Air Combat: Precita Park and the Civic Politics of Drones


Well, since we already live in the future, this was probably inevitable…

While Bernal neighbors conduct an ongoing conversation about the social norms associated with the presence of dogs in Precita Park, Neighbor Ruby reports that some Bernal residents are also trying to sort out the social norms associated with the presence of drones in Precita Park:

Thought you might be interested in an event that transpired [on June 25].

My partner Mary was at home when she heard an infernal noise emanating from Precita Park. We live on the park, so so threw on a jacket and raced outside.

There were two middle-aged guys there flying a drone!

She scolded them furiously and announced, “We don’t’ allow drones in our parks!”

They argued with her but she didn’t back down and finally they left, drone in hand. She said the drone made such an infernal noise and was so threateningly military-esque that all the dogs in the park were cowering.

Now, on a purely factual basis, there is no posted prohibition on the use of drones in Precita Park. (Yet.) There is, however, is a sign saying that dogs must be on leashes — which is generally disregarded. All of which may indicate that Bernalese prefer governance by implicit codes of personal responsibility and good neighborliness, rather than by explicit rules or legal regulations.

Or maybe not.

Regardless of who’s right or less-right in this scenario, the incident is an innnnnteresting harbinger of a civic conversation we are likely to have sooner rather than later — as neighbors, as a city, and as a nation.

Will we take a liberal attitude toward the technologies of future? Or will we establish drone equivalents to the Locomotive Acts of the 1800s, “which required all road locomotives, which included automobiles, to travel at a maximum of 4 mph in the country and 2 mph in the city – as well as requiring a man carrying a red flag to walk in front of road vehicles hauling multiple wagons”?

Either way, if you’ve enjoyed the discussion about canine leash policies, enforcement, tolerance, responsibility, shared space, and dog poop in Precita Park, you may also enjoy having a forward-looking conversation here about the politics of using remotely controlled flying machines in Precita Park as well.

Or maybe not.

UPDATE (promoted from the comments):  Neighbor Mat, the pilot of the drone involved in the incident above, describes a different version of encounter:

Well there certainly is two sides to every story. I’m one of the “middle aged men” who was flying the drone that day.

Before even touching the obviously spicy debate of whether I should or shouldn’t be able to fly a drone in a park by my house, I’d like to point out how ridiculously overblown her explanation of the situation is. The Funny thing is that I have the entire thing on video from the drone.

First of all, the conversation lasted all of 30 seconds (actually exactly 23 seconds) and I immediately said, ok, thats fine I’m your neighbor and I don’t want trouble. I did take the time to tell her that no this is not a military device, and no I can not remotely come close to seeing in her window.

Secondly this comment on the dogs “cowering” is just ridiculous. There was not a single dog remotely close to us. And in fact here is a screen shot from our footage that clearly shows that. I’m a Bernal dog owner myself, and if I thought that I was remotely disturbing somebodies pup I would immediately shut it down.

I’m not going to spend my entire day arguing with people on whether drones should or shouldn’t be allowed in Precita park, but I just wanted to point out that the original message really makes the situation out to be a lot different than it was.

The woman that confronted us completely had her mind made up that this was some sort of military device and that we were the enemy. The fact is that we are two of her neighbors using our day off to do something creative with ourselves and capture some cool and interesting footage of our neighborhood. If she is afraid of her privacy or neighborhood being violated, I think there are bigger battles to fight than two long haired guys sipping coffees and taking selfies with a go-pro on drone.

As for the topic of the noise, yes the drone makes a sound. The model that we were using maxes out at 82db and of course dissipates as it flies away. A gas powered lawn mower is about 100db. There is no question that the noise levels of a multiple bouncy castles full of children or Cesar Chavez at any time of time are much louder.

PHOTO: Image of Precita Park captured by Neighbor Mat’s drone, at the time of the incident described in this post.

New, High-Tech Solar Streetlight May Deter Illegal Dumpers. Maybe.


The north entrance to Bernal Heights Park has been the site of many illegal dumping attacks, over the years, all done under the cover of darkness. But a new high-tech solar-powered streetlight should make the parking area a bit less attractive to debris-dumping hooligans.


It’s “Off-Grid,” and it’s self-contained, complete with internal batteries. I only noticed it this week, but I almost walked by it without seeing it, so I wonder when it was actually installed. Neighbors?

But here’s the most important thing. It works! It really lights up!


The extra photons will come in handy since the anti-dumping Eye of Sautrito has been largely repurposed for Burrito Railgun defense.

Smile! Look Happy! Google Street View Car Surveys Bernal


Hopefully you brushed your sidewalks and flossed your expansion joints recently, because several neighbors spotted the Google Street View car in Bernal Heights over the weekend, presumably to update our visual data to reflect our look in late 2013.

Fortunately, Neighbor Mark did his part to ensure we present a clean, well-groomed appearance to cyber-tourists and future historians:

PHOTO: Street View car on Alabama at Precita on Saturday, by Don Derheim.

Hurry! Go See “First” by Bernal Playwright Evy Pine Before Nov. 10


Neighbor Laurie urges one and all to see the Bernal-born play that’s currently on stage at Stagewerx, depicting a day in the life of Bill Gates (before he was BILL GATES):

We went yesterday to see “First” at Stagewerx theater on Valencia Street to see Bernal resident Evelyn Jean Pine’s new play about the young Bill Gates and the dawn of the personal computer revolution.

Evy teaches writing at SF State and has been workshopping plays at different theaters for a few years, but this is her first fully-staged production. It’s an excellent production, with professional actors (Jeremy Kahn who plays Bill Gates is especially good) and a interesting lens for looking at the soul of the computer industry.

The run has been extended several times, but it is scheduled to end on November 10, so there’s still time for people to see it. Get your tickets right here.

CNET writes:

Anyone interested in events leading up to the PC revolution will likely enjoy reliving the era of leisure suits, punch cards, 27K memory, and software shared via computer tape. “First” is a lively and nostalgic step back in time, though a number of references, to software royalties and video game addiction (in this case the apocryphal title Thrill Hill), feel surprisingly current.

And then there was this item in Leah Garchik’s SF Chronicle column:

Leo Maselli was at a Stage Werx performance of “First,” which is about young Bill Gates, when he heard a man say to his companion, “I just tweeted Gates and told him to buy the screen rights to this play ASAP.”

Again, the play runs until Sunday, November 10, so get your tickets ASAP.

PHOTO: Jeremy Kahn as Bill Gates, via Stagewerx

Drone Video Filmed Over Bernal Hill Lets You Experience the View Like Local Avian Wildlife




Nathan Shipley just earned his wings with the Bernalwood Air Force.

Specificially, Nathan just established his credentials to lead the BAF’s Division of Drone Cinematography and Surveillance (BAFDoDCaS), and he did so in fashionable style by sharing some amazing footage he filmed over Bernal Hill while piloting a radio-controlled camera-copter:

Thought I’d share a quick video I shot over Bernal last week with my quadcopter drone. I was out shooting again this morning for the Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema intro credits, and someone I met suggested I get in touch.

We’re glad he did, because this footage is gorgeous. Now we know what it feels like to be one of those red-tailed hawks we jealously admire gliding overhead:

How To iPlayDate: Bernal Neighbor Creates App to Connect Local Families with Kids



The Citizens of Bernalwood should be proud of our locavore technologists. They build many amazing things, many of which are inspired by local conditions. The newest piece of amazing locavore software is an iPhone/iPad app called KangaDo, which is a kind of hyperlocal personal organizer/social network  for parents. It was created by Neighbor Sara, who says:

I am a NW Bernal resident (Winfield Street since 1999), tech professional, and mom of 2 active boys (8 & 11). Now I’m also the co-founder of a mobile startup. Over the years I’ve tried pretty much all the different variations of working from home, part time, taking time off for the baby, working full time at the office, etc.… and I’ve concluded that the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” rings true. We love our Bernal village on the hill.

I’m excited to share our free, newly released iOS app: KangaDo. It’s designed to help busy parents connect with their  “village” of  friends and family in local communities. KangaDo makes it easy for busy parents and  trusted friends to instantly organize  kids’ activities – without the endless email trails and text messages.

Here’s how it works:

  • Find and connect with local parents/friends you trust.
  • Instantly set up playdates, childcare, carpools, or whatever you need. Offer your help if you can (eg. “Anybody need milk? I’m at the Good Life store..”)
  • Friends are notified via the app when friends send them messages or requests, and they are reminded of events or requests they have accepted. KangaDo with your iPhone’s calendar.
  • Share requests by email with friends outside the app.
  • Free texting, photo & location sharing.

Download it from the App Store.

Clever! Impressive! Very cool! Plus, it’s fun to imagine how we’d describe KangaDo at a pitch meeting for Bernal Heights venture capitalists:

“See, it’s kind of like Twitter goes to a yoga class with TripIt then bumps into Uber and the BernalHeightsParents mailing in the playground behind the Bernal library.”

There you go. Done deal.

Free Wi-Fi Coming Soon to Cortlandia


San Francisco is moving ahead with a program that will install free WiFi networks at 31 locations around the City, and the Bernal Heights Recreation Center just off Cortland was selected as one of the free hotspots. If all goes according to plan, the service will be operational by Spring 2014.

The free service comes courtesy of Google, and the San Francisco Chronicle provides the background:

Six years after a deal to blanket the city fell apart, Supervisor Mark Farrell and Google will announce a plan Wednesday to bring public wireless Internet access, on the technology company’s dime, to parks, recreation centers and plazas across San Francisco. The $600,000 gift from Google will cover the costs of the equipment, installation and maintenance of wireless capabilities for two years.

It will allow residents to work from Mission Dolores Park, let visitors download information to their mobile devices in Civic Center Plaza and make it easier for parents to sign their children up for recreation programs at centers from the Excelsior district to Bernal Heights, Chinatown, the Marina and the Sunset District. In some of those areas, it may be the easiest place to find Internet access, Farrell said.