That Big Mission Fire, as Seen from Bernal Heights

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That big fire in the Mission on Sunday morning created a pillar of billowing smoke that was an ominous spectacle for many Bernalese living on the north slope of Bernal Hill.

Neighbor Jason used some optics to enhance his view from Bernal, and the photos above show the dramatic results: He captured the scene as flames engulfed the much-loved Rolling Stock tire shop on the corner of Shotwell and 16th. The SF Appeal wrote about the details:

A three-alarm fire this morning in the Inner Mission neighborhood of San Francisco destroyed an auto business and displaced 17 people at an apartment building, an assistant chief of the San Francisco Fire Department said.

The first report of the fire came in at 7:45 a.m. at 16th and Shotwell streets, assistant chief Dave Franklin said.

No civilians or firefighters were injured, Franklin said.

The fire destroyed an auto business that sells tires and other auto equipment, Franklin said.

A business named Rolling Stock is located at the corner of 16th and Shotwell streets, according the firm’s website.

The company was not open for business at the time of the fire, Franklin said.

The fire also burned an apartment building on 16th Street where 17 people had to leave their homes, he said.

PHOTOS: Neighbor Jason

Details Emerge as SFPD Officer Recovers from Injury Incident on Mirabel

It’s been a little more than a week since that unpleasant incident on Mirabel, where a manhunt unfolded after an SFPD officer was struck by the driver of a stolen BMW. The October 9 edition of the SFPD Ingleside Newsletter provided a rather comprehensive summary of what happened, told in classic crime-blotter style:

It started out innocent enough. The department has been dealing with a rash of car burglaries in the City. The Ingleside District has dealt with more than its share. Ingleside Officers Stark and Carew, along with many other Ingleside units, were sent to investigate a vehicle break in on Mirabel Avenue. The caller said there were four suspects inside a white BMW. The caller gave the BMW’s license plate number to dispatch, who informed the officers that the vehicle was wanted for a previous burglary and it had fled from Mission units who tried to stop it less than an hour before the current call. Ingleside Officers Hermosura and Ferronato were first to arrive on scene and, as they pulled up, three suspects exited the BMW and escaped down a nearby stairwell. However, the driver put the BMW in gear and took off at a high rate of speed. Officers Hermosura broadcast that he was in pursuit as he chased the fleeing subject through the narrow streets in the neighborhood. After three blocks, fearing for the safety of pedestrians and other motorists, Officer Hermosura cancelled his pursuit. The vehicle was last seen driving east on Montezuma Street.

A few seconds later all the responding police personnel were startled by the distressing sound of an officer screaming for help on the radio. Dispatch quickly put out a call of “officer down” on the unit block of Mirabel Streets. Every available Ingleside unit, along with several units from Bayview and Mission Station sped to the scene. They found Ingleside Officer Bryant lying on his back on the sidewalk screaming in pain. Officer Bryant told his colleagues that he thought he was going to die. An ambulance was dispatched while Sgt. Mitchell rendered first aid.

The driver of the BMW was lying face down on the sidewalk, in handcuffs, surrounded by Officers Montero and Roche. Roche and Montero were following Bryant as they arrived on Mirabel Avenue. Just then, the BMW, driven by the suspect, arrived and stopped in front of Bryant’s patrol car which was blocking the street. All the officers exited their patrol car and ordered the suspect out of the car. But instead of exiting the BMW, the suspect accelerated at the officers. All were able to avoid getting hit except for Bryant, who was hit by the BMW’s front bumper and pinned against a parked Volvo. Officer Montero quickly pulled Officer Bryant, who was in extreme pain, out to safety. The driver of the BMW was taken into custody and booked on a variety of charges. The other occupants of the BMW were quickly apprehended in the area by other officers. Officer Bryant was treated at San Francisco General Hospital for serious injuries to his legs and chest and is now recovering at home. Report number: 150870820

Yikes. Upon reading this, Bernalwood asked Capt. McFadden from Ingleside Station for an update on Officer Bryant’s condition. Capt. McFadden shared this encouraging news:

Officer Joshua Bryant was injured in the incident. He is a very large man and did not sustain any severe injuries. He had a sprained left wrist and left ankle along with serious road rash all over his arms and legs from being dragged by the suspect’s car. He is recovering from his injuries and should be back to work within a few weeks. Thanks for the community concern. It is greatly appreciated.

The driver of the car, Jaimes Ulises, 25, of Mountain View, is charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault on a peace officer in connection with the incident. Last week his bail was set at $2.5 million.

PHOTO: Stolen BMW involved in the Oct 5 incident on Mirabel, by @NBCbayarea

Late-Night Manhunt After Auto Burglary Suspect Injures SFPD Officer on Mirabel

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Were you awakened by the sound of the helicopter circling low above Precitaville at around 12:30 am last night? That was a California Highway Patrol chopper that was brought in to assist the San Francisco Police in a coordinated search for auto break-in suspects who tried to run down an SFPD officer on Mirabel.

SF Chronicle reporter Kale Williams explains what happened:

A police officer was injured in San Francisco Sunday night when an auto burglary suspect tried to run him over, pinning him against his patrol car, authorities said.

Around midnight, officers responded to reports of the burglary on the 100 block of Mirabel Ave in the city’s Bernal Heights neighborhood, said Officer Carlos Manfredi, a police spokesman.

As the officer stepped out of his cruiser, the suspect, who was sitting in a stolen BMW, tried to run him over, Manfredi said, pinning him against his vehicle.

The suspect, whose name was not immediately released, then attempted to flee but was blocked by another patrol car, which he also hit, Manfredi said. He was arrested at the scene.

The injured officer may have suffered broken ribs and injuries to his legs. He was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where he was in stable condition early Monday morning.

Yikes. Bernalwood sends sincere gratitude and get-well wishes to the injured SFPD officer.

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.

Mayhem Strikes as Thief Crashes Stolen Car on Mullen

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Grrrrr. Neighbor Peter did some excellent reporting on the scene yesterday after a stolen Honda Accord crashed into a several parked vehicles on Mullen:

A bit of news from Santana Rancho today. I didn’t witness it happen, but heard a loud crash at around 1pm (ish) and ran outside to check it out. Pictures below of what I found on Mullen at Franconia.

A Honda Accord slammed into a Saab then careened into and on top of a Mini Cooper. The 2 witnesses I spoke to said the driver fled the scene on foot north down the Franconia stairs towards Peralta, then headed east on Peralta.

The police were on the scene pretty quickly and seemed to get a somewhat decent description of the suspect from witnesses. They confirmed that the car was stolen. Also, the police were then pointed to a few belongings that the suspect may have dropped on the Franconia stairs while fleeing – a couple of flashlights and a pretty large folding knife.

All in all, pretty startling, since he must’ve been driving pretty fast to cause such an acciden. All are lucky that no bystanders were hurt. Unfortunately, the two cars that got hit were in pretty rough shape though.

PHOTOS: Neighbor Peter

PG&E Transformer Explodes, Injuring 2 as Blackout Darkens Cortlandia

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Many South Bernal resident experienced a blackout of much of the day on Saturday, after a PG&E power surge took down part of the local grid. Neighbor Esther was reporting live from the scene:

At Wool and Eugenia this morning. Two loud pops and flashes. Fire dept is here. Live wire hanging down to shoulder level in intersection. Red hot little wire up above. Yikes! Overheard a comment about a power surge that caused this.

Yikes is right. Here’s Neighbor Esther’s photo of a red-hot wire cooking above Eugenia:

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Blackouts are a nuisance, but unfortunately this outage actually caused injuries, as the power surge triggered a transformer explosion on tiny Heyman Avenue, several blocks away.

Benny Evangelista from  The San Francisco Chronicle covered it:

Robert Antonelli, 55, was at the window of his Heyman Avenue home about 7:45 a.m. talking to a friend, Manuel Cruz, 34, of Daly City, who was standing outside, when he heard what sounded like a firecracker’s wick sizzling.

“And the next thing, ka-boom,” Antonelli said. “It exploded like a bomb. It blew things off my shelf. I flew back into my bed. Debris flew back into my room.”

Antonelli said Cruz, who was standing next to the transformer, was knocked out, and both men were taken to San Francisco General Hospital. Antonelli said he was treated for light burns on his face and released, but Cruz was more seriously burned and remained hospitalized.

The hospital did not immediately return a call seeking information about Cruz’s condition.

PG&E spokesman Matt Nauman confirmed that two men were injured after an equipment failure that occurred while a utility crew was at Wool Street and Eugenia Avenue, working to fix a power failure that began about 7:30 a.m.

Terrible. Get well soon, Neighbor Bobby and Manuel Cruz!

UPDATE: In the comments, Neighbor Esther shares more information about the injured:

I spoke to Neighbor Bobby later on Saturday after he was released from the hospital. He suffered light burns over his face and he said his lungs were still hurting and that is also hurt for him to talk. Manuel’s injuries were more serious, apparently he has severe burns all over his body but initial reports indicate his eyesight and hearing are ok. Best wishes for both men recovering soon!

Esther also reminds us that another PG&E transformer exploded nearby, on Coleridge, a little more than a year ago. Bernalwood has sent a series of questions to PG&E to understand more about the history and inspection procedures for this infrastructure. Stay tuned.

PHOTOS: PG&E crew working at Wool and Eugenia, courtesy of Neighbor Esther

Cortland Neighbor May Leave Bernal After 130% Rent Increase

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Last week, Bernalwood received a heartbreaking note from Neighbor Bianca, who is reluctantly vacating her apartment on Cortland (near Andover) after being notified of a 130% rent increase. She tells Bernalwood:

It is to my great dismay that as a four-year Bernal resident, I have been officially notified of a rental increase. The 2-unit building I live in was sold about 4 months back to Citibrokers, Inc.

I found the notice of my rental increase coldly slapped and taped onto the front gate of my 2 bedroom apartment. I have attached the picture of the main document.

My unit is considered a “Single-Family Unit” because the building consists just of my apartment and a nail salon below. That makes it exempt from rent control. I spoke with the SF Rental Board, they said the rent increase was legal. It would seem pointless to attempt to fight it/hire a lawyer

As an On-Call Biologist at the Exploratorium and a part-time bartender at a music venue in the Mission, I simply do not make enough money to afford this new increase. With this, I must leave the Bay as I have run out of options for myself and my pup, Karma.

I hope this serves as a bleak warning to the rest of our beloved Bernal locals.  I want to sound the alarm so other residents brush up on their rights and keep in touch with the landlord with regard to any future sales plans. My prior landlord didn’t even tell me when he sold the building! It wasn’t until a real estate agent was at my door, asking to come in for measurements. Sigh.

I absolutely adore this neighborhood and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the city. I’m going to truly miss Bernal Heights…it’s a special slice of paradise hidden in the noise and chaos of SF.  It saddens me deeply it must end like this.

Best,

Bianca
(Biologist, Bartender, Bernal & Dog Lover, Silly Cross-Stitcher)

Grrrrrrrr. Coming shortly after the 355% rent increase that drove Neighbor Deb from her apartment on Bocana earlier in the year, this is a tough story to hear.

Meanwhile, if anyone has any leads on potential housing options for Neighbor Bianca here in Bernal, please contact Bernalwood. We’ll make sure the information gets to her ASAP.

PHOTOS: via Neighbor Bianca