Bank of America Plans to Eliminate Human Bankers from Cortland Branch

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Action Alert: Bank of America has announced plans to eliminate human tellers from the bank’s Cortland Branch.

Bernalwood visited the Cortland Branch yesterday to confirm the rumors that have been swirling around the neighborhood for the last few days.

We were told that BofA does indeed plan to turn the Cortland Branch into an Express Banking Center. That means the building is slated to undergo significant remodeling, with human tellers replaced by a zeal of indoor ATM machines. Safe deposit boxes will be eliminated along with the tellers, but the site will be staffed by non-banker humans to assist with account-management issues. The remaining humans will be customer support people, basically.

As currently envisioned, remodeling will begin in April, with the branch set to reopen in July.

The B of A on Cortland has been there for a long time. A really long time; almost 100 years, practically since the time of the ancient Bernal druids. Which is to say, the B of A on Cortland is very much a local institution. During Bernalwood’s visit yesterday, the Cortland branch was bustling; There was a short line to visit the tellers, as a few more customers waited patiently on chairs to talk with a personal banker. While they still can.

Neighbor Darcy Lee from Heartfelt on Cortland was very sad to hear about BofA’s plan for the Cortland Branch, and she is rallying to keep the human bank tellers there. Neighbor Darcy writes:

As you might know, the B of A plans on renovating our branch to make it indoor ATMs.

I just went in the bank; There were 4 senior citizens waiting for service and 3 merchants in line. I could have made a video right then and there why a neighborhood branch is so important. B of A owns the building, and they want to make it an indoor ATM. They want to stay in Bernal, but just change what they provide.

This has a big impact on us as merchants, and that further extends to our customers that use the bank. There are many senior citizens that use this as a resource in Bernal.

All of us as merchants need money — actual coins and bills — sometimes multiple times in one day. We also make large cash deposits (or, at least hopefully large). From my observation over the years, this bank takes the time to explain to their elderly population often not English speakers what is going on with their accounts and statement charges.

B of A has made this announcement when their process is pretty far along, but I want to fight it.

Stay tuned for more details, but if you’d like to find out more, check in with Neighbor Darcy at Heartfelt.

UPDATE: In the comments, Neighbor Darcy adds:

HI all, Darcy here… thanks for your input- it is helpful to hear what you have to say. Please note that many folks that bank there do not read Bernalwood. There have always been safety issues with this branch, a few botched robberies over the years thus the bullet proof glass, a senior citizen mugged at the ATM. A door that opens during business hours without having to use your ATM card seems important to me, literally and symbolically. I do not feel it is an issue of “yeeesh old folks can learn to use a technology that has been around a long time”. For me it is an issue of letting an institution know that their decision made many miles from 94110 is affecting us. If you have ideas for the cause email me at info@heartfeltsf.com and if you have an account you will close because of this change please also let me know.

PHOTO: “Crowd of people standing outside the Bernal Heights branch of the Bank of America, on Cortland Avenue, after a bank robbery” December 24, 1936, via SFPL Image Library

An Introduction to Our Local Sparrows, as Spotted Recently on Bernal Hill

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Neigbor John and his 7 year-old son Eddie live on Lundys. They’re heavy into bird-watching, and they inform us that Bernal Heights is actually a rather lively place to spy the local avians.

Neighbor John tells Bernalwood:

Here are three photos I took while bird watching with Eddie this morning. Within 100 yards on the south slope of Bernal Heights Blvd. we saw all three of the varieties of sparrows that can be seen on the hill.

The White Crowned Sparrow is obvious, with the distinctive white stripes on its head. They are currently in their “first winter” plumage:

White Crowned Sparrow

The second is the Golden Crown Sparrow, also in the first winter plumage. While you can clearly see the gold color on its head, the color will brighten as we head into spring:

Golden Crowned Sparrow

The House Sparrow is actually an ally of the finches. It has a distinctive, if boring, slate gray scalp, which is more than made up for with the black breast and colorful brown back:

House Sparrow

One of the lessons we are learning from bird watching with Eddie is to take joy in watching common birds. And, when you look closely, they have interesting stories as well!

PHOTOS: Neighbor John and Eddie

Do You Recognize This Woman Who May Have Burglarized Bernal Homes?

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Neighbor Lizzie shares this sad crime story, which involves a string of home burglaries in Bernal Heights, stolen credit cards, downtown surveillance camera footage of a suspected perpetrator, and frustration with the SFPD. Neighbor Lizzie writes:

Robbery on Winfield on Feb 10, 2015… Here are the details. It is like my own personal version of Serial, the podcast, so keep up:

1. We, along with several neighbors on our block, were robbed on Tuesday last week.

2. Next door neighbors were robbed between 8 and 10am. One awoke to find his phone and wallet missing and went looking outside to see if his girlfriend had them outside. He found the woman in the video below smoking and sitting on his front doorstep. He asked her to borrow her phone and she said she didn’t have one.

3. A neighbor from across our backyard saw a man she assumed to be a contractor messing with the back door. 6+ footish and muscular build. Red to light brown short hair.

4. Many items were removed from our house indicating that they must have been in there meticulously going through everything for quite a while. They took:

- Electronics: android phone, kindle, Mac laptop, HP laptop, bluetooth speaker, etc.
– Personal paperwork: passports, expired ATM cards, wageworks cards, my purse and whatever else might have been in there, check books
– WORST: Jewelry watch for this stuff in pawn shops because I really want it back.
* Paul’s grandfather’s wedding ring. Rectangular setting with larger diamond surrounded by smaller ones.
* Jade bracelet my grandmother gave me from her time in Hong Kong as a navy nurse in WWII. Light jade with gold hinge and clasp.
* Victorian Gold pocket watch my father brought me from his travels. My mother found a long gold chain to go with it. Intricate floral design.
* Notre Dame class ring my father wore his whole life. Gold with blue stone.

5. My bank notified me in the evening that someone was trying to use my ID and cards to make purchases. They gave me locations and times of transactions.

6. Paul went to the shops and retrieved videotape of the person making transactions. As noted above, our neighbor feels she is the same person he found sitting outside his house when he was robbed. Here is the security camera video from the Westfield Mall:

7. The CSI team from the SFPD no-showed three times over 4 days after asking us to stay home from work to meet them before they finally showed up in the 15 minutes I had to go get my child from school. Very annoying and although all the police I’ve talked to are nice, I’m pretty sure they will offer no help in catching the people or finding the remaining treasures from our beloved departed. I get that I wasn’t stabbed, but we have done ALL the legwork.

Takeaways:
1. Bernal is a very hot place for thieves because people with lots of money have moved in.

2. I miss my dog.

3. The Police are nice but can’t get anything done due to internal communication issues. I’ve had great communication from the police who came out to take the report, and the inspector, but they seem to be helpless to communicate with CSI, and when you call Ingleside, they send you to dispatch who send you back to Ingleside in and endless loop.

Precita Park Playground to Close for Repair, Repainting, and Reglamorization

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Sorry, pre-literate Bernal kids. The big sign in front of the Precita Park Playground says the playground will be closed beginning today, February 17, until March 6.

That’s a long time! So what’s the fuss all about?

Neighbor Demece, the hgh priestess of the dashingly effective Prectia Valley Neighbors group, says it’ll be worth the wait:

The Childrens’ Playground is finally getting repainted and repaired!  For the next three weeks from 2/17 – 3/6, the Recreation and Parks Department has listened to our requests and has closed the Children’s Playground so they can do their much appreciated painting and repair magic.

Please visit Garfield Playground in the meantime or the many other fantastic parks we are so lucky to enjoy!

PHOTO: Precita Park Playground, Feb 16, 2015 by Telstar Logistics. Hat tip: Neighbor Linda

Charming, Challenging “36 Questions” Treasure Box Now on Bernal Hill

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There’s a wonderful installation on Bernal Hill for the next few days, and it’s perfect for this Valentine’s season. Neighbor Jessica tells Bernalwood:

I just learned via facebook that a friend of mine, Chris, created a fun Valentine’s Day activity on our own Bernal hill… It’s called The 36 Q:

36Qwebpage

Basically, it’s two chairs arranged around a desk/treasure box. There are 36 innnnnnnteresting questions engraved into the lid of the treasure box, and the idea is that you answer the questions with your sweetie to gain Profound New Insight into one another. It’s a little bit like The Dating Game, only more intimate, and the prizes are more clever, and it’s on Bernal Hill, atop that mini-peak along the Folsom axis just below the guard rail.

36Q3

The kuhlhunters at The Bold Italic explain the backstory:

By now we’ve all seen that “36 Questions to Make You Fall in Love” article in the New York Times. Local artists Mustafa Khan and Chris McCoy decided those questions need to get out in the open this Valentine’s Day. He engraved the questions on an antique treasure chest alongside a set of chairs and a “not reserved” sign on Bernal Hill. You and your date (or a total stranger) can sit at this table and fall in love with the killer view…and maybe each other. Khan says there’s also a “special surprise” inside the chest, which will be at the top of the staircase on Ellsworth and Bernal Heights Blvd until next Sunday.

Got that? Get there before Feb. 23, and enjoy.

PHOTOS: 36 Questions on Bernal Hill, February 14, 2015, 5 pm, by Telstar Logistics

District Attorney Releases Report on Alex Nieto Shooting, Will Not Press Charges Against SFPD Officers

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The San Francisco District Attorney decided to release some important news late Friday afternoon, likely in the hope that you wouldn’t pay much attention over the holiday weekend. So Bernalwood brings you this news today, in the hope that you are now paying very, very close attention…

Last week, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced that the four SFPD officers who participated in the March, 2014 officer-involved shooting death of Cortland resident Alex Nieto on Bernal Hill will not face criminal charges as a result of the incident.

Henry K. Lee of the San Francisco Chronicle summarizes DA Gascón’s report:

Gascón’s report said all four officers had “continued to believe their lives were in danger … until Mr. Nieto’s head and weapon went down.”

The four — Lt. Jason Sawyer and Officers Roger Morse, Richard Schiff and Nathan Chew — had responded to witness reports that Nieto, a 28-year-old Mission resident, had a gun and was acting erratically on March 21.

The officers “saw what appeared to be a gun as soon as they encountered him on a hill,” the district attorney’s report said. “Mr. Nieto refused to obey orders to show his hands and, instead, immediately drew and pointed his weapon at the officers.”

At a news conference, Gascón added, “Given the circumstances, I’m not sure this was a preventable shooting.” In such instances, he said, “a shooting is likely to occur. It is lawful. It is clearly constitutional, and I’m not sure there is much that could have been done to prevent it.” […]

Gascón’s report to [SFPD Chief Greg Suhr] provided the most detailed account by authorities of the shooting. It said that on March 3, less than three weeks before he was killed, Nieto was accused of firing a Taser at the estranged husband of a friend.

On the day of the police shooting, prosecutors said, several dog walkers at Bernal Heights Park reported feeling threatened by Nieto. One witness told investigators Nieto had pulled what looked like a pistol from his holster and pointed it at his dog — the animal had taken interest in a bag of chips Nieto was eating — before realizing it was a Taser.

“When he turned it into profile and aimed it at my dog, that’s when I could tell that it was a Taser just because of the size of the muzzle area,” the witness said.

The witness said he begged Nieto not to shoot his dog with the Taser, telling him the dog wasn’t aggressive and “just wants some chips,” according to the report. Nieto aimed the Taser at the witness and yelled expletives, the report said, before the witness left the park, while warning others about Nieto.

After Schiff and Sawyer arrived, in uniform, and ordered Nieto to show his hands, Nieto allegedly walked toward them, lifted his sweatshirt to expose a black holster, and shouted back at the officers, “Let me see your hands!” Nieto then “squared off with them in a defensive stance,” the report said, drew what turned out to be the Taser and pointed it directly at officers.

Schiff and Sawyer, who was then a sergeant, opened fire, authorities said. Nieto fell to the ground with his hands in front of him, police said. Schiff reported seeing a red light coming from the object Nieto was carrying and “thought it might be a laser sight. Both officers believed Mr. Nieto was still trying to fire back at them, and continued to fire,” the report said.

For better or worse, Gascón’s long-overdue report now stands as the most detailed official chronology of the events that took place on Bernal Hill on March 21, 2014. You can read the complete text of Gascón’s report to SFPD Chief Suhr right here (PDF); It paints an unsettling picture of the scene that evening. An excerpt:

NietoSummary

Responding on behalf of Neighbor Alex Nieto’s family and friends at the Justice4AlexNieto website, Ben Bac Sierra says DA Gascón’s report is not credible:

Scholarship student and security guard Alex Nieto never pointed a taser at San Francisco Police Officers Sawyer and Schiff. There is at least one witness who saw everything and emphatically confirms that Alex Nieto never pointed a taser at officers. This witness was never interviewed for the district attorney’s report.

But for one moment let’s forget the witness. The district attorney’s report accepts the police department narrative: two veteran San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) police officers have their weapons drawn aiming directly at Alex Nieto who is eating a bag of chips walking down the hill. Both officers KNOW he has a firearm. These two READY police officers then allow Alex to square off with them, reach into his holster (they KNOW he has a gun), and they allow Alex to point this “gun” directly at them BEFORE they finally make the decision to start shooting at him 59 times.

This tale is ridiculous and unbelievable, yet they expect us to accept it.

There was no reason for Alex to have been shot at 59 times! This entire sham is a cover up to hide the SFPD’s incompetence, lack of fire discipline, and illegal and intimidating investigation. They will not take responsibility for killing an innocent, promising young man, Alex Nieto, our brother.

While no charges will be filed against the SFPD officers, other aspects of Neighbor Alex Nieto’s case are ongoing. Mike Koozmin from the San Francisco Examiner describes the next steps:

Gascon said today that he recognizes that Nieto’s death was a tragedy and has offered to meet with Nieto’s family members, but that they have so far declined to meet with him. While the district attorney’s office has concluded that the police officers believed they were in imminent danger when they discharged their weapon, Gascon wrote in his letter to the chief of police that his office did not examine issues such as compliance with the policies and procedures of the San Francisco Police Department or ways to improve training or tactics. The letter also does not address any issues related to civil liability.

Gascon has also recommended the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for further investigation.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of the Nieto family against the city for violation of Nieto’s civil rights, on the grounds that police officers allegedly used excessive force against him, is pending.

 IMAGE: Photo illustration by Telstar Logistics

$3 Million Ripley Home Sale Sets New Bernal Price Record

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It’s official: The rather dashing home at 171 Ripley just sold for $3 million, instantly setting a new Bernal Heights sale price record — just a week after 152 Elsie had set a new record at $2.3 million .

SocketSite brings the gobsmacking news:

As we wrote when we first reported the record breaking sale of 152 Elsie last week, “the quiet sale of another Bernal Heights home which was never officially on the market is poised to blow away the $2.3 million record.”

And this afternoon, the sale of 171 Ripley was officially added to the MLS, “for comp purposes only,” with a record setting sale price of $3 million.  Measuring 2,313 square feet, that’s roughly $1,350 per square foot for the architect’s home which is faced in recycled copper and known to some as “the copper house.”

For whatever it’s worth, SocketSite adds “The seller was an architect at Gensler for over 30 years, and the firm’s President and CEO for over a decade.  And no, the buyers aren’t ‘techies’ nor are they from overseas.”

PHOTO: 171 Ripley