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


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*

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


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



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.


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:


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

YES! City Funds Secured to Restore Esmeralda Mini-Park


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:


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:


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):


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:


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



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:


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 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:

Esmeralda Mini-Parkflier020379

PHOTO: Neighbors Nancy and Joan

Highland Street Bridge Now Closed Until Further Notice


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

Remember When Bernal Hill Was Naked and Treeless?


Recently, when Bernalwood mentioned a proposal to add streetscape trees to our southern stretch of Mission Street around College Hill, we mentioned in passing that it wasn’t all that long ago when most San Francisco streets and open spaces were barren and treeless.

Take a close look at the view from Bernal Hill 1969, for example, and you’ll notice that Folsom Street is missing the graceful, willowy trees that now do so much to define its character. Likewise, the photo shown above is a view of Bernal Hill taken at about the same time, and it allows us to visualize how awkward our hill looked before all the trees were planted around Sutrito Tower.

The scene in today’s photo is a special day in August, 1970 when Mission District neighbors were invited to take a sneak peek at the just-completed, but not-yet-open 24th Street BART station. The long lines reflect the intense curiosity that surrounded the opening of BART after many unpleasant years of cut-and-cover construction chaos and disruption along Mission Street.

But let’s zoom and enhance for a closer look at Bernal Hill:


Ah-HA! Upon closer inspection, it looks as if the big trees that now pair so gracefully with Sutrito Tower were actually present at the time, though just-planted. So in this photo we see the genesis of today’s glamorous Bernal Hill beautification, at the very moment when the trees were just taking root. Hurrah!

We’re sure a few Bernalwood readers had a hand in that tree-planting, so hopefully they’ll tell us more about how that happened in the comments.

In the meantime — and far more strangely — this photo also reveals that there was a fad for footwear-inspired cuisine on Mission Street in the dawning years of the 1970s:


The Shoe Cafeteria?? Shoes??? As food??? Presumably served in a wide range of styles, with various a-la-carte sauces? Ugh. Goddamn hipsters, ruining the Mission — even back then.

PHOTO: via Eric Fisher