New Analysis Reveals Political Leanings of Bernal Microhoods

It should come as a surprise to exactly no one that Bernal Heights is a rather left-liberal place, politically. But exactly how far left? And where are the mostest leftest enclaves within our domain?

Last year, we got some snapshot data on this courtesy of Neighbor Patrick, who pulled together a geektastic analysis of results from last November’s general election, breaking down the vote along the lines of Bernalwood’s Official Guide to Bernal Heights microhoods.

His conclusion, based on one election result, was: Voters from Foggy Vista on the west slope are the most progressive-left Bernalese, while the residents of St. Mary’s Park in the southwest are the most centrist.

Interestingly, a new citywide analysis by political consultant David Latterman seems to affirm that, while also providing more granular texture about the political leanings of Bernal’s other microhoods.

Scott Lucas from San Francisco Magazine kindly wrote up a summary of Latterman’s analysis (so I don’t have to):

Latterman, who works for moderate candidates and office holders, used methods developed by SF State professor Rich DeLeon, the author of Left Coast City and the most-widely respected authority on the history of San Francisco’s progressivism. (Point being: Their biases cancel out.)

Using data on the voting outcomes at the precinct level for fourteen different ballot initiatives from 2012 to 2014, Latterman found that the distribution of left and further left voters in the city has remained constant since De Leon ran the numbers in 2004. The city’s progressives are concentrated in the center, in neighborhoods like the Tenderloin, the Mission, the Haight, and Bernal Heights. Less liberal voters, by contrast, ring around them, with the Sunset District and the Marina being home to the most conservative voters on local issues. That’s not news.

What is, however, is that Latterman has found evidence that voters who have moved to the city more recently are voting more conservatively than their neighbors: “Newer residents in San Francisco, especially in District 6 [SOMA], vote more conservatively than the longer‐residence voters around them. While this has been noted anecdotally and in some ballot measure results, this is some of the first strong quantitative evidence for this trend.”

Bernalwood used a zoom and enhance algorithm on one of Latterman’s infographics to generate a snapshot of Bernal’s political leanings, on a microhood basis. Here’s a closeup of Bernal Heights, and remember: the darker the blue, the more left-progressive the area is:


The patterns here are pretty clear. Indeed, as previously hypothesized, Foggy Vista on the west slope is highly progressive. Other progressive bastions include Cortlandia, Baja Cortlandia, and the western half of Precitaville. Indeed, citywide, Park Street would seem to be the southernmost frontier of San Francisco progressivism. Meanwhile, eastern Bernalese are more left-center, while the peoples of St. Mary’s are clearly in the middle of the political spectrum.

So now we know… with a bit more analytical certainty.

INFOGRAPHICS: Fall Line Analytics

UPDATED: Neighbor David Talbot Shares What He Really Thinks of His New Neighbors In Precitaville


Neighbor David Talbot is a progressive writer and editor who lives just off Alabama Street in Bernal Heights, and (among many other things) he’s also the author of “Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love,” a seminal history of San Francisco during the turbulent, activist years of the 1960s and 1970s.

In a speech that receives a big thumbs-up on Bernal neighbor Tim Redmond’s 48 Hills online news site, Neighbor David Talbot explains why he disapproves of San Francisco’s tech industry, and how he views its impact on Bernal Heights:

Here’s the cold reality today. There is a raging war in San Francisco between long-time residents of the city and the new elites. A younger Ed Lee, when he was a Chinatown activist, would have called this a “Class War” – because that’s what it is. A war between the 1% and the 99% over the future of San Francisco’s precious turf.

My own neighborhood – Bernal Heights — has become a frontline in this class war. Not long ago, Bernal Heights was a funky mix of blue-collar workers, lesbian starter-families, counterculture artists, community organizers and Latina grandmothers. But Bernal Heights had the misfortune of being blessed with affordable housing, verdant backyards and parks – and being conveniently located next to the hipster-infused Mission, and even worse, to Highway 101 – the Google bus route to Silicon Valley. Suddenly, this unusually mixed San Francisco neighborhood was transformed into what one real estate web site recently crowned the hottest zip code in the country. Now, if you stand at the corner of Precita and Alabama – the main checkpoint for the neighborhood — instead of seeing battered Subaru Outbacks and Hondas, you see a steady stream of new-model Teslas, BMWs and Uber limousines. A rapid, seamless flow of gleaming, luxurious metal that never slows down – not even for the children and dogs who come spilling into the street from the nearby park. These Silicon Valley movers and shakers can’t afford to slow down – time is money.

In the old days, the neighborhood’s celebrities were people like Terry Zwigoff — the independent filmmaker who made “Ghost World” and ”Bad Santa” — and underground cartoonists like Robert Crumb and Spain Rodriguez, creators of the most cutting-edge comics in America. These luminaries often retouched the neighborhood in their own inimitable style, building new turrets on their odd castles or painting murals of busty action heroes on their walls. But they didn’t tear down the whole place and start over. The new hot-shots are different, however. They’re knocking down the neighborhood’s ramshackle houses right and left — and replacing them with cold, futuristic mega-mansions. With every new slate-gray exterior that pops up, there goes the warm and oddball neighborhood.

Last year, a young, Latino man named Alex Nieto was shot 14 times and killed by police near my house, on top of Bernal Hill, a scenic area where people like to stroll and walk their dogs. Someone had reported that Nieto, a 28-year-old security guard who grew up in the neighborhood, didn’t look right. These days, fewer and fewer of us long- time residents look right, look like we still belong in our own homes. Sooner or later, if we’re not removed by force, we’ll be moved by the invisible hand of the market.

The strange thing about the new digital rich is that they don’t want to live among their own tax bracket – in traditional enclaves of wealth like Pacific Heights or Hillsborough. No, they want to live among the people — the ones they’re displacing — in Noe Valley, the Castro and the Mission. Take Mark Zuckerberg, please. For the past two years, the Facebook zillionaire and his wife have upended a once-quiet, middle-class neighborhood overlooking Dolores Park, as Pharaoh-like construction teams erect a massive $10-million, six-bedroom palace to house the royal couple. Zuckerberg is dying to live in the heart of the city, even though he apparently despises its San Francisco values. His corporate lobby,, has championed a laundry list of conservative issues – from anti-labor legislation to the Keystone pipeline – that would make Harvey Milk and George Moscone spin in their graves.

So…where does Stanford fit into this tale of bitter urban struggle? As a breeding ground for the new elite, the Farm is seen by many in San Francisco as the enemy camp, as part of the problem.

My sons — who are 19, 20 and 24 and who grew up in San Francisco – have a name for the new wave of people moving in. The ones who proudly wear their Ivy League hoodies as they jog and hydrate around Precita Park or line up for artisanal chocolate tastings on Valencia Street, forking over enough cash to feed an entire family in the Mission for two or three days. “Stanford dicks.” That’s what my sons call them. Or Stanford douchebags, or Stanford tools.

Ah. Well then.

That’s just an excerpt, so by all means you should read all of Neighbor David’s speech on Neighbor Tim’s blog. The core of it seeks to explain why today’s tech San Franciscans are generally a less worthy bunch than the left-activist San Franciscans of the 1960s and 1970s.

Your Bernalwood editor read all of Neighbor David’s speech, and I found it very hard to square with what I learned from Neighbor David’s book.  Because I read “Season of the Witch” over the summer, and I confess to being somewhat confused by his assessment of why Then was so much better than Now.

For example, one very big take-away I got from reading Neighbor David’s book was that many of the people involved in the “liberation battles” of the 1960s and 1970s were much bigger douchebags, assholes, and narcissists than the douchebags, assholes, and narcissists of today — if only because they generated a much, much bigger body-count (though that’s not the only reason).

This came as a big surprise, because I’d always admired that era for the same values and reasons Neighbor David celebrates in his speech. My surprise came not just from the staggering number of shattered lives and dead bodies that generation left behind, but from the remarkable arrogance, bad behavior, and self-delusion that apparently animated so much of San Francisco’s alternative culture during those times.

What I learned from Neighbor David’s book is that the hippies were massive dicks when it came to their relationship with San Francisco. To say that many of them treated San Francisco as their public toilet is to be unfair to many of our city’s hard-working lavatories. A few of the rest went on to become San Francisco’s proto-gentrifiers. It’s a credit to the depth and honesty of Neighbor David’s reporting that all of this is so well documented, but I do have his book to thank for the revelation.

What I don’t think Neighbor David properly acknowledges is that both the hippie crowd from the 60s & 70s and todays tech generation both partake heavily of San Francisco’s “49 square miles surrounded by reality” mythos that he celebrates so rapturously in his speech. All that reinventing, reimagining, liberating, and Not Taking No For An Answer stuff… the same spirit is very much present today, even if some (but not all) of the objectives are different. What’s the difference between the Merry Pranksters and Uber? Apparently, much less than some might like to believe.

So I get that Neighbor David (and Neighbor Tim) don’t like what’s happening in San Francisco right now, and that’s legit. But today’s San Francisco is very much contiguous with the change the 60s/70s generation sparked and, unfortunately, this kind of back-in-the-day criticism comes across as ossified and self-aggrandizing.

Meanwhile, a tip for new Bernalese: Please try to play it cool if your next encounter with Neighbor David in Precita Park feels a little awkward. And whatever you do, don’t jog or hydrate.

UPDATE 27 January: Bernalwood has received a message about this post from an expert source: The Esteemed John Law, author, sign-maker, sage, and San Francisco culture-jammer.

John’s credentials on these matters are impeccable, as he has long been at the forefront of so many of the things that make San Francisco unique (Cacophony Society, Burning Man, Doggie Heads, and about a zillion more things you probably take for granted). Here’s John’s perspective on Bernal, change, time, Talbot, and San Francisco:

I’ve been following the Talbot thread, and have very mixed feelings. Here’s my 2 cents for what it’s worth.

“When I moved to Frisco (g’head – take that one on!) in 1976 as a California born, Midwest raised 17 year old juvie runaway living on the streets and crashing at Haight Ashbury Switchboard referred beds, Bernal (as most neighborhoods at that time) was a very different place. Though I never actually lived on the Hill, I’ve lived all around it – Bayview, Mission, Portola, as well as a half dozen other hoods. I’ve hiked, hung out at and slept (not always with the same people) on Bernal off & on for over 3 decades. The hippies I met back then, some toothless drug addicts, some gentrifying householders, all told me the same thing: “Party’s over kid, ya missed it.” Well, they were full of crap on that one. The story of this town as with all towns is one of constant change.

I worked at the York Theater (now the Brava) in 1979/80. The Mission, parts of Bayview, North Beach etc., were cauldrons of crazy energy and underground experimentation for me and my crowd. Each Saturday, Mission Street from 14th to Army was bumper to bumper low riders of the most astonishing detail exquisite paint jobs imaginable. La Raza was feeling it, murals and street art starting to pop up everywhere. The old neighborhood townies bitched incessantly about the hippies, cholos (and later the Punks and Gays) and how they were destroying San Francisco.

Well, in a sense they were right. The new waves were washing away the old, and the old that was being supplanted was far from valueless. l’ve worked in the trades with many of those old townies for years. I would get hints of this past world from the old timers still in the trades when I started. Their world was one of drag racing at Ocean Beach, Irish wakes and marriages at Mission Dolores (yes, the Mission was largely Irish before the wave of Latino immigration and white flight in the 60’s) or St. Paul’s up the hill, diving off Lefty O’Doul Bridge, working the docks, machine shops and produce markets or, as juvenile delinquents, pinching stuff from those markets…

I stopped at Reds Java Hut with my forman at Ad-Art Electrical Sign Co, George Edwards for lunch a few times in the mid-80’s. Red, at that time in his 70’s, was a big man with a ready laugh and short temper. He would loudly, but good naturedly berate George, also a big tough guy, when we came in: “HEY KID!! whaddaya want? A free burger! Ya ain’t gonna get it here, boy!” Evidently my boss and his Irish street gang would try and swipe candy bars at Reds back in the 50’s!

This was the world buried by the new waves over the 60’s and 70’s. And the factories closed, shipping left and by the time I arrived, much of the city was abandoned commercial buildings, boarded up neighborhoods and a great deal of street crime and ingrained poverty.

To me it was a wonderland. Very cheap rent and restaurants made living and creating here easy. All sorts of bizarre and compelling things were growing in that beautiful wasteland. Even so, you’d be mugged for certain in Precita Park if you traversed it regularly. Cortland was a dangerous street and you simply did not go near Garfield Park at night. The gangs owned it. In 2 years of selling popcorn at the York Theater (24th at York St, 1979/80) I witnessed two full on gang fights, saw the aftermath of dozens of serious assaults, and watched as patrons of the theater lost, on average 3-4 cars a week to auto theft. Hampshire at 24th shared the honor of most auto thefts for several years with some street in Newark NJ.

I read Talbot’s book and quite enjoyed it. I remember first-hand much that he recounts therein. He is right in his Bernal reverie on one count for sure: The new wave on average, are wealthier. I know many in the tech scene. I’m a partner in Laughing Squid, one of the very early internet “social media” experiments that has gone on to some notice. The “techies” have their own creative wonderland they are building here – much of it is hard for those not initiated to see or understand. I can’t fairly be mad at them for their enthusiasm for MY town….

Many of my closest long time friends ARE being pushed out by the new wave, and they are rightfully as pissed off about it, as the Townies were before. I am very sad about that and we are losing some very important things as that tide recedes and leaves the artists, working class and poor immigrants beached (some for the better) in Oakland and beyond. With a few wrong breaks, I would be pushed out too.

San Francisco is not a place that I would hitchhike to nowadays, couch surf and live cheaply in as I met other broke newbies who want to shake things up. I would end up in Oakland. But for the people that do come and can afford it, I think Frisco is still a pretty awesome place. And for those of you lucky or smart enough to have dug in on Bernal, my congratulations.

Campos Concedes Defeat in State Assembly Race as New Day Brings New Opportunities


The Duel of the Dual Davids has reached its conclusion, and there can be only one.

After a few days of nail-biting uncertainty, our D9 Supervisor and Bernal Heights neighbor David Campos has conceded to David Chiu in the battle for the District 17 State Assembly seat.

The Campos concession came via Facebook:

A few moments ago I called David Chiu to congratulate him on his win in the Assembly race.

As I write this my thoughts are with Supervisor Harvey Milk. Forty-two years ago Harvey made a similar call when he lost his own race for the 17th Assembly district by fewer then 4,000 votes. It was one of many races that Harvey lost, in fact he was only a supervisor for 11 months before his murder. And yet the message that is most associated with him is that of hope. Right now my heart is filled with hope.

This is a time of great change in our city. And through this campaign we have sent a powerful message that the people of San Francisco are alive, spirited, and ready to fight for our values and way of life. We made clear that we love this city, refuse to be pushed out and are a force to be reckoned with.

Hmm. That’s what politicians say at moments like this, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. Indeed, the results of this election suggest the exact opposite.

Supervisor Campos carried the torch for San Francisco’s progressive movement. Yet this week, notwithstanding Bernal Heights, San Francisco voters rejected the whole slate of progressive-backed initiatives and candidates on the ballot.

Prop G, the so-called anti-speculation transfer tax, was soundly defeated. The Prop E Soda Tax fell flat. Prop I passed, in a rebuff to NIMBY turf-haters. And now, David Campos has also conceded defeat.

Bernal Neighbor Tim Redmond argues progressives fared badly because they were massively outspent by their fatcat foes. And in fact, that’s undeniably true. But it may not be the complete story either.

The language Campos used in his concession points to part of the problem. Yes, this is a time of great and difficult change. But professional progressives have chosen to address this change largely as a source of threat and menace. The structural limitations of that approach are now apparent, and there’s no reason to believe that its demographics will become any more favorable in the years ahead either.

So now David Campos has a few more years to hone his craft on the Board of Supervisors.

He might consider embracing all his constituents in District 9, instead of treating our new neighbors like an invasive species. And he might try introducing some innovative ideas to expand and rebalance the City’s housing stock, instead of waging guerrilla warfare on the fundamentals of supply and demand.

Or not… it’s up to him.

But David Campos isn’t going to Sacramento, so this is his opportunity to try something different right here in San Francisco.

PHOTO: David Campos, via 48 Hills

Campos vs. Chiu: Your Bernal Heights Microhood Voting Analysis for Election 2014


Happy Day After Election Day! Today you can savor the clarity of a (mostly) known election outcome and the knowledge that your mailbox will no longer overflow with huge stacks of election-related direct mail. Today, it’s all about the results  — and the punditry about what those results tell us.

On that last score, Bernalwood is very fortunate to have some of the most clever readers in the entire universe. Specifically, we speak here of Neighbor Patrick, who has done us the great service of looking at some key returns from yesterday’s vote through the prism of the Official Guide to the Microhoods of Bernal Heights.

Neighbor Patrick has broken down the results of the David Campos vs. David Chiu contest for the District 17 Californa State Assemby seat by Bernal microhood. He then did the same for Prop E, the Soda Tax measure, to see how it fared here in the Dominion of Bernalwood.

As you probably know, the current citywide election tallies show that David Chiu is on track to defeat Bernal resident and D9 Supervisor David Campos for the State Assembly seat. As MissionLocal reports this morning, though some absentee and provisional ballots remain outstanding, “with all precincts reporting, Chiu held a 2,397-vote lead over Campos in the Assembly race to replace Tom Ammiano.”  (At this writing, Campos has yet to concede.) Meanwhile, the Prop E Soda Tax failed to clear the two-thirds majority it needed to pass.

But how did Campos and Prop E do in Bernal Heights?

For that, let’s go to Neighbor Patrick in the Bernalwood Election 2014 News Center:

I thought I’d do a little digging into the election results and break down voting patterns by Bernal microhood using the Bernalwood map posted on March 18th. I think it’s a little more revealing than the generic “Bernal North” and “Bernal South” designations used by the SF elections department!

I’ve attached charts for the Campos/Chiu vote as well as the Prop E (soda tax) vote as these were the closest races. These are based on the preliminary figures released by SF Elections very early this morning so they may change slightly as provisional ballots are counted.

Note that there isn’t perfect overlap between precinct boundaries and microhood boundaries, but I’ve done my best.

Here are Bernal microhood results for Campos vs. Chiu:

CamposChiuBernal Microhoods

Here’s the Bernal microhood breakdown for Prop E:


Innnnnteresing, yes? It would appear that the residents of Foggy Vista, on Bernal’s west slope, are the most progressive tribe of all Bernalese. Neighbor Patrick adds:

I guess what jumps out at me is the relative conservatism of St. Mary’s and Alemanistan, and the heterogeneity of the different microhoods. I was very surprised to see St. Mary’s actually vote against Prop E (it was over 50% citywide although that wasn’t enough to make it law). Turnout was pretty even across the board, although Alemanistan was below average at 34%.

There’s lots to ponder and pontificate about in this analysis, which is why the Internet Gods have given us the commenting mechanism. Most of all, though, HUGE thanks to Neighbor Patrick for this terrific piece of analysis.

Is Wild Side West Now San Francisco’s Last Lesbian Bar?

Wild Side West

Last week, the operators of the Lexington Club on 19th Street in The Mission announced that the bar will soon shut down. High rents and changing demographics were cited as the causes for the Lexington’s demise.

The announcement triggered some earnest soul-searching around San Francisco, because the Lexigton was, arguably, The City’s last true lesbian bar. Writing for the HuffPo, Jen Jack Gieseking says:

The only bar dedicated to serving lesbians in San Francisco, the Lexington Club, announced that it is closing after 18 years. You may be shocked that the bar is closing and/or that there is only one lesbian bar in that gay metropolis. As a researcher of lesbian-queer spaces and economies, I am not surprised at all.


But wait! Is that true? Is the Lexington Club San Francisco’s last true lesbian bar? Or, is it the case, as a wise Jedi once said, “No. There is another.”

The Bold Italic points to Bernal Heights:

[The Lexington] has been a Mission staple for almost two decades, and when it goes so goes one of the city’s last lesbian bars in the city (Wild Side West in Bernal still stands, but it’s arguable whether it’s actually a “lesbian bar” anymore)

Journalist-about-town Steve Silverman is on the same page:

SFist replies, Yes but only sort of and not really so much:

Some may argue the case for Wild Side West, which remains a LGBT-friendly neighborhood bar in Bernal Heights, open since 1962, with a historic link to the lesbian community, but anecdotally we understand it is more of a mixed bar these days.

Bernalwood has considered this question of Wild Side West’s sexual credentials before, in the context of a larger discussion of the changing political economy of the Bay Area lesbian community.

Yet with the closure of The Lex, the subcultural role of Wild Side West is now a bit more of an urgent question. Please discuss.

PHOTOS: Wild Side West by Telstar Logistics. Lexington Club sign by Vintageroadtrip on Flickr

Nieto Family Files Wrongful Death Complaint in Federal Court





Grieving families. Medical examiner reports. Demands to release the names of the officers involved.

There is a grim parallelism to many of the recent officer-involved deaths across the country, including the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York City, and Alex Nieto here in Bernal Heights. But there are also important differences. In Ferguson and New York, medical examiners’ reports have been completed and released, and the identity of the officers involved in the incidents has been made public. But that hasn’t happened in San Francisco.

Against that backdrop, last Friday’s memorial for Bernal resident Alex Nieto on Bernal Hill was noteworthy not just because it was entirely peaceful, tightly focused, and well-organized, but also because it underscored the fact that, even after five months, Alex Nieto’s family still seeks the kind of basic information about their son’s death that has already been made public in high-profie cases elsewhere.

Friday’s march coincided with the Nieto family’s filing of a wrongful death complaint in federal court regarding the officer-involved shooting of Alex Nieto on March 21.

KQED reports:

The parents of a 28-year-old man shot and killed by San Francisco police officers on March 21 filed a federal lawsuit against the city and its police chief Friday.

The lawsuit disputes statements SFPD Chief Greg Suhr made just days after the shooting, and supporters of the slain Alejandro Nieto are suggesting a cover-up. Attorneys for Refugio and Elvira Nieto say witnesses came forward to dispute the assertion that Nieto pointed a Taser stun gun at officers just before he was shot.

A crowd of about 150 marched from the site of Nieto’s shooting to San Francisco’s federal courthouse Friday. Protesters’ chants referenced several controversial shootings by Bay Area police and the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri that has recently dominated national news.

Nieto’s death sparked anger in San Francisco’s Mission District. He was well known in the neighborhood and a criminal justice student at City College of San Francisco where he was studying to become a juvenile probation officer. He had been an intern with the city’s probation department.

He also worked as a security guard at a nightclub near the Mission and carried a Taser for the job. Nieto stopped to eat a burrito atop the city’s Bernal Heights Park on his way to work the evening he was shot.

Someone saw the holstered Taser and called police, according to Suhr’s statements and SFPD scanner traffic from the night of the shooting.

Suhr told an angry crowd at a March 25 town hall meeting that officers approached Nieto and asked him to show his hands. He said Nieto drew his Taser, which automatically emits a laser sight. Officers only shot after they noticed the red dot “on them, tracking,” Suhr said.

“They believed it to be a firearm, and they fired at Mr. Nieto,” Suhr said. “Mr. Nieto went to the ground. He assumed a prone position, again he acquired the dot, continued to track as other officers arrived.”

Suhr said at the time Nieto was prohibited from owning a firearm “for mental health reasons,” a statement also disputed by his supporters.

Oakland-based attorneys John Burris and Adante Pointer are representing Nieto’s parents. Pointer said sustained protests in the Mission District compelled witnesses to contact their office.

“The notion that he was waving a Taser, displaying a Taser, acting out violently with this Taser in any way toward the officers just flies in the face of what independent parties have come forward to say,” Pointer said.

SFPD Chief Suhr’s March 25 community meeting stands as the most up-to-date official account of the events that culminated in Nieto’s death, but it beggars belief that the City still cites that meeting as its official version of events. The problem is not that the March 25 meeting was chaotic and emotional — which it was. The problem is that it was preliminary and unverified. In the five months that have elapsed since the meeting, its credibility has been undermined by the City’s failure to complete the medical examiner’s report in the Nieto case and the unconfirmed nature of the SFPD’s accounting of what happened on Bernal Hill during the evening of March 21.

The City and the SFPD are doing themselves no favors here.

This is Elvira and Refugio Nieto, in the right foreground, carrying a banner during Friday’s march to the Federal Courthouse. Neighbors Refugio and Elvira live on Cortland Avenue, and Alex Nieto was their son:


In the absence of a more complete and credible set of facts about the March 21 incident, it’s not hard to understand why Alex Nieto’s grieving family and friends — our Bernal neighbors — are using whatever means possible to develop their own narrative about how and why his life was taken.

PHOTOS: Alex Nieto Memorial on Friday, August 22, 2014 by Telstar Logistics

Airbnb Hosts Stage Backyard Rally in Bernal Heights


In addition to the counter-protest at Planned Parenthood, there was another demonstration event in Bernal Heights yesterday, but this second action was taken by neighbors who generate income by renting out space in their homes for vacation rentals. They call themselves Fair to Share San Francisco, and the Examiner tells the story:

It helped Marcia Weisbrut get on her feet after cancer. It paid for Rodolfo Cancino’s dental bills. It has allowed [Bernal resident] Greg De Meza to start paying off debts incurred during the recession.

The common thread in all their stories was the short term rental service provided by Airbnb, which is illegal in San Francisco.

The testimonials — some voiced over a P.A. system — were on display in a Bernal Heights backyard Thursday by groups launching the Fair to Share San Francisco campaign. The campaign’s aim is simple: Legalize the money-making short term rentals that Airbnb’s business model is built upon.

On hand to make their case were a collection of short-term rental hosts, representatives of Airbnb and Peers, a “sharing economy” advocate.

The push comes amidst efforts by local leaders to solve or at least ameliorate a severe housing shortage combined with steep rents, which some Airbnb opponents have linked to the company, among others.

Into that fray, the campaign aims to back legislation like Board of Supervisors President David’s Chiu’s proposal to regulate and legalize short term rentals.

The Examiner explains that Fair to Share has received substantial support from Airbnb — including the group’s basic organizational push, recruitment, brochures, and even the PA system used at the Bernal event. That’s not a bad thing — Airbnb and its hosts are a legitimate interest group with an interest in the City’s political process — but it is important to note.

In the article, Neighbor Emily, who launched the rather clever Airbnb concierge service we’ve told you about before, argued for the stabilizing effect that vacation rentals can have on San Francisco neighborhoods:

Emily Benkert, a 17-year city resident who rents out rooms in her Bernal Heights home and has started a business that helps people run their Airbnb rentals, said the service is not a detriment to The City. “This isn’t hurting anybody,” she said. “We’re not kicking people into the street.”

Instead, she argues, Airbnb’s absence would force people to leave San Francisco since the extra income they make is what allows them to stay.

PHOTO: Bernal neighbor Greg De Meza, by Mike Koozmin, SF Examiner