Bernal Neighbor Brilliantly Trolls Tech Industry, Tech-Haters, Media, Chickens, and Us


For the last few days, Neighbor Andi Plantenberg on fashionable Samoset Street has generated a lot of buzz and a few headlines by creating a pitch-perfect website for Qoopy, a luxury day care service for chickens.

Operating in Brooklyn, Portland, and (of course) Bernal Heights, Qoopy promises that “when you travel, we give your chickens the royal treatment.” But only if you can get to the top of the waitlist.

Naturally, this has been was greeted with howls of shock and zeitgeist-encapsulating derision. For example:

Some saw it as a clear sign of late-stage urban bourgeois affluenza:

Bernalwood heard about Qoopy earlier in the week, and with Bernal featured so prominently, we decided to reach out for more information.  Neighbor Andi sent this reply:

One of the most common questions we get is “Is Qoopy real — or is this some kind of affectionate satire of the world we live in?”

I’m not a shaman. I’m not qualified to answer questions like that.

I do see that today’s urbanites long for a return to the simplicity and immediacy of raising their own food. This new generation has its own answers to questions like “What should I do with my chicken once her egg-laying days are done?” And even, “When I go to work, will my chicken miss me?”

On the other hand, the tech industry is racing to provide services that cater to urbanites’ every whim. I can have my dirty skivvies picked up with a tap of my smartphone.

Qoopy’s biggest innovation has not been our hand-crafted chicken curriculum, but our willingness to ask the question “Is the innovation economy solving the right problems?”

Truth be told, even after receiving this response, Bernalwood remained unsure if Qoopy was real, or satire, or both.

After all, experience has taught us that proper chicken care is a legitimate need in Bernal Heights, and besides; the idea of creating a satirical thing that nevertheless operates as a real thing is … errrrrrrrrr … uummmmm … well, suffice to say, we don’t find this hard to imagine either, because Bernalwood has been doing exactly that for almost five years.

We were candid about our ongoing confusion in the conversation with Neighbor Andi, and she was gracious enough to provide a less ambiguous reply:

Last Thursday evening, my husband Alan Peters and I were joking around like we normally do, and the notion of a Chicken Daycare for Urban Hipsters came up. We laughed and I said “I’m just going to launch it tomorrow’. I made a landing page, came up with a company name and a domain. And posted to facebook. The goal was to entertain myself.

That was Friday. Qoopy had a handful of up-votes on Product Hunt by Monday afternoon. By Tuesday mid-day I had thousands of hits, a few serious inquiries (all from Brooklyn) and a playful VC inquiry.

I think the reason it went viral was that it seemed like a joke, but could conceivably be true (Wait– maybe this *is* real”). The innovation economy is making services like this left and right, hence my earlier blurb.

So it began as a fun couple hours on friday, but has tapped on something larger. Qoopy has started some healthy and entertaining dialog.

Yeah yeah, sure sure. Seriously though… how do we get to the top of the waiting list?


Crowdfunding Underway for El Buen Comer, a New Restaurant on Mission

El Buen Comer at Heart_18-1

There’s a crowdfunding campaign underway to open a terrific new restaurant on Mission Street at Kingston in Bernal Heights, and it’s hard not to love.

El Buen Comer is the pride and joy of Isabel Pazos, a budding chef from Mexico who has been honing her craft at local farmer’s markets at at La Cocina, the local incubator for food entrepreneurs. She hopes to raise another $21,000 in the next two weeks, and here’s the story:

Hi, my name is Isabel Pazos. I am the owner of El Buen Comer, a soon-to-be restaurant in Bernal Heights San Francisco. Seven years ago I decided to follow my passion for cooking and turn it into my career as a way to help support my family. I began selling food out of the kitchen in my apartment. Before I knew it the people of my community became my biggest supporters, lining up outside of my apartment door waiting for the day’s offering, and I outgrew my little home kitchen. In a stroke of luck one night while watching television with my family, an old friend of mine from Mexico City appeared on-screen. She was talking about La Cocina and how they were able to guide her with the process of formalizing her food business. After that night, with a little push from my family, I decided to reach out to La Cocina. Fast forward seven years and something I didn’t think I could dream is now a reality.

I am opening my very own restaurant! Sometimes I can’t believe it… Nothing brings me more joy than cooking for people and very soon I will be able to start doing just that. With your contributions to this campaign I will be able to purchase the last key pieces of equipment that I need in order to start feeding my customers. In supporting El Buen Comer you will also be supporting the community around us. When designing our restaurant the most important aspect for us was creating an extension of our family’s dinner table. Our hope is that at El Buen Comer our neighbors will find a vibrant, comfortable and must importantly delicious space that they can visit often.

You can contribute to the campaign here. Still want to learn more? CAUTION: This video will melt your corazón:

PHOTO: Top, Isabel Pazos, founder of El Buen Comer, doing what she loves. Courtesy of La Cocina

Meet the Community from the Mosque and Islamic Center on Crescent



The Mosque and Islamic Center of San Francisco Waqf on Crescent and Andover has long been a fixture in South Bernal, but we seldom hear much about it.  In fact, it’s the oldest mosque in the Bay Area, as well as the second-oldest mosque in all of Northern California. Plus, four stars on Yelp! Who knew?

David Young, Bernalwood’s newest correspondent, recently reached out to Zishan Safdar, a Bernal native and lifelong attendee of the mosque, to learn more about this unassuming neighborhood institution:

Bernalwood: How long the mosque has been around?

Zishan: The Islamic Center of San Francisco (ICSF) was founded in 1959. It was founded when many brothers of the community decided that they, as Muslims, needed a place to pray and establish a foundation for the future generations. It’s the first mosque in the City of San Francisco, the first mosque in the Bay Area, and the second mosque in the entire Northern California. (The first is in Sacramento.)

The Islamic Center is a waqf. What does that mean?

Taken from Google, Waqf is defined as, “an endowment made by a Muslim to a religious, educational, or charitable cause.” Waqf in the Arabic language means to stop, contain, or preserve. So when this word is attached to the mosque or any religious institution, it also means that specific building can never be donated as a gift, inherited, or sold.

What about the community of Muslims who make up the mosque? Where are they from?

The community members who attend the mosque are from various backgrounds — including myself. I was born and raised in Bernal Heights on Cortland and Nebraska!

We have other members from India, Pakistan, Palestine, Yemen, and even Saudi Arabia. A majority of the members are San Francisco residents, including a good handful from Bernal Heights; a lot of commuters also drop by throughout the day to offer their prayers. There are a lot of converts who attend the mosque as well, including a few African-American converts and a Latino convert.

Besides daily prayers, what sort of events are held at the mosque?

Other than daily prayers, the mosque also hosts weddings, classes for both adults and children, Taraweeh prayers (prayers offered only during the month of Ramadan, the month Muslims fast in), the two Eid prayers, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, and also funeral services.

The mosque is also a hangout spot, especially for commuters who choose to come in and relax while waiting for the traffic to die-down, or who simply want to hang out between the prayers to enjoy some tea. There are also many youth programs, including monthly trips, dinners, and sporting events.

How would you describe the mosque’s place in the local Islamic community?

ICSF plays a major role in the Muslim community. Not only is it a place of worship, it’s also a community center for its attendees. Along with religious classes, which are offered to adults and children, we also have people from different professions who act as guidance counselors for anyone seeking advice. The mosque is a means for people to stay in touch as well; knowing you’ll have a shoulder to lean on when you’re in need is one of the most beautiful things we have to offer.

We focus a lot on the youth, too, and do our best to guide them to get the best of educations, be the best person they can be, and help them out if they’re facing any problems, whether it be family trouble, drugs, etc. We recently added a basketball court in the back of the mosque, too. There have also been tutoring sessions for students who need help with homework and we, as the elders in the community, try our best to guide the upcoming generation, both in terms of secular studies and religious studies.

What about the mosque’s role in Bernal?

The mosque plays a major role in the Bernal community as well. One of things I love most about San Francisco is how diverse it is, and, aside from all the awesome cultural food you’ll find in the city, you have people from many religious backgrounds here.

There are many churches in the Bernal Heights community and, as part of cultural diversification, it’s crucial to have a mosque to show the rest of the world how welcoming we are, regardless of one’s background.

ICSF  —or any mosque for that matter — isn’t only limited to the people who follow the Islamic faith. Mosques are open to everyone, regardless of their background or religion, and at ICSF we always welcome everyone with open hearts.

I’d like to stress: We’d love to have more people from the Bernal community drop by the mosque to learn more; we’re always open to visitors! We’d love to have a “community night” at ICSF if the Bernal Height community is interested. I think it would be an amazing event where everyone could get to know each other and just have a good time.

PHOTOS: Top, Zishan Safdar. All photos by David Young for Bernalwood

Tonight: Join In for the First Anniversary of Phonographic Memories


Has it been a year already?  Neighbor Corey invites you to join in for the one-year anniversary edition of his wonderful Phonographic Memories series, where people are invited to share their both favorite vinyl records and the stories they evoke. It happens tonight, September 30 at 7 pm at the Bernal Library, and Neighbor Corey says:

On the last Wednesday of every month over the past year Phonographic Memory has called the Bernal Library home. For the unacquainted, we are a monthly storytelling event focused on vinyl records. This Wednesday (the 30th, at 7pm), come celebrate our one year anniversary and hear your neighbors tell stories about the records that shaped their lives.

Want a preview of what to expect? Try this:

There Was Dancing In the Streets at the 2015 Elsie Street Block Party





Neighbor Michael Nolan, captain of the Elsie Street Pom-Pom Squad, shares these photos of the fashionable Elsie Street Block Party that happened last weekend under a perfect blue sky. Neighbor Michael writes:

Fulfilling their commitment to “Change the World Joyously – One Block at a Time,”  the fun-loving and unflagging Elsie Street Neighbors presented the 9th Annual Elsie Street Block Party yesterday.  The Bouncy House and Bhangra Dancers probably took the cake, as did the winners of the Elsie/Bernal Trivia Quiz.   The BBQ, Bean Bag Toss, and Beautiful Weather also added to the car-free and carefree event.

Here’s a bonus video of the fabulous Elsie Bhangra Dancers shaking their groove thangs:

PHOTOS: Michael Nolan

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.

Fire Department Rescues Scared Kitty from Redwood Tree on Andover



The more things change, the more others things remain the same. Neighbor Eugenie snapped into Bernalwood Action News mode yesterday to report live from the scene as the San Francisco Fire Department plucked a frightened kitty named Bee from the upper branches of a Bernal Heights tree:

A small kitten chasing squirrels got stuck 25 feet up a redwood tree on south Andover Street this afternoon.  To the delight of a half dozen kids, five of our finest from the Church Street station coaxed little Bee down.

Hooray, SFFD! Neighbor Eugenie stayed on the scene to capture the moment when the embarrassed cat finally came back to earth. Citizens of Bernalwood, meet Bee:


PHOTOS: Neighbor Eugenie Marek