for coyotes. This is the time of year when — just like us! — stressed-out mama coyotes are introducing their progeny to life in San Francisco.

Coyotes roam in many San Francisco’s parks and open spaces, although the coyotes in Bernal Heights are exceptionally creative and stylish. Of course, we Bernalese are world-famous for our fondness for dogs, and lots of those pets also roam free here. So during pup season, Janet Kessler, creator of Coyote Yipps, a blog about San Francisco coyotes, shares this wisdom about coyote-canine interactions:

It is coyote pupping season again! During pupping season there is more potential for dog/coyote encounters and possible confrontations. By following simple guidelines we can prevent most encounters and we can be prepared for any inadvertent encounter that does pop up.

San Francisco has several dozen coyotes living in the city, mostly in nuclear families. They’re in all of our major parks. Because most folks in San Francisco have dogs or cats, and because there are pups in some of the parks — pups would be about 4 months old now — it is a good time to brush up on coyote behavior and the guidelines necessary for peacefully coexisting. The information applies in any park where there are coyotes, whether or not there are pups.

Coyotes are out most often when it’s dark and when we humans aren’t around. However, most folks now realize that it’s not uncommon to see coyotes out during the day — they are not nocturnal animals.

Coyotes live in family units, not packs of unrelated individuals. We have a number of coyote families living in the city of San Francisco. Coyotes mate for life, and both parents raise the young and watch out for their safety — we’re talking about real family life here. It’s hard not to admire a species that puts so much effort into maintaining their own monogamous relationship and into the care and safety of their youngsters. Parents play with, bring food to, groom, defend, lead family outings, teach, tease and discipline their youngsters, not so differently from the way humans do: coyote life is about family life. Each family claims a territory from which other coyotes are kept out. This insures that there will be enough resources for the family unit.

How to get along with coyotes? Treat them as you would any other wild animal, such as a skunk or raccoon, by moving away from them and keeping your dogs away from them, which can only be done by leashing up! Leashing will keep your dog from chasing a coyote, and it will keep your dog close to you, thus discouraging a coyote from coming in closer to your dog. Coyotes will do their utmost to avoid humans and human encounters, so the issue isn’t about you. However, although they’ll shy away from people, they may give territorial messages to dogs who come too close, the same as they do to any other non-family coyote who might potentially threaten their territorial claims: this could result in a nip to your dog’s haunches — cattle-dog fashion — to get the dog to leave the area. And small pets may look like any other prey to them: so please leash your pets in known coyote areas and don’t allow them to roam free. Coyotes have been spotted wandering through virtually every park in San Francisco.

Everyone with a dog should know how to shoo off a coyote who has come too close — it’s know-how that’s needed just in case there’s an unexpected encounter. Simply harassing a coyote with screams, flailing arms and making yourself look big is often not effective. Coyotes get used to this and eventually ignore it as meaningless and quirky human behavior. It’s best actually to, 1) approach or charge towards the coyote, and to, 2) do so menacingly as though you’re out to get them, by eyeballing them with eye-to-eye contact and yelling “SCRAM, get out of here!” Often, your piercing gaze into their eyes alone is enough to get them to move on.

However — and this is an all-important caveat — if they absolutely do not move, it will be because pups are close by. In this case, it’s best to keep the peace by respecting their need to keep you out of the area they won’t move from: just back away rather than provoke an incident, without running. If one follows you, turn and face the coyote — he’s unlikely to come closer with your eyes glaring at him. However, if he just stands there, again, try charging in his direction as described above to get him off of your tail. As always, prevention is the best medicine — always keep your distance in the first place.

“Coyotes As Neighbors” is a YouTube video presentation which explains relevant coyote behavior — including their intense family lives and territoriality towards other canines, be they dogs or other coyotes — plus guidelines for keeping us all, humans, pets AND coyotes, safe and worry-free. The video includes two demos on how to effectively shoo off a coyote who has come too close. [There’s also a Spanish version and a Mandarin version.]

Here’s what to look for: Janet also shares this video of a female coyote in San Francisco acting distressed because of the presence of dogs:

PHOTO: Top, Janet Kessler

What the Hell Happened on Manchester Street?

manchester3

manchestercars4

manchestercars1

Six cars parked along the steep upper reaches of Manchester Street were damaged last night on Friday in a kinetic accident that caused several cars to pancake together. Ouch.

The incident happened on the steep, dead-end block of Manchester below Bernal Hill, just south of Stoneman. Neighbor Simon broke the story via an email to Bernalwood:

Returning home from a weekend away to find the evidence of some dramatic event on Manchester above Stoneman. Half a dozen cars are smashed up and pushed into each other like dominoes. Runaway car? Angry drunk? Malicious joy-riders? WTF?!?

Incredulous, we dispatched the floodlight-equipped Bernalwood Action News Jeep to the scene on Sunday night to investigate.

The basic facts checked out instantly. Someone or something drove down the wrong side of Manchester. Along the way, he/she/it glanced off a Subaru Forester, damaging the rear quarter and peeling off much of the bumper. They then slammed into an Acura, doing extensive damage to the front end, before hitting a Saturn SUV and triggering a domino effect with three more adjacent cars.

manchestercars2

Very, very unpleasant.

Oddly, the scene was eerily quiet when Bernalwood visited at about 10:30 last night. No neighbors. No police. Just lots of silence, broken cars, and shattered glass. Neighbor Sam was equally baffled:

While attempting to park this evening, I saw all this up at the top of Manchester: Cars hit by something and knocked around like playthings… Strangely there were no neighbors milling about (so maybe happened earlier??), but neither had there been a call to the police (I phoned it in on the non emergency line). A mystery… or Cloverfield 2?

Based on our preliminary observations, Bernalwood is going with the Cloverfield hypothesis. We will update this story as further information becomes available.

UPDATE 8:56 AM Neighbor Arwen writes in with the executive summary and useful reminder:

The Manchester drama actually happened on Friday night :) Someone was apparently looking for parking, didn’t find a spot and started to back down but lost control. Eek! Fortunately the driver was not hurt and no one was in the cars, but as you can see, there was quite a lot of damage… The insurance assessors can’t come until Monday (today) so pretty much everyone left things as is.

While I’m writing you, I’ll make a PSA about curbing wheels. A similar accident happened a few years ago–someone pulled up on the other side of the street (no parking there), forgot to curb his wheels, and went inside a house. The emergency brake gave way and the car careened down the street, totalling 5 or 6 cars! So, always curb your wheels! And be careful backing down…

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Bids Due, Tensions High as Trustee Says Precita Eyes Seeks to “Force Family to Sell to Them”

precitaeyes.aug2015

It’s been a big week for 348 Precita Avenue, the multi-unit building on Precita Park that’s long been home to the Precita Eyes mural studio. 348 Precita is for sale, and Precita Eyes hopes to avoid possible eviction by deterring would-be buyers from bidding on the property. (For more backstory, read Bernalwood’s item about this from  Monday.)

Here at week’s end, let’s catch up on where thing stand.

Neighbor Ledia dropped by Precita Eyes during a Protest Art Class for kids on Tuesday, where she learned more about Precta Eyes, their history in Precita Park, their other property holdings, and their (at times confusing) arrangement with the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA). Neighbor Ledia tells Bernalwood:

Went to the free art class and talked to Precita Eyes today: Now I understand.

So Precita Eyes wants the owners [of 348 Precita] to accept MEDAs offer to buy the building, which has 3 residential units plus the commercial Precita Eyes space, for $1 million.

It’s obviously “worth” more. MEDA would then be the owner/landlord, with the possibly of current tenants being able to buy their spaces in some way.

348 is the original Precita Eyes space. Precita Eyes has been around since 1977, and in this space since 1982. In 1998, [Precita Eyes founder Susan Cervantes] bought the Precita Eyes space on 24th St., so the organization also has that.

The goal of the free art class/gathering is to discourage offers on the building, other than MEDA’s lowball offer.

This provides helpful context. Precita Eyes uses 348 Precita as a satellite facility, and in the comments to Monday’s post, several Bernal neighbors noted that the studio at 348 is rarely occupied. (As a neighbor, Bernalwood can confirm this.) The Precita Eyes branch at 2981 24th Street is the organization’s main office, but we did not know (and Mission Local confirms) that Precita Eyes actually owns the 24th Street building. That means the future of Precita Eyes on 24th Street is secure.

Of course, there are two sides to every transaction, and in the comments to Bernalwood’s Monday post, a member of the family that’s selling 348 Precita shared some details (which are merged here for clarity):

My name is Michael Silva. I am not the owner of 348 Precita (certainly not the only owner), but only the trustee of my late mom’s estate.

I am a member of the family that owns this property. Our presence in SF dates back to before the 1906 earthquake (they camped out in the park during the repairs). It has been in our family for a hundred years. Look up August &Minnie Schmidt in the 1915 online directory.

schmidt.1915

1915 San Francisco Directory, via Bernalwood

One of the owners is the 83 year old granddaughter of August and Minnie. Another is a great-grandson who worked all his life in SF until he had to retire under medical disability, and who has had multiple surgeries to help the back injuries he suffered while working as a printer. His entire life savings consists of $11,000.

These are the owners to whom Precita Eyes is trying to dictate sale terms. This is the one and only commercial property the family owns, in SF or anywhere else. We are not “big investors” by any stretch of the imagination.

I am actually just the Trustee of my mom’s estate (born in SF in 1932). She and her twin sister co-owned the property until she passed away a few years ago. Now my mom’s estate, along with her twin sister, are trying to sell the property. And Precita Eyes is trying to make sure we do not receive fair market value for a property that has been in our family for at least 100 years.

What Precita Eyes is trying to do is to force the family to sell to them, on their terms and on their terms alone, and obviously below market value (or else they would just submit their bid along with any other potential buyers). Who thinks this is moral behavior on their part?

This sets up a curious dynamic. In a town where one’s standing on questions of housing policy and social entitlement often correlates to how long you’ve lived here, the story of 348 Precita now contrasts a nonprofit arts organization that’s been in Bernal for 30+ years with a multigenerational family that’s been in Bernal for 100.

Last Tuesday, there was a open house at at 348 Precita for potential buyers to view the property. Precita Eyes put signs in the windows, brought in some local kids for an ad hoc protest art class, invited a few journalists from around town to drop by, and launched their campaign to ward off potential bidders.

Sarah Hotchkiss from KQED Arts was there:

As toddlers covered in tempera paint plastered their hand prints all over sheets of paper, community members surrounded the building holding their own pieces of paper, printed with the message, “Please do not BUY this building!! This is a community space!”

PEWindow

Photo: KQED

The organization staged the protest after landlords posted a brand-new For Sale sign on the studio center’s exterior the week before. Though Precita Eyes owns its arts and visitors center at 2981 24th St, they have rented the 348 Precita Ave space since 1977.

While impending doom lingers in the air, the building’s residents are not without hope. The Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), with advice from the San Francisco Community Land Trust (SFCLT), plans to make a bid on the property, which, if successful, will safeguard Precita Eyes and the residential tenants against eviction by forming a cooperative.

The dispatch from Mission Local’s reporter captured the kabuki-like flavor of the scene, as the participants performed familiar roles:

“We’re hoping to dissuade other prospective buyers from outbidding MEDA,” explained Nancy Pili Hernández, a Precita Eyes muralist.

Several prospective buyers came and went without comment. Some stopped to talk with the activists and neighbors standing outside. In some cases, the exchanges became heated.  Pili Hernández said one potential buyer became incensed when a woman approached him asking his intentions for the building. Pili Hernández said the man told the woman he would put in an offer for $2 million and evict her.

That’s the kind of possibility that makes Randy Odell, an upstairs resident of 30 years, uneasy.

“It’s no fun having your home threatened.” Odell said. “When you have no right to keep people from coming in and looking at your home, and sussing out the value, it’s very hard to keep my dignity.”

Other potential buyers took a more diplomatic approach.

Micheal Zook, a San Francisco native and former building manager who was once evicted from a building he lived and worked in for 20 years, now works as a realtor but was considering the building as a potential home for himself, his wife and his children. He talked at length with community organizers about the property and how displacement could be avoided.

So what happens next?

Although the drama of 348 Precita is playing out in 2015, this story is really a flashback to the proto-gentrification tensions of 1970s Bernal Heights, when a young generation of activist Baby Boomers arrived and set out to transform Bernal in their own image, sometimes to the dismay of the older, blue-collar families who already lived here.

Back then, however, San Francisco’s population was in decline, and Bernal Heights was considered a faded part of town.  Homes were cheap,  rents were cheaper, Precita Park was rough, and Bernal was a funky bohemian backwater. Today, San Francisco’s population has grown by almost 200,000 since 1980, Bernal is a prime location, Precita Park is a four-star destination, countercultural lifestyles are difficult to afford, and the median home price in the neighborhood hovers around $1.4 million. A big property like 348 Precita could obviously fetch more.

But should it? Will it? We’ll find out soon; Mike Silva tells Bernalwood the last bids for the property are coming in today.

PHOTOS: Top, Precita Eyes studio by Telstar Logistics