Ah, to be young and single and living in Bernal Heights. Sure, there are challenges — OMG! So many baby strollers! So many restaurants with abstract names! — but overall it’s pretty chill. Or so says Zane Michael on Nabewise, a website that aspires to be the Yelp of urban geography. Mr. Michael — an aspiring literatus, it seems — wrote a description of life in Bernal Heights that provides an illuminating inter-generational perspective on this place we all happen to call home. His commentary is reprinted here in its entirety, because, really, I couldn’t bring myself to cut a single word.
If You’re in Your Twenties
I don’t do Yoga. I don’t have my own edible backyard garden. I don’t have 2.5 kids. I don’t eat at Restaurants with single word descriptors. I don’t really fit in with the Bernal Height locals, who some might facetiously insinuate are the personification of well-known San Francisco stereotypes. But I still feel amazingly comfortable living in Bernal even if the neighborhood sometimes elicits in me a sense of terror stemming from portentous visions of my amortizing, fettered, future.
Incontrovertibly, the biggest draw of this neighborhood is the location. Its location makes it the perfect fit for the East Bay or South Bay commuter; the 101 and 280 are both relatively close and accessible. If you depart in the morning prior to 7 A.M., you will generally be unlikely to encounter heavy traffic driving southward. And if you are coming north by auto in the evening, you egress prior to the real heavy freeway traffic that normally begins immediately after the Cesar Chavez exit. At the 22nd St. Station in the nearby Potrero Hill neighborhood you can catch the natty Caltrain south and travel as far as San Jose.
For the person that works in downtown SF, the North Bay, or East Bay, the 24th St. Mission BART Station lies less than a mile away and you can easily get anywhere in the entire city relatively quickly by bike or bus. Another attractive feature is the abundance of free parking especially in comparison with other SF neighborhoods where a parking space may cost two hundred dollars a month or more. In the picturesque area surrounding Precita Park where I reside on the North side of Bernal Heights Hill parking can be obtained almost any time excluding Sunday evening. I have not frequently ventured over to the quaint Cortland Avenue mini-village area and hence cannot comfortably impart any information pertaining to parking or dining in that sub-locale.
Verdant and halcyon, Precita Park itself is a lovely urban reprieve and usually brimming with canines of all shapes and sizes expending their pent up energy. On summer days, locals gather to blithely doze in the sunshine and consume organic picnic feasts gathered from nearby Cancilla Market. A short vertical hike up Folsom St. will take you to the top of Bernal Heights Hill, home to one of the largest off leash dog parks in the city and boasting a terrific panoramic view that would make any snapshot obsessed tourist jump for joy. Weather-wise, the neighborhood experiences slightly warmer temperatures being located in one of the several hot spots scattered throughout the city.
Being adjacent to the callow and infamous Mission district, where even the weather is hip, makes for a bevy of nightlife options for both young and old living in Bernal Heights. For the penurious late-night diner, there exists a plethora of relatively inexpensive ethnic restaurant options in the Mission district. It’s easy to mosey over to an exciting attraction on Mission St. or Valencia St. and return home to repose in lenitive tranquility: giving you the best of both worlds. This also works out well when my Mom comes to visit and lauds me for living in such a “cute” area with charming Victorian homes. I reward her by telling her inquiring suburban housewife friends that I live off of Cesar Chavez St. in SF—eliciting a look of fear in response. All jokes aside, I have never felt unsafe in Bernal Heights even when walking or jogging solo late at night. The only time I have felt genuine fear was when I accidently threw away a pizza box in a peevish ponytailed neighbor’s recycle bin. That’s not recyclable dude!
Of course slightly cheaper rent or home prices can be found elsewhere in SF. Few other SF nabes though can brag about having a little something for everyone: commuter, outdoor enthusiast, or dog lover. Nor can anyone deny the pleasure of having an idyllic small-town experience in a big city.
If visiting, be sure to check out Mitchell’s ice cream for tropical flavors like coconut or purple yam; the treasure trove of LPs at dilapidated Thrillhouse Records; Alemany’s Farmers Market for fresh produce; pupusas and futbol at Balompie Café 3; The Knockout for sweet tunes and cheap booze; and the adorable Bike Basket Pies.
Photo by Thomas Hawk