Yet Another PG&E Power Outage Leaves Bernal Neighbors Seething


There was another power outage in Bernal Heights on Sunday morning, in the most recent in a series of localized blackouts and dangerous equipment failures that have left some Bernal neighbors questioning PG&E’s competence.

ABC7 carried a Bay City News report on Sunday’s incident:

Roughly 4,000 power customers in and around San Francisco’s Bernal Heights and Portrero Hill neighborhoods lost electricity Sunday morning after a PG&E equipment failure, according to utility officials.

The outage was reported at 8:32 a.m., after an unspecified equipment failure in the vicinity of 25th Street and Potrero Avenue. Crews on scene say rainwater ran down an electrical pole, causing a fire and the power outage.

Frustration with PG&E wasn’t hard to find:

It’s probably best to consider this a preview of coming attractions. With El Niño-grade winter storms still to come, this is a good time to remind all Bernalese to stock up on flashlights, lanterns, and batteries for future outages that are likely to follow.

Renderings Unveiled for Proposed 96 Units of Senior Citizen Housing on Shotwell



YIMBYs rejoice! Renderings have finally been unveiled for a $40 million project to construct a nine-story building at 1296 Shotwell Street, just off Cesar Chavez, to provide 96 units of housing for lower-income senior citizens. Funding for the project will mostly come from a variety of public sources, including federal grants and San Francisco housing funds. Mission Local broke the story:

The Mission Economic Development Agency, an established neighborhood non-profit but a newcomer to the affordable housing game, is partnering once again with the experienced Chinatown Community Development Corporation to construct the senior housing complex. It will allocate 20 percent of its units to formerly homeless seniors and the remainder will go to seniors with annual incomes between $21,400 and $35,700.

This is great news, and we really need more housing, so your Bernalwood editor remains a big fan of this project even though it will definitely block some of my glamorous downtown view. Let’s build it! But let’s also look at some of the details:

Right now, 1296 Shotwell is basically a shed that’s home to a few automotive repair shops. The history of this project is intimately tied to the Vida market-rate development at 2558 Mission Street that also created the soon-to-open Alamo Drafthouse Cinema inside the restored New Mission theater. Vida is a 114-unit, market-rate project in which the developer opted to meet their inclusionary housing requirements by purchasing 1296 Shotwell Street as a land dedication site for use by San Francisco to create affordable housing. This means the City basically received the land at 1296 Shotwell for free. And presumably, since 1296 Shotwell will be senior housing, each of the units in the new building will be relatively small, although the height of the building gives it significant density. That probably explains why, even with donated land and many small units, 1296 Shotwell pencils out at the relatively low price of $417,000 per unit. Prop A, the affordable housing bond passed in the election this month, will help pay for 1296 Shotwell.

Also by way of context, the Mission neighborhood nonprofit partner for 1296 Shotwell is Mission Economic Development Agency. MEDA has been in operation since the 1970s, mostly as a community assistance organization providing educational and small-business support services to Latino families in the Mission. More recently, MEDA has branched out into housing development. MEDA was a major backer of the recent Proposition I push to establish a moratorium on market-rate housing in the Mission, and Gabriel Medina, MEDA’s policy director, managed the Yes On I campaign from MEDA’s headquarters at 2301 Mission Street. Prop I was rejected by voters in the election earlier this month.

Also, by way of further clarification, Bernalwood’s understanding is that 1296 Shotwell is separate from 1515 South Van Ness, the previously-discussed Lennar development that seeks to create 160 units of market-rate housing on the site of the former McMillan Electric warehouse (which was itself originally the site of the Lesher-Muirhead Oldsmobile dealership).  This diagram shows how the two proposed development sites fit together:


As far as we know, none of the proposed developments will impact the (rather charming) Johns’s British Motor Car repair shop that fronts Cesar Chavez, nor the AutoZone store with its very fashionable view of Bernal Hill.

That’s a lot of change coming soon to one Bernal-adjascent block, but it it’s good to see positive efforts to put a dent in our housing shortage. At last.

Questions Remain as Regulators Probe Cause of PG&E Transformer Explosion

As the two victims of Saturday morning’s PG&E transformer explosion on Heyman recover from their injuries, outraged regulators (and Bernal neighbors) are demanding that PG&E provide a full accounting of how this accident happened. Ted Goldberg from KQED reports:

The California Public Utilities Commission has launched an investigation into an underground transformer explosion that injured two men in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood over the weekend.

The incident has also led [San Francisco D9 supervisor David Campos], who represents the area where the explosion took place, to call for a hearing into the safety of PG&E’s underground electricity infrastructure.

On Monday, Bernalwood sent a series of questions to PG&E regarding the cause of the accident and the history of the transformer unit that exploded. PG&E spokesperson Joe Molica told Bernalwood:

PG&E is conducting its own investigation into the incident in Bernal Heights on Saturday (Sept. 26) and will be bringing in a third-party firm to do an independent investigation.

Two individuals were injured when an underground transformer failed. PG&E employees were responding to a wire-down outage five blocks away. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the people who were injured.

PG&E conducted a patrol of the electric-distribution equipment in the neighborhood on June 4, 2015, with no issues. PG&E conducted a thorough inspection of the transformer in 2013.

In the past year there have been no circuit-level outages on this circuit.

You also asked about other incidents with transformers in Bernal. As you know, in late 2013, there was a transformer failure on a street several blocks away. That was a different situation with a different type of transformer, where a PG&E worker was making repairs when the transformer failed.

This left a several of our questions unanswered, so Bernalwood requested clarification of what a “patrol” entails. PG&E’s Molica explained:

PG&E’s investigation will include a forensic analysis of the failed equipment, researching the history of the circuit, looking into the specific cause of the incident and other actions.

Also, a patrol is a visible inspection of PG&E electric distribution facilities to identify obvious structural hazards or problems. An inspection is a more thorough examination of individual components of electric distribution facilities.

And what about the age of the transformer that exploded. When was it manufactured? When was it installed? Molica said:

I don’t know; however this will be part of the investigation.

Graffiti Removed, For Now, as Sutrito Tower Facility Gets a Coat of Paint

Sutrito Tower post-graffiti removal

Sutrito Tower has long been plagued by graffiti — not street art, not murals, just ugly, boring tags.

American Tower, which owns the facility, occasionally paints over it, but the company recently allowed some of the tags to linger for a long time. There’s one that says “TRUST NO HOE!” (charming) in this picture from January 2014 that was still there until very recently: IMG_0806

Now, it’s all gone. There’s new fencing, upgraded security lighting, and even barbed wire around most of the perimeter, which isn’t very attractive. Yet it might be worth it, if it actually keeps the taggers out.

If it doesn’t (which seems likely, given this site’s history), why not get rid of the fencing entirely? Like it was when Sutrito Tower was first built, in 1963.

Removing the fence would take the “adventure” out of tagging this building, and make it convenient for neighbors to paint over it without waiting years for American Tower to get around to cleaning up the mess.

Sutrito Tower post-graffiti removal

PHOTOS: Joe Thomas

Restored Esmeralda Slide Park Wins Fabulous San Francisco Beautiful Award


Remember just a few short months ago, when the historic and symbolic Esmeralda Slide Park was a sad ruin?

Blighted by the decaying forces of time, The City had to remove some of the wooden structures before they collapsed. Then came the rallying cry, and the heroic volunteer effort, and then the mini-park was restored and reborn. And now it’s won an amazing beautification award from San Francisco Beautiful.

Neighbors Joan Carson and Nancy Windensheim worked their tail-feathers off to make this happen, and without them, none of this would have happened. Here’s what they had to say about the recognition:

For all you folks who were waiting for the results of who is the winner of the SF Beautiful Award…

Being a nominee was cool enough, but Esmeralda Slide Park just went on record as the 2015 recipient of the Seven Hills Award.  This Award “recognizes nominees who have made a significant contribution to the creation of unique neighborhood character.”

There were 7 award categories and a winner for each. It’s very fitting Esmeralda Slide Park got the Seven Hills Award. Everybody knows Bernal is the ‘hood with the kick-ass slide; Now folks see we not only have the great slide, we have a plaza and park that is also awesome. It’s going to get even better, so stay tuned for more!

Hurray for our fabulous community, and bravo to everyone who has worked and will continue to work on the Esmeralda Slide Park.

See you at Esmeralda!

We did it! Our slides are both ass-kicking and award-winning.  Kind of like Kanye West, but with a much better attitude.

Most of all, a lot of very special thanks are due to Neighbors Nancy and Joan, who lead the charge to reconstruct the Esmeralda mini-park and make it better than ever. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Very, very well done, ladies:


PHOTOS: Courtesy of Neighbors Nancy and Joan

Esmeralda Slide Park, Now Beautifully Renovated, Nominated for SF Beautiful Award


Neighbor Joan Carson, one of the valiant ringleaders who helped organize the glamtastic renovation of the Esmeralda Slides and Mini-Park, shares this update on the new sign over the park, and some (well-deserved) recognition it’s receiving around town:

There’s a new sign over the Esmeralda Slide Park, designed by Nancy Windesheim and constructed by me. The sign is prominently displayed on the trellis above our planter box, with the new plantings installed by volunteers on August 15, the second workday we had.

Most of all, we want to tell everyone who reads Bernalwood that we are one of the many esteemed nominees for a 2015 SFBeautification award.  San Francisco Beautiful is a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the livability and beautification of San Francisco. For 44 years, they have been recognizing people and places who contribute to the City’s livability and beautification.

The nominees are showcased on the SF Beautiful’s Facebook page. We’re there, and if you’re excited like we are, please “like” us.

Everyone who dedicated themselves to making this rebuild happen should feel very proud. There are a number of projects that happened this year in the City that are really special, and we can find ourselves amongst them.

Whether we win an award on Sept. 17 or not, the recognition of being a nominee in the company of all the other special projects nominated, puts us in the best of company!

Citizens of Bernalwood, you know what to do: Please help stuff the ballot box by adding your Likes and gushy comments right here.

PHOTO: Neighbor Joan

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


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:

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

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

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics