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

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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.

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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!”

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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

Tonight! Celebrate the 8th Anniversary of Secession Art & Design

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Secession Art & Design is a Bernal Heights treasure, and tonight it’s proud proprietor, Ms. Eden Stein, is celebrating her store’s eighth anniversary.

It’s hard to emphasize how hard she’s worked to make this happen. Secession has always been awesome, but when she lost her lease in the space across from Safeway in 2014, Ms. Eden had to scramble to keep Secession alive. Thankfully, through lots of hustle and a little good luck, Secession was able to re-open in the former SoCha Cafe space at 3235 Mission (near Valencia). Today, the store is bigger and more vibrant than ever, Ms. Eden is a pillar of the glamorous Mission-Bernal Merchants Association, and Secession become an  integral part of La Lengua’s increasingly lively (and delicious) Mission Street corridor.

Ms. Eden writes:

I am hosting our 8th anniversary on Friday night!

Secession is throwing a party to celebrate 8 years in the Mission Bernal neighborhood. Please join us this Friday, August 14 6:30 to 9:30 pm to honor what we’ve all built. Meet our featured artists Andreina Davila, Heather Robinson, as well as many others who’ve been part of our community over the past eight years.

Sometimes you have to dream big and just go for it. Thank you to everyone who helped us on our journey to our new home when we lost our lease a year ago. Thanks to your support, we were able to stay in the neighborhood and relocate to our beautiful 3235 Mission Street gallery and boutique. You rock!

Many of you have asked how you can help us to make sure Secession is part of the arts community and the changing San Francisco retail landscape. If you’d like to support us, the best way is to shop in-store (we’re open Tuesday-Sunday, noon to 7pm), shop online, or donate to our ongoing fundraiser.

Hope to see you tonight.

Congratulations, Eden, and best wishes for 800 more fabulous years!

IMAGE: Courtesy of Secession Art &; Design

Ridiculously Talented Bernal Artist Seeks Glamorous Bernalwood Readers to Sit as Portrait Subjects

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You may remember Neighbor Aaron Zube from the terrific show he had at the Inclusions Gallery on Cortland this time last year. Well, Neighbor Aaron reached out to Bernalwood this week to share a remarkable proposal:

I’m working on a series of portrait paintings of Bernal Heights residents and was wondering if any of your readers would be interested in volunteering to have their portrait painted. This is just for my own practice (and to possibly show sometime in the future) & would give me a chance to meet some of my neighbors — no obligation to buy the painting. It would only require a few hours of their time. My website has my contact information if anyone is interested.

“If anyone is interested…” That’s funny! More like: Please take a number!

A some more of Neighbor Aaron’s recent work:

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IMAGES: Recent portraits by Aaron Zube, courtesy of Aaron Zube

Friday: Last Call to See Bernal Artist Bernie Lubell’s Beautiful Homemade Airship

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A few weeks ago, Bernal artist Bernie Lubell reached out to the Bernalwood News Desk to tell us he was  building an airship in his Bernal Heights garage.

Normally, that would be a shocking! revelation! But it’s to be expected from Neighbor Bernie, who was last seen in 2014 constructing a giant Rube Goldberg machine in his Bernal Heights garage. So the manufacture of an airship came as little surprise.

Anyway, Neighbor Bernie’s airship is the centerpiece of a new show called Up in the Air at the fabulous Southern Exposure Gallery in the Mission:

From June 13-27, artist Bernie Lubell installs his workshop and collaborates with visitors to create new work. Lubell creates wood mechanical metaphors for the human condition. Gears, pulleys, bellows, valves, levers, human force and sophisticated engineering power his interactive wooden machines. As an artist who has lived and worked in the Bay Area for 40 years, his influence is felt in the work of many local artists.

Collaborate with Bernie as he sets out to build an airship in the gallery at Southern Exposure. In two workshops and ongoing studio hours, visitors and Bernie will work together to create an air powered flying machine inspired by Frederick Marriott’s 1869 airship Avitor, expanding on Bernie’s ongoing research into breath and the force of air.

The show is winding down, but don’t panic! You can still see the work.

Neighbor Bernie tells us there’s a glamourous closing party happening tomorrow evening, Friday, June 26, from 6 – 8 pm at Southern Exposure… and of course you get in free if you show the top-secret Bernal hand signal:

Closing Party for Up In the Air
Join Southern Exposure for a celebration of Bernie Lubell’s work and everything that was created together over the past two weeks during his exhibition Up In the Air.
Friday, June 26, 2015, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Southern Exposure (3030 20th Street, SF)
FREE

PHOTO: Neighbor Bernie’s airship at Southern Exposure on Sunday, June 21, 2015. Photo by Bernie Lubell

Sunday: Join Neighbors Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens for an Ecosexy Walking Tour of Bernal Hill

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This weekend, glamorous Bernal neighbor and sex-positive superstars Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens kick off a series of Pride Week events related to their Here Come the Ecosexuals project.

The ecocitement begins this weekend, with a pair of exploration walks on Bernal Hill. And since you’re so supersexy, you’re invited:

This Sunday, June 21 meet us – Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens – at our sparkly blue ‘Pollination Pod’. We will be doing two walking tours of Bernal Hill at 10:30am and 5:00pm.

You’ll be greeted by us and our friendly scouts: Pale Breast, Kalash, and Maria Ramirez. The adventure begins with Ecosex Orientation, then we’ll locate some E-spots (ecosexy spots) and explore ways to make love to the Earth through the senses.

Local environmental issues will be brought out into the open. There will be plenty of adventure and drama will ensue. The show will include a special water toast and culminate at the golden stone. By the end of the walking tour you’ll have an ‘ecosexual gaze’ and you might discover that you are an ecosexual too!

When: June 21st, at 10:30am (meet at 10:15am) and 5:00pm (Meet at 4:45pm) at our garage next to

Where: On the south side of Bernal Hill in San Francisco. The walking tour begins at the south entrance to Bernal Heights Park, on Bernal Heights Blvd. one block west of Anderson Street. Look for the bright blue ‘Pollination Pod’ trailer.

Cost: Free! Project is funded by our grantors and collaborating organizations. Donations welcome.

P.S. Both tours will be filmed. If you do not want to be filmed we will give you a special hat to wear so our videographer makes sure not to catch you on film!

We will have free snacks and kombucha after the tours for our walkers and our neighbors from our sponsors: Becka Shertzer of Brazen Nector, GT Kombucha, and Peeple’s Donut Farm.

PHOTO: Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens, by Manuel Vason with Guillermo Gomez Pena

 

Bernal Neighbor Creates Clever Cardboard Contour of Cortland Avenue

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During a recent constitutional in Cortlandia, your Bernalwood editor met Neighbor Miles Epstein as he was preparing to photograph his new artwork: a topographically accurate cross-section of Cortland Avenue, created entirely from sheets of cardboard. Neighbor Miles writes:

3D Surface Modeling – The Cortland Map Project
Inspired by finishing an extraordinarily flat cork tabletop, I fell into this idea of modeling our local commercial street. Cortland Avenue runs east/west for 0.9miles. Branching off Mission St at 140 feet above sea level Cortland crests at 240 feet before descending sharply to Bayshore Ave, resting flat at just 20 feet above the waves.

Turns out, Neighbor Miles is friendly with the folks at New Wheel on Cortland, and his 3-D map was assembled from scrap cardboard collected from the store.

He mapped it out based on the amazing 5′ topo map of Bernal Heights created by the legendary Eric Fisher (and shared on Bernalwood a few years ago). Then Neighbor Miles reproduced the contours of Bernal by gluing custom-cut pieces of cardboard together to create the entire length of Cortland from Mission to Bayshore. Take a closer took:

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Neighbor Miles tells Bernalwood he was directly inspired by the work of Neighbor Gregory Gavin, and on his website, Neighbor Miles reveals that he even built a version of his Cardboard Cortland that uses the streets as structural ribs.  Check this out:

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Woa. Mind blown! Amazing! Geektastic! Brilliant! Inspiring!

Well done, Neighbor Miles.

Now… A CARDBOARD CONTOUR OF ALL OF BERNAL HEIGHTS, PLEASE?

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics (above) and Miles Epstein (below)

Bernal Filmmakers Successfully Complete Fundraising Drive, But Still Need Our Help

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They did it! Bernal neighbors Joe Talbot and Jimmie Fails pulled it off!

During the last few weeks, they blew out their goal and raised more than $59,000 on Kickstarter to produce their oh-so-promising feature-length film, The Last Black Man in San Francisco. Woo hoo!

But now that they’ve gotten the money, the next step is to build the base:

You guys are rockstars. The incredible support we’ve received from you has not only helped us hit out 50k goal — it’s demonstrated there’s an audience for this film. And that’s gotten the attention of folks in the industry.

So for the final week of our campaign, instead of aiming to hit x amount of dollars, we’re setting a goal of 1200 backers. That means even if you only have $1 dollar to give, your contribution sends a loud message to those watching that you want to see this movie get made. And that is priceless.

This stuff really matters; brilliant a media project that comes with a proven fan-base is vastly more bankable than a brilliant media project without a demonstrated audience. So if you’re at all inclined, please donate a few shekels to Neighbor Joe and Neighbor Jimmie before the June 3 deadline, so that they might go forth to bring cinematic glory to all of Bernal.

Still need convincing? They made this death-defying video, just for you: