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.

City Outsources Lundys Landing Tree Problem to Irate Bernal Neighbor

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This year, San Francisco’s Department of Public Works has been pursuing a euphemistically-named Tree Maintenance Transfer Plan that makes San Francisco homeowners responsible for tens of thousands of streetside trees that were, until recently, maintained by the city.

DPW says the crux of the plan is to “standardize maintenance responsibility such that, in general, fronting property owners will be responsible for the maintenance of street trees in the public right of way.” In plainspeak, DPW is basically outsourcing its tree problem to taxpayers, under force of law.

That’s how Neighbor Laura Gold of Lundys Lane, a schoolteacher at Buena Vista Horace Mann, ended up getting hit with a massive tree-maintenance bill recently.  Neighbor Laura tells Bernalwood:

We are fighting the city’s unfair assignment of tree care to the neighbors on Lundy’s Landing.

We all want a green city with an appropriate canopy. That is one of the many reasons we promptly pay our city taxes and support new ones when they are designed to beautify or improve our city. However, this shifting of responsibilities to citizens puts an unfair burden on already strained wallets. It also makes public spaces unsafe as homeowners scrape to come up with piecemeal solutions for city streets, easements and open spaces. Our budget is already strained by having to pay for the costs of replacing the sidewalk in front of our house and by caring for the street tree near our front door. We, in no way, can afford to take on the city’s responsibility nor its liability for a large shared public area that falls between our house and several of our neighbors.

I am a public school teacher in the Mission. I work 10-12 hour days. I make less than $3800 a month; my husband and I have put thousands of dollars of our own money and countless hours of our free time into providing materials (books, school supplies, snacks) for my classroom, since despite the fact that I work with kids whose families lack the basics to survive in this city, San Francisco has decided that it doesn’t want to take responsibility for them.

Now, it seems like city government has also abdicated its responsibility to the homeowners. A year ago, it was reported that due to high tax revenues, San Francisco was running a budget surplus of $22 million dollars — where is the money in this city going? It’s not helping the kids, and it’s not providing basic services to homeowners that other cities take for granted. Is it to further subsidize Google buses at the expense of the neighborhoods? I don’t teach math, but I know when things don’t add up.

Here is what my husband and I have done so far:

1) We have emailed and called Director Mohammed Nuru of DPW and requested a meeting and had no reply or return of our calls. Instead we have received yet another computer generated letter saying the trees are our problem. (see email below and feel free to quote as needed),

2) We have also contacted Supervisor Campos’s office, and while we have had responses, we have no evidence that anything is in the works, and the clock is ticking. (we were informed in a letter dated 10/30 we had 30 days to deal with the issue), and finally we have contacted people at the SF Chronicle, and are hoping they, too, can raise awareness about the issue.

Apparently both Supervisors Avalos and Weiner are taking up the cause,  The issue may end up on the ballot next year.

At what point does city government stop existing to benefit the citizens, and instead exist to provide a steady source of income for a few powerful people? What does that make the rest of us who thought we were participating in the San Francisco community, not working for San Francisco, Inc.?

This is the letter I sent to Director Nuru:

From: lauragold
To: “Mohammed Nuru”
Cc: “David Campos”
Sent: Sunday, November 8, 2015 2:14:40 PM
Subject: Trees on Lundy’s Landing Public Space

Dear Director Nuru –

I am writing to request an immediate meeting with you at Lundy’s Landing (DPW property at Lundy’s Lane and Esmeralda) with regard to our ongoing request for the city to maintain its trees on its land, and the patently false posting of signs designating that the owners have “requested to remove” the trees in 30 days from city land.

As I have indicated in my 311 request, we are asking the City of San Francisco to honor their responsibilities. As I indicated in my 311 response:

1) This is not our property. It is the City of San Francisco’s property. It is listed as a street and therefore the City of San Francisco’s obligation.
2) We did not plant these trees, put in stairs, etc. It belongs to the city.
3) We pay taxes for the care of public space. This is public space and therefore not our responsibility as homeowners.
4) Finally, and perhaps most insultingly, the city is asking us to request and pay for a permit to do work on THEIR land. We do not plan to request this permit.

I am also a city employee. A public school teacher that can barely afford to live here and pay taxes. I cannot afford to take on the city’s multi thousand dollar obligation.

I look forward to hearing from your office in the next 48 hours in order to arrange a meeting.

Yours,

Laura Belfiglio Gold
Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8
Teacher, 7th grade, National Board Certified Teacher

PHOTO: The tree assigned to Neighbor Laura, by Neighbor Laura

Why Mayor Lee’s Pre-Election Tour of Holly Courts Still Matters

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A few days before the recent election, Mayor Lee toured Holly Courts, the public housing located just west of Holly Park. (Historical Fun Facts: Holly Courts was San Francisco’s very first public housing project, and it was designed by Arthur Brown Jr., the same architect who created City Hall and Coit Tower.)

At the time, the mayor came to Holly Courts to build support for Prop A, the $310 million affordable housing bond that ultimately passed by a comfortable margin. Yet now that Prop A was approved, Joshua Arce, a Mission-based civil rights attorney who works with the Holly Courts Resident Board, tells Bernalwood why the mayor’s pre-election visit matters even more:

Days before last week’s election, Mayor Ed Lee made a surprise visit to Bernal’s Holly Courts public housing community to help build support for an increased investment in affordable housing across all San Francisco neighborhoods.

Lee came to tour one of the City’s oldest, but most resilient, public housing sites alongside Holly Courts Resident Board President Deborah Gibson and me. (I serve as pro bono counsel for the Holly Courts Board.)

Gibson and Holly Courts residents Gail Love and Herman Travis used the opportunity to show the Mayor several housing units and outdoor gathering areas in need of repair, and to discuss concerns that other residents have shared with them. In return the Mayor expressed his desire to work more closely with residents of Holly Courts and other public housing communities as the City applies federal funding to make much needed repairs at properties formerly managed by the Housing Authority.

Mayor Lee grew up in public housing in Seattle and decided to make the stop as part of a final push to build support for the Prop. A Housing Bond led by public housing resident-volunteers from the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

Mayor Lee thanked President Gibson at the end of the hour-long tour and asked the residents to stay in communication as his office works through the lists of Holly Courts concerns that were raised. With the bond approved by an overwhelming number of San Franciscans, the Mayor’s Office now has additional resources to help make good on these commitments, and the residents themselves are highly engaged in the process of holding the City accountable.

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Larry Wong

Citizens! It’s Election Day! Get Thee to a Polling Place!

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Citizens of Bernalwood! Today is Election Day, 2015! Don’t forget to vote. If you’re a registered voter, here’s some last-minute guidance from the San Francisco Department of Elections:

All San Francisco polling places citywide are open for voters from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Department urges San Franciscans to confirm the locations of their polling places at sfelections.org/pollsite or by calling (415) 554-4375 before they go to vote.

Voters may also vote at the City Hall Voting Center. Located on the ground floor of City Hall, the Voting Center is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Vote-by-mail voters may drop their ballots off from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at any polling place in San Francisco, at the Department’s Ballot Drop-off Stations outside two City Hall entrances–the main entrance at Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place (Polk Street) and the Grove Street entrance– or at the Department’s office.

Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked with today’s date and received by the Department of Elections no later than Friday, November 6. Anyone uncertain about whether his or her mailed ballot would reach the Department in time to be counted is encouraged to instead bring the ballot to any San Francisco polling place, the City Hall Voting Center, or the Department’s Ballot Drop-Off Stations before 8 p.m.

Still on the fence about how to vote? The Bernalwood Slate Card looks at the 2015 ballot from a YIMBY/urbanist point-of-view, and it’s been getting a lot of traffic lately. Otherwise, our friends at Hoodline have put together a rather spiffy interactive reference guide to all the other election guides around town, so you can browse, compare, and contrast. Viva democracy!

PHOTO: Election Day on Precita Avenue, 2011 by Telstar Logistics

Tuesday: The SFPD Ingleside Community Meeting Comes to Bernal Heights

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Each month, Capt. Joseph McFadden from SFPD’s Ingleside Station holds a community meeting to give precinct residents the chance to ask questions about crime and public safety in our neighborhood. The meetings are very useful, but they’re not always convenient, because they usually happen at Ingleside Station in Balboa Park.

This month, instead of going to see Capt. McFadden, Capt. McFadden will come see us. Tomorrow night, Tuesday, Oct. 20, the SFPD’s Ingleside Community Meeting will come to the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center on Cortland. If there’s a Bernal Heights crime issue that’s got you on edge, this is an excellent opportunity to talk about it with our local top cop.

Neighbor Sarah, Bernalwood’s ad hoc liaison to SFPD Ingleside, tells us:

Meet Captain McFadden at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center on Tues., Oct. 20, at 7pm

The monthly Ingleside Police Station community meeting for October will be held at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, 515 Cortland Ave. This is a great opportunity to meet Captain McFadden in person, ask questions, and share any concerns you have about safety in the neighborhood. Captain McFadden has been taking the community meetings out into the neighborhoods in the district so that more people can attend.

Community Boards will also be presenting at the meeting. Founded in 1976, Community Boards is the oldest public conflict resolution/mediation center in the US. Community Boards volunteer mediators can help you navigate problems with neighbors, landlords, roommates, family, vendors, etc. More info is available here.

And here’s the official annoucement:

PHOTO: Capt. McFadden, by Telstar Logistics

Don’t Panic, But Two Trees Were Removed from Bernal Hill Yesterday

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Yesterday Bernalwood received an alarming news flash via our Twitter red phone: A work crew was hard at work on the top of Bernal Hill near Sutrito Tower,  chopping down some of the trees.

WHAT???!!!

We dispatched the Bernalwood Action News Satellite Uplink Miata to rush to the scene. When we arrived, the work crew was already gone, but two freshly cut stumps were all that remained of the former trees.

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Sadness! Confusion! Anxiety!

Bernal Hill is public parkland, so Bernalwood reached out to San Francisco Rec and Park see if they could explain what the f*&^$#*ck had just happened. Connie Chan, Rec and Park’s Deputy Director of Public Affairs, responded with this statement:

As we have already mentioned earlier in September, the Department has been in the construction planning process to renovate and improve the Bernal Heights Trails. In the meantime, we are working with a contractor to complete abatement work for a few trees that were assessed as potential hazards.

Two dead trees near the top of the hill are expected to be removed (their branches were already removed by our staff to minimize hazardous conditions), and one Evergreen Ash tree on the west slope of the hill is planned to be pruned to remove or reduce the length of the stem with decay.

As you can see on the map shown via the web link, the red circles are the the two removals, and the tree still to be pruned is the yellow circle.

Bernal_Tree Work map.pdf

Okay, that’s good to know. Rec and Park didn’t exactly do a great job of proactive outreach beforehand, so our collective panic was perhaps to be expected. Nevertheless, we’re glad to know the tree removals atop Bernal Hill are now complete, so we trust there will be no more unpleasant surprises in the days and weeks ahead.

Oh yeah, and PS: All this is happening as part of the Bernal Hill Trail Improvement Plan we told you about waaaaaaaaaaay back in 2012.

PHOTOS: Top, @BernalJournal. Stumps by Telstar Logistics

Petition Process Underway to Create Residential Parking Permit Area for North Bernal

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Though opinions on the wisdom of implementing Residential Parking Permit (RPP) in North Bernal appear to be polarized, a process is nevertheless underway to implement an RPP district in Precitaville and Santana Rancho.

SFMTA recently set up a dedicated page for North Bernal RPP planning.  It explains:

Residents of North Bernal, generally defined as the blocks south of Cesar Chavez Street and east of Mission Street, organized two widely advertised community meetings to educate the public about the residential permit process. Both were held at the Precita Neighborhood Center. The SFMTA presented information at both meetings describing the residential permit program so residents could make an informed decision on whether to support permit parking.

The next step in the RPP process is collecting signatures for the North Bernal Residential Permit Parking Petition.  SFMTA says the petition allows residents to express support or opposition to residential permit parking for their block.  To succeed, “the petition requires signatures from at least 250 households (or 50 percent of total households, whichever is less), and must contain a minimum of one mile of street frontage.”

How would the program would be implemented if the petition indicates that support for the proposed RPP is uneven from one North Bernal block to the next? That’s not entirely clear, though SFMTA says “the boundaries of the new resident permit parking area will include those blocks with a majority of households in support of permit parking.  This suggests that the initial rollout of a North Bernal RPP could be irregular from street to street and block to block, depending on how many households on each block signed the petition. (Academic question: Doesn’t this seem like a RPP version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, on a block-by-block basis?)

To learn more about the proposal, visit the SFMTA’s North Bernal Residential Parking Petition site, or email questions or concerns to InfoRPP@sfmta.com.

MAP: Existing RPP areas near North Bernal, via SFTMA