New Map Reveals the Lost Waterways of Bernal Heights

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In his amazing new Seep City map of San Francisco’s lost creeks, springs and waterways, natural history researcher Joel Pomerantz reveals the places where groundwater once flowed in Bernal Heights.

Here’s the story it tells:

[On the map] today’s land forms are shown with 5-foot-interval contour lines. At this level of detail, we can easily see where human activity has filled extensive portions of the bay and where streets, highways, reservoirs and railroad grades cut into hills.

Our city had significantly more water before it was developed. Consequently, most of the water shown is from historical sources. The purple squiggles are bedrock springs found today. Natural and artificial lakes present today are outlined in white. Creeks of today are highlighted yellow.

Only a couple creeks still flow on the surface today. Finding them can be a challenge without this map. Some are virtually unknown.

The detail is remarkable. Here’s a close crop of northeast Bernal, with Precita Creek running along the upper part of the map and draining into the intricate Islais Creek watershed (where Bayshore stands today). Notice also the two active springs on the northern slope of Bernal Hill:

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And when you pull back to look at the city as a whole, you see how Bernal fits in to a much larger ecosystem:

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Want a copy of Joel’s maptastic creation? Visit his Kickstarter page, where you can order a map in your favorite size.

IMAGES: Courtesy of Joel Pomerantz

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 Heights Needs a Flag, So How About This One?

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There’s been a lot of thinking about flag design lately: What are the elements of a good flag? What’s wrong with bad flags? How great a really great flag can be, and how sad and useless a bad flag is.

Much of the current thinking about flag design traces back to celebrity audio person and design aficionado  Roman Mars, who recently introduced us to the very geeky subculture of vexillology  (the study of the history, symbolism, and usage of flags) in a very geeky episode of his 99% Invisible podcast. You can check it out here.

The key lesson from Roman’s crash-course in Vexillology 101 is that good flag design follows five basic rules:

1. Keep it simple
2. Use meaningful symbolism
3. Use two to three basic colors
4. No lettering or seals of any kind
5. Be distinctive

That kicked off a national conversation about flag design; a conversation that grew even more urgent when Roman Mars was invited to give a TED Talk on the subject:

The crux of his TED Talk was that the flags of American cities are generally rather terrible, and San Francisco is a clear case in point. Very few people are familiar with San Francisco’s flag, because San Francisco’s flag is a hot steaming mess that breaks all the rules of vexillological good taste. It looks like this:

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In the spirit of civic improvement, Roman Mars has kicked off a new effort to redesign San Francisco’s flag. But in the meantime, that got your Bernalwood editor thinking: What about a flag for Bernal Heights? Don’t we deserve a flag too?

Of course we do.

So after internalizing the design rules recommended by vexillologists, I took the liberty of developing a flag for Bernal Heights. I hope you might entertain the idea of rallying around it. Fellow citizens, I propose that all Bernalese should live in peace under this banner, the (Proposed) Great Flag of the Dominion of Bernal Heights:

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Rather sporty, eh? Dynamic! Bold! Distinctive! Let’s walk through its symbolism:

  • The diagonal fields of green and yellow represent the two annual phases of Bernal Hill: green (winter wet) and golden yellow (summer dry).
  • The four sides of the red border represent the four roads that define the boundaries of our Bernal territory: I-280, San Jose Avenue, Cesar Chavez Boulevard, and US 101.
  • The star at the center is of course Bernal Hill, shown as a compass rose to represent the 360-degree views of San Francisco visible from the summit. The red color symbolizes both the beloved chert which stabilizes us, and the long tradition of social activism which is an important part of our neighborhood history.

That’s my proposal. I think it’s not too shabby, at least as a first stab at a flag for Bernal Heights. Plus, it would do the trick if you wanted to quietly represent Bernal in your workplace or favorite coffee shop:

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This design travels well too. No matter where you go, or whatever distant lands you conquer, you can take your Bernal Heights pride with you:

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That said, there are some other designs to consider. Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter rose to the challenge, beginning with some small-scale drawings (which are recommended as a starting place to simulate the view of a flag from a distance):

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Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter developed two designs. The first is a simplified view of Bernal Hill and Sutrito Tower, with tiny houses nestled along the slopes:

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Her second concept is more bold. It’s a colorful interpretation of a perspective she loves; the view looking toward the sunset as you stroll west along the north side of Bernal Heights Boulevard toward Folsom in the evening:

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Always game for a goofy graphic design problem, Burrito Justice, rebel spokesblogger for the La Lenguan separatists, also rallied to embrace the Bernal flag design challenge. Picking up on some of the themes in my design, he came up with a clever interactive concept:

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The symbolic logic? Burrito Justice explains:

Green hill, yellow hill, chert background… You turn the flag over depending on the season.

Nice! To bring some further innovation to the idea, Burrito Justice then proposed the world’s first animated GIF flag:

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Burrito Justice calls it “a flag for all seasons.”

Your Bernalwood editor called it “hard to sew.”

Burrito Justice explained, “Yeah but imagine the sales, people would need a new one every two weeks!” (Which is actually rather diabolical and brilliant.)

But of course, he couldn’t stop there. Next, Burrito Justice created a few more versions of his flag to celebrate Bernal’s most iconic residents:

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Sigh.

Bet hey, maybe you have a better idea for a Bernal flag?

If so, send it to us here at the Bernalwood Office of Vexillological Research or drop it in the comments, and we’ll share any additional ideas for Bernal Heights flags with the Citizens of Bernalwood soon.
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IMAGES: Bernalwood Office of Vexillological Research

How to Find Bernal Heights While Orbiting in Outer Space

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This week, astronaut Scott Kelly flattered all of us in the City and County of San Francisco by tweeting a realtime photo while he passed overhead in the International Space Station:

It’s a lovely image, but astute astrocartographers may notice that the right edge of the photo stops just short of Bernal Heights. We’re not in the shot. Grrrrrr.

Nevertheless, according to every magazine your Bernalwood editor read as a child, we all will have the opportunity to orbit Earth from the safety and comfort of a fabulous space station, someday.

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And when that day comes, you should know how to look down from the lofty heights of outer space and quickly find the soils of your terrestrial homeland here in Bernal Heights.

Locating Bernal Heights from outer space is actually pretty easy. The trick is to know what local landmarks to look for.

Bernal Heights sits roughly at the intersection of two imaginary, perpendicular lines that extend from Islais Creek Channel to the east of Bernal Heights and Aquatic Park to the north. Both of these have a distinctive, easy-to-spot profile when viewed from above, so just find the intersection where the lines come together and then… hey, you have located your home, Earth creature:

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Ready to practice? Here’s another view from the ISS.

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Let’s zoom and enhance:

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Final image; Challenge level, with no gridlines.

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Did you find our glamorous Bernal territories?

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Great! You now have The Right Stuff. Just strap on your guitar, and you’re ready for orbit:

PHOTO: Top, San Francisco as seen by Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti in January 2015. 

Which of These Murals Should Help Visitors Discover Bernal’s Lost Tribe of College Hill?

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The  Bernalese peoples from the Lost Tribe of College Hill hope to be less lost. Or, more found. Or, at the very least, clearly branded.

This desire is now being expressed in the form of a mural the College Hill Neighborhood Association has commissioned with artist Josh Talbott. The mural will be installed on a cinderblock shed at 3600 Mission Street (at Appleton), and it will act as a visual point-of-entry for southbound traffic. The College Hill News says:

All three of Josh’s designs are meant to make you take notice of our corner of South Bernal—the Lost Tribe of College Hill is ready to be found. And our new College Hill logo—with wayfinding to the Bernal Cut Path—will be incorporated into the winning design.

Want to see Josh’s designs up close? Please join the College Hill Neighborhood Association at the Glen Park Library on Sunday, April 26th, at 4 p.m. to see his artistic inspiration and to log your vote in person.

“Discovery” is the name of the proposed design shown above.

Below, we see two other alternatives, “For Love” and “The Arrow of Time,” respectively:

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Which is the most fabulous? Which will do the most to put our College Hill neighbors on the map? All Bernalese are invited to learn more about the proposed designs and vote for your favorite online by April 30.

PHOTOS: by  Josh Talbott 

Here’s the View of Bernal Hill from the Other End of South Van Ness

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Yesterday I went to a meeting at 1455 Market Street, a big high-rise right at the corner of Market and 11th Street. The office was in one of the building’s upper stories, and it had incredible views of Our Faire City.

As I gazed south, I realized I was staring straight down South Van Ness to Bernal Hill, which looked particularly rakish and handsome.

In other words, I was basically eye-to-eye with Bernal Hill from a vantage point directly opposite those stone benches at the curve in the closed section of Bernal Heights Boulevard. You know… the ones that look straight up South Van Ness. Because when you sit on one of those benches, here’s what you see:

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That’s South Van Ness slicing through the center, and the photo at the top of this post was taken from the building highlighted by the arrow.

To see both vantage points, let’s take in the view from the Bernalwood SkyCam:

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Bonus Fun Fact! As the crow flies, the distance between the benches on Bernal Hill and 1455 Market is about 11,427 feet, or 2.16 miles.

And now you know how we look from that distance when workers inside 1455 Market look back (enviously) at us.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics. Aerial image courtesy of Google Earth

Here’s How Jenni Sparks Drew Bernal Heights In Her Insanely Detailed Map of San Francisco

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Artist Jenni Sparks has created a very cool new map of San Francisco, and The Bold Italic gives it a shout out:

London-based artist and map-maker Jenni Sparks just released an insanely detailed hand-drawn map of San Francisco. Like, so detailed I expected to zoom in on 14th and Church to find an adorable rendering of the time I fell so hard crossing the street that my shoes fell off.

The map took months to complete (obviously), and is the fourth map Jenni has drawn in collaboration with Evermade, following London, New York, and Berlin. The prints are 2 ft. by 2 ft.

The map goes on sale today, and you can buy one right here.

Because we are glamorous and vain, Bernalwood wrote to Jenni Sparks to request a detail of Bernal Heights. Because Jenni Sparks understands this about us, she kindly passed it along. So here is Bernal Heights, as seen in Jenni’s fabulous new map:

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Purists will grumble that the BART line is positioned a little too far to the west, and our defensive freeway perimeter has gone missing, but Bernalwood will gladly overlook all that in the name of artistic license and general maptastic awesomeness.

Plus, Silver Crest Donut Shop! And I can totally see my house.

Thanks for sharing, Jenni!

MAP IMAGES: Courtesy of Jenni Sparks