Exploring Pre-War Precita Park by Streetcar

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Once upon a time, in the Age of the Iron Dinosaurs, giant streetcars roamed around Precita Park in Bernal Heights.  Precita Park was the terminus for the Market Street Railway’s 36 Folsom Line, which carried passengers to and from the Ferry Building via Folsom Street between 1915 and 1945. In the magnificent aerial photos of Bernal Heights captured in 1938, the streetcar lines around Precita Park were clearly visible:

The 36 Folsom entered Bernal from Folsom on the west end of Precita Park. It then followed Precita Ave along the southern edge of the park before making a quick jog onto Alabama. The line then turned back onto Precita Ave., continuing east down the street to the intersection with Army (today’s Cesar Chavez). There was no turnaround, so for the return trip to the Ferry Building, the streetcar just reversed itself.

Today’s history geeks owe a great debt to the streetcar geeks of yesteryear, because their obsession with streetcar photography and documentation today provides us with a trove of vivid images that makes it possible to see what this part of North Bernal looked like during the early decades of the 1900s.

Take this shot for example. This is Precita at Army as it looked during the 1920s, with the intersection with York Street visible to the left. This spot is very familiar to most contemporary Bernalese, so it’s fun to check out all the detail this image has to offer:

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The most obvious thing to notice is that the divey little gas station that now sits on the triangular lot between Precita, Cesar Chavez, and Bryant used to be a rather divey little saloon.

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Amazing! Wieland Beer was a San Francisco brew, manufactured at a brewery that used to be on 2nd Street between Howard and Folsom.

Notice also the battered barber pole just to the left of the Acme Beer sign, alongside that Joad-ready truck. Behind it is the building which would later become the world-famous Sheepskin City and Battery4Prius.

At some point, of course, this bar was replaced by a gas station. For comparison’s sake, here the exact same spot, as it looked circa 1970, at the moment when Steve McQueen begins the famous car-chase scene in Bullitt:

The left side of the streetcar image provides a clear view west up Precita Avenue, with the southeast corner of Precita Park visible in the background, and ample parking available for rickety-looking motorcars:

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We’ll zoom into Precita Park in a moment. But first, here’s a reverse angle, showing the 36 Folsom at Army Street, looking to the southeast. That’s the south slope of Potrero Hill in the background:
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Backing up Precita, we get some terrific views of Precita Park. Here’s Alabama at Precita looking northeast. The exact year is unknown, but it looks like the early 1940s, judging from the styling of the car in background:

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The building on the corner in the right side of the image is now the fabulous Precita Park Cafe (as shown here), but back then it was… a SAFEWAY?!

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Spinning 180 degrees from about the same spot, we get the reverse view looking toward the southern edge of the park  in 1939:

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That’s the future Precita Park playground site on the right, and some very lax parking enforcement on the left. Here’s a closeup of the streetcar itself:
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Finally, there’s this amazing photo, which Bernalwood has previously explored. This is the view of the 36 Folsom tracks  from the other end of the park,  on the southwestern corner of Precita and Folsom, as it looked in 1943:

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Here’s an annotated version:

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The Palermo Bakery is now home to Precita Clean laundromat, while the Yosemite Meat Market on the corner is the location of today’s Charlie’s Cafe.

Very special thanks to our friends at Open SF History, Rick Laubscher from Market Street Railway, and Bernal Neighbor Michael Nolan for sharing the photos that made this Magical History Tour of Precita Park possible.

Reminder: Focus Group on Shotwell Housing Proposal Tonight

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Quick reminder: Now that the new design for the proposed nine-story housing development at 1296 Shotwell has been revealed, the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) development team will hold a “focus group” tonight, Monday, August 29, to give Bernal residents the opportunity to comment on the plan.

Here are the details:

WHAT: 1296 Shotwell Design Focus Group
WHEN: Monday, August 29, 6pm to 7:30pm
WHERE: Precita Eyes Mural Studio, 348 Precita Avenue

IMAGE: Comparison of renderings showing old and new designs for 1296 Shotwell. Source: MEDA

Bernal Rock Transformed Into Beloved Poop Emoji

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Just in time for this pre-election political season, those clever, creative elves who periodically decorate the big rock on the north side of Bernal Hill have tapped straight into the contemporary zeitgeist by transforming our famous rock into the internationally famous “poop emoji.”

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The poop emoji, which was created in Japan before it was, er, warmly embraced in this country, occupies an essential place in modern digital communications. Having already migrated to t-shirts, sophisticated workwear, and plush pillows, on Bernal Hill the poop emoji now takes geological form, as the shape of our rock turns out to be a perfect fit for the beloved icon. Genius!

And now that you’ve seen it, you will never be able to unsee it.

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

New Design Unveiled for Nine-Story Housing at 1296 Shotwell

Rendering of new design for 1296 Shotwell, with revised southern facade, facing Bernal Hill. Source: MEDA

As you may recall, there was a meeting on Tuesday night during which the Mission Economic Development Agency  (MEDA) did the Big Reveal of their updated design for 1296 Shotwell, the nine-story housing development proposed for a site on Shotwell just north of Cesar Chavez. There’s a focus group happening in North Bernal on Monday, Aug. 29 to collect feedback on the new design (but more about that in a moment).

As you no doubt also recall, 1296 Shotwell is slated to become 90+ units of subsidized-affordable housing for senior citizens. The building will stand 85′ tall, or 20′ taller than current zoning allows.  Given the visual prominence of the site, the proposal for 1296 Shotwell been the object of intense scrutiny, with some Bernal neighbors saying that the development just too tall, and others suggesting the height would be  less of an issue if the Bernal-facing side of the building had a less austere design.

Both concerns were front and center during Tuesday’s meeting. The crowd at Tuesday’s meeting was small, with only about a dozen people attending, including several activists and project affiliates who were there to perform their roles as activists and project affiliates.

Most of the presentation was delivered by Susie Coliver of Herman Coliver Locus, the architectural firm leading the design for 1296 Shotwell. In response to community feedback, Coliver said her firm considered several alternate designs for 1296 Shotwell, including some that eliminated one or two stories from the building to mollify concerns about its exceptional height. The result, she said, was that while yes, the building did get a bit shorter, reducing a few floors didn’t really to much to make it feel much smaller from street level or North Bernal. Meanwhile, the height reductions significantly reduced the total number of housing units the building could potentially contain.  In practical terms, here’s what those trade-offs would look like:

Height design exercise for 1296 Shotwell, showing number of residential units each design could accommodate. Source: MEDA

Height design exercise for 1296 Shotwell, showing number of residential units each design could accommodate. Source: MEDA

Thus, in the revised design,1296 Shotwell remains the same height: Nine stories, rising 85-feet from street level.

Instead, the new design focuses on rethinking the building’s southern, Bernal-facing facade, which is the side that may become a new landmark for the 9000 people who will gaze upon it daily from their homes on the north slope of Bernal Hill.

The new design reduces the number of units from 96 to 94 and attempts to add more color and texture to the south side of 1296 Shotwell, without relying upon superficial decoration such as murals, mosaics, or graphics. Highlights of the new design for the south side include:

  • stepped roofline to provide locations for several new roof gardens. This is intended to avoid the monolithic, rectangular massing of the old design. A roof garden running along the south side of the building would reduce the apparent height of the building by one story, when viewed from street-level
  • There’s now a vertical column of windows in the center of the south facade, hidden behind laser-cut, enameled screen panels.
  • The concrete panels flanking the windows on the left and right may also include alternating coloration, to provide additional texture.

When we zoom and enhance the rendering of the new design to focus on how all these elements come together, the Bernal-facing side of1296 Shotwell maybe possibly perhaps would look something like this (if the roof gardens were well maintained):

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Compare and contrast, old design vs. new design:

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And here’s another view of the new design, showing how 1296 Shotwell might look if you were a pigeon flying over the intersection of Cesar Chavez and South Van Ness. The proposed terracing of the roof decks is more clear from this angle:

New rendering of proposed 1296 Shotwell design. Source: MEDA

New rendering of proposed 1296 Shotwell design. Source: MEDA

During Tuesday’s meeting, additional concerns were raised about parking, shadows, and wind-tunnel effects caused by the building’s nine-story height. Responses were more or less as follows:

Parking: 1296 Shotwell has no onsite parking, and is not required to include any. MEDA suggested that the 150 or so senior citizens who will qualify to live in the building can’t really afford cars anyway.

Wind and Shadows: Basic wind and shadow studies for this site were conducted during a preliminary environmental impact review (EIR) 10 years ago. MEDA says a revised EIR is not required.

UPDATE: After publication, MEDA shared this clarification: “We have implemented an initial wind study and the report indicated that there would not be an adverse impact of generating wind tunnels; therefore, a further wind tunnel report is not necessary. As for shadow studies, Auto Zone, which is next door to the building, plans on putting solar panels on their roof and had requested plans from the team, and deemed that there are no adverse impacts to their installation. The Planning Department would determine if a full EIR would be needed — not the development team.”

Height: The current proposal for 1296 Shotwell is 20 feet taller than the 65′ maximum height that current zoning specifies for this site. MEDA says they plan to use the new Affordable Housing Bonus Program (AHBP) to secure the necessary variance.

Project Timing: MEDA says they hope to complete the permitting for 1296 Shotwell in mid-2017 so construction can begin in late 2017. If that happens, occupancy would start in late 2019 or early 2020.

So that’s the latest plan.

Now that the new design has been revealed, MEDA will hold a “focus group” for Bernal residents to discuss the current proposal this Monday, and you are encouraged to attend:

1296 Shotwell Design Focus Group: Monday, August 29, 6pm to 7:30pm, Precita Eyes Mural Studio, 348 Precita Avenue

Anda Piroshki Closing This Weekend After Kitchen Rent Increase

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Big bummer: After learning about a big commercial kitchen rent increase, Anda Piroshki, the tasty purveyor of Russian food at 331 Cortland, will be closing permanently after this Sunday, August 28.

Anda Piroshki as has thrived since founder Anna Tveliva first opened in 331 Cortland during 2011, and over the years the business grew to include a second outpost on Haight Street. Along the way, Anna herself became a familiar fixture in the Bernal community, as well as a US citizen.

In a message for Bernalwood readers, Anna writes:

Dear Bernal friends,

I need to share with you a sad news. Anda Piroshki’s commercial kitchen lease is up, and the new offer we got is almost 3 times higher. Unfortunately it is killing the business.

Considering the short notice I was given (I have to leave the kitchen by 9/1) and some family issues I am currently dealing with, I made a hard decision to close the business at the end of this month.

I dearly love Bernal, our customers, our landlady Debra at 331, folks from Paulie’s Pickling and Anusha from Mae Krua. Going to miss all very much. I am so grateful to be able to serve Bernal with my motherland food all these years and get so many fans!

Our doors will be open till 8/28. Please stop by to get your last Anda Piroshki fix and say goodbye :-(

Sad. Heartbroken. Truly yours,

Anna Tveliva

She also made this video:

Sigh. Truth be told, it’s hard to imagine a bigger fan of Anda Piroshki than Bernalwood’s own Cub Reporter, who insists we stop by Anda Piroshki every time we visit Cortland Avenue together. Literally: Every time.

As a parent, I’ve been happy to indulge the Cub Reporter’s piroshki obsession, not just because Anda’s food is delicious, but because I like to think my kid’s love of Anda Piroshki was hardwired into her DNA by her great-grandfather, an immigrant from Russia who died two decades before she was born. Savoring one of Anna Tveliva’s piroshkis may be his way of speaking to Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter through the generations.

Anyway, Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter was really sad to hear Anda Piroshki is closing, so  we stopped by 331 Cortland last weekend to load up while we still can.  This morning, the Cub Reporter asked me to put an Anda Piroshki in her lunchbox. So while all the other kids eat peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese in the cafeteria today, Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter will be excited to dive into this:

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Thank you for all the delicious memories, Anna, and best of luck.

PHOTO: Top, Anna Tveliva at 331 Cortland for Halloween, 2011. Courtesy of Anda Piroshki.

 

Tonight: Celebrate the Gorgeous New Mural on Mission Street

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As you may have noticed, there’s a fantastic new mural on Mission Street in La Lengua. It was painted on a wall facing the fashionable Bank of America parking lot between Valencia and 29th Streets, and it was created by artist Amanda Lynn.

Neighbor Eden from Secession Art & Design is also president of the Mission-Bernal Merchants Association, and she invites one and all to an event happening tonight to celebrate the new mural:

Please join us this Tuesday, August 23rd, 6-8pm, in the Bank of America parking lot between Valencia and 29th St to meet mural artist Amanda Lynn, who created our beautiful new mural inspired by her childhood. The theme was “Pursue Growth and Happiness.”

3300 Club will be selling their t-shirts to help them reopen, and Bliss Pops will be giving away popsicles to the first 100 supporters. Thank you to Zappos and Beautify Earth for choosing our neighborhood as one of eight US cities to donate a mural.

You may have noticed the billboard on this wall is hyper-local. Mission Bernal Merchants Association has taken it over for the next year. Our first billboard by artist Jonathan Koshi was a fundraiser for the merchants impacted in the 3300 Block fire in June. The MBMA, with a lot of community support, raised $16,000 for these merchants. We’re so pleased to have our neighborhood come together and celebrate each other.

Stop by and say hello!

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

Tuesday: Community Meeting About 9-Story, 96-Unit Housing Development on Shotwell

Rendering of 1296 Shotwell, as seen from Cesar Chavez. Source: MEDA, April 2016

On Tuesday,  August 23 at 6 pm, the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) will hold a community meeting at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center to reveal their latest designs for 96 units of subsidized-affordable senior citizen housing at 1296 Shotwell, just north of Cesar Chavez. There’s also a focus group scheduled for Monday, August 29.  Here are the two upcoming events:

  • Community Meeting: Tuesday, August 23, 6pm to 7:30 at BHNC, 515 Cortland
  • Focus Group: Monday, August 29, 6pm to 7:30pm, Precita Eyes Mural Center, 348 Precita Avenue

Right now, 1296 Shotwell is a one story warehouse-style space used for automotive repair. As proposed, the site would become a 9-story building to provide 100% subsidized-affordable housing for senior citizens.

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1296 Shotwell, typical floorplans. Source: MEDA, April 2016

The proposed building would not include any parking, and it would rise 85′ from street level, or 20 feet higher than permitted under current zoning.

Source: San Francisco Planning Department

Source: San Francisco Planning Department

1296 Shotwell sits right next door to 1515 South Van Ness, the proposed six-story development approved in a unanimous 6-0 vote by the San Francisco Planning Commission earlier this month. As approved, 1515 South Van Ness will provide 157 units of mixed-income housing, with 25% set aside as subsidized-affordable.

During a contentious community meeting about 1296 Shotwell held last April, some Bernal neighbors objected to the proposed height of the building, which would rise five or six stories above most other nearby buildings. Others objected to the proposed design, which included an 85′ perforated concrete slab on the building’s south side, facing Bernal Hill.

Rendering of 1296 Shotwell, as seen from Coso/Stoneman in North Bernal. Source: MEDA

Rendering of 1296 Shotwell, seen from Coso/Stoneman in North Bernal. Source: MEDA, April 2016

MEDA has suggested the Bernal-facing slab could be covered by a mural, but in the bilingual workshop sessions held during March’s community meeting, neighbors were unenthusiastic about the mural concept, pointing out that south-facing murals tend to disintegrate  quickly because of the harsh sun. One neighbor said the mural proposal was “basically the definition of putting lipstick on a pig.”

MEDA tells Bernalwood a revised design for the project will be on display at the meeting on Tuesday. However, despite repeated requests, MEDA declined to provide renderings of the updated proposal in advance of Tuesday’s meeting.

Personally, I would like to see 1296 Shotwell built at the proposed height, with the proposed number of housing units. I live a block from 1296 Shotwell, about 400 feet away, and the building will be in the direct line of sight from my house.  The new building will definitely obscure part of my glamorous skyline view, but I don’t care that much about losing some of my glamorous skyline view, because San Francisco desperately needs more, higher-density housing of all kinds to make housing more affordable to more San Franciscans. But that’s just me, and I’m on record as a YIMFY — Yes In My Front Yard.

That said, 1296 Shotwell would likely benefit from an improved design for the south facade, so that the 9000+ neighbors who live on Bernal’s north slope will feel better about gazing upon it for decades to come. We’ll find out what MEDA has in mind at the Big Reveal, 6 pm on Tuesday night at BHNC.