RIP Robert Nygard, a Familiar Character on Cortland Avenue

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We’re sad to report that Robert Nygard has passed away. Neighbor Robert was a familiar face on Cortland Avenue, but he died last weekend after he was struck by a car near Mission and 29th streets, a few days short of his 61st birthday.

Valerie Reichert, manager at the Bernal Heights Library, recalls:

Robert was part of the neighborhood’s old guard, and those of us working on Cortland chatted with him daily. When I came to work, Robert was always sitting with his coffee on the Neighborhood Center bench. He would shout across the street “Hey Lady! “and then give me the weather report.

Robert used the library pretty much every day and was a favorite with the staff. He was a teller of tall tales (which I fell for lock stock and barrel), convincing me last year it was his 80th birthday, when in fact he had added 20 years in order to ice the cake. Mr. Robert Nygard was definitely part of our Bernal landscape.

Neighbor Stacie from Little Bee Baking adds:

Robert was one of the older guys who hung out most every day at the Neighborhood Center or the library, and he came in to my shop regularly for ice cream. He also used to play the blues on his guitar outside the Neighborhood Center while I was getting my shop ready to open. (He was always really proud that he taught himself to play the guitar!) It’s just weird not seeing him after having seen him almost everyday for the past two-plus years.

PHOTO: Robert Nygard at the opening day for Little Bee Baking. Photo courtesy of Stacie Pierce.

UPDATED: Arsonist Arrested in Last Night’s Fire on Anderson Street May Have Been Facing Eviction

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There was a fire on the 600 block of Anderson Street last night. Details are sparse, but a tweet from a SFFD firefighters union indicated that there was an arrest associated with the incident:

KRON-TV outlined the story:

San Francisco police have detained one person connected with a fire in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood Tuesday night, firefighters said.

Firefighters tweeted at around 7:41 p.m. that they were called to the 600 block of Anderson Street.

No other details have been made available about the incident or why the person was detained.

Initial reports said a mother stated that her son “had a knife,” firefighters tweeted.

SFist reports that according to the SFPD, the arsonist arrested in connection with the incident was  a 35-year-old man who lived in the residence who had been ‘”notified that he was being evicted” by his 60-year-old landlady.”

UPDATE: SFAppeal provides more detail:

Police today said the fire sparked shortly after the resident, 35-year-old Edwin Monzon, was informed by his 60-year-old landlady that he was being evicted.

Monzon was arrested on suspicion of arson and other offenses, according to police.

[SFFD spokesman Jonathan] Baxter said one person, a neighbor, was transported to the hospital as a precautionary measure but described it as a “minor episode.” He could not immediately provide more information on the nature of the medical issue.

PHOTO: Fire on Anderson, Jan 27, 2016, courtesy of Steve Rhodes

Alex Nieto’s Family and Friends March from Bernal Hill to Bayview

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Just after sunset last night, family and activists rallying on behalf of Alex Nieto, the Bernal neighbor who was killed in a 2014 officer-involved shooting, organized a march that took them from the site on Bernal Hill where Nieto was killed to the Bayview District. Once in Bayview, the Nieto group joined with the family of Mario Woods, who was killed in an officer-involved shooting in December 2015.

KTVU covered the event:

The parents and friends of 28-year-old Alex Nieto paid tribute at the spot where he was shot by police almost two years ago.

“Right now, we just have to show unity and strength in numbers and just ask for the community to come out and support us– the family, but not just the family. Today it’s our family. Tomorrow it might be yours,” said Maria, a cousin of Nieto’s.

His parents led supporters on the march to the Bayview to join the family of Mario Woods, the 26-year-old shot and killed by police last month.

At 3rd and Palou streets, dozens attended a rally for Woods before marching to the police station where both groups converged and officers stood guard.

Woods’ mother, Gwendolyn, was emotional as she confronted officers. Tensions eased as supporters formed a circle.

The mothers of Woods and Nieto came together for a symbolic ritual. They joined hands, shared hot chocolate and broke bread.

The trial in the Nieto family’s wrongful death lawsuit against the City of San Francisco is set to begin on March 1.  The full text of the Medical Examiner’s report about Alex Nieto’s death is available here.

PHOTOS: Top, Alex Nieto memorial on Bernal Hill, January 6, 2015, by Causa Just Just CauseBelow, Gwendolyn Woods, mother of Mario Woods, with Elvira and Refugio Nieto, parents of Bernal neighbor Alex Nieto, by @justice4alex.

Do We Really Think a Wayward Drone Caused Last Night’s Power Outage?

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A Sunday evening power outage along Hampshire Street in northeast Bernal Heights may have been triggered by an errant drone. Or, the blackout may have had nothing whatsoever to do with a drone, but for some rather coincidental timing.

Neighbor Teresa reports:

Residents of Hampshire Street lost power at 5:04 tonight. 34 homes were affected. A few of the neighbors saw something kind of big hit the power pole at Hampshire and Peralta. There was a small explosion and all went dark.

Was it a plane? Was it a bird? Was it… a drone???

PG&E crews are searching the area around the power pole right now.
Looking for … THE DRONE!

Power was restored in about two hours. Thanks PGE! This is the best of you!

Neighbor Margo adds:

Power is out here in the Hampshire sector of Bernalwood. Apparently some guys flew their drone into the power lines on the pole at the corner of Peralta and Hampshire. The explosion was impressive enough that my husband Lynn thought it was right outside our house, which is a half-block away.

Some of the neighbors told me that a few guys came looking for the drone, but when they realized it had caused a power outage, they said were looking for their friend’s drone. The PG&E guy said that he hadn’t heard of this happening before. So it might be a first. Probably won’t be the last.

But wait, did this even happen at all? Was a drone to blame? We shouldn’t be so sure.

The title of SFGate’s story provides the first clue that this tale should be approached with skepticism: “Did wayward drone knock out power in Bernal Heights?”   That right there is a classic instance of Betteridge’s Law, the truism that any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word ‘no.’ (Please find lots more examples of Betteridge’s Law here.)

And then, of course, there are the actual facts: Apparently, no one actually saw a drone hit the power line, and no drone was recovered from the scene. From SFGate:

A witness, Scott Kurth, was working at his computer when he saw a flash of light and heard a loud pop on a power pole at the intersection of Peralta Avenue and Hampshire Street, in the northern corner of Bernal Heights. The power went out in 34 homes at 5:04 p.m, according to PG&E spokesman J.D. Guidi.

Kurth did not see the impact but said a few minutes later that a man in his 30s came running up and admitted he had lost control of a drone he was flying at a nearby playground.

“He was talking to us, and we were looking for the drone with flashlights,” Kurth said. When PG&E arrived, the drone pilot moved on, Kurth said.

After power was restored, the crew searched for the drone but could not find any evidence of it, Guidi said.

PHOTO: PG&E crew working on power outage on Hampshire last night, courtesy of Neighbor Teresa

Thursday: City Hall Hearing to Review PG&E Safety in Bernal

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There have been several electrical transformer explosions in Bernal Heights recently, and PG&E’s equipment has been responsible for the accidents.

In 2013, a transformer exploded on Coleridge. Last September, another transformer exploded on Heyman Avenue, leaving two people with serious injuries. Throw in a disheartening series of blackouts, and confidence in PG&E’s Bernal Heights infrastructure is at a low ebb.

On Thursday afternoon, Dec 3, 2015 , District 9 Supervisor David Campos will hold a hearing in City Hall to investigate the safety of PG&E’s systems. His legislative aide, Sheila Chung Hagen, tells Bernalwood:

In response to the September PG&E transformer explosion in Bernal Heights that injured two people, Supervisor Campos called for a public hearing to understand what happened in Bernal Heights and what is happening across the city with PG&E’s transformers. Through the hearing, we want to learn what happened, and what safety measures will be put in place to ensure no harm comes to the public again.

What: A hearing on measures to ensure public safety around Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) Company Transformers citywide
Date: Thursday, December 3, 2015
Time: 2:00pm
Location: Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee (Room 250, City Hall
Agenda: Here (See Item 2)

PHOTOS: The SFFD responds to the scene of a Dec. 8, 2013 PG&E transformer explosion on Bocana that left a PG&E employee badly burned. Photos courtesy of a Bernal Heights neighbor.

UPDATED: Active Shooter Killed by Police at St. Luke’s Construction Site

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One of the sadder realities of contemporary life is the fact that the phrase “active shooter” has become a common expression used to describe deranged people who go on shooting rampages in public places. Last night, a frightening active shooter incident in northwest Bernal Heights ended when the SFPD killed a gunman who had stormed the St. Luke’s hospital construction site.

Here’s SFGate’s summary of what happened:

Police officers fatally shot an armed man who climbed to the sixth floor of a construction site in San Francisco’s Mission District on Wednesday and aimed one of his two guns at nearby St. Luke’s Hospital, authorities said.

The man fired at least one round before being shot to death, but police did not say whether that shot was directed at the adjacent hospital. No one was hit, police said.

The man, who wore white coveralls and appeared to be in his late 20s, ascended to the sixth of seven floors of the incomplete building around 4:15 p.m. after robbing a Big 5 Sporting Goods store in San Bruno, a little more than 10 miles away, said San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr.

He said the man had committed the robbery with a handgun and emerged with a second firearm — one of the store’s shotguns — as well as ammunition shells.

The horror ended when the man was killed on the roof of a construction elevator on the northwest corner of the unfinished structure. The building, which is slated to become a 120-bed hospital, occupies land that was originally the Jose Cornelio Bernal homesite in the mid-1800s.

UPDATE: 12 November, 3:30 pm: The shooter killed on the scene in the St. Luke’s incident has been identified as Javier Lopez Garcia, a 25-year-old San Jose resident. SFGate reports:

Investigators said that Lopez Garcia had made statements in both San Bruno and San Francisco indicating he climbed to his deadly perch next to the Mission District hospital Wednesday with a death wish.

“I’m ready to die. Today will be the day I die,” Lopez Garcia said at the scene, according to officials.

Lopez Garcia is believed to have robbed the Big 5 Sporting Goods Wednesday and made statements to the clerks at the store indicating he was suicidal, according to police.

About 20 minutes after leaving the Big 5 in San Bruno, Lopez Garcia arrived at the St. Luke’s construction site. SFPD Chief Greg Suhr adds that it’s unknown why Lopez Garcia headed to St. Luke’s. “That’s the million-dollar question,” Suhr told SFGate.

PHOTO: Police approach the body of the shooter (wearing white overalls) at the St. Luke’s hospital construction site, Nov. 11, 2015. Photo via @CBS12