What the Hell Happened on Manchester Street?

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Six cars parked along the steep upper reaches of Manchester Street were damaged last night on Friday in a kinetic accident that caused several cars to pancake together. Ouch.

The incident happened on the steep, dead-end block of Manchester below Bernal Hill, just south of Stoneman. Neighbor Simon broke the story via an email to Bernalwood:

Returning home from a weekend away to find the evidence of some dramatic event on Manchester above Stoneman. Half a dozen cars are smashed up and pushed into each other like dominoes. Runaway car? Angry drunk? Malicious joy-riders? WTF?!?

Incredulous, we dispatched the floodlight-equipped Bernalwood Action News Jeep to the scene on Sunday night to investigate.

The basic facts checked out instantly. Someone or something drove down the wrong side of Manchester. Along the way, he/she/it glanced off a Subaru Forester, damaging the rear quarter and peeling off much of the bumper. They then slammed into an Acura, doing extensive damage to the front end, before hitting a Saturn SUV and triggering a domino effect with three more adjacent cars.

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Very, very unpleasant.

Oddly, the scene was eerily quiet when Bernalwood visited at about 10:30 last night. No neighbors. No police. Just lots of silence, broken cars, and shattered glass. Neighbor Sam was equally baffled:

While attempting to park this evening, I saw all this up at the top of Manchester: Cars hit by something and knocked around like playthings… Strangely there were no neighbors milling about (so maybe happened earlier??), but neither had there been a call to the police (I phoned it in on the non emergency line). A mystery… or Cloverfield 2?

Based on our preliminary observations, Bernalwood is going with the Cloverfield hypothesis. We will update this story as further information becomes available.

UPDATE 8:56 AM Neighbor Arwen writes in with the executive summary and useful reminder:

The Manchester drama actually happened on Friday night :) Someone was apparently looking for parking, didn’t find a spot and started to back down but lost control. Eek! Fortunately the driver was not hurt and no one was in the cars, but as you can see, there was quite a lot of damage… The insurance assessors can’t come until Monday (today) so pretty much everyone left things as is.

While I’m writing you, I’ll make a PSA about curbing wheels. A similar accident happened a few years ago–someone pulled up on the other side of the street (no parking there), forgot to curb his wheels, and went inside a house. The emergency brake gave way and the car careened down the street, totalling 5 or 6 cars! So, always curb your wheels! And be careful backing down…

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

En Route to Washington, Badass Bernal Racecar Generates Panic In Oregon

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As you know, America’s Most Badass Volvo Station Wagon is a proud resident of Bernal Heights.

Driven competitively by the Bernal Dads Racing Team in the 24 Hours of LeMons racing series, “The Whale” is currently en route from Bernal Heights to scenic Shelton, Washington to compete in a weekend race at The Ridge Motorsports Park.

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Yesterday, as Neighbor Stephan dragged The Whale into Oregon for the first time, Bernalwood received unconfirmed reports that Oregon governor Kate Brown had ordered the distribution of mandatory tetanus shot boosters for all residents of the Beaver State:

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Now on its third engine, second transmission, third hood, fourth bumper, third pair of front fenders, second electrical system, and second windshield, The Whale will roll at The Ridge this weekend to bring honor and glory to all the peoples of Bernal Heights.  Maybe.

If you’d like to keep track of the spectacle, follow Bernal Dads Racing on Facebook for photos and updates.

PHOTOS: Bernal Dads Racing

SUV Burns In Dramatic Fireball on 101 Above Cortland

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So far it it seems this was just a routine car fire, which means the occupants had time to escape before the vehicle engulfed itself in a dramatic fireball. But some Bernal residents definitely saw the dramatic fireball when a car caught fire on 101 south just above the Cortland overpass, and it was extremely dramatic.

Neighbor Rally brilliantly self-deputized himself as a reporter for the Bernalwood Action News Team, and he sprang into action with a live uplink from the scene:

HOLY CRAP is right.

But before long the fire department arrived, and the flames were extinguished:

Great reporting, Neighbor Rally! This seems a good time for a public service safety reminder.

Decades ago, during the Reign of Reagan, your Bernalwood editor watched helplessly as his first car immolated itself in a dramatic fireball on the side of a cold urban freeway.

Today, your Bernalwood editor always carries a small fire extinguisher inside the vehicle. Car fires typically start small, so they’re very easy to put out quickly — if you have a fire extinguisher handy. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher handy, you end up with a spectacle like this within about 3 minutes. (Important Life-Lesson I Learned: Big Gulp-sized fountain drinks DO NOT function well as a fire retardant.) Dramatic! Get a fire extinguisher.

PHOTOS: Neighbor Rally

Dispute Unsettled, but Bocana Neighbor Departs Home After Huge Rent Increase

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Yesterday was a sad moving day for Neighbor Deb Follingstad, who had to leave her home at 355 Bocana after receiving a now-infamous 315% rent increase notice from the landlord, Neighbor Nadia Llama.

ABC7 updated the story last Friday:

Follingstad’s home is understandably a mess since the May 5 deadline to move is just days away. She says leaving her home of 10 years hurts. She explained to 7 On Your Side, “It’s so painful and I’ve had to uproot my life in a month.”

A move out sale Follingstad held attracted a steady stream of people. Until she finds a place to live, she plans to couch surf and house sit. Beyond that, her future is murky.

“I don’t know anymore. I can’t afford to live here. A lot of my friends can’t afford to live here and it’s pretty heartbreaking the way the city’s changing,” Follingstad said.

The home is registered as a single family home and the landlord believes it’s not covered by rent control laws.

Tenants rights attorney Joe Tobener calls this eviction by rent increase. He said, “It’s an easy way for landlords to try to get tenants out, to increase the rent.”

Tobener plans to file a lawsuit on Follingstad’s behalf. He is charging landlord Nadia Llama with wrongful eviction.

PHOTO: Top, Telstar Logistics. Below, Neighbor Deb Follingstad via ABC7

Thursday: Benefit at Little Nepal on Cortland to Assist Earthquake Victims

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There aren’t many Nepalese restaurants on this side of the pond, but we’ve got one on Cortland, and Little Nepal is hosting a special dinner on Thursday, April 30 to help victims of the massive earthquake that struck Nepal last weekend:

Our hearts are heavy with the news of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked Nepal on Saturday, April 25, killing more than 2,500 people in the country and dozens more in surrounding nations. The earthquake also triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, killing at least 17 people. With poor infrastructure in a densely populated area, Nepal needs our help more than ever.

Please join us in dining to help rebuild and provide aid on Thursday, April 30.

Little Nepal (925 Cortland Avenue) has graciously agreed to create a donation-only select menu for this evening only. We spoke with the Owner and Executive Chef, Prem Tamang, and he is from the district of Kavrepalanchok, Nepal. All of the cash-only donation proceeds will go directly to his hometown. The restaurant is open from 5 – 10 p.m. Come anytime! Upon your arrival, please let the host / server know that you are here for the donation-only meal. Please note that this will exclude beverages and other items off the special menu.

Please spread the word and extend this invite to your network. Together, we can eat delicious Nepalese Cuisine while making a difference.

Prem, Chasa and Sebastien

PHOTO: Courtesy of Little Nepal. Hat tip: Eater SF

One Year After Alex Nieto’s Death, Bernal Family Is Transformed by Tragedy

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One year ago, on March 21, 2014, Bernal neighbor Alex Nieto was killed in an officer-involved shooting on Bernal Hill.

Several times during the last few months — and as recently as just last week — I have seen Alex’s parents, Elvira and Refugio Nieto, walking along the sidewalks not far from their home on Cortland. There’s nothing particularly unusual about the affect of Neighbor Alex’s parents as they walk the streets of Bernal Heights. Yet while opinions may differ on the sequence of events that transpired on the evening Alex died, there can be no doubt whatsoever about the anguish they feel after having lost their son — and that comes to the forefront for me every time I see them.

It is heartbreaking.

Mission Local captures the Nieto family’s new reality:

About to retire from her long career as a housekeeper in a downtown hotel, Bernal Heights resident Elvira Nieto looked forward to her retirement. She and her husband, Refugio, had plans to surprise their son with a trip to the town of Tarimoro, in Guanajuato, Mexico, their shared birthplace.

But then on the evening of March 21, 2014, that son, Alejandro “Alex” Nieto, died during an officer-involved shooting in Bernal Heights Park. Neighborhood and police versions of the story conflict radically, but what’s painfully clear is that the Nieto family’s course has changed drastically.

Rather than ease into retirement, Elvira and Refugio Nieto have a new job—they’ve become full-time activists against police violence. Today marks the one-year anniversary of their son’s death and, for them, the work is far from over.

“[Alex] would ask me, ‘What are your plans for when you retire?’ I told him the only plan is to rest, but instead this happened,” said Elvira Nieto this week. “It’s all that we’ve done. I never imagined that this is what we’d be doing.”

There is a crowdfunding effort underway by Neighbor Alex’s family and friends to support the Alex Nieto Memorial Fund and create a memorial bench for him on Bernal Hill.

IMAGE: Top, Video still of Bernal neighbors Elvira and Refugio Nieto, parents of Alex Nieto, on Bernal Hill, December 16, 2014

KQED: Lama Family Feud Lies at Heart of Big Bocana Rent Increase

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Veteran reporter Dan Brekke knows how to do the legwork required to crack a story open. These days he works for KQED, where he just published a remarkably detailed report on the Lama family dispute that lies at the heart of the now-infamous 355 Bocana rent-increase controversy.

Brekke’s reporting largely confirms rumors that have been rippling through Bernal Heights for the last few days, to the effect that as a result of the family feud, Bernal neighbor and 355 Bocana property owner Nadia Lama hoped to evict Neigbor Deb Follingstad, because Neighbor Nadia herself needs a place to live.

Brekke reports:

Superior Court filings show that Nina Gelfant and Gayle Worrell alleged they were forced from their one-bedroom, one-bathroom, 720-square-foot Cortland Avenue apartment [in 2013] after the Lamas raised the rent from $1,650 to $4,250 — 157 percent.

The suit argued that the rent increase was far above market rate and designed to get Gelfant and Worrell to leave so that Lamas could sell the property.

That sale, [tenant-rights lawyer Joe] Tobener suggested in a trial brief that outlined more than $1 million in potential damages, was triggered by a battle among Shukry Lama’s heirs over the property he’d left behind when he died in 2012.

“Chuck Lama’s heirs were fighting over their share of the inheritance which demanded selling properties or having the heirs occupy them as residences,” Tobener’s brief says.

That alleged squabble also appears to have played a role in Nadia Lama’s dramatic increase of Deb Follingstad’s rent.

In September 2013, she filed a probate petition in Superior Court seeking to compel her sister Claudia, the overseer of several family trusts set up by [deceased family patriarch] Chuck Lama, to account for the family’s assets. Assets named in the petition and exhibits include a small Cortland Avenue market, Chuck’s Store, the store’s liquor license, eight residential properties in San Francisco, one in Burlingame, and unspecified real estate in Chile.

The court proceeding resulted in an agreement last Dec. 31 in which the three Lama sisters and their three brothers, along with some of their children, agreed to close the family trusts and distribute their assets.

The property Nadia Lama was to receive includes a 2006 Toyota Avalon; $25,000 to pay the legal bills she’d incurred; a little more than $750,000 in cash due upon the sale of two of the family’s properties; and finally, the Bocana Street residence occupied by Deb Follingstad and the $7,500 to hire a lawyer to evict her.

The agreement also requires Nadia Lama to vacate her current home, a couple of doors up from Follingstad and still owned by her siblings, by the end of April. If she doesn’t, the document says, she’ll have to pay $4,000 a month rent to four of her siblings who will continue as owners; and if she does anything to interfere with their renting out the home she’s supposed to vacate, she’ll owe her siblings $10,000 in damages.

Kudos to Dan Brekke and KQED for the excellent work following the paper trail. Read Brekke’s full report on the KQED website, right here.

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics