Tonight: Grand Opening for Bernal Historical Photo Show at Pinhole Coffee

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Neighbor Michael Nolan, team captain of the Elsie Street Glee Club, brings some cool news about a new photo exhibit opening this evening at the fabulous Pinhole Coffee on Cortland:

Why Worry About the Future When You Can Wallow in the Past is my mantra for March.

Please join me for the Grand Opening of “Through a Cortland Avenue Looking Glass (1898-1941)” photo exhibit this Friday, March 20 from 5:30pm to 8pm at Pinhole Coffee, 231 Cortland Avenue, corner of Bonview (nee Buena Vista). It’s been a delight to work with the Bernal Heights History Project in selecting the historic photos, and with Mullen Brothers Imaging who donated their printing, mounting and installation services.

Just Added!: The World Premiere of “What Ruthie Hoarded” a 2005 video portrait of the interior of 231 Cortland made by neighbors Edward & Amy Huson that shows the former owner’s amazing collection of junk.

Editor’s Note: I’ve seen that What Ruthie Hoarded video, and it is truly jaw-dropping. Don’t miss it.

PHOTO: By neighbor Jack Pitts. From left: Tim Mullen with son Marnix, JoEllen Depakakibo, Pinhole owner, Vicky Walker of the Bernal History Project, and Mike Mullen.

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

This Coso Cowboy Was the Most Badass Buckaroo in Bernal Heights

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We don’t know much about him — his tale has been lost in the foggy mists of Bernal Heights lore.

But while doing some archival research at the San Francisco Public Library, celebrity artist and Bernal native Amos Goldbaum recently uncovered this insanely adorable photo of a proud cowboy riding the range at the foot of the Coso Triangle in Precitaville.

We’ll call him the Coso Kid, and we’re confident his frontier spirit inhabits the mini-park there to this very day.

 

Bernal Neighbor Remembers Boyhood Sundays with Carlos Santana in Precita Park

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Carlos Santana says Precita Park in Bernal Heights is “where it all started.”

Santana hailed from northeast Bernal Heights, and he launched his musical career during freewheeling weekend jam sessions that transformed Precita Park into an urban amphiteater.

Precita Park was where it all started for Bernal neighbor Orlando Galvez as well. Orlando was a young kid at the time, but he lived on Folsom, just up the street from Precita Park, and the scene that sprang up around Santana during those musical weekends left a lasting impression.

These are Neighbor Orlando’s memories:

I remember when I was a six year-old boy, watching Carlos Santana play his guitar. I thought he was the coolest kid in the Precita Park. When Santana was playing, I would even drift away from my beloved satellite spinner to get a better view.

Precita Park was a weekend mecca where hippies, Black Panthers, Symbianese Liberation Army radicals, and neighborhood Chicanos with their spectacular, sparkling lowriders would all gather around the playground right near where the satellite spinner still spins today.

“Oye Como Va” always got the party started.

The whole park smelled like cannabis and fried chicken. It didn’t matter where you stood or what spot you claimed for your picnic; there was no escaping the foggy clouds going Up In Smoke. I remember it looking sort of like a gigantic outdoor steam room. Bongs traveled around the park as all the different tribes shared the “weefer” (that’s what they used to call it) from their pipes. In-between were dozens of Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets, half emptied of deep-fried original recipe wings, drumsticks, and buttered sourdough rolls. Along the street, dozens of customized lowriders parked bumper to bumper, stealthily showing off their power by competing for the highest hop near the mound in Precita Park where Carlos liked to play his guitar.

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That’s how I remember Precita Park in the late sixties and very early seventies. I feel fortunate to have been a part of that era. This was before America declared war on the poor through Reagan’s “war on drugs.” It was also way, way before LAPD chief Daryl Gates began using gangster tactics to antagonize non-white, non-affluent neighborhoods. It was before the Black Panther raids, and before Gates-inspired SWAT teams were given the “go ahead” to begin terrorizing citizens.

In hindsight though, I realize I’m also fortunate to have had the unique opportunity to grow up in Bernal Heights, one of San Francisco’s most unique and profound neighborhoods, at a time when it was so rich in culture, politics, art, and (most of all) controversy. Where else on this planet could a six year-old boy hear Santana’s electric guitar on any given Sunday, free of charge, in seventy-ish degree weather, before an evening mist of Pacific fog rolled in?

A six year old boy pays attention to the adults around him, because those adults seem like godly giants. As I write of these remembered moments, I feel incredible gratitude for all the care and love I received from everyone who was in the park in those days. Listening to Santana in Precita Park had a big influence on me, but only now do I realize how much it shaped me into the person I have become.

Such awesomeness. Have a Bernal memory to share? Email your story to us:  bernalwood at gmail dotcom.

PHOTOS: Top, “Inspire To Aspire,” a Carlos Santana tribute mural (now effaced) painted in 1987 by Michael Rios at South Van Ness at 22nd Street. Below, Precita Park in 1973. Santana played on the mound in the foreground, and on a patch of concrete just to the left. Orlando called this play structure The Octopus., “That thing was so hard to climb,” he says. “The pegs were too short, and they were made of iron, so they were super slippery.” Photo by Max Kirkeberg via the Bernal Heights History Project.

History Reveals Checkout Lines at Bernal Safeway Have Been Ridiculously Long Since 1972

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Remember how the Citizens of Bernalwood recently took up cyber-pitchforks and -torches to complain about the ridiculously long lines at the Bernal Heights Safeway on Mission Street at 29th?  And remember how we hoped — naively, perhaps — that perhaps maybe someone at Safeway corporate might hear our gnashing of teeth, and take pity upon our sad souls, and remedy the situation?

Well, don’t count on it.

Recently, while browsing through a back issue of the Bernal Journal from 1972, your Bernalwood editor was darkly entertained to find an impassioned article complaining about… the ridiculously long lines at the Bernal Heights Safeway!

I wish I was kidding about this, but I am not. Behold, a time capsule from 43 years ago, written by Bernal Journal reporter “Vera Disgruntla” (click to embiggen):

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The similarities between this Bernal Journal article from 1972 and the comments section of Bernalwood’s recent post about the Bernal Safeway are comical in their utter sameness.  Here’s a depressing excerpt pulled from the 1972 article shown above:

One man has vowed never to shop there — he gets his meat at the Pioneer Market dry good at 30th and Mission Market, and fresh fruits and vegetables at the Farmers Market at the foot of Bernal Hill. Another man goes once a week to the Marina Safeway. A woman told me she and her husband always drive the five minutes further to get to the Diamond Heights Safeway, where, because they never have to wait to check out there, they actually save time! These may be the only real alternatives.

But I am still mad – for me, and everyone around here who continually has this frustrating time waste wait at our store. The faces in the lines seem to say, “it’s always been like this; we’ve ALWAYS had to wait.”

So there you have it. Long lines have been a fixture at our local Safeway since even before 1972, and after 40+ years, it would seem that Safeway management still does not give a flying Fig Newton about the problem. But hey, at least they’re consistent.

In light of these facts, Bernalwood would now like to officially propse the following:

1) Let’s bulldoze this Safeway, since it so obviously suffers from intergenerational corporate indifference.

2) Let’s save that cool Taoist Safeway mosaic, for posterity, or for use in a replacement structure (see below).

3) Let’s build a few hundred units of much-needed housing on this long-neglected site, with the new ground-floor space dedicated to a more modern supermarket (something kind of like that new mixed-use building that was recently erected on Ocean).

4) While we’re at it, let’s get serious about asking BART to build that 30th Street infill station they’re thinking about again. Hurry up, please.

… because really, after banging our Bernalese heads against the walls at this Safeway for five decades, it may just be time to give up and try something else.

And in the meantime, you can read the rest of that 1972 issue of the Bernal Journal (PDF). Here’s another blast from the past from that same issue, featuring a shout-out to all the party people on Mullen and a handy guide to your Precita Park merchants of yesteryear:

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IMAGE: Bernal Heights Safeway, via Google Earth

 

Can You Identify the Bernal Heights Locations in this Vintage Home Movie?

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Neighbor Vicky, the archival queen of the Bernal Heights History Project, invites Bernalese to help identify the Bernal locations shown in a newly digitized vintage home movie from the 1940s(?):

Home video mystery! The family in this clip sets off to the baths from Bernal Heights, but we can’t figure out what street — can you help us ID it? We see down Ellsworth Street to St. Kevin’s Church at one point, so they’re probably somewhere in NoCo (North of Cortland).

The Bernal scenes are in the first minute of the video. Up above is the view on Eugenia, looking east from Gates (vs. contemporary street view). Neighbor Vicky says:

Heading east on Eugenia — in the video you’ll see a whole lot of nothing down on Bayshore in the distance.

Here’s a grab of St. Kevin’s from the corner of Ellsworth and Eugenia (vs. contemporary street view):

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You know how the game is played, fellow Bernal history dorks: In the comments, please help identify the Bernal houses or locations shown in the film, using time-markers in the video to indicate what you see. (Oh, and the footage of Sutro Baths is pretty sweet too!)

Fishy Love: Neighbors Tim and Erin Archuleta from Ichi Sushi Recall How It All Began

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If you were paying attention to all the local “Best of 2014″ restaurant lists floating around the Interwebs over the Xmas/New Years holiday, you may have noticed that Bernal’s own Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar appeared on just about all of them.

Seriously. It got so intense that your Bernalwood editor joked that I needed to create a Best Of list to keep track of all the Best Of lists that included Ichi Sushi. It was funny because it was true.

I never did create that list, but the accolades are well deserved. Ichi really is the schizz. And it’s a great story about local kids who made good, because, Ichi got its start in Bernal Heights, and the tag-team duo of Chef Tim Archuleta and his wife Erin Archuleta are still Bernal neighbors, to this day.

Last week, in an interview with OpenTable, Neighbor Tim and Neighbor Erin recalled how it all began… in the days before the restaurant, and all the Best of Lists, and all the Best of Best of Lists:

How did you two meet?

Tim: We met at a friend’s birthday at a karaoke bar. It was my karaoke and dance skills that blew her away.

Well before you opened ICHI you worked together in a couple of different food businesses. Tell me about that and how you got started.

Erin: Tim really started as a caterer in 2006, but we met in 2005. We were already living together (racy!) when he started catering, which meant that I would pitch in from time to time as he built the brand.

Tim: In the beginning it was just me. Erin gave me a lot of support. But that’s how we came up with the name, because ICHI means one and it was just me.

Erin: The catering really took off. I had consistently worked for a literacy nonprofit locally at 826 Valencia and 826 National, and I stepped away from my work full-time and just worked as a consultant for them so that I could help Tim get the catering business off the ground. We built out a catering kitchen and went to town in that direction, and then the stock market crashed. We began social catering and doing pop-ups in bars that had kitchens. That’s how a lot of people encountered us — we catered all sorts of things.

One day I was walking down Cortland and saw a food incubator space that was looking for tenants, and Tim had the idea of doing a Japanese deli. So we did that in the incubator space, and we loved it. During that time, right next to where we live Yo’s Sushi Club was leaving and he offered us the opportunity to take over the restaurant. Tim opened ICHI Sushi in 2010.

And the rest, as they say, is Best of History…

PHOTO: Tim and Erin Archuleta of Ichi Sushi