Your Ski Bernalwood Snow Report for Feb. 25, 2011

No Snow on 14 Limited

Notice the fresh tracks on 14 Limited at Ski Bernalwood

Wow. That was an intense storm that blew through early this morning. And when I went downstairs to make a cup of coffee, I noticed some snow(ish) accumulation in the back yard:


“If there’s snow(ish) here, there might even be fresh powder at altitude!” I exclaimed. So I piled into the Jeep, dropped it into 4WD, and set a course for Ski Bernalwood.

The lifts were running when I arrived, but conditions were still pretty extreme on the North Face:


It was a similar scene on the South Face, where the earlybirds had already tracked-out the cornice at Cornelio’s Folly:


By that point, my caffeine levels were dropping into the red zone, so I decided to head back home to recharge. Along the way, I noticed whitewater on Cesar Chavez, and a few of the local kayakers were out shooting the rapids on their way to work.


Those of you who bought season passes to Ski Bernalwood will want to keep those boards waxed and ready, because more storm activity is expected in the next 24 hours.

Photo: Telstar Logistics

Meanwhile, a Discussion About the Mural on the Bernal Heights Library

Bernal Heights Library

Great news! If you’ve enjoyed gnashing your teeth over the fate of Bernal’s historic Coca-Cola mural, you’ll be glad to know that you can also gnash your teeth during an upcoming series of meetings to discuss the future of the murals that cover the Bernal Heights Branch of the San Francisco Public Library.

Darcy Lee (of Heartfelt) wrote to Bernalwood to summarize the process:

There is a community meeting that will be held from 2-4 this Saturday at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center regarding the artwork that is going to replace the current mural on the Bernal library. This is after more than a year of negotiating different opinions on the future of the appearance of our beloved civic building. There are many members of our community who would love to see the mural restored, and others that would like new artwork, and others that would prefer none at all.

When the differences got heated and the Arts Commission and the Library Commission were not sure what to do, Supervisor Campos and some community members suggested that we form a group of members of the community to hash it out with the renowned facilitator Beth Roy (who happens to live in Bernal).

We reached a consensus, after hours of meetings week after week. Community Activist Mauricio Vela was an integral part of our process and we are sad to say he passed away.     We formed a task force out of the original group to deal with the next difficult part- raising money and choosing artists.   We are now holding community meetings with the artists to get the community’s voice.

Library Mural

The meetings will be held at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center on Saturday Feb. 28 from 2 to 4 pm and Tuesday, March 1 from 6 to 8 pm. More information and backstory at the Bernal Library Art Project website.

Photos by Telstar Logistics

Matched Pair: Lil’ Red House and the Lil’ Red Pickup Truck

Matched Set
I don’t know which came first: the immaculate 1949 Ford pickup or the beautifully restored house on Wool Street. Whatever the order, the truck was blocking the driveway of the house, so it’s safe to assume they’re a pair.

And so well paired, don’t you think? It took a lot of commitment to harmonize both those elements, but the results are so very sweet. Nicely done, neighbor.

Photo: Telstar Logistics

Supervisor David Campos Unsure If Historic Mural is Worth Saving

First, the good news: The effort to save Bernal’s historic Coca-Cola mural is gaining widespread media attention, spreading from this blog, to the SF Examiner, to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Now the bad news: Supervisor David Campos is apparently unsure if the Coca-Cola mural is worth saving. Dozens of Bernal residents have told us that the mural generates a tangible sense of joy and connection to the neighborhood. But Supervisor Campos says he’s worried about the theoretical risk that a 70 year-old mural might encourage childhood obesity. Or something. (Why am I experiencing such an unpleasant sense of deja vu?)

From today’s San Francisco Chronicle:

Campos is still mulling the issue.

“We haven’t really taken a position either way,” Campos said. “We want to hear more from the neighborhood.”

He said he’s already received a handful of passionate e-mails from both sides.

“We’re trying to fight childhood obesity,” he said. “We don’t want to promote kids drinking Coca-Cola.”

Campos will need to make a decision quickly.

Indeed he will. Because while he mulls, the clock is ticking, and the City Planning Department continues to demonstrate an unsettling myopia about the mural. Both the letter and the spirit of the law are obviously open to interpretation in a scenario like this, yet such subtleties are lost on the City’s zealous apparatchiks — history, context, common sense, and neighborhood sentiment be damned.

Campos, meanwhile, says he needs more time to lick his finger, point it in the air, and take the measure of the political winds.

That suggests he needs you to offer guidance, fellow citizen. Campos told the Chron that he wants to “hear more from the neighborhood.” So why not deliver some of the clarity that he finds so elusive? Supervisor Campos can be reached here:

Voice: (415) 554-5144

One final note: Bernalwood attempted to contact Supervisor Campos last week, but our email to him received no reply. However, if Supervisor Campos feels that he was misrepresented in the Chronicle, or if he would like to clarify the record regarding his position on the historic Coca-Cola mural, Bernalwood would be pleased to publish his statement in full. Our email is bernalwood at gmail dot com, and operators are standing by.

Photo: Supervisor Campos

A Secret View of the Hidden Precita Valley

Precita Valley
On some level, anyone who lives in this City learns that there are really two San Franciscos: The public City we see at street level, and the secret City that’s only visible from private back yards.

Though not much distance ever separates them, the quiet spaciousness of backyard San Francisco is often a world apart from the shoulder-to-shoulder bustle of life on the street. That’s even more true in hilly parts of town, where the topography of the City’s steep grades is fully revealed only within the sheltered perimeter of the surrounding homes.

Here’s one such place: Precita Valley, on the north slope, between Mirabel (above) and Precita (below). It also happens to be the view I wake to every day from my bedroom window.

It’s a whole ecosystem that only the locals get to see.

Photo: Telstar Logistics

It’s Really Old, Really: Evidence Proves Historic Provenance of Threatened Coca-Cola Mural

Vintage Coke Sign
So the deadline is fast approaching in the matter of Anonymous NIMBY vs. Historic Coke Mural Beloved by The Neighbors of Bernalwood.

As you may recall, after a whinging NIMBY complained to the City about the presence of the vintage Coca-Cola mural at the corner of Tompkins and Banks, the City gave the property owner a February 24 deadline to present evidence that the artwork at 601 Tompkns pre-dates San Francisco’s 1965 sign ordinances.

In our quest to acquire said evidence, we got some big help from the sleuths at Burrito Justice, who proved conclusively that the property at 601 Tompkins was a corner store called Tiptons Grocery until roughly the late 1960s. But today — three days before our City-imposed deadline — we are happy to report that Bernalwood obtained conclusive proof that the sign is, in fact, way old.

Over the weekend, Bernalwood established contact with the homeowner, Mr. Richard Modolo. Mr. Modolo was away on vacation last week, but now he’s tanned, rested, and ready for a bureaucratic tussle. Even better, he’s got the historic goods. Let’s establish the facts:

FACT: Mr. Modolo has lived in Bernal Heights since 1954. He attended Paul Revere School, right across the street from the disputed Coca-Cola artwork, and he has vivid memories of Tipton’s Grocery store from when it was still in operation. Actually, “Mrs. Tips” (as the kids caller her) made his lunch every day. As we chatted in the very space that Tipton’s Grocery once occupied, Mr. Modolo gestured toward the spot where Mrs. Tips used to stand behind the counter, and told this story:

FACT: The vintage Coca-Cola artwork is, properly speaking, a “ghost sign.” Mr. Modolo explained that the mural re-appeared in 1991, when he removed the asbestos siding that had long covered the building. A thick layer of tar paper preserved the handpainted artwork through the decades, so it looked almost-new when it finally saw the light of day again.

Here’s how the building looked when the asbestos siding was still in place:

And (… drumroll…) here’s how the Coke artwork looked in 1991, immediately after the siding was removed:

At the time, Mr. Modolo added, he simply planned to paint over the ghost sign. But neighbors intervened, begging him to keep it in place. And so he has, repainting it three times during the last 20 years.

FACT: The ghost sign pre-dates the City’s 1965 regulations by at least a decade, and almost certainly more. How do we know this? Simple: The asbestos siding at 601 Tompkins was installed in 1949 and 1956, which means the sign was in place before it was covered over. And how do we know those dates? That’s simple too: Mr. Modolo has the permit history from the City’s Department of Building Inspection:

FACT: The design of the mural suggests it dates from the mid-1940s. Burrito Justice has stayed on the case, and he’s been Tweeting with an archivist from the Coca-Cola company, who says “The “silhouette girl” logo was used as early as 1939.”

UPDATE: While following up on the Coca-Cola history angle, Burrito Justice received this great reply from the company’s archivist:

The girl in the image is referred to in “Coke Lore” as Silhouette Girl. She was used from 1939 until around 1950 when she fell out of use. She is significant in dating items as she was one of the few characters that was used during the time we transitioned our “Trademark Registered” statement from the tale of the C in “Coca” to being placed under the words “Coca-Cola.” This transition occurred between 1941 and 1942.

The first thing I noticed with the sign was the mark was under the words so it had to be later than 1942.

So, game, set, match, right?

Not quite. Bernalwood has been in touch with Mr. Dan Sider from the Planning Department’s General Advertising Sign Program. This situation regarding our Coca-Cola is “entirely novel” and without precedent, he says. “Our staff has processed nearly 1,800 general advertising signs in the City,” Mr. Sider says. “Not once have neighbors wanted to preserve a sign, much less have they taken the initiative to repaint and restore a sign on their own accord.” Hey, what can we say, other than Welcome to Bernalwood.

Much now hinges on how the City decides to classify the artwork. Is it a “general advertising sign” or a “business sign?” Neither approach is ideal, as each comes with significant legal downsides. So perhaps Bernalwood can suggest an easy solution? Maybe it’s not a sign at all! And maybe it stopped being advertising sometime during the Truman Administration. Perhaps it’s really a “historic commercial mural!”Or something like that.

FACT: Homeowner Richard Modolo wants to keep the vintage Coca-Cola mural in place, as is, and if the dozens of comments Bernalwood has received are any indication, a nontrivial number of his neighbors do as well. Mr. Modolo says, “For better or worse, this building was once a grocery store, and this is part of the history of this neighborhood.” That’s now a confirmed fact too.

UPDATE: In today’s newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner reports on Bernal’s Coca-Cola mural controversy. Can Fox News be far behind?

Photos: Top,  Todd Lappin. Historic photos courtesy of Richard Modolo