There Was Dancing In the Streets at the 2015 Elsie Street Block Party





Neighbor Michael Nolan, captain of the Elsie Street Pom-Pom Squad, shares these photos of the fashionable Elsie Street Block Party that happened last weekend under a perfect blue sky. Neighbor Michael writes:

Fulfilling their commitment to “Change the World Joyously – One Block at a Time,”  the fun-loving and unflagging Elsie Street Neighbors presented the 9th Annual Elsie Street Block Party yesterday.  The Bouncy House and Bhangra Dancers probably took the cake, as did the winners of the Elsie/Bernal Trivia Quiz.   The BBQ, Bean Bag Toss, and Beautiful Weather also added to the car-free and carefree event.

Here’s a bonus video of the fabulous Elsie Bhangra Dancers shaking their groove thangs:

PHOTOS: Michael Nolan

Questions Remain as Regulators Probe Cause of PG&E Transformer Explosion

As the two victims of Saturday morning’s PG&E transformer explosion on Heyman recover from their injuries, outraged regulators (and Bernal neighbors) are demanding that PG&E provide a full accounting of how this accident happened. Ted Goldberg from KQED reports:

The California Public Utilities Commission has launched an investigation into an underground transformer explosion that injured two men in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood over the weekend.

The incident has also led [San Francisco D9 supervisor David Campos], who represents the area where the explosion took place, to call for a hearing into the safety of PG&E’s underground electricity infrastructure.

On Monday, Bernalwood sent a series of questions to PG&E regarding the cause of the accident and the history of the transformer unit that exploded. PG&E spokesperson Joe Molica told Bernalwood:

PG&E is conducting its own investigation into the incident in Bernal Heights on Saturday (Sept. 26) and will be bringing in a third-party firm to do an independent investigation.

Two individuals were injured when an underground transformer failed. PG&E employees were responding to a wire-down outage five blocks away. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the people who were injured.

PG&E conducted a patrol of the electric-distribution equipment in the neighborhood on June 4, 2015, with no issues. PG&E conducted a thorough inspection of the transformer in 2013.

In the past year there have been no circuit-level outages on this circuit.

You also asked about other incidents with transformers in Bernal. As you know, in late 2013, there was a transformer failure on a street several blocks away. That was a different situation with a different type of transformer, where a PG&E worker was making repairs when the transformer failed.

This left a several of our questions unanswered, so Bernalwood requested clarification of what a “patrol” entails. PG&E’s Molica explained:

PG&E’s investigation will include a forensic analysis of the failed equipment, researching the history of the circuit, looking into the specific cause of the incident and other actions.

Also, a patrol is a visible inspection of PG&E electric distribution facilities to identify obvious structural hazards or problems. An inspection is a more thorough examination of individual components of electric distribution facilities.

And what about the age of the transformer that exploded. When was it manufactured? When was it installed? Molica said:

I don’t know; however this will be part of the investigation.

Fire Department Rescues Scared Kitty from Redwood Tree on Andover



The more things change, the more others things remain the same. Neighbor Eugenie snapped into Bernalwood Action News mode yesterday to report live from the scene as the San Francisco Fire Department plucked a frightened kitty named Bee from the upper branches of a Bernal Heights tree:

A small kitten chasing squirrels got stuck 25 feet up a redwood tree on south Andover Street this afternoon.  To the delight of a half dozen kids, five of our finest from the Church Street station coaxed little Bee down.

Hooray, SFFD! Neighbor Eugenie stayed on the scene to capture the moment when the embarrassed cat finally came back to earth. Citizens of Bernalwood, meet Bee:


PHOTOS: Neighbor Eugenie Marek

Mayhem Strikes as Thief Crashes Stolen Car on Mullen




Grrrrr. Neighbor Peter did some excellent reporting on the scene yesterday after a stolen Honda Accord crashed into a several parked vehicles on Mullen:

A bit of news from Santana Rancho today. I didn’t witness it happen, but heard a loud crash at around 1pm (ish) and ran outside to check it out. Pictures below of what I found on Mullen at Franconia.

A Honda Accord slammed into a Saab then careened into and on top of a Mini Cooper. The 2 witnesses I spoke to said the driver fled the scene on foot north down the Franconia stairs towards Peralta, then headed east on Peralta.

The police were on the scene pretty quickly and seemed to get a somewhat decent description of the suspect from witnesses. They confirmed that the car was stolen. Also, the police were then pointed to a few belongings that the suspect may have dropped on the Franconia stairs while fleeing – a couple of flashlights and a pretty large folding knife.

All in all, pretty startling, since he must’ve been driving pretty fast to cause such an acciden. All are lucky that no bystanders were hurt. Unfortunately, the two cars that got hit were in pretty rough shape though.

PHOTOS: Neighbor Peter

High Bridge Arms in Bernal Heights, San Francisco’s Last Gun Shop, Set to Close


This story has been generating lots of buzz around town and on conservative media organs across the nation: High Bridge Arms at 3185 Mission Street in Bernal Heights, San Francisco’s last remaining gun shop, plans to close by the end of October.

High Bridge has been a fixture in Bernal since the 1950s, when it was opened by Bob Chow, a Chinese-American who had represented the US shooting team in the 1948  London Olympics. Chow died in 2003, but the store carried on under owner Andy Takahashi and manager Steven Alcairo until a Sept. 11 Facebook post announced that closure was imminent:

Dear friends and family, it’s with tremendous sadness and regret that I have to announce we are closing our shop. For many reasons I cannot get into at this moment, it appears our final days will be through to the end of October of 2015. We will clearance out what ever inventory we have in the shop and offer sale prices for anything you would like us to order. This is not a joke. For any of you Vultures, (you know who you are) please don’t bother us. For if you do, I give you my solemn promise that we will make it a very unpleasant experience for you. For all our true friends and followers, I would like to sincerely thank you for all your support, likes, positive feedback and best of all, your friendship. Hopefully, we’ll see you soon. It has been a long and difficult ride, but a great pleasure to be you’re last San Francisco Gun shop. Our warm regards, High Bridge Arms.

If this sounds like ripe fodder for Fox News, well, rest assured, they’re on it.

Ever since it was opened in the 1950s by a celebrated Olympic shooter, High Bridge Arms has been a defiant fixture in San Francisco’s Mission District, (sic) but a coming wave of new firearms restrictions has prompted the last gun shop in the liberal City by the Bay to pack it in.

The proposed new city regulations, which could only be aimed at High Bridge Arms, would have required the shop to take and preserve video of all transactions and turn customers’ personal data over to police on a weekly basis. General Manager Steven Alcairo said the shop’s owners finally threw in the towel after years of what they consider being unfairly targeted with burdensome rules and regulations. Past regulations have required the shop to bar ads and displays from its windows and install cameras and barriers around its exterior. The shop has 17 cameras as it is, and turns video over to police on request, he said.

“This time, it’s the idea of filming our customers taking delivery of items after they already completed waiting periods,” Alcairo said. “We feel this is a tactic designed to discourage customers from coming to us.

To be sure, a great many Bernalese will be glad to hear High Bridge Arms is closing. That’s understandable; the gun shop has long been an incongruous part of our local landscape, and gun violence is a disease that plagues our city and our nation.

That said, the store was popular among law enforcement officers, and I don’t recall hearing any stories that involved bad guys using guns that came from High Bridge. Awkward though it was, that incredible, faded GUNS sign out front provided a link to a lost time in San Francisco, and here in Bernal Heights. Here’s Bob Chow’s biography from the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California:

Bob Chow […] was born in 1911, in the U.S. to Chinese immigrant parents and passed away in 2003. He was a pioneer ham radio operator in his youth. He joined the Navy Reserve in the early 1930s. He became a noncommissioned officer, a rarity then for an Asian American.

Bob established 37 world pistol records, and in 1948 qualified for a place on the U.S. Olympic Team and competed in London. He was the first Chinese American to compete in pistol shooting in an Olympic game. Bob was the only U.S. rapid-fire shooter to score 60 hits in the match and placed 13th overall. After returning from the Olympics Bob coached young American shooters and raised the standard of American gunnery to competitive internationally.

bobchowaccuracyDuring his stint as a movie extra he taught John Wayne, Roy Rogers and others how to increase their accuracy in pistol firing. Bob was an all around sportsman and loved motorcycles. Bob played saxophone and banjo with American jazz groups during the Prohibition days following World War II. Eventually he and his wife Bobbie settled in San Francisco where he owned and operated a gun shop.

High Bridge was a juxtaposed holdover from the midcentury, working-class Bernal Heights that was here before almost all of us — before the Summer of Love, before Santana in the park, before the SLA, the Esmeralda Slides, BHNC, the Good Life, the coffee shops, the Subarus, the Priuses, and plenty of other events and symbols that reflect the sensibility Bernal Heights is known for today. High Bridge was an icon of diversity of a different sort, and even if you never liked it, or only barely tolerated it, it always provided a tangible reminder of different ways of looking at the world, and our own neighborhood.

PHOTO: High Bridge Arms sign, by Telstar Logistics

Hundreds Gather on Bernal Hill to Watch Supermoon Eclipse, Have Close Encounter



At sunset last night, a massive crowd of hundreds of people gathered on Bernal Hill to watch a once-in-a-generation event: a supermoon lunar eclipse. PBS Newshour explained what the fuss was all about:

Sunday night, the sun, earth and a full moon will be in a straight line, making the moon, which is in its closing point of orbit, appear much brighter than usual. This phenomenon, referred to as “supermoon” total lunar eclipse, hasn’t happened in 33 years and won’t for another 18 years.

Basically, at the very moment when the moon’s orbit put it closest to Earth (making it a supermoon), the moon, Earth, and the sun were also arranged in a line (creating an eclipse). This gave the big moon a creepy red color, which is why lots of people also call this a “bloodmoon” (or, in the contemporary argot, #bloodmoon).

Like many others, Neighbor Susie was drawn to Bernal Hill to watch the spectacle, and she shared this photo of the scene:


Here’s a panorama perspective from Neighbor Art:


For all the celestial pilgrims who stuck around, it was well worth the wait. Neighbor Rusty shot this image from Holliday Street:


The super-duper blood moon was amazing. Yet later in the evening, things got even more intense. Here’s some EXCLUSIVE footage of what happened at Sutrito Tower shortly after the bloodmoon eclipse reached its apex:

UPPER PHOTOS: Top, supermoon, Sept 27, by Rusty Hodge. Middle, crowd on Bernal Hill by Fred Sharples. Bottom, supermoon over Bernal as seen from Billy Goat Hill, by Charlie.

PG&E Transformer Explodes, Injuring 2 as Blackout Darkens Cortlandia


Many South Bernal resident experienced a blackout of much of the day on Saturday, after a PG&E power surge took down part of the local grid. Neighbor Esther was reporting live from the scene:

At Wool and Eugenia this morning. Two loud pops and flashes. Fire dept is here. Live wire hanging down to shoulder level in intersection. Red hot little wire up above. Yikes! Overheard a comment about a power surge that caused this.

Yikes is right. Here’s Neighbor Esther’s photo of a red-hot wire cooking above Eugenia:


Blackouts are a nuisance, but unfortunately this outage actually caused injuries, as the power surge triggered a transformer explosion on tiny Heyman Avenue, several blocks away.

Benny Evangelista from  The San Francisco Chronicle covered it:

Robert Antonelli, 55, was at the window of his Heyman Avenue home about 7:45 a.m. talking to a friend, Manuel Cruz, 34, of Daly City, who was standing outside, when he heard what sounded like a firecracker’s wick sizzling.

“And the next thing, ka-boom,” Antonelli said. “It exploded like a bomb. It blew things off my shelf. I flew back into my bed. Debris flew back into my room.”

Antonelli said Cruz, who was standing next to the transformer, was knocked out, and both men were taken to San Francisco General Hospital. Antonelli said he was treated for light burns on his face and released, but Cruz was more seriously burned and remained hospitalized.

The hospital did not immediately return a call seeking information about Cruz’s condition.

PG&E spokesman Matt Nauman confirmed that two men were injured after an equipment failure that occurred while a utility crew was at Wool Street and Eugenia Avenue, working to fix a power failure that began about 7:30 a.m.

Terrible. Get well soon, Neighbor Bobby and Manuel Cruz!

UPDATE: In the comments, Neighbor Esther shares more information about the injured:

I spoke to Neighbor Bobby later on Saturday after he was released from the hospital. He suffered light burns over his face and he said his lungs were still hurting and that is also hurt for him to talk. Manuel’s injuries were more serious, apparently he has severe burns all over his body but initial reports indicate his eyesight and hearing are ok. Best wishes for both men recovering soon!

Esther also reminds us that another PG&E transformer exploded nearby, on Coleridge, a little more than a year ago. Bernalwood has sent a series of questions to PG&E to understand more about the history and inspection procedures for this infrastructure. Stay tuned.

PHOTOS: PG&E crew working at Wool and Eugenia, courtesy of Neighbor Esther