Help Protect Bernal Hill on July Fourth; Help Clean Up Bernal Hill on July Fifth

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It’s Fourth of July Weekend, which is a joyous magnificent thing. Happy Birthday America!

There are two essential things for all Bernalese to keep in mind on this holiday weekend:

1) Morons Will Try to Burn Down Bernal Hill on Saturday, July 4

Well, they won’t deliberately seek to burn down Bernal Hill. Nevertheless, history teaches us that during the City’s big fireworks display on July 4, Bernal Hill will be a popular place to watch the show. Many of those spectators will bring their own fireworks, and they will ignite them amid much whooping and cheering on Bernal Hill. This is a moronic to do, because the grass on Bernal Hill is very dry this time of year, and it’s very, very easy to trigger a big brush fire. Like this Fourth of July blaze in 2013:

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Eeeek! So let us now recall the July Fourth Pro Tips that Neighbor Sarah shared last year:

Do not set off fireworks. Definitely don’t set them off on Bernal Hill, which is covered in dry grasses and brush. You may recall that [in 2013], some moron set the Hill on fire. Luckily, no one was hurt, but imagine if this had happened in an area crowded with people watching the downtown fireworks display. If you remember no other item on this list, remember this one. No. Fireworks. On. Bernal. Hill.

If you see someone setting off illegal fireworks on Bernal Hill, call the police. Dial 553-0123 if nothing is on fire yet. Dial 911 or 553-8090 if there is an active blaze.

Okay, with that squared away, let’s talk about The Day After…

2. There Will Be a Neighborly Bernal Hill Clean-Up on Sunday, July 5

Notiwthstanding the admonitions contained within Item 1 above, there will still be a lot of post-party trash strewn around Bernal Hill after all the fireworky boom-booms. It happens. Fortunately, some of your finest and most valiant neighbors are planning a massive Sunday morning clean-up on the hill, and they want to meet you. Neighbor Edie from the Bernal GO! Team tells us:

The Bernal Go Team will be holding our annual Hilltop Cleanup this Sunday, July 5th from 10am to 11am. What a great time to catch some sun, get a little exercise, and clean up our hill after the festivities on the 4th. Gloves, bags, and pick up sticks will be provided by SF Rec and Park. We’ll meet by the notice board in the parking area of Bernal Heights Boulevard on the south side of the hill near Anderson.  With questions, call or text me at 415 515-2397.

Do it.

Have a great weekend, Bernal Heights.

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Bernal Heights Celebrates Landmark Supreme Court Victory

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Neighbor Valerie just shared these photos; they’re a perfect way to celebrate today’s landmark Supreme Court decision that establishes nationwide legal status for same-sex marriage.

“Love always wins,” Neighbor Valerie says, and that right there is some pitch-perfect punditry for this most glorious Pride Week.

Congratulations, San Francisco! This took a long time, and lots of people worked very hard for it, but all that makes victory even more sweet.

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PHOTOS: Neighbor Valerie

YES! City Funds Secured to Restore Esmeralda Mini-Park

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Nice work, people.

Thanks in no small part to your vigorous nagging activism, Supervisor David Campos’s office reports that City funds will be made available to restore the endangered trellis at the Esmeralda-Winfiend Mini Park:

We are thrilled to report that we were able to secure funding for replacement of the Trellis through the City’s budget process. Thank you so much for bringing this issue to our attention. It has been a pleasure to see to the neighborhood so united over a common treasure and we really appreciate your advocacy. DPW has assured us that as soon as the funding is allocated to the department, it will replace the Trellis. The original structure is set to come down next week. The final City Budget is approved on July 21st. We will be working closely with DPW to make sure the replacement structure is built as soon as possible.

That’s fantastic news, so let’s all join hands for a collective woo-hoo:

Wooooo-HOOOOOOOO!!!!!

This is also a fitting tribute to the scrappy group of Bernal neighbors who rallied to build the trellis (and the secret Esmeralda slides!) in the first place, almost 40 years ago.

But who were these energetic Bernal ancestors? Who created the gift that is the Esmeralda-Winfield Mini-Park?

That’s them, in the world-famous photo up above.

Many Bernalese will recognize the photo, because to this day it stands as a defining symbol of Bernal Heights activism, engagement, volunteerism, and neighborly solidarity. The image is a magnificent time-capsule, so Bernalwood encourages you to zoom and enhance it at your leisure from the safety and comfort of your own computer screen to explore all the wonderful details it reveals.

The photo was taken in 1978, just as work on the slide and mini-park was wrapping up. Back then, Neighbor Michael Nolan was one of the chief organizers of the project, and you can see him in the photo on the far left:

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Today Neighbor Michael still lives in Bernal, where is often seen leading the pom-pom squad for the Elsie Street Glee Club and contributing to the Bernal Heights History Project (among many other things):

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To help modern-day Bernalese understand all the dedication and bureaucratic wrangling it took to create the Esmeralda Mini-Park in the first place, Bernalwood nagged asked Neighbor Michael to give us a behind-the-scenes view of the project’s creation-story:

In the wake of a fun-filled though unsuccessful run for District Supervisor in 1977, I threw my surplus civic energy into making the Esmeralda Mini-Park happen.

I won that campaign. The Northwest Bernal Block had worked mightily for years on the project, believing that between Precita and Holly Parks, there was no area for children to play. But various bureaucratic and legal snafus had stymied the project, even though there was sufficient city funding and support.

Getting the Board of Supervisors to “vacate” what was still officially a “street” and turn it into a park was crucial, because that’s what was required to limit the potential liability of adjoining homeowners and win their okay.

I convened a dedicated crew of nearby neighbors who worked with landscape architect Andrew Butler and Planning Department liaison Lu Blazej .  Tom Chiosso of DPW brought tools, materials, and community development grants from the City.

Bernal neighbors volunteered to prepare the land, build the double slide, erect a play structure, and install the planter boxes and trellis on the Winfield Landing.

We’d hoped that our popular Mayor George Moscone would inaugurate the double slide, but we lost him and Harvey Milk in the tragic assassinations of that fall. In early 1979, Mayor Dianne Feinstein and District 9 Supervisor Lee Dolson did the honors.

Here’s what that moment looked like, when Di-Fi took an inaugural slide:

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So that brings us to today.

Though our funds are (fingers-crossed) secured, we still have a ways to go until the Esmeralda-Winfield Mini-Park is restored to its proper glory. Let’s stay focused, let’s stay engaged, and let’s do whatever it takes to make sure this mini-park remains glorious for another 40 years.

Bernal Neighbor Describes Intense Encounter Outside Planned Parenthood

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Neighbor Mary visited the Planned Parenthood clinic on Valencia last week, and the scene outside was very unpleasant. She tells Bernalwood:

I have been lucky to not encounter anti-abortion protesters since my college days in Boston. I never saw anything like what I saw today.

Planned Parenthood Valencia has served me, a native of Bernal SF, for years. I have Uterine Fibroids and have been taking oral contraceptives since I was nineteen.

I work in SOMA. Swing shift, so I missed refilling my prescription. Planned Parenthood’s online patient portal came to the rescue. On Thursday, I decided to head to work earlier and hit up the clinic to grab my three-month supply and jet to work. Outside Planned Parenthood I encountered the most hideous, aggressive, protester.

She was cloaked in a fake lab coat and wheelchair. As she approached, she seemed mentally-ill. I’m compassionate, because I have a mother with mental illness and I’ve worked with the disabled population. She immediately asked if I was there for an abortion. I politely told her my reasons for being at Planned Parenthood were none of her business.

She then continued to share a laundry list of ridiculous inaccuracies about Planned Parenthood and it’s services. I was floored by her lack of boundaries.

She may be anti-abortion, but I’m anti-aggression, and she’s just lucky I don’t enjoy engaging with law enforcement. She was ripe for concrete-to-middle-of-the-street counseling. I should be able to pick up my anti-baby pills in peace!

The incident left me nervous and freaked out. The staff at Planned Parenthood were so sweet, and they got me out of there ASAP. I was afraid to leave — so were many of us that morning. Would love to hear more about what can be done about the harassment. I would never be allowed to harass people like that outside of a church or even a bar!

As previously reported, protest activity outside the Valencia Planned Parenthood took a darker turn last year, after the US Supreme Court invalidated a Massachusetts law that created “buffer zones” around clinics that provide abortion services, on First Amendment grounds.

GRAPHIC IMAGE WARNING: The un-hidden version of the photo at the top of this post is displayed here:

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PHOTOS: Neighbor Mary

Bernal Filmmaker Creating Documentary About San Bruno Mountain’s Butterflies

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Neighbor Gail Mallimson is a filmmaker who lives on Moultrie. She’s working on a film about San Bruno Mountain — that very tall thing covered in rocks and grass and butterflies and radio antennas (that’s not Bernal Hill) you pass on your way to the airport. San Bruno Mountain is actually home to some very unique butterflies, and Neighbor Gail’s film documents the effort to save them from extinction. From her media release:

San Francisco documentary filmmaker Gail Mallimson’s newest film, The Edge of the Wild will be released this Spring, and premiere at the San Francisco Green Film Festival (dates to be announced). A Bernal Heights resident, Mallimson has set her sights on a local issue – the 30-year land-use battle over endangered butterflies on San Bruno Mountain. The film is a labor of love for this accomplished filmmaker who has worked in the past on documentaries about diverse subjects like Sudanese refugees, homophobia in womens’ college basketball, the state of mental healthcare, and mindfulness in an underprivileged middle school.

Mallimson filmed The Edge of the Wild over eight years, climbing San Bruno Mountain with her camera to capture this beautiful wilderness that is one mile south of San Francisco, and completely surrounded by urbanization. The film is told through the eyes of Michele Salmon, who has lived her whole life in the small town of Brisbane, which is tucked into a canyon on the mountain. In the 1960’s, Michele’s family played a major role in foiling development plans to scrape off the top of the mountain for a new city. The Edge of the Wild follows Michele as she picks up where her parents left off – battling to uphold the Endangered Species Act and reverse a national policy that allows landowners to kill endangered butterflies. The story is a touching portrayal of small-town democracy and of residents’ emotional bonds to a local butterfly and wilderness that are at risk of disappearing forever.

Mallimson has a few more hoops to jump through before The Edge of the Wild is completely done, and she has launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to pay for finishing costs of the film.

The Edge of the Wild will screen at the San Francisco Green Film Festival in early June (date to be announced soon) and will be shown throughout the country as part of an outreach campaign to defend the Endangered Species Act against attack in Congress.

Here’s the trailer:

Saturday: Volunteers Wanted to Help Make Bradford/Jarboe Stairs More Beautiful

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Remember that City-owned lot near the top of Bernal Hill that suffered from neglect, overgrowth, and a general sense of sad? And remember how an extremely sexy group of neighborhood volunteers cleaned up the land so well and so thoroughly that it is now certified for use as a Bernal Heights Unicorn Habitat?

Well, Neighbor Samir is organizing a similar volunteer clean-up effort for some neglected terrain in Alemanistan, around the Bradford and Jarboe Stairs. The work happens tomorrow, Saturday, February 21 from 9am to 12 noon, and our local unicorns would love it if you could help.

Neighbor Samir tells the recent history of the site:

According to neighborhood lore, before the Bradford and Jarboe stairs were put in place, there was a dirt path here that was attended to by a neighbor.

Then when two new residences went up on the 300 block of Bradford, the developer worked with the city to install these stairs. They ended up tearing out all the landscaping, but they put in some new plants. The City maintained it for 5 years then stopped. (That was about when my partner and I moved to the block, a little over 3 years ago.)

I think neighbors were put off by the whole process of the stairs going in, and the neighbor who did the original landscaping sold his house and moved away.

In the time since the city stopped doing maintenance, myself and a few others have made individual efforts to go out there and clean things up. Others have repeatedly called 311, but no one ever comes out to do anything. I’d basically all but given up, until I saw the Bernalwood post about the Ellsworth garden. I saw [Jerad Weiner, DPW’s community liaison]’s contact info in the comments, and reached out to him directly. That’s how this got going. Jerad was very responsive and got to work right away organizing this gardening day.,

From what I gather, the first day we’ll be weeding and trimming. We’re then supposed to assess which areas should get mulch and DPW attention. Jerad also mentioned that if we neighbors get together and put together a list of things we want, we can request that the City purchase them (plants, etc).

This area too could soon become a vibrant Bernal Heights Unicorn Habitat. But first, it needs your help. Saturday morning. Nine to noon. As explained here:

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Bank of America Plans to Eliminate Human Bankers from Cortland Branch

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Action Alert: Bank of America has announced plans to eliminate human tellers from the bank’s Cortland Branch.

Bernalwood visited the Cortland Branch yesterday to confirm the rumors that have been swirling around the neighborhood for the last few days.

We were told that BofA does indeed plan to turn the Cortland Branch into an Express Banking Center. That means the building is slated to undergo significant remodeling, with human tellers replaced by a zeal of indoor ATM machines. Safe deposit boxes will be eliminated along with the tellers, but the site will be staffed by non-banker humans to assist with account-management issues. The remaining humans will be customer support people, basically.

As currently envisioned, remodeling will begin in April, with the branch set to reopen in July.

The B of A on Cortland has been there for a long time. A really long time; almost 100 years, practically since the time of the ancient Bernal druids. Which is to say, the B of A on Cortland is very much a local institution. During Bernalwood’s visit yesterday, the Cortland branch was bustling; There was a short line to visit the tellers, as a few more customers waited patiently on chairs to talk with a personal banker. While they still can.

Neighbor Darcy Lee from Heartfelt on Cortland was very sad to hear about BofA’s plan for the Cortland Branch, and she is rallying to keep the human bank tellers there. Neighbor Darcy writes:

As you might know, the B of A plans on renovating our branch to make it indoor ATMs.

I just went in the bank; There were 4 senior citizens waiting for service and 3 merchants in line. I could have made a video right then and there why a neighborhood branch is so important. B of A owns the building, and they want to make it an indoor ATM. They want to stay in Bernal, but just change what they provide.

This has a big impact on us as merchants, and that further extends to our customers that use the bank. There are many senior citizens that use this as a resource in Bernal.

All of us as merchants need money — actual coins and bills — sometimes multiple times in one day. We also make large cash deposits (or, at least hopefully large). From my observation over the years, this bank takes the time to explain to their elderly population often not English speakers what is going on with their accounts and statement charges.

B of A has made this announcement when their process is pretty far along, but I want to fight it.

Stay tuned for more details, but if you’d like to find out more, check in with Neighbor Darcy at Heartfelt.

UPDATE: In the comments, Neighbor Darcy adds:

HI all, Darcy here… thanks for your input- it is helpful to hear what you have to say. Please note that many folks that bank there do not read Bernalwood. There have always been safety issues with this branch, a few botched robberies over the years thus the bullet proof glass, a senior citizen mugged at the ATM. A door that opens during business hours without having to use your ATM card seems important to me, literally and symbolically. I do not feel it is an issue of “yeeesh old folks can learn to use a technology that has been around a long time”. For me it is an issue of letting an institution know that their decision made many miles from 94110 is affecting us. If you have ideas for the cause email me at info@heartfeltsf.com and if you have an account you will close because of this change please also let me know.

PHOTO: “Crowd of people standing outside the Bernal Heights branch of the Bank of America, on Cortland Avenue, after a bank robbery” December 24, 1936, via SFPL Image Library