Saturday: Remembering Bernal Neighbor Bill Guedet

Sadly, Bernal Neighbor Bill Guedet of Gates Street passed away recently. His friends and family wth host a memorial celebration of his life on Saturday, May 20 at Wild Side West from 3-5 pm.

Neighbor Toria tells us more about Neighbor Bill:

I wanted to share the sad news about the passing of a longtime Bernal/Gates Street resident and San Francisco original — Bill Guedet.

On behalf of his son Ruben and his partner Erica, I’m spreading the word about a toast/memorial/celebration to be held on May 20th at Wild Side West from 3-5pm. Ruben grew up on Gates Street, and is currently living in New York.

Bill moved to San Francisco in the 60s. He lived in the Haight, hanging out with Janis Joplin and others from the community there. He moved out in 1967 because he saw the change that was heading for that neighborhood. After a time in Potrero, he landed in Bernal in 1976. He was a cable car driver and an avid photographer.

Bill was a familiar sight on Cortland, and always good for a story about the past, or opinions about the present. It still hasn’t quite sunk in that he’s gone.

Bill son Ruben grew up on Gates Street, and he tells us more about his dad, and his life in Bernal Heights:

My father was born Oct 2nd, 1942 in Merced, California. He remembers growing up in the 40’s and 50’s, fondly recalling sharing Sunday lunch with his grandfather, a field hand who did not speak English, but taught him how to eat in the Italian way, and developed Bill’s palate for anti pasta, olive oil and vinegar. Bill was one of a handful of white teenagers to see Little Richard play in Merced, and he tried to get over the wire fence that separated him from the Latino and African American kids that were having a much better time.

As soon as he could, he left the valley for San Francisco and stayed with some gay classmates who escaped with him. He never saw any real reason not to be friends with them; indeed his family’s request to avoid them was even more reason to, and studied theater as SF State.

He would have told you that SF State was the real ground zero for the 60’s. It was wilder, much messier, far more fun than posturing UC Berkeley, and it spilled out into the Haight. In a strange coincidence, Bill’s great grandfather ran a pharmacy at Haight and Ashbury for a while with his three brothers from Italy. Bill would continue that fascination with the scene there, he famously (though not uniquely) danced with Janis Joplin. She called him “dude”, saw the Stones, poo poo’d the Dead, and lived many stories there, before he saw the good natured feelings turn away from the hope and transformation once promised.

It was in the Panhandle that he made the acquaintance that would lead him to my mother Holly (an early date being the fabled Beatles show at Candlestick). This began the great tragic romance of his life, and Bill eventually settled in Bernal Heights when I was 6 years old. Some of that time he worked as a photographer for the Chronicle, but ultimately found that less satisfying than just pursuing his own work.

In the early 70’s Bill had gotten a job working nights on the Cable Cars. This began a rollicking few years of fun and misbehavior while “the folks” (or tourists) never let on that they were the main attraction. In 1984 the cable cars were renovated, and a poorly designed switch at Powell and Market brought an end to Bill’s time with Muni. Severely injured, Bill sought training as an accountant and came to find work at the Vintage Court Hotel as a night auditor.

In the 1980s Bill began to really invest time in Bernal Heights; he was always known as the guy who cleaned the streets by picking up trash in the area (this was before recycling gave value to cans and bottles), and was instrumental in getting trash cans installed on Cortland street. Closer to home, he began the epic house renovation that continues to this day; transforming our home on Gates street from a flophouse into a family home.

It was this success that encouraged Bill to start a neighborhood tree planting program shortly thereafter. He was a leader in getting street trees planted in Bernal Heights, and was very proud the tree he had planted in front of our house. He continued his civic engagement by working against a city plan to implement street cleaning on Gates Street. BIll’s focus and drive allowed him to improve the area, and devotion to Bernal Heights is an important part what the neighborhood is today.

Bill’s energy turned inward when my Mom was diagnosed with cancer, a disease neither would ever recover from. After years of fighting with an implacable enemy, my mother succumbed and with her passing Bill would never have her far from his mind. For most of the last two decades this is the Bill that his Gates Street neighbors would come to know. Longtime residents might remember his messy attempt to redo the front of house (resulting in home made scaffolding up for years), or the eventual removal of the tree in front, but those who took the time to know Bill would understand that his passion for the area, and his love for San Francisco was never dimmed.

Bill passed on April 28th. Just as in life, he was supported by his neighbors on Gates Street in that time.

PHOTO: Bill Guedet, courtesy of his family

Rents in Bernal Heights Remain a Relative Bargain, But Only Relatively

It goes without saying that thanks to San Francisco’s ongoing housing shortage, the rents are too damn high. But according to a recent survey of median rents around San Francisco, rents in Bernal Heights are a relative bargain.

According to data compiled by Apartment List, an apartment rental listings service, the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Bernal Heights now hovers around $3800 — a nosebleed-inducing sum, but a good value compared to adjacent ‘hoods such The Mission ($4350), Potrero Hill ($4850), Noe Valley ($4390), and even Bayview(!!!), where 2BRs now go for $4160.

Citywide, Apartment List says rents in San Francisco are down 1.1% from a year ago, with the median rent for a 1BR hovering around $3400 and 2BRs renting for $4600.

To put all of this in (absurdist) perspective, consider some national comparisons: Apartment List data also shows that the median rent for 2BR units in New York City is now $4260.  In Seattle 2BRs rent for $2290, Washington DC is $3050,  Austin, TX is $1470, Denver, CO is $1840, and Chicago is $1580.

IMAGE: via Apartment List

Explore the Rolling Meadows of Southwest Bernal Heights in 1875

Neighbor Sandra recently shared this fantastic photo of Bernal Heights in 1875. It may have originally come from the fabulous SF Public Library Historical Photograph Collection.

There are so few landmarks in the photo that it was a little challenging at first to get oriented. But a few minutes of image-exploration confirmed that this is the view of southwest Bernal Heights, as seen roughly from the area where Silver and Congdon streets intersect in The Portola today.

The key detail that confirms the perspective is the College Hill Reservoir, built in 1870. It’s clearly visible on the west slope of Bernal Hill:

Notice that this was taken about 20 years before Holly Park was a proper park. The circular park we know and love today, was built in the 1890s.

Anyway, now that we’re properly situated, let’s look an annotated version of the 1875 image:

Lucky for us, Neighbor Sandra sent us a high-res image of the 1875 photo, so there’s a lot to zoom and enhance.

For example, here’s a tight crop of Bernal Hill, and the future Cortlandia. But in 1875, the west slope of Bernal Hill was home to just a few farm houses:

On the far left, there’s a dark line running north-south, just west of Mission Street. That’s the trench of the Bernal Cut,  which was excavated in the 1850s by the Southern Pacific for use as a raildroad right-of-way. Later, the cut was widened to become a stillborn freeway, and it’s now known as San Jose Boulevard:

In the foreground, we see the campus of St. Mary’s College, with two baseball diamonds on the south side:

Burrito Justice zoomed and enhanced even further, and noticed there’s a game underway on the diamond to the right. Looks like there may even be runners on first and second:

St. Mary’s College still exists, of course, but it’s in Moraga now.

The college’s website details its founding years in Bernal Heights, before moving east in the 1880s:

Archbishop Joseph Alemany had been dispatched to the West Coast in the mid-19th century by Pope Pius IX with the words: “You must go to California. Others go there to seek gold; you go there to carry the Cross.”

Alemany soon saw the need for education and religious instruction for the working class youth of a burgeoning San Francisco. Determined to open a school, he sent the intrepid Irish priest, Father James Croke, to seek donations from farmers, ranchers, merchants and the gold miners in the Sierra Nevada. He came back after two years with cash and gold dust to the tune of $37,166.50, a princely sum for the time.

Alemany threw open the doors of Saint Mary’s College in 1863. After five years of struggle, he made a difficult journey to Rome to ask for help from Christian Brothers, whose superior sent nine mostly Irish Brothers in 1868 to travel from New York by sea to San Francisco to manage the new school. Soon the Brothers were able to increase enrollment, stabilize the College’s finances and establish Saint Mary’s as the largest institute of higher education in California at the time. The first bachelor’s degrees were awarded in 1872. […]

The College moved from its cold, windswept campus in San Francisco to Oakland in 1889.

St. Mary’s College has been gone for 120 years, but the southwest corner of Bernal Heights is still called College Hill.

 

Cortland’s “Flower Lady” Will Make You Mom-Proud for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is this weekend!

Bernal Neighbor and sex-positive celebrity Annie Sprinkle would like to encourage all Bernalese to buy Mother’s Day flowers from Denhi Donis, the sidewalk flower vendor who’s often found on Cortland near the northeast corner of Wool.

Neighbor Annie tells Bernalwood:

Bernal has many wonderful mothers of all kinds. This Mother’s Day, I want to introduce Denhi Donis, the woman who sells her beautiful flower bouquets on Cortland and Wool street.

Denhi, raised her two children in Bernal as a single mother. Now that they’re in their 20s and grown up, they help their mom set up her pop-up flower shop, and are totally devoted to her.

Before becoming the flower lady, Denhi worked for many years as a social worker at many non-profit orgs. She worked in the Women’s Building for two years, at the Latina Breast Cancer Association for a year, Planned Parenthood for seven years, and many more. She has helped many mothers, and others, over the years, and has been a champion for Latina women in the area.

Denhi has survived some hard times. Before she came to San Francisco, Denhi lived in Chicago, where she left her man and lived in a domestic violence center for two years with her two kids. .

It was her son’s idea for Denhi to start sellng flowers five years ago. She was always buying flowers, making beautiful bouquets and giving them all away to people that needed a little pick-me-up.

Maya Donis, her daughter told me, “My mother has the biggest heart I’ve ever met. Everyone she encounters she adorns with flowers and her kindness. Her Light never seems to dwindle. She teaches me that there’s no limit to my love and compassion with the world around me. She is, in many ways, my biggest teacher.”

Emiliano Donis adds, “My mother is one of the strongest women I know. Throughout my whole life she has unequivocally been a pillar. The example she set in my life has shaped me into the man I am today. From her battles with being a single mother to her struggle with cancer, she never once gave up. I hope one day I too can be as trong a person as her and do for my kids what she did for me and my sister Maya.

I’m one of Denhi’s best customers. Denhi always sells us the most beautiful bouquets of fresh flowers. However it is her warmth and smile that are even more beautiful. I love to buy flowers from Denhi, and I know my money goes to a good place.

Happy Mother’s day to Denhi! And to all mothers in Bernal and beyond.

PHOTO: Denhi Donis on Cortland, courtesy of Beth Stephens

Neighbor Nicole Is Making Lip Balm for Locavores

Neighbor Nicole Spear lives down the block from me in Precitaville, and recently she mentioned that she’d launched her own small business to manufacture and distribute a line of handmade lip balm under the Metta Good brand.

Lip balm for locavores! Turns out, that’s a thing.

Bernalwood invited Neighbor Nicole to tell us more about her products, and she also shared news about a pop-up event happening this weekend. She says:

Metta Good is handmade, small batch, artisan lip balms inspired by love and nature.

It  began as an idea when I was at home with my newborn. I wanted to create a natural product that was not only safe for people and the planet but also looked good too. Creating a natural product married my interests of plants, design, and making things by hand.

It took me two years to launch, butI began selling products in December 2016, and now Metta Good is in six stores, including Succulence on Cortland and Perch in Glen Park.

Metta Good’s first Pop-Up Boutique Bazaar is happening at Woods Island Club on Treasure Island this weekend, Saturday and Sunday May 12-13.  I’m co-producing the event with another SF Made member Natasha Natasha Chatlein of Sheek Organics.

Pop-Up Boutique Bazaar is an opportunity to shop for  local handmade, small-batch goodies while hanging out at a beachy brewery on Treasure Island. Bring Mom and indulge her with luxe handmade bath and body products, gorgeous succulent arrangements, artisan jewelry, and candles all made by Bay Area local makers. You can also sample Treasure Island’s first brewery, Woods Island Club, located in a historic airplane hangar. There will also be tasty bites from El Porteño Empanadas and an inflatable slide for the kids.

The Pop-Up Boutique Bazaar happens at:

Woods Island Club
422 Clipper Cove Way on Treasure Island
Sat. May 13, 12-6pm
Sun. May 14, 12-5pm

All the details are on the Facebook Event page.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Metta Good

Two New Japanese Restaurants Planned for Bernal Heights

Teaser sign in the window at 433 Precita

Sugoi! Bernalwood has learned that two new Japanese restaurants are (hopefully) coming to Bernal Heights; one is planned for Mission Street and the other will bring sushi and sashimi to Precita Park.

Let’s start in La Lengua, where the burgeoning Nano Tokyo District around the intersection of Mission and 29th Street is set to grow a little bigger with the addition of RakiRaki at 3282 Mission Street, in the space formerly occupied by Neighbor Tim and Erin’s Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar.

RakiRaki Ramen is a Japanese restaurant with two locations in San Diego. A power-call to RakiRaki’s power-lawyer yesterday confirmed their intention to open a branch here in Bernal.  Their website says:

Rakiraki Ramen & Tsukemen opened its doors in October of 2012 to it’s first location in the heart of Kearny Mesa in San Diego, California. Now with a second location in San Diego’s Little Italy, Rakiraki specializes in serving authentic Japanese cuisine including curry, tsukemen, or dipping noodles, and specialty sushi rolls, but is best known for its great-tasting ramen.

Interesting! The original RakiRaki outlet in San Diego has a four-star rating on the Yelps, where people speak highly of the “tonkotsu black edition” ramen made with fermented garlic oil.

Of course, this means RakiRaki will be located right across the street from the satisfyingly authentic Fumi Curry and the surprisingly impressive Coco’s Ramen, so we may soon have an even more robust Japanese street-food cluster happening on the west side of our Bernal territories. Ganbatte and lucky us.

Meanwhile, at the east end of Precita Park, a “modern Japanese” restaurant hopes to open at 433 Precita, in the space formerly occupied by the organic pet food shop.  A quick call to the proprietor revealed an effort is now underway to convert the retail space for restaurant use, although the restaurant does not plan to have an exhaust hood or grill. Bernalwood is told sushi and sashimi with anchor the menu. A name for the restaurant has not yet been selected.

(Sidebar: Don’t be misled by the fact that the little red lantern shown in the photo at the top of this post says “yakitori.” Absent an exhaust system, the restaurant’s proprietor confirmed they don’t plan to serve Japanese grilled chicken skewers, which is a bot of a shame, because proper, low-key yakitori is very hard to find in San Francisco and Precita Park would be a lovely place for it. Oh well.)

Anyway, sushi would be a great addition to the Precita Park food mix, and even more so because the proposed Red Apron Pizza at the east end of the park is stalled because of an ongoing dispute with the property owner.

Neither the sushi place in Precita Park nor RakiRaki has planned opening dates yet; both establishments were reluctant to set a target given the fickle nature of San Francisco’s labyrinthine bureaucracy and permitting process.

Itadakimasu!

 

Special thanks for Jessica Park at Hoodline for reporting assistance on this article.

PHOTO: Teaser sign posted in the window of 433 Precita, courtesy of Neighbor Brandon.

UPDATED: 95 Year-Old Woman Assaulted by Tent-Dweller at Proposed Residential Shelter Site

A 95 year-old woman was assaulted Saturday morning by a man living in the tent encampment outside 1515 South Van Ness, the site of a proposed residential homeless facility.

The assault took place at approximately 9:30 am on Saturday morning. The victim is a 95 year-old woman who has been a Mission resident since the 1930s.  According to several sources familiar with the incident, the victim saw two people drinking at a tent on the corner of 26th Street and Shotwell, and chastised them for their insobriety. A verbal altercation ensued, and when the elderly woman reached for her phone to call the police, one of the tent-dwellers reportedly grabbed her arm and began twisting it.

Two bystanders who were walking near 26th and Shotwell witnessed the scene, and began yelling at the drunken man to release the elderly woman. The perpetrator tried to run away. One of the bystanders gave chase, catching the man on Horace Street and detaining him until police arrived.

Meanwhile, the other bystander stayed with the elderly woman and escorted her home to her family. Police soon arrived, along with an ambulance, and the victim was transported to St. Luke’s Hospital. Along the way, the victim reportedly drove by the incident scene to positively identify the man who had assaulted her. The two bystanders who intervened to help the victim also served as witnesses in the police report. At St. Luke’s, the victim was treated for bruises and sprained arm.

The victim’s family says they intend to press charges against the perpetrator.

“It’s really scary when I think what could have happened if not for those two witnesses,” said the victim’s daughter, who lives near the incident scene.

“They don’t allow alcohol or drugs inside Navigation Centers [like the one proposed at 1515 South Van Ness], so we’ll have more of this happening on the sidewalks,” she said. “To have this happen now is very distressing.”

According to several sources familiar with the incident, an officer on the scene reportedly said the perpetrator would likely be released from police custody within 24 hours. Bernalwood contacted Capt. Bill Griffin from Mission Station for an update on the case over the weekend, but we have not yet received a response.

This story will be updated as additional information becomes available.

UPDATE: May 9: Reporter Filipa Ioannou from the San Francisco Chronicle spoke with the SFPD about the incident:

The woman got into an argument around 9:30 a.m. Saturday with two people that escalated into an assault when a man grabbed and twisted her arm near the intersection of 26th and Shotwell streets, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

The woman was not seriously injured, but was taken to a hospital for treatment partially because of her advanced age, according to Officer Robert Rueca, a spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department.

A man suspected in the assault was arrested, but his name was not immediately released.

That said, the Chronicle misstates the victim’s age. Her family confirms that she is 95, and not 92, as reported in the Chronicle.

PHOTO: Encampment at the incident scene, 1515 South Van Ness, Sunday, May 7, 2017, 5 pm, by Telstar Logistics