Next Saturday Sept. 28: Big Block Party on Elsie Street, and You’re Invited!

Bakeoff Winners



Indian summer is here (pretty much), and your neighbors on Elsie Street are throwing their big annual block party NEXT Saturday, Sept 28. All Citizens of Bernalwood are herewith invited to join the fun:

A Neighborhood Gem for Your Enjoyment

The 7th Annual Elsie Street Block Party
Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013
12 Noon~3pm
Elsie Street between Cortland & Eugenia
Bernal Heights, San Francisco

** Bake-Off
** Bhangra Dancers
** Bouncy House
** Bean Bag Toss
** Barbecue
** Piñata
** Elsie Debut of Wolfie the Puppet

Freely presented with lots of heart and talent by Elsie Street Neighbors.

  • The beautiful Bhangra dancers return to perform and teach us
  • Lots of Baking Sweat Behind those Bake-Off Smiles (You can be a judge!)
  • Ye Olde Bouncy House on our Block
  • The Piñata for the Kids’ Enjoyment
  • Wolfie and Puppeteer Nick Jones make their Elsie Debut this year
  • Busting Out the Brand-New Bernal Bean Bag Toss

And the Darnedest Friendliest Neighbors!

PHOTOS: 2012 Elsie Block Party

Census Visualization Reveals Racial Geography of Bernal Heights


Dustin Cable is senior policy researcher and statistician with the Demographics & Workforce Group at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. He recently completed a “Racial Dot Map” that uses data from the 2010 census to illustrate “geographic distribution, population density, and racial diversity of the American people in every neighborhood in the entire country.”

Each dot represents one person, with each race shown in a different color. The result is a vast, visual map that Wired calls “the most comprehensive map of race in America ever created.”

The image above is the racial dot map of San Francisco. The resolution of the interactive version of the dot map is limited, but we can zoom and enhance to get closer look at Bernal Heights:



There’s an impressive amount of mixing going on here in Bernal, even as there are also some very clear patterns of clustering. What you see here could quite literally be described as a kind of ethno-geographic Rorschach Test.

So shall we discuss? Let’s discuss.

MAPS: via the interactive Racial Dot Map

Neighbor Chuck Captures “Everyday Sights in Bernal Heights”





Neighbor Chuck B went for one of his occasional walks around Bernal Heights recently. (Bernalwood covered his last one, back in March.)

Equipped with a camera and his deep knowledge of our local flora, Neighbor Chuck captured a terrific series of snapshots that shows our neighborhood in its full seasonal glory. The result was another one of his wonderful “Everyday Sights in Bernal Heights” blog posts:

Ugh. I worked all day yesterday. Saturday! Today I went for a walk (and worked some more when I got home). It was summer-like, and got hotter as the day wore on.




There’s lots more where all this came from, so do check it all out over at Chuck B’s blog, My Back 40 (Feet).

PHOTOS: Chuck B.

All Are Invited to the Elsie Street Block Party on Saturday

Neighbor Michael invites all Citizens of Bernalwood to attend the fashionable Elsie Street Block Party that will take place tomorrow afternoon:

Bernal Neighbors – You are cordially invited to the 6th Annual Elsie Street Block Party, between Cortland & Eugenia, this Saturday, Sept. 29 from Noon to 3pm.

Bhangra Dancers at 1pm. Ten of them! Be a judge in the Bake-Off Contest, Jump in the Bouncy House, Swat a Pinata (if you’re young enough), enjoy food, drink and great company. Be carefree and carfree on the Best Block of Bernal.

Peter Orner Ponders the Gentrification of Precita Park in the New York Times

Neighbor Peter Orner is a “bold-faced name” in the literary world and an esteemed Citizen of Bernalwood. From his home in North Bernal, he has been an eyewitness to the increasing glamification of Precita Park — a process that has included a recent home sale that displaced two renters (he calls them Josie and Steve) who have been mainstays of the neighborhood.

Neighbor Peter considers all this in a thoughtful piece published in the Opinionator section of yesterday’s New York Times:

Our neighborhood, at the base of Bernal Hill, has been changing for years, becoming more and more upscale. Lately, the realtors have begun calling it “Desirable Precita Park.” We now have all the necessary amenities: a comically overpriced organic convenience store and wine emporium, a new coffee shop with toddler play area, and yes, our very own pop-up restaurant. The playground at the east end of the park, which doesn’t need to be renovated, is being renovated. Celestially fit women march down our sidewalks with yoga mats slung over their shoulders like muskets.

Precita Park

It wasn’t always like this. Precita Park used to be a lot funkier, in a militant hippie sort of way. In 1975, Patty Hearst’s kidnappers were caught a few doors down from my apartment. A longtime resident once told me that the F.B.I. agents staking out the place wore long hair and beads and sat in their car smoking dope, and still everybody on the block knew they were cops.

Precita Park is getting nicer. But Joise and Steve are gone. Peter wonders if the tradeoff is worth it:

In Precita Park, the loss of this one family may not be calculable in dollars. But I fear that the more affluent this area becomes, neighbors — people who look out for each other — will become fewer and farther between. Lately in San Francisco, we seem to be comfortable tackling every progressive cause except for the question of where middle-class people like Josie and Steve, and so many others, are supposed to live.

These are difficult questions, and Peter’s essay generated some thoughtful commentary in the discussion thread.

For example, Neighbor Robert posted this:

I also live in Bernal Heights. I am an owner. I find that the people who are most involved on my street are the owners, and the people who are least involved are the renters. I realize that there are renters who care about their neighborhood, but I do take issue with Mr. Orner’s characterization of owners. New owners in my neighborhood, including me, formed a neighborhood association and worked with the city on street beautification and traffic calming. We care about our neighborhood.

Neighbor TeeVee writes:

I know how the author feels. It’s not easy to see good neighbors and friends leave the neighborhood. And San Francisco, for all its charms, is a place where you’re constantly reminded of how much money you do NOT have.

But as a resident of Bernal, I really think he needs to get out more and meet more people who own houses in the area. Many of them, like me, aren’t rich. In fact they pretty much sacrificed all disposable income to buy in the neighborhood. I take on as much freelance work as I can scare up in addition to my regular job to pay my mortgage. As a result, I don’t have a lot of time to hang out in Precita Park reading E.M. Forster and stereotyping people. For a writer, he makes a lot of unfair assumptions about owners, lumping them all together when there is vast income disparity in Bernal among homeowners. […]

Having grown up in a dying automotive town in Michigan, I guess I take a different view of Bernal. Having seen what happens when the housing market collapses completely, I know there are much worse things than a few yuppies moving into a neighborhood.

And this from KJ, who now lives in Portland:

I grew up in Bernal Heights. Born at St. Luke’s Hospital — blocks from Precita Park. I swam at Garfield Pool on Army (now Caesar Chavez) for 10cents in the ’60s. My generation was gentrified out of SF in the 1980s…so I find it hard to feel sorry for the displacement of today’s generation of gentrifiers. Very few of my generation can afford to live in our native city.

Finally, Neighbor Catherine adds:

I love the dream that a place could be your home because you feel deeply connected to it, whether you own it or not. We experimented with exactly this – living in a house in Bernal Heights that we did not own, but were meant to own. But it didn’t end up being ours in the end, because it’s not ours. We knew deep down that no serendipitious moment would change this in reality, but it seemed wise to give it a shot and trust the fates; we enjoyed our time there immensely. In the big picture, there are many factors that go into what makes you happy in the place you reside, and there is also a very random nature to the place you land in a competitive market like San Francisco.

Whether an owner or a renter, folks who moved in or bought in to a neighborhood in 1971, or 1989, or 2009, or yesterday all have the same right to contribute to their neighborhood and be embraced by their community. I see people feeling great ownership and entitlement over neighborhoods because of their longevity, but that isn’t more legitimate than your new neighbor next door, and isn’t categorically what’s right or best.

The message in my mind is to focus on what it means to be a neighbor and part of a community, however you landed there, and for however long you stay. Our city will continue to change – that’s the nature of urban life, and that dynamism is part of what we love about it. You can’t have one without the other.

This is an extremely complicated issue that defies simple solutions, and when you scratch the surface even the most absurd Bernal real estate stories often become more nuanced than they might seem at first glance.

So by all means please do read Peter’s NYT piece, and let’s carry on the discussion about the impact of change on Bernal Heights right here.

PHOTOS: Top, by the Adithya Sambamurthy/The Bay Citizen. Precita Park by Telstar Logistics.

Fleeting Moment of Perfection Yields Best Part of Entire Day

When I got home from work last night, Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter announced that she wanted to go for a bike ride.

So we made a quick trip down the block. Then, as we were returning home, the sun dropped low above Twin Peaks, the trees began to shimmer with color, and the Cub Reporter glowed in golden sunlight as she cast a long shadow on the sidewalk.

A neighborhood really doesn’t get much more perfect than this.

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

A Special Photo for the Hill People of Bernal’s West Slope

Last weekend Neighbor Isaac captured one of the most awesome and unusual photos of Bernal Heights you’re ever likely to see: It’s a supermongotelephoto view of the area where the La Lengua Autonomous Zone meets Bernal’s west slope. The perspective is surprising, because the photo was taken from (wait for it…) Twin Peaks!

For reference, that green patch in the center is the Colridge Mini-Park, with the Esmerelda steps running up the hill behind it.

The view you see above is nice, but for the proper mind-blowing experience, don’t miss the fully embiggened version of the photo. Wow!

PHOTO: Isaac Hepworth