Restored Esmeralda Slide Park Wins Fabulous San Francisco Beautiful Award


Remember just a few short months ago, when the historic and symbolic Esmeralda Slide Park was a sad ruin?

Blighted by the decaying forces of time, The City had to remove some of the wooden structures before they collapsed. Then came the rallying cry, and the heroic volunteer effort, and then the mini-park was restored and reborn. And now it’s won an amazing beautification award from San Francisco Beautiful.

Neighbors Joan Carson and Nancy Windensheim worked their tail-feathers off to make this happen, and without them, none of this would have happened. Here’s what they had to say about the recognition:

For all you folks who were waiting for the results of who is the winner of the SF Beautiful Award…

Being a nominee was cool enough, but Esmeralda Slide Park just went on record as the 2015 recipient of the Seven Hills Award.  This Award “recognizes nominees who have made a significant contribution to the creation of unique neighborhood character.”

There were 7 award categories and a winner for each. It’s very fitting Esmeralda Slide Park got the Seven Hills Award. Everybody knows Bernal is the ‘hood with the kick-ass slide; Now folks see we not only have the great slide, we have a plaza and park that is also awesome. It’s going to get even better, so stay tuned for more!

Hurray for our fabulous community, and bravo to everyone who has worked and will continue to work on the Esmeralda Slide Park.

See you at Esmeralda!

We did it! Our slides are both ass-kicking and award-winning.  Kind of like Kanye West, but with a much better attitude.

Most of all, a lot of very special thanks are due to Neighbors Nancy and Joan, who lead the charge to reconstruct the Esmeralda mini-park and make it better than ever. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Very, very well done, ladies:


PHOTOS: Courtesy of Neighbors Nancy and Joan

Esmeralda Slide Park, Now Beautifully Renovated, Nominated for SF Beautiful Award


Neighbor Joan Carson, one of the valiant ringleaders who helped organize the glamtastic renovation of the Esmeralda Slides and Mini-Park, shares this update on the new sign over the park, and some (well-deserved) recognition it’s receiving around town:

There’s a new sign over the Esmeralda Slide Park, designed by Nancy Windesheim and constructed by me. The sign is prominently displayed on the trellis above our planter box, with the new plantings installed by volunteers on August 15, the second workday we had.

Most of all, we want to tell everyone who reads Bernalwood that we are one of the many esteemed nominees for a 2015 SFBeautification award.  San Francisco Beautiful is a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the livability and beautification of San Francisco. For 44 years, they have been recognizing people and places who contribute to the City’s livability and beautification.

The nominees are showcased on the SF Beautiful’s Facebook page. We’re there, and if you’re excited like we are, please “like” us.

Everyone who dedicated themselves to making this rebuild happen should feel very proud. There are a number of projects that happened this year in the City that are really special, and we can find ourselves amongst them.

Whether we win an award on Sept. 17 or not, the recognition of being a nominee in the company of all the other special projects nominated, puts us in the best of company!

Citizens of Bernalwood, you know what to do: Please help stuff the ballot box by adding your Likes and gushy comments right here.

PHOTO: Neighbor Joan

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


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.


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!”


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

Activists Rally as Precita Eyes Studio Building on Precita Park Is Listed For Sale


Brace yourself: 348 Precita Avenue, the building on the south side of Precita Park that houses the small Precita Eyes mural studio, is for sale. Now Precita Eyes is organizing to discourage potential market-rate buyers:

Dear Friends of Precita Eyes,

Some of you may already know Precita Eyes Muralists’ studio on 348 Precita ave. is on the market for sale. We need your support to protest the sale to shake off competing bidders, BECAUSE A LOCAL HOUSING NON PROFITS ARE PLACING A BID TO BUY OUR BUILDING.

We ask you to talk about our 38 year old organization and our involvement in our community to potential bidders. Mention that the tenants above have lived there 30 plus years and they have no means to move.

Open house dates:
This Tuesday, August 25th (2:30-4pm) & Wednesday, August 26th (4-5pm)

We plan to have a FREE TODDLER ART CLASS & URBAN YOUTH ARTS during that time. It will be volunteered by our Toddler Art teacher Priya!!

Our Urban Youth Art Teacher Max will be present to create protest posters with the youth simultaneously.


MEDA is the Mission-based organization that has been active in the effort to block construction of new mixed-rate housing near the 16th St. BART station. In addition, MEDA also played a hands-on role in putting the Mission Housing Moratorium on the November ballot.

Prediction: This will be heated. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: In the comments, there’s some confusion about the Precita Eyes action plan. which appears to involve press outreach and an effort to “shake off competing bidders.”

If the recent sale of the Pigeon Palace property in the Mission is any guide, Prectia Eyes likely seeks to generate publicity about their organization, and the pending sale of 314 Precita, as part of an effort to discourage would-be market-rate purchasers from making offers for the building.  Eliminating other potential bidders would make MEDA’s effort to purchase 314 Precita more competitive. Precita Eyes is apparently working with MEDA to help purchase the building.

PHOTO: Precita Eyes on Facebook

A Huge Group Hug For Helping to Make the Esmeralda Mini-Park More Fabulous Than Ever


Last weekend, a glorious group of Bernal Heights volunteers gathered at the Esmeralda Mini-Park to help restore and rebuild the park (and the secret slides) to a new state of fabulous.

Around 40 Bernalese showed up to lend a hand, and the results look rather spectacular. The trellis has been sturdily rebuilt. The planter boxes are beefy and better than ever. The slide has a new launch deck up top and a new rubberized landing below. New retaining walls hold the hillside in place. It was a great scene while the work was happening, and Neighbor Carl Nolte even showed up to write about it for The Chronicle:

They say all politics is local. And so are all cities worth their salt. They are villages, neighborhoods. I found that out just the other day by walking up my street in Bernal Heights. […]

The [Esmeralda] project’s biggest triumph came Saturday, when more than three dozen neighbors showed up as part of District Nine community day to work on the park and the steps. The city lent tools, technical advice, even a free lunch.

This year’s Esmeralda project is a bit of a reprise of an old neighborhood tune on Bernal Heights. Back in 1978, a different group of neighbors got the city to build the park and put in landscaping in the first place.

Seriously. Go check out the park. It looks so great.

And for that, some super-extra-very-heavy-duty special thanks are due to Neighbors Joan Carson and Nancy Windesheim, who live near the mini-park. Say hello:

Neighbors Joan and Nancy did the grunt-work to organize the effort to get the project funded and make sure it was done right. Without them, none of this would have happened. None of it.

Yesterday Neighbors Joan and Nancy wrote Bernalwood to share a few thank-yous of their own:

To everyone that came out on Saturday for the Esmeralda Slide Park Workday. —Thank you!

To Mohammed Nuru, Director of DPW, Larry Stringer, Deputy Director for Operations DPW, and Kevin Sporer, Superintendent of DPW Bureau of Building Repair —  Thank you for going the extra mile to make this rebuild a success.

To the DPW work crew, especially Carpentry, Painting, Street Environmental Services, and Urban Forestry — Thank you.

To David Campos and his aide Hillary Ronen — Thank you.

We all love this Park. And with the help of the Department of Public Works (DPW), Campos’ office, and hardworking volunteers, we are keeping it that very special place.

The planter box and trellis are back and beautiful. The benches and picnic table will be back within a couple of weeks.

Your help was so appreciated and we will continue to reach out when opportunities arise. If you can help, great. If not, maybe next time. One thing we can all do (as we’re using the area or just walking through it) is to encourage slide users to take their used cardboard with them. When left behind, it leaves a big mess.

If you want to remain active on volunteering your time for upcoming workdays on Esmeralda Slide Park, RSVP Joan Carson at jcartist5691 AT

Nancy and I really couldn’t have done this without all of you so, once again: THANK YOU.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Six Timely Thoughts About Bernal Heights from Neighbor Darcy of Heartfelt


Neighbor Darcy Lee, a resident of Alemanistan and owner of Heartfelt on Cortland, recently shared some miscellaneous thoughts about the July 21 Epicurean Trader vandalism incident and several other matters of topical concern to the people of Bernal Heights:

I read all these comments when [the vandalism] first happened and I just read them again. Because this vandalism hit retail I am chiming in:

1. Retail takes long hours and many days a week. I have worked 7 days a week for years and am now down to 6 days. There is no whine tone here, because I love what I do. I have thought long and hard at what the graffiti person was trying to express, and it seems that it was aimed at the customer that shops at these posh shops, and the storefront or what the business symbolized got caught in the crossfire. Thus I loved the comments that said ‘Hey I do not make a ton of money but I appreciate a business that is selling food from the little makers that are concerned with how we farm and manufacture stuff affects the environment and our bodies.’ Same with Pinhole Coffee; I think we could not have landed a more kindcontributor to the neighborhood, or a more concerned-with-the-world kind of person. (ie. JoEllen) My mantra here, bear with me, is that it is important to not assume new is bad.

2. Random vandalism to prove a misdirected point is lame.

3. Change happens within a city. I know a family that lives in the ‘burbs and rent out their family home in Bernal. They inherited it from working class parents and grew up in the small Bernal house. They maintain it, but they have not remodeled, and they rent it out at less than market rent (not way less, but less). Their mildly disabled sister lives in an inlaw unit in the back. The three kids feel this extra income has allowed them to buy their own homes outside of the city. They have no desire to live here, and they do not get why it is appealing. But they are respectful of what the changes in the neighborhood have brought them. The son told me that their parents, both from Mexico and now deceased, would be very surprised if they knew.

4. The other day on the radio I heard a short clip about Japan and why they are now in financial trouble. Excuse my summary if I got the facts wrong, but as I heard it, Japan loved itself too much. Japan thought it was invincible, and that it would always be the leader in selling the world shiny, modern stuff. (think Walkman) I think we in Bernal love ourselves too much, and we are trying to hold onto something that is already gone. Thus we stay in this sort of negative rant-mode. And SF, too. This way of thinking lets us hold to an ideal in our minds instead of looking around us. Walk the streets of Bernal. We are not just shiny dark grey and black homes; there are lots of different stories within our midst. Volunteer at the local public schools, visit our library, go to the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, visit the farm on Alemany, chat with your neighbor who is elderly and ask if they ever need help. I find this much more productive towards preserving what you miss as opposed to constantly whining what you loved is gone. I found this article Todd posted on Facebook to be fascinating.

5. Some say Airbnb is bad, because it takes apartments off the market.  Some say Airbnb is good, because it allows folks to get extra income to rent out rooms and stay in the ‘hood. Regulations are good, they make it so landlords cannot rip off tenants. Some tenants take advantage of this, so some landlords do not want to get anywhere near the rental market after a bad tenant. As a person who works on the street in Bernal, the stories we hear are endless and every point of view is expressed.

6. If you insist you are right, then someone else has to be wrong. Perhaps it is more important to take a breath and listen. I hear you Cortland graffiti person, I am curious about you, and I hate that you expressed yourself this way, but I hear your frustration. There are so many stories out there.

PHOTO: Neighbor Darcy Lee outside Heartfelt, December 13, 2014. Photo by Telstar Logistics

Remembering Karen Huggins, Holly Courts Advocate


Neighbor Sarah Rogers tells Bernalwood about the passing of Neighbor Karen Huggins:

Neighbor Karen Huggins died of cancer in mid-June.

Karen was an activist who lived in Bernal’s Holly Courts public-housing development, and she was committed to social justice on behalf of both public-housing residents and the larger community. She frequently worked with the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, Supervisor David Campos and his staff, and many Bernal neighbors and groups. She served on the Ingleside Police Station’s community police advisory board and helped author the city’s 2011 ordinance on community policing. She was president of the Holly Courts Resident Council and a tireless advocate for residents of public housing.

Karen “fought fiercely for economic and racial justice, with a twinkle in her eye and great love and humor,” says neighbor Buck Bagot.

Karen “was one of the most incredible people I’ve met,” adds Supervisor Campos. “She was brilliant, driven, and passionate. She was also a character, with a great sense of style and class. She was the kind of person who made an entrance, someone you were bound to remember. She was one of a kind, a quintessential Bernal personality.”

“Karen had a vision,” recalls Bobby Cochran, a Holly Courts resident and sergeant-at-arms of the Holly Courts Residents Council. He first met Karen when he was sweeping up broken glass at Holly Courts, and she asked if he needed a push broom. “Everything you needed, she had,” he said. After he retired from his job, she persuaded him to join the Residents Council, even though he was reluctant at first, having never participated in local politics. “You’ll learn,” she told him, advice she gave many others at Holly Courts.

Soon, he found himself traversing San Francisco to attend and speak at hearings and “meeting people I never thought I’d meet.” Karen had a vision for making Holly Courts a place that was truly a part of the surrounding neighborhood, in its appearance and in its level of safety and civility. She worked tirelessly to get safety-related issues like broken lights and security gates repaired, and she helped get the units repainted. Karen had memorized all housing-related bylaws and knew how to navigate government departments and work with city officials and staff. “I learned a lot from her,” Cochran said. “I wish she was still here to teach me more.”

Karen was “a force to be reckoned with,” said Ailed Paningbatan-Swan, director of community engagement at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center. But Karen also had “a nurturing and loving side that radiated from her, rejuvenating those around her. She shared with me her struggles with her sickness while also taking care of me while I was pregnant. She called me every week to check in and made sure I was doing okay with my pregnancy, and she couldn’t wait to meet my baby. I’m truly sad that she wasn’t able to meet my son.”

Nicole Hatfield, youth coordinator (and former youth participant) at the BHNC, attributed her career choice to Karen’s influence and said, “I will never forget her spirit and tenacity to continue working in public housing and striving for her communities to flourish.”

Karen did not want people to know how sick she was, so her death came as a shock to many who knew her. As her cancer progressed, she held an emotional meeting with the Residents Council, Cochran says, explaining that she wanted them to step up, to watch each others’ backs, to trust each other, and to always remember that “you’re not in it for personal gain. You’re in it for Holly Courts, the residents, and the greater community.”

“It’s hard to imagine the world without Karen,” Supervisor Campos said in a Facebook post after her death. “San Francisco certainly will not be the same without her. I feel lucky and blessed that I got to know Karen. And I know that the best thing we can do to honor her is to rededicate ourselves to social justice and to her passion — making sure that we do right by the residents of Holly Courts and all of public housing in San Francisco.”

PHOTO: Karen Huggins