Spotter’s Report: Which of These Bernal Birds Is the Mostest Cutest?


Neigbor John and his 7 year-old son Eddie have been out bird-watching again, and they bring us this update on some of the avians they’ve spotted recently around Bernal Heights:

Getting good focus on the birds is really hard, as they move around a lot, and the plants have a tendency to attract the auto zoom. But we have great birds on the hill, and this is one way to share them.

Here are three super cool birds all found in less than fifteen minutes in the pine trees just up Bernal Heights Boulevard near the gate on the north side of the hill.

The first is a Nutthall’s Woodpecker. We are more familiar with the Ladder Backed Woodpecker, but it generally doesn’t come this far north and the red is a bit further back on the head of the Nutthall’s, which you can clearly see here. There must be a ton of bugs in the dead trunk just up from the live pines as this woodpecker was pecking ferociously:


The Pygmy Nuthatch and Chestnut Backed Chickadee are in a dead heat for cutest bird on the hill. Here’s the Pygmy Nuthatch:


Birds standing still in the nice light is a highly unnatural act, and the cutest birds seem to be the most shy. Here’s the Chestnut Backed Chickadee:


It looks like we also have a pair of Red Tailed Hawks nesting on the hill. If you look closely, you can see nesting material in the hawk’s beak. I hope we can look forward to a few months of serious hawk activity:


PHOTOS: Neighbor John and Neighbor Eddie

Bernal Neighbors Co-Found High-Tech Veterinary House Call Startup


Against the backdrop our our recent neighborly conversation about pet etiquette and urgent pet care, Bernalwood learns that a team of Bernal neighbors have banded together to launch VetPronto, a new pet-tech veterinary startup.

Neighbor Joe writes:

Hi. My name is Joe Waltman and I recently moved to Bernal Heights (north slope) with my wife (Lindsay) and two kids (Maddie – 6 months and Will – 2.5 years).

I wanted to let pet-owning Bernalese know about our company, a house-call veterinary service called VetPronto.

We would like to think that house calls are more convenient for the owner and less stressful for the pet. If your furry friends need to see the doctor, please consider a VetPronto house call. And, if you have any questions about your pet’s health, we provide free answers from licensed veterinarians here.

Folks seem to be digging it on the Yelp, and VetPronto even got a fancy write-up on TechCrunch:

A new company looking to make it more convenient for pet owners to see their local veterinarian, VetPronto, is now live in San Francisco. A member of the Y Combinator Winter 2015 class, VetPronto is offering on-demand house call veterinary services for dogs and cats, allowing customers to skip a visit to the clinic or just see a vet at a more convenient time – like on evenings and weekends, for example.

The company was founded last spring by Brian Hur, Joe Waltman, and Soren Berg, the latter two who previously sold their email marketing company to Twitter. Meanwhile, Hur is a former Microsoft systems engineer-turned-vet.

“Once I got into the veterinary industry, I noticed there were a lot of gaps in technology all the way through,”Hur explains. “And since getting out and practicing medicine, I’ve really focused on bridging those gaps and making sure that veterinary medicine can be upgraded for the dot-com era.”

A practicing vet since 2011, Hur did the first 100 or so VetPronto appointments himself, before the company contracted with other area veterinarians. Today, it has five vets working part-time and is soon adding a sixth to serve its customers in San Francisco, which is the startup’s main geographic focus for now.

Here’s the pitch video:

PHOTO: Neighbor Joe Waltman and family, via VetPronto

An Introduction to Our Local Sparrows, as Spotted Recently on Bernal Hill


Neigbor John and his 7 year-old son Eddie live on Lundys. They’re heavy into bird-watching, and they inform us that Bernal Heights is actually a rather lively place to spy the local avians.

Neighbor John tells Bernalwood:

Here are three photos I took while bird watching with Eddie this morning. Within 100 yards on the south slope of Bernal Heights Blvd. we saw all three of the varieties of sparrows that can be seen on the hill.

The White Crowned Sparrow is obvious, with the distinctive white stripes on its head. They are currently in their “first winter” plumage:

White Crowned Sparrow

The second is the Golden Crown Sparrow, also in the first winter plumage. While you can clearly see the gold color on its head, the color will brighten as we head into spring:

Golden Crowned Sparrow

The House Sparrow is actually an ally of the finches. It has a distinctive, if boring, slate gray scalp, which is more than made up for with the black breast and colorful brown back:

House Sparrow

One of the lessons we are learning from bird watching with Eddie is to take joy in watching common birds. And, when you look closely, they have interesting stories as well!

PHOTOS: Neighbor John and Eddie

Four-Legged Foodies Rejoice: Fancy Pet Food Store Opening on Precita Park


The commercial space on the northwest corner of the Precita/Alabama intersection has seen many transitions in recent years.

That wasn’t always the case; For around 100 years, it was just a typical San Francisco corner store. That changed in 2011, when the corner store closed. Then it became an ill-fated children’s art center and gym, which was followed in by an ill-fated pet grooming shop.

Now the wheel has turned again, and 433 Precita is set to become… a natural pet food store!

The new place is called Jeffrey’s Natural Pet Food, and Bernalwood is told it will offer a mix of house-made and locally produced organic dog and cat cuisine, in all your favorite flavors. Like, for example, Canine Beef, Yams, and Broccoli


… or Feline Turkey and Polenta:


The full menu of Jeffrey’s house-made food is right here.

The About page tells us:

Jeffrey’s Natural Pet Foods is the best source of raw, organic and all natural pet foods, treats, supplies and information in San Francisco. At Jeffrey’s, we make our own locally sourced, fresh, handmade pet foods and treats.

Jeffrey’s Fresh Meat Pet Foods are prepared five days a week, using fresh and locally sourced ingredients. Our food contains only the highest quality ingredients: raw, free range meats free from hormones and antibiotics, fresh organic vegetables, vitamins and minerals. Our food is a great choice for your dog or cat.

The Precita Park outpost will be Jeffrey’s third; the other two are in The Castro and North Beach.

If all goes according to plan, Jeffrey’s Natural Pet Foods will be open this weekend. No word on plans for weekend brunch service; or if they do wedding, bar mitzvah, or quinceañera catering; or if reservations are required for parties of more than six.

Meanwhile, if you listen carefully, you might just hear the sound of a certain change-averse Bernal neighbor‘s head imploding just a few blocks away: “Gourmet organic pet food?  Whaaaaaaaaaat???!”

PHOTOS: Top, Telstar Logistics. Below, Jeffrey’s Natural Pet Foods

Bernal Author Jon Mooallem Stars in “Mooallempalooza” Double-Feature Podcast


Regular readers of Bernalwood will recognize Neighbor Jon Mooallem — he’s a Bernal Heights literary superstar, Pop Up Magazine celebrity, and high-five scholar. To that impressive list of glamorous accomplishments, we can now add another: Neighbor Jon is also the namesake and star of Mooallempalooza!

Mooallempalooza is a special double-feature podcast created by the awesome 99% Invisible team, and it’s a lovely way to experience Neighbor Jon’s myriad talents:

As you probably know, 99% Invisible is a show about the built world, about things manufactured by humans. We don’t tend to do stories about animals or nature. But our friend Jon Mooallem writes brilliant stories about the weird interactions between animals and humans, interactions that are becoming ever weirder and more designed. Mooallem is a writer with the New York Times Magazine and for Pop -Up Magazine, the live magazine in San Francisco, which is where we first heard these two stories. You might remember them as episodes #40 and #91 respectively, but now we present them together in a radio special we’re calling Mooallempalooza.

Your Bernalwood editor listened to Mooallempalooza in the car during a lazy drive back to Bernal Heights over the winter break, and it left me smiling all day. Tune in to Mooallempalooza to hear Neighbor Jon explain the true history of the Teddy Bear, along with a live performance of selections from his book, Wild Ones, with musical accompaniment from the band Black Prairie. It’s so wonderful.

Enjoy Mooallempalooza right here, or on your favorite podcasting app (just search for 99% Invisible).

It will fill you with earthly amazement, creative inspiration, and neighborly pride.

PHOTO: Jon Mooallem

Holiday Season Pro Tips for Bernal Dogs, Cats, and the Humans Who Love Them


Neighbor Nicolette Zarday lives on Bernal’s tony west side, and she works as a veterinarian at Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Altos. (You might remember her from such previous pearls of Bernal Heights pet wisdom as  “Foxtails: Delicious But Deadly.”) With the holiday season fast approaching, Neighbor Nicolette has shared some tips on how you and your critters can get through it all with your good cheer intact.

She tells Bernalwood:

Tis the season to eat holly, as well as poinsettias, chocolate, tinsel, ribbon, raisin spice cake, turkey carcass, and whatever is in the garbage can. You have no idea how delicious the compost bin smells this time of year.

At the pet hospital where I work, we generally see a lull in emergencies and appointments after the summer, but business ticks up around the holidays. Many of the problems are caused by “dietary indiscretion,” as we like to call it. Heartfelt gatherings of family and friends end an emergency pet hospital visit when the family dog starts throwing up after plundering an unattended kitchen. Some kitties just can’t wait until Christmas day to open the presents.

Here are some of the top holiday hazards to keep in mind. It’s not an exhaustive list, because pets always find ways to surprise us. Yet these are some of the more common reasons for pet ER visits this time of year.

Chocolate:  The darker, the more intense, the better for humans — and the more toxic for pets. Most people know chocolate can be toxic to dogs and cats, because animals don’t metabolize the caffeine-like compounds well. Halloween candy is rarely a problem, since that “chocolate” is mostly high fructose corn syrup and processed junk. But the good stuff that starts showing up for the holidays can cause trouble. Chocolate ingestion can be quite serious, but fortunately it’s rarely fatal if treated promptly.

Raisins, Grapes, and Currants: This has the veterinary and pet-owning community flummoxed. We still don’t know what makes these so deadly. Even garden-grown, organic grapes have caused illness. Fortunately, ingestion rarely results in illness. But when it does, however, kidney failure develops, often leading to death.

Fat: Yes, it makes everything taste more delicious. Drippings on the foil that’s in the garbage, turkey skin, leftover gravy, buttery creamy dishes… this time of year is ripe with fatty delights.While not technically toxic, excessive ingestion of fat can cause a give a dog a very upset stomach, and more seriously, acute pancreatitis.

Bones: Turkey carcasses, meat bones, chicken bones… they can get stuck in the esophagus, or create an intestinal blockage, or, more commonly, general digestive unhappiness. Fortunately, if bones make it to the stomach and stay there for a few hours, stomach acid will usually dissolve most of them.

Stringy Things: Here’s a diagnosis you never want to hear from your veterinarian: “linear foreign body.” This tends to be a problem for cats, who love to chase stringy things, but we see it in dogs too. Ribbon from wrapped gifts or tinsel from the Christmas tree gets caught on the tongue, and then swallowed. The gastrointestinal tract, doing its gastrointestinal thing, tries to move the string down the tract, but one end is caught on something higher up. The intestines get bunched up on the taut string, and it’s really bad. These animals act sick: not eating, very lethargic, usually vomiting. Surgery is the only solution.

Holly, Mistletoe, and Poinsettias: These plants are mildly toxic if ingested in small amounts, causing nothing worse than gastrointestinal sadness. In greater quantities, neurologic signs can develop.

Wild Mushrooms: This has nothing to do with the holidays, but in Northern California, we start to see mushrooms popping up this time of year because of the rains. Most mushrooms are not a big problem, but the ones that are bad are really bad and can cause liver failure. Puppies are often victims because they’re the least discriminating. Keep an eye on what goes into your dog’s mouth at all times.

Remember: Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested something that may be a problem. If you suspect a toxin, look it up: the Pet Poison Helpline or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control page have great information and 24 hour call-in services.

Be safe and stay merry!

IMAGE: Christmas cat via Wikimedia Commons


Victorian NIMBYs Were Very Annoyed by Stinky Stockyards in Bernal Heights


Solomon’s Stockyards, as illustrated by The San Francisco Call, 1893

Neighbor Vicky Walker from the Bernal Heights History Project shared this gem with Bernalwood. It’s an 1893 tale of angry Bernal neighbors, forlorn cows, miserable horses, “foul smells,” and “noxious odors.” Oh, and lots and lots of health code violations.

The story catches Bernal Heights at an awkward moment in the late nineteenth century, as the neighborhood is completing its transition from livestock pastureland to proto-gentrified residential enclave.

At the time, neighbors along present-day Coledridge Street (then called California Ave) were rather annoyed that several legacy property-owners nearby were continuing to operate livestock businesses, in clear violation of prevailing laws which, at the time, allowed no more than two cows to reside on any property in Bernal.

It’s sort of a Victorian version of squabbling over street parking etiquette and illegal sublets or soccer fields, only with lots more animal manure and rotting offal.

The noxious-smelling properties in 1893 were Solomon’s Stockyard on Mission at Fair Street (roughly the site of today’s Taqueria Cancun), and the Kahn & Levy stockyard at the corner of Mission and Cortland (approximately the site of Zante’s).

To help you get oriented, here are the approximate locations,  annotated on an 1889 map of Bernal Heights:


And here’s the tale of “A Real Nuisance,” as it appeared in the Saturday, July 29, 1893 edition of the San Francisco Morning Call.

It’s an awesome read with some wonderful characters (viva Neighbor Seculovich! You go, Precita Valley Improvement Club!!) so… enjoy:



Salomon’s Stockyard at the Mission
The Owner Arrested Three Times for Violating a Provision of the Board of Health

The Board of Health is determined to check the nuisance in the Western Mission known as Salomon’s stockyard. The proprietor has been arrested three times on the charge of menacing the health of the neighborhood, but still the foul smell place spreads its noxious odors itbout, and offends the nostrils of residents. The stockyard in question is situated on Mission street, and runs back along Fair avenue to California avenue. It has a frontage of about 200 feet on Mission Street, and presents an unbroken line on Fair avenue.

The large space is divided into corrals, and partially occupied by rickety sheds, while forlorn cows and distressed-looking horses wauder about the little spaces. Goats scramble over the fences and join in the general search for something to eat.

There are great piles of manure in the enclosures, and the contracted stalls are damp and odorous. In one of the small stables there were four cows crowded, while others ambled about the lot. The horses were confined in the lot that corners on Fair and California avenues, but the cows are directly on the Mission street front, nearly opposite the turn-table of the Valencia street cable road.

In spite of the unhealthful surroundings Mr. Salomon denies that the place is a nuisance, though he confesses that he has been arrested on such a charge. “It is all spitework,” he said, “and is caused by this man Seculovich, who lives right next my cow stables .”

An inspection of the premises of Mr. Seculovich showed that the rear end of Salomon’s cow stables was within a few feet of his kitchen door, and the stench of the offal was almost unendurable. Seculovich has a comfortable though unpretentious home, and his yard is filled with flowers and fruit trees. He says that the odor from the lining cowsheds has caused him no end of annoyance and that he proposes to insist upon the abatement of the nuisance.

Dr. Kseney, the nominal head of the Board of Health, said that Salomon was arrested the last time on the 26th inst., the charge being that he maintained a nuisance. “This is the third time Salomon has been arrested,” continued Dr. Keeney, “and we propose to continue our tactics, as defined by the health laws and the Board of Supervisors. The law very plainly prescribes that no person is permitted to maintain more than two cows within the city limits. There are exceptions to this law, inasmuch as the prohibitory district is not carefully defined. Its inner limits are far beyond the corner of Mission street and Fair avenue, and it is upon this definition of the law that we propose to make Mr. Salomon abate the nuisance created by his stockyard.”

The first time Salomon was arrested he’ was fined $100 by Judge Low. He appealed from this decision, and the case was carried to the Superior Court, but it has not yet been placed upon the calendar. Pending the appeal Salomon was again arrested, He was to have been tried on the 4th prox., but there was some question as to the legality of the complaint, and, upon the advice of our attorney, the case was dismissed. However, another complaint was properly drawn and he was arrested on the 4th inst.

“I have personally visited the premises and I am convinced of the justice of the complaints made against the place. The Precita Valley Improvement Club has also entered a protest against the nuisance, and we have received numerous complaints from individuals other than Mr. Seculovich.

“The slope of Salomon’s stockyard is a particularly bad feature. It drains directly into Mission Street and befouls the cellars and yards on the lower side of the street. On damp, foggy days the stench of the stockyards clings closely to the ground, and the breezes carry it directly into houses, to say nothing of offending the nostrils of every person within a radius of a mile or more. The place is a counterpart of the Seventh street dumps, though there is no occasion for its existence. The enforcement of the local health laws is all that is necessary to cause Solomon to seek other quarters, and we propose to compel him to vacate.”

I.L. Salomon, the son of the proprietor, said: “We only keep cows here occasionally. We buy ana sell and the stock is never here more than a day or two at a time.”

“But then you get fresh stock in its place, don’t you?”

“Oh yes, that’s our business. We buy and sell and use this yard as a place of inspection for purchasers. Our plane is no worse than lots of others, and I am going to fight the law in the Superior Court.”

Kahn & Levy, another firm of stockdealers, have a large yard at the corner of Mission street and Cortland avenue, about three blocks above Solomon’s place. It has precisely. the same slope of drainage and sends its filth and slime down to the residence portion of the Western Addition. Yesterday the yards were fairly filled with horses and cows, in plain violation of the sanitary laws. A sickening stench pervaded thn atmosphere, and the animals in” the corrals tramped about with a hungry air.

Dr. Keeney was asked about trie Kahn & Levy place, and he replied: “The owners have decided to lenve there, and in about two weeks the stock and buildings will all be removed. This course will practically abate the nuisance. That portion of the Mission is not very thickly populated, and consequently the complaints against this particular yard were not very numerous. However, we took prompt action when the first notice was served, and the owners at once concluded that it was to their interest to remove from the neighborhood. We will compel this man Salomon to reach the same conclusion.”

“Is there any special law against the I maintenance of stockyards in the city?” was asked of Dr. Keeney.

“No, not aside from the ordinance which I says that no person shall maintain more than two cows within certain limits. Residents at the Mission have been long enough annoyed by infractions of this law, and we propose io arrest and fine every person who continues such a course after a warning has been served. There are no exceptions inside the limits, and any person having a grievance in this respect should at once notify the Health Office.”

The hearing of the third charge against I. L. Salomon will be set this morning in Judge Low’s department of the Police Court.

ILLUSTRATION: Top: Solomon’s Stockyards, from the The Call