Some More Recent Photographs by Bernalwood Shuttberbugs

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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:

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Neighbor Markus Spiering took a moment to appreciate a recent summer night, as seen from his home in Santana Rancho:
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Here’s another one from Neighbor Markus; a totally retro, color-coordinated set of a vintage VW beetle and a matching Bernal shoebox house.

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

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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:

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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:

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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

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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!

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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.

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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.”

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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

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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

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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

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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?

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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.

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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