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!

Bernal Artist Leah Rosenberg Uses Our City as Her Palette

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It’s hard to comprehend how Bernal Heights squeezes so many remarkable artists into one not-so-big neighborhood. But apparently, we do it.

7×7 tells us about a new show by Leah Rosenberg, the same Bernal artist who created the fabtastic color wall inside Pinhole Coffee on Cortland. Pinhole’s wall represents various colors found around Bernal Heights, and Neighbor Leah’s current project explores similar ideas about riffing on colors found in the city around us. But in a rather different way. 7×7 says:

For the last two months, Bernal Heights-based artist and California College of the Arts graduate Leah Rosenberg has been painting a small storefront—three walls, a floor, a desk, a chair, and a vase—a different color every day. The whole thing, covered in a single solid hue. It’s out on Irving Street, a block from Outerlands and Trouble Coffee in the Outer Sunset, and Rosenberg decides which colors to use based on what she finds in the neighborhood: an acid yellow fence, the pistachio exterior of the Francis Scott Key Elementary School Auditorium, a light purple crab on Ocean Beach.

“I keep thinking of this one line I like, ‘And you call yourself a painter,’” Rosenberg says with a laugh, “because painting as a verb, the actual act of applying color to a surface, that is fundamentally what it is.” And yet the installation, part of Kelly Falzone Inouye’s residency space Irving Street Projects, has become something more. Locals who might otherwise walk down Judah, stroll Irving instead to see what the color of the day is (Rosenberg keeps a handy sandwich board out front). Kids come by after school to help. ol to help. Recently, Rosenberg took everyone on an “inspiration walk” to all the spots that sparked her creativity. In a way, she’s been painting the landscape of the Outer Sunset.

Check out the amazing photos of Neighbor Leah’s “Everyday, A Color”, and watch her in action at Irving Street Projects (4331 Irving St.) before the show closes on May 29. She’s also installed a new site-specific piece inside The Mill (736 Divisadero) that will be up until early July.

Bonus Linky Linky: Here is a good interview with Neighbor Leah that has terrific photos taken inside her Bernal home.

PHOTOS: “Everyday, A Color” by Leah Rosenberg. HAT TIP: Neighbor Leila

Sporty New Sutro Tower Tote Was Born In Bernal (And For You, Special Price)

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Brook McLeod commutes to work in Bernal Heights from the neighboring hills of Potrero, but her roots here run deep, and prolonged exposure to Bernalese culture has given her a keen sense of our locavore style and funky-functional aesthetic. The ways of our people have rubbed off on her to such an extent that she’s even started a new company called Wool Street (Note: Bernal-born name) to produce cool urban accessories. And as a Citizen of Bernalwood, you get a discount.

Brook tells us:

Wool Street was birthed in Bernal, where a sense of supporting local businesses and neighbors is a way of life.

This idea of a soft goods line made in the USA and if all possible in the future made completely in San Francisco came to me when I was living in a cottage on Wool Street. My husband, Dave was born and raised in Bernal Heights, and after we both graduated from CCAC (California College of Arts & Crafts) we moved back to his beloved hood. I quickly felt right at home with its small town vibe -I’m originally from a town of 2500 people in southeastern Washington- and I instantly wanted to be a part of the BH.

I worked at Heartfelt for nearly 5 years behind the scenes, learning how a successful small business ran, and left only last year to pursue my own small business dreams. I also had the opportunity to help the Bernal Library Art Project (BLAP) with phase III of their initiative to put art up on the Bernal Library. Through BLAP I got to meet more quirky, interesting, and influential neighbors that help in making Bernal Heights what it really is…awesome! We now live in Potrero Hill but I’m continuing to work part-time at the New Wheel with Brett, Karen & the gang, so I can still get my Bernal fix every week.

Without further ado I wanted to introduce Wool Street’s debut product: the Sutro Tower Canvas Tote, made in San Francisco-Woot!

Although I know it’s not the infamous Sutrito, I wanted to extend a discount to all Bernalwood lovers for $5 OFF with promo code BERNAL to apply at checkout. Please take a peek and check back for more products soon.

PHOTOS: Wool Street

ALIENS FROM OUTER SPACE INVADE BOCANA!

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Moments before she was carried away by a beam of blue light to become the subject of an unspeakable exobiology experiment regimen, Neighbor Sarah sent Bernalwood this confirmed photo of an alien landing site on Bocana.

We hope that Neighbor Sarah will be back soon, with minimal scar tissue and her memory throughly wiped.

PHOTO: Neighbor Sarah

Median Price of a Bernal Home Jumps 57% Since 2013

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According to the latest market report from Paragon Real Estate, the median price of a home in Bernal Heights now stands at $1.4 million. Our friends at CurbedSF wrote up the summary:

Although neighborhoods like Bayview, Bernal Heights, and Glen Park are considered to be among the more affordable in the city, they have all seen tremendous appreciation over the past two years. Back in April 2013, the median price for a Bayview house was just $447,000. It grew by 7.4 percent to hit $480,000 in 2014 and then soared 31.2 percent to its current $630,000. Bernal, of course, has been widely talked about as a hot neighborhood, and its prices reflect that reputation. In April 2013, you could get a median Bernal home for just $880,000. That number grew by 31.2 percent to $1.154 million in 2014 and has now grown another 19.6 percent to hit $1.38 million this year. Glen Park has seen similar trends, growing from $1.205 million in 2013 to $1.835 million now.

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What’s the cause of the this dizzying price appreciation? Even a high school student can explain it to you: Mr. Supply and Mr. Demand aren’t moving in parallel, and they haven’t moved in parallel for a long time. There are a whole lot of people who want a place to live in San Francisco, but there are very few places available for them to buy. Curbed looks at the issue citywide:

As always, low inventory is part of the issue in San Francisco. New listings this spring barely topped 600 per month, compared with about 700 per month last year and 800 two years ago. And while 3,454 new-construction housing units were completed in 2014, the most in the past 20 years according to Paragon’s tally of Planning Department figures, it still isn’t enough in a city where the economy is booming and new residents are flooding into town.

Bernal seems to have had a particularly low number of listings of late. According to this March 2015 summary by realtor and neighbor Danielle Lazier, there were just 9 properties listed for sale in Bernal in March, which represented a 53% decrease from the year before. And when houses do come on the market in Bernal, they tend to sell with neck-straining quickness. Neighbor Danielle’s data says that in March, Bernal homes sold after an average of just 15 days on the market, or 50% faster than a year before.

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CHARTS: Paragon Real Estate and SFHotlist