A Huge Group Hug For Helping to Make the Esmeralda Mini-Park More Fabulous Than Ever

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Last weekend, a glorious group of Bernal Heights volunteers gathered at the Esmeralda Mini-Park to help restore and rebuild the park (and the secret slides) to a new state of fabulous.

Around 40 Bernalese showed up to lend a hand, and the results look rather spectacular. The trellis has been sturdily rebuilt. The planter boxes are beefy and better than ever. The slide has a new launch deck up top and a new rubberized landing below. New retaining walls hold the hillside in place. It was a great scene while the work was happening, and Neighbor Carl Nolte even showed up to write about it for The Chronicle:

They say all politics is local. And so are all cities worth their salt. They are villages, neighborhoods. I found that out just the other day by walking up my street in Bernal Heights. […]

The [Esmeralda] project’s biggest triumph came Saturday, when more than three dozen neighbors showed up as part of District Nine community day to work on the park and the steps. The city lent tools, technical advice, even a free lunch.

This year’s Esmeralda project is a bit of a reprise of an old neighborhood tune on Bernal Heights. Back in 1978, a different group of neighbors got the city to build the park and put in landscaping in the first place.

Seriously. Go check out the park. It looks so great.

And for that, some super-extra-very-heavy-duty special thanks are due to Neighbors Joan Carson and Nancy Windesheim, who live near the mini-park. Say hello:

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Neighbors Joan and Nancy did the grunt-work to organize the effort to get the project funded and make sure it was done right. Without them, none of this would have happened. None of it.

Yesterday Neighbors Joan and Nancy wrote Bernalwood to share a few thank-yous of their own:

To everyone that came out on Saturday for the Esmeralda Slide Park Workday. —Thank you!

To Mohammed Nuru, Director of DPW, Larry Stringer, Deputy Director for Operations DPW, and Kevin Sporer, Superintendent of DPW Bureau of Building Repair —  Thank you for going the extra mile to make this rebuild a success.

To the DPW work crew, especially Carpentry, Painting, Street Environmental Services, and Urban Forestry — Thank you.

To David Campos and his aide Hillary Ronen — Thank you.

We all love this Park. And with the help of the Department of Public Works (DPW), Campos’ office, and hardworking volunteers, we are keeping it that very special place.

The planter box and trellis are back and beautiful. The benches and picnic table will be back within a couple of weeks.

Your help was so appreciated and we will continue to reach out when opportunities arise. If you can help, great. If not, maybe next time. One thing we can all do (as we’re using the area or just walking through it) is to encourage slide users to take their used cardboard with them. When left behind, it leaves a big mess.

If you want to remain active on volunteering your time for upcoming workdays on Esmeralda Slide Park, RSVP Joan Carson at jcartist5691 AT @gmail.com

Nancy and I really couldn’t have done this without all of you so, once again: THANK YOU.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

How to Get Involved NOW to Help Rebuild the Esmeralda Slide Park Plaza

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Neighbors Nancy and Joan have been meeting with folks from Supervisor Campos’s office, and they bring an urgent update on the effort to rebuilt and revive the Esmeralda/Winfield Slide Park Plaza. Here’s how you can help:

Everybody is on board to rebuild the plaza structures. We do have initial support from DPW. The cost to rebuild the planter box, trellis, and benches is greater than the $20k generously allocated from Campos’ office to DPW for the rebuild. DPW has agreed to go back to the Mohammed Nuru (the Director of DPW) to see what additional funds can be had, if any. Meanwhile, we’ve been advised to apply for the Community Challenge Grant. This grant happens annually and allows communities to apply for matching funds for community projects.

There is a Community Grant Workshop this Saturday, July 11.

Neighbor Joan will be attending with regards to the Esmeralda Slide Park Plaza rebuild. This grant is the best way for us to start moving forward with our community input to make the rebuild happen.

Please RSVP if you plan on attending.

If you’re interested in being actively involved in the Esmeralda Slide Park Plaza rebuild, please email nancy*AT*windesheimdesign.com.

We need volunteers to make this project happen… so please Get Onboard!

PHOTO: Esmeralda/Winfield Slide Plaza on June 16, 2015 (now removed). Photo by Nancy Wildensheim

Competing Petitions Disagree on New Lane Reduction in Bernal Cut

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Neighbor Chris from St. Mary’s recently wrote Bernalwood to say:

Wondering what you think about the new San Jose Ave exit on 280. It’s like a pinball machine there now, even on off commute hours. Two exit lanes still exit, but now they merge into 1 within 100 feet, and it’s always backed up way before the underpass so you also have to stop suddenly. I get that the car culture needs to change, but it has to happen subtly. My girlfriend found the person at MTA responsible for the new configuration and let him have it.

It’s true; traffic patterns northbound through the Bernal Cut have changed, and there have been multiple big accidents there as a result. Meanwhile, it seems Neighbor Chris’s concerns are not uncommon, because Streetsblog reports

The redesign of San Jose Avenue took a step forward a month ago when Caltrans removed a traffic lane on a Highway 280 off-ramp leading on to San Jose, a.k.a. the Bernal Cut. The plan is the result of decades of neighborhood advocacy for safer streets, but it is running into opposition from motorists who won’t stand for the road diet.

Supporters and opponents of the project are duking it out with online petitions, both launched a month ago. The opposition’s petition currently has a lead on the supporters’ petition. The SFMTA hasn’t released the results from its survey from last fall.

On the bright side, no matter which side of this issue you agree with, there’s a petition you can sign.

PHOTO: I-280 at San Jose Accident, June 19, 2005, by Neighbor Jeremy Ambers

Old Trellis Removed from Esmeralda/Winfield Mini-Park

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Although we were warned this would happen, and although funding is now in place to provide for replacement, this is still a tough sight to see: Yesterday workers began removing the decaying trellis from the Esmeralda/Winfield Mini-Park.

*sigh*

While we await more detail on plans to replace the trellis, we can also begin moving through the Kübler-Ross Stages of Grief and Loss. (Current status: Bargaining).

Beyond that, we can also distract ourselves by reading the big feature SFist just published on the fabulousness of the entire Esmeralda stair corridor. It combines a little bit of history, with a little bit of Bernalwood’s previous coverage, with a bunch of pretty pictures, and a whole lot of appreciation. Enjoy:

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PHOTOS: Top, courtesy of Neighbor Matthew; below, courtesy of Neighbor Jan

YES! City Funds Secured to Restore Esmeralda Mini-Park

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Nice work, people.

Thanks in no small part to your vigorous nagging activism, Supervisor David Campos’s office reports that City funds will be made available to restore the endangered trellis at the Esmeralda-Winfiend Mini Park:

We are thrilled to report that we were able to secure funding for replacement of the Trellis through the City’s budget process. Thank you so much for bringing this issue to our attention. It has been a pleasure to see to the neighborhood so united over a common treasure and we really appreciate your advocacy. DPW has assured us that as soon as the funding is allocated to the department, it will replace the Trellis. The original structure is set to come down next week. The final City Budget is approved on July 21st. We will be working closely with DPW to make sure the replacement structure is built as soon as possible.

That’s fantastic news, so let’s all join hands for a collective woo-hoo:

Wooooo-HOOOOOOOO!!!!!

This is also a fitting tribute to the scrappy group of Bernal neighbors who rallied to build the trellis (and the secret Esmeralda slides!) in the first place, almost 40 years ago.

But who were these energetic Bernal ancestors? Who created the gift that is the Esmeralda-Winfield Mini-Park?

That’s them, in the world-famous photo up above.

Many Bernalese will recognize the photo, because to this day it stands as a defining symbol of Bernal Heights activism, engagement, volunteerism, and neighborly solidarity. The image is a magnificent time-capsule, so Bernalwood encourages you to zoom and enhance it at your leisure from the safety and comfort of your own computer screen to explore all the wonderful details it reveals.

The photo was taken in 1978, just as work on the slide and mini-park was wrapping up. Back then, Neighbor Michael Nolan was one of the chief organizers of the project, and you can see him in the photo on the far left:

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Today Neighbor Michael still lives in Bernal, where is often seen leading the pom-pom squad for the Elsie Street Glee Club and contributing to the Bernal Heights History Project (among many other things):

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To help modern-day Bernalese understand all the dedication and bureaucratic wrangling it took to create the Esmeralda Mini-Park in the first place, Bernalwood nagged asked Neighbor Michael to give us a behind-the-scenes view of the project’s creation-story:

In the wake of a fun-filled though unsuccessful run for District Supervisor in 1977, I threw my surplus civic energy into making the Esmeralda Mini-Park happen.

I won that campaign. The Northwest Bernal Block had worked mightily for years on the project, believing that between Precita and Holly Parks, there was no area for children to play. But various bureaucratic and legal snafus had stymied the project, even though there was sufficient city funding and support.

Getting the Board of Supervisors to “vacate” what was still officially a “street” and turn it into a park was crucial, because that’s what was required to limit the potential liability of adjoining homeowners and win their okay.

I convened a dedicated crew of nearby neighbors who worked with landscape architect Andrew Butler and Planning Department liaison Lu Blazej .  Tom Chiosso of DPW brought tools, materials, and community development grants from the City.

Bernal neighbors volunteered to prepare the land, build the double slide, erect a play structure, and install the planter boxes and trellis on the Winfield Landing.

We’d hoped that our popular Mayor George Moscone would inaugurate the double slide, but we lost him and Harvey Milk in the tragic assassinations of that fall. In early 1979, Mayor Dianne Feinstein and District 9 Supervisor Lee Dolson did the honors.

Here’s what that moment looked like, when Di-Fi took an inaugural slide:

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So that brings us to today.

Though our funds are (fingers-crossed) secured, we still have a ways to go until the Esmeralda-Winfield Mini-Park is restored to its proper glory. Let’s stay focused, let’s stay engaged, and let’s do whatever it takes to make sure this mini-park remains glorious for another 40 years.

City Plans to Demolish Trellis at Esmeralda/Winfield Mini Park, Has No Plan to Rebuild

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Uh-oh.

The delightful Esmeralda/Winfield Mini Park is suffering from old age, and an indifferent City bureaucracy has no plans to keep the mini-park in proper order. In fact, the City plans to tear down part of the park in coming days. Eeek!

This will be a great loss for Bernal Heights, so Neighbors Nancy and Joan catch us up on what’s happening, and how you can help:

The wooden structures at the MiniPark were built with community input in the late 1970s. The structures haven’t been maintained, leaving them to deteriorate into their current state.

Now the trellis is slated to be removed within a week! The planter box surrounding the big pepper tree is also due to be removed, timeline unknown. The remaining picnic table and benches haven’t been mentioned as part of the takedown, but they have rot as well.

With a kick-ass slide, a stairway that goes up to Bernal Hill, and a place to sit, rest and hang, the MiniPark is a real gem in our neighborhood. It needs a serious upgrade, but the City hasn’t committed any funds or created any plans other than a piecemeal teardown. SF Public Works sent out a memo to the neighborhood saying:

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Without our pressure on the City to make the rebuild a priority, the plaza will slowly disappear or be fixed in a haphazard fashion.

Please send an email NOW, to Supervisor David Campos at David.Campos@sfgov.org telling him his office needs to look into funding the replacement of the deteriorated structures at the Winfield/Esmeralda MiniPark.

Look for future Bernalwood posts to let you know how to stay involved.

This is sad and bad.

As a historical reminder, this announcement from 1979 tells us much about the community origins of the Winfield Mini-Park, and how the City once paired with Bernal neighbors to help make the park so lovely. Let’s hope that can happen again:

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PHOTO: Neighbors Nancy and Joan

Highland Street Bridge Now Closed Until Further Notice

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Last time we warned you about this, it turned out to be a false alarm. But for reals this time, the Highland Street Bridge across the Bernal Cut is closed for repairs. Bill Hamilton writes:

The Highland Avenue bridge has been completely closed off for the foreseeable future … so please plan or alter routes accordingly. No vehicular OR pedestrian thru-traffic between Mission and Arlington at this time. The Bernal Cut Path, of course, remains open, and you can cross Highland, you just can’t get to Arlington. Should be a nice little nightmare for those of us in the immediate area!

If the infrastructure gods look favorably upon the project, the Highland Bridge should reopen toward the end of the year, at which point the Citizens of Bernalwood look forward to renewing our ties with our ancestral kin from Glen-Bernal.

PHOTO (and hat-tip): Neighbor Reed