Tuesday: Final SFMTA Board Hearing on Northwest Bernal Permit Parking Proposal

Next Tuesday, Jan 16, the SFMTA Board of Directors will hold what may be the final hearing on a controversial proposal to implement a Residential Parking Permit (RPP) program in northwest Bernal Heights.

Tuesday’s hearing about the Bernal RPP will include a public comment period. If the SFMTA Board then votes to approve the Northwest Bernal RPP plan, residential permit parking will likely go into effect on the specified blocks within a few months .

SFMTA’s announcement about the hearing says:

NORTHWEST BERNAL HEIGHTS RPP HEARING

Residents of northwest Bernal Heights have petitioned the SFMTA to form a new residential parking permit area to better manage and find parking closer to their homes.

The proposal will be heard by the SFMTA Board of Directors on Tuesday, January 16, 2018, at 1:00 P.M., at San Francisco City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B Goodlett Pl, San Francisco, CA 94102, Room 400. Interested parties are invited to attend and comment on the proposal.

The following blocks are proposed for residential permit parking: Coleridge (1- 199), Coso (1 – 199), Fair (1-99), Lundy’s Lane (1-29), Mirabel, Montezuma, Powers, Precita (1 – 299), Prospect (00-199), Shotwell (1400 – 1599), and Winfield (1 – 99).

The proposed RPP area will have the following policies for the number of permits that may be issued per address:

  • One permit per driver; two permits per address
  • Permits for medical care and child care providers do not count towards the two per address limit
  • Additional permits may be issued to an address if parking is available in the immediate area and the permit is for additional licensed drivers in the household

More information about the parking planning efforts in NW Bernal Heights can be found at www.sfmta.com/northbernalrpp or email InfoRPP@sfmta.com.

For those who can’t attend the hearing on Jan. 16, comments to the Board can be submitted via email at MTABoard@sfmta.com.

The proposal to introduce RPP in northwest Bernal has been deeply divisive, pitting Bernal neighbor against neighbor, and block against block, over the question of whether or not permit parking is appropriate for the neighborhood.

In addition, multiple changes to the proposed RPP rules and irregularities in the SFMTA’s petition process have prompted some Bernal neighbors to question the accountability and competence of the SFTMA’s permit parking program staff. Additional question have been raised about the integrity of SFMTA’s vehicle census data.

Advocates for the Bernal RPP say permits are needed to prevent daytime workers, commuters, and air travelers heading to SFO from occupying scarce parking space in northwest Bernal Heights.

Critics point to SFMTA surveys which show that 73% of the vehicles currently parked on the proposed RPP streets belong to people who live within a half-mile of the zone, an indication that many those vehicles likely belong to other Bernal residents. SFMTA’s survey indicates that 19% of the vehicles parked in the RPP zone today belong to people who live more than 2 miles away.

If the parking plan is implemented. Bernal residents who do not live at a designated address within the RPP zone who will no longer be able to park on streets in the RPP zone for more than 2 hours between 8 am and 6 pm, Monday to Friday.

If approved, the annual permit fee will be $128 per auto and $96 for each motorcycle.

Hurry! After 20 Years, Bernaltown: The Movie Will Screen Again in Bernal Heights

A billboard for Bernaltown appeared across from Good Life in 1997.

FINALLY, after a loooooong hiatus, Bernaltown-The Movie is returning to Bernal Heights on Jan. 30!!

We’ll get to the details about the where and when in a moment. But first, a brief history: What is Bernaltown?

Bernaltown was a delightful short film produced in 1997 by a group of Bernal Heights neighbors and kids. Making movies was a nontrivial thing to do in the late 1990s, because at the time, tape-based camcorders were still the prevailing technology and the era of digital video and YouTube was still a decade away.

Nevertheless, Bernaltown was glorious. Produced in the playful spirit of the 1960s Batman TV series, Bernaltown tells the story of a group of superhero kids who use high-tech go-karts to battle a diabolical developer who’s scamming to build a a hotel-casino complex on the top of Bernal Hill.

Musician and Bernal Neighbor Joshua Brody contributed the music for Bernaltown, and here’s how he remembers it:

A little over 20 years ago, good friend Sheila Balter invited me to donate my services to a fund-raiser for a film her friend Gregory Gavin was finishing up, so I did. Once I met Gregory and saw the trailer he’d put together, I fell in love with the project: A half-hour story called Bernaltown.

Gregory had been running workshops for kids in Bernal Heights to learn how to make their own go-karts and wanted to do some documentation on it, but rather than do a dry non-fiction talking heads piece, he decided to craft a narrative featuring the kids as superhero crime-fighters, other neighborhood regulars playing more-or-less themselves (eg. the beat cop as “the chief of police”) and throwing in a fictitious — but entirely plausible — subplot about an evil gambling syndicate’s real estate grab.

It was charming as f–k, and I instantly offered my services as composer, which Gregory just as instantly accepted, sound unheard. I think my terms — free — helped clinch the deal.

The film premiered in the schoolyard behind the Bernal Public Library (where it will be shown again… to commemorate its 20th anniversary). The showing was successful enough, but what really moved me was the aftermath: neighbors strolling up and down Cortland wearing Bernaltown paraphernalia and greeting each other kill it was the small town portrayed in the film, not just another big city neighborhood.

Maybe that kind of magic can repeat itself.

The trailer for Bernaltown is lost in the analog mists of time, but this KRON report from 1997 captures the spirit of it:

So, with all that established… Bernalwood is thrilled to share the news that finally, at long last, the Citizens of Bernal Heights will again have an opportunity to see Bernaltown again.

The 20th Anniversary screening of Bernaltown – The Movie will happen on Tuesday, Jan. 30 in the main reading room of  the Bernal Heights Library (500 Cortland) beginning at 7 pm.

The screening is free, but tickets are required; reserve your seats here — and you’d best hurry, because space is limited.

PHOTOS: All images via Bernaltown20 on Facebook

New Video Brings Celebrity “Overpass Guy” JaVonne Hatfield to Bernal Hill

For the last few years, JaVonne Hatfield has delighted motorists stuck in traffic on Highway 101 by dancing on the 18th Street pedestrian overpass, just north of Hospital Curve.

Along the way, he’s become something of a San Francisco celebrity, even if most people only know him as  “That Dancing Guy on the Overpass.”

JaVonne Hatfield on the overpass. Photo by JaVonne Hatfield

Recently, JaVonne appeared in a fun little video that celebrates life in San Francisco. The video is structured as a comedic chase across town, but it culminates on Bernal Hill, in a kind of a rapturous coming-together that’s totally uplifting, and totally Bernal.

See for youself, and feel all the feels:

Hat tip: Neighbor Rebecca

As Fifth Anniversary Approaches, Hillside Supper Club Announces New Specials

Hillside Supper Club chefs Tony Ferrari (left) and Jonathon Sutton.

Oh, how the time flies! The lovely and delicious Hillside Supper Club at 300 Precita (at the southwest corner of Precita Park) is approaching its fifth anniversary. With that, Team Hillside is unveiling a new set of weekly specials and events.

Hillside Supper Club chef, co-owner, and Bernal resident Tony Ferrari tells Bernalwood:

Happy New Year! With the new year comes some fun changes at Hillside Supper Club. We’ve decided to do some things to even make it more of a tight neighborhood gathering place.

Our producer/collaboration dinners have been going really well, and we will continue to do them on the first Wednesday of each month rather then the third, these dinners will start back up in March.

Some other fun additions we are adding: On Monday nights we’re waiving all corkage fees on beer and wine that guests bring in. On Friday and Saturday nights from 10-11pm, all wines by the glass as well as all appetizers will be 10 bucks. On Sunday nights, in addition to the menu we will have an option to choose 3 courses (app, entree, dessert) for 40 dollars.

We will celebrate our 5 year anniversary on Monday January 22nd with a 4 course set menu, in the theme of 40’s 50’s jazz supper club, with live music.  We encourage all guests to come dressed as we would of in that time period. An after party will follow.

For all the years of success and support from our community, and to give a token of appreciation, will implement these changes starting this Friday, Jan. 5.

We look forward to another great year at Hillside Supper Club and again want to thank everyone who supports who we are while allowsingus to do what we love most — nourish our community with great food and wine!

RIP Sparky, the Sociable Sidewalk Cat of Precita Avenue

Sparky the cat, on his perch in front of the cactus house on Precita. Photo courtesy of Ryland Moore.

This article was written by Bernalwood’s cub reporter, Miel Lappin, age 10. This is her first  Bernalwood story. 

Sparky was the “sidewalk cat,” the cat everyone looked forward to seeing, the one who just stood there, unafraid of the dogs and people who loomed over him. Sparky was the brown and black striped cat who lived in front of the cactus house. I remember when I first met him.

“This is the cat I told you about!” my step-mom exclaimed. “But, I thought his house was the green one with the cacti” she commented.

“I’m going to try to lead him back home,” I said, determined. Sparky was lying in front of a house up the street. I bent down, and let Sparky sniff my hand, he didn’t really seem to care about it. I decided to try petting him. He purred. That’s when I slowly started walking away, and to my surprise, he followed! I walked him all the way back to the cactus house, and he seemed to recognize it. He jumped onto his banister, content.

The first time when Bernalwood’s cub reporter met Sparky.

When Sparky died, it was devastating. His owners made a beautiful R.I.P sign, hung it on a tree outside their house, and told people to write notes on the little card hanging below.

There are so many nice notes, ranging from “He made my walk to work fun,” to “Best and most handsome mayor of Precita Avenue.” Who knew Sparky was so well known?

Sparky’s owner, Neighbor Leslie, told me Sparky was born in the cactus house, in a dresser drawer with four other siblings, and he lived there his whole life. Sparky died after he was attacked by a dog. The dog was being walked, and when he saw Sparky, he lashed out. Sparky died at age 16.

Neighbor Leslie says she knew it was a risk letting Sparky hang out on the sidewalk, but she also knew Sparky needed to be outside in order to be happy. “Sparky was in the world, 100 percent,” she said.

It was my dad who pointed out the Lost Cat signs a few months ago, the first time Sparky went missing. That’s how we learned Sparky’s name. Luckily, he came back that time.

The second time though, we weren’t so lucky.

Sparky was like a neighbor you often see, but don’t know very well. Most people just enjoy having him there, they don’t need to know about his personal life. When Sparky died, it was like that neighbor who you were friendly with, moved out. Mornings are never going to be the same, because there is no neighbor to greet, and no Sparky to pet.

New Year’s Postcard from 1909 Unlocks Decades of Bernal Family History

This postcard, from 1909, was mailed to an address in Bernal Heights

This article is by Vicky Walker from the fabulous Bernal Heights History Project.

In the fall, while working at the Vintage Paper Fair in Golden Gate Park, I took a break to rummage through a vendor’s 25-cent boxes. I always read the backs of the cards to look for San Francisco addresses, so I was delighted to find a Bernal-related card.

The image on the front was a New Year’s greeting from 1909, but the address on the back revealed that it had been sent to Mrs. M. J.  Hills at 15 Patton Street in Bernal Heights.


As it turns out, “Mrs. M. J. Hills” was Mercy Jane Watts Hills (1854-1918), the paternal grandmother of John Hills, with whom I have been corresponding for a few years now about Bernal, and whose family played an important role in the history of San Francisco.  Mercy’s husband, Charles E. Hills Sr. (1854-1947), was one of the four Hills boys who started a grocery store in San Francisco in the 1870s that eventually developed into the world-famous Hills Brothers Coffee.

Family lore has it that Charles bailed out his investment of $500 in the coffee company as he needed the money for family purposes, and he thought the business would go nowhere.

The Hills house at 15 Patton was built around 1892, according to water records.

The first owner was George D. Mayle, who ran a couple of coffee parlors in the city. Charles Hills, who later worked as a ship’s carpenter, and Mercy bought the single-story house in 1899 and that’s where they raised their children Fannie, Helen, Jennie, Charles, and George (1890-1967).

In recent years I’ve been corresponding with John Hills, who was one of George’s son. John kindly shared some family photographs.

Here’s Mercy, the recipient of the postcard, in a photo taken in the 1890s:

Mercy Jane Watts Hills in the 1890s. Photo courtesy of John Hills.

John says: “Looking stern in pictures in those days, as you know, was usual. My father always told me that Mercy was the loveliest woman: saintly, happy, secure, and pleasant, a Baptist and stern-looking notwithstanding.”

John’s father George Hills married Ellen I. Jones in November 1913; around that time he and his father added a second floor to the house on Patton Street, creating a flat at 15a for George’s new family.

John Hill’s parents, George (seen in the 1920s in the backyard of 15 Patton, wearing his leather work apron) and Ellen (photo taken in 1915). Photos courtesy John Hills.

George and Ellen had three sons. George Jr. was born in 1918, Jim was born in 1921, and John was born in 1922.  The Hillses always referred to the street as Patton Alley.

The Hills family on the front porch at 15 Patton St. during the 1920s. Photo courtesy of John Hills

John adds, “A point of interest and somewhat ironical: my father, George W. Hills Sr., not in a direct line of the three sibling coffee founders who accumulated truly great wealth from the bean, actually became an employee of Hills Bros for fifty years, from the age of 20 through 70 (1910-1960 approximately).”

“He worked primarily as a boxmaker and ultimately, as he became older, in a semi-retirement job as yard superintendent, checking cars and trucks in and out and generally providing some security for the parking/dispatch yard.”

George Hills, with a Hills Brothers delivery truck he drove in the 1930s. Photo courtesy of John Hills

John recalls an outhouse in the backyard – there was no indoor toilet for a time at least.

John Hills (left) and his brother Jim playing cowboys in the backyard at 15 Patton, circa 1930. Photo courtesy John Hills.

The Hills family moved away from 15 Patton in 1931, probably around the same time the Board of Supervisors ordered a public auction of the buildings at 5-15 Patton, 161-177 Highland, and 102-180 Appleton so the land could be used for “school purposes.” The city-owned land was instead used to build the Holly Courts public housing project, which was completed in 1940.

John thinks the house was moved round the corner to Highland Avenue, but it may have been demolished in the years since. (If anyone wants to help solve this Bernal mystery, we’d love to know for sure where 15 Patton ended up.)

I don’t know how I magically ended up with this post card, but I sent it on to John — after all, it’s technically a family heirloom. We both wonder where it’s been for the last 108 years.