What an Old-Timer Sees When He Looks at Bernalwood

Remember that post we did that post a few weeks back about about “What a 20something Sees When He Looks at Bernalwood?” That was the one where we shared a “review” of our neighborhood written by a young Bernal resident who described it as “the personification of well-known San Francisco stereotypes.” (Good times!) This generated lots of chatter from the Bernalwood Commentariat, including one by a reader who goes by the handle Welcome Wagon.

Welcome Wagon — who has apparently lived in Bernal for quite some time — provided a  wizened perspective on today’s Bernal Heights that’s a brilliant must-read:

They have babies. They have dogs. They have unlimited lines of credit at the bank of mom and dad. They clog the sidewalks with their SUV baby carriages. They have jobs like “I blog” or “I consult on branding” or I teach yoga and visualization”. They are entitled and tend to complain to the city about every little thing. They dislike my parking my 1981 car in front of their houses. They complain to one another over their lattes about the older residents not keeping up their properties.

And because of them:

You just can’t get good quality crack on Cortland anymore. (that pictured gathering at Cortland and Ellsworth would have been Alemany crack dealers 30 years ago.) There’s a grocery store in the ‘hood where once was a putrid hole much worse than JC Super. You can walk on Cortland after dark. There are actually children in the playground behind the library–not drug dealers. There’s a bakery! And I won’t even mention, well OK, I will mention that they’ve done wonders for our property values.

Having the neighborhood become a yuppie rookery is a small price to pay for the benefits of gentrification.

PHOTO: Thomas Hawk

24 thoughts on “What an Old-Timer Sees When He Looks at Bernalwood

  1. not to contest Welcome Wagon’s lovely and humorous assessment, but i wonder how open to this perspective the bernal community might be:

    “what a middle-aged, poor, disabled part-time resident sees when she looks at bernalwood.”

  2. Yeah I know what Welcome Wagon is talking about growing up during that time. Yeah it was rough…Sons Of Hawaii bikers on Anderson above Cortland, thugs waiting for mass to end at St Kevins to see who would be walking home alone. Cops? What cops..gunshots would go off and not an officer zooming by…dealers at the library. We had it all growing up. But like my parents said…everything is cyclical(is that a word? :-))…how it is now is how it was when they moved in..

  3. oh, jeezus…I thought Noe Valley was bad. You wanna see strollers in full force? Go to 24th st. on a saturday morning. They have taken over.

    Still I love seeing a hot dad pushing a baby stroller. yum.

  4. And the yuppies are white privileged folks who make what they think are funny remarks about pitbulls and crack. Maybe if you good yuppie white folks would have helped these folks while you were spending your years getting drunk at college parties and making jokes about the hood, then crack wouldn’t have ruined so many families and children’s lives. Maybe you donate the $200 bucks you spend on a stroller to help families in need.

    • whoa there, nelly! gross generalizations about “white” people being privileged just make you look ignorant.
      i am a single “white” woman with two kids who has rescued two pit bulls, and i make my own money by working hard! not all “white” people grow up privileged. i donate all of our outgrown clothes, toys, and baby gear and always give back to the community. i don’t have much but i bust my ass to keep my kids in bernal. so STFU!!

      • When I say privileged I’m talking about your skin color—yes, I grew up “poor” too, but I also have recognized that I have had “unearned privileges” that my black and brown folks do not have simply because I’m white. Glad to hear your helping out the community and the comment is directed to those who make reference to crack and thugs (really just under the cuff slights that are masking truly racist feelings) —-what you call ignorant “anonymously white” is education——–so to further your community action educate yourself what white privilege really means and understand that the yuppy restaurants and baby shops have made Bernal Hill unlivable for the majority of brown and black folks– giving your old clothes isn’t good enough

  5. have been struggling with what to do re: my initial comment above. realized the topic overwhelmed me; i’d have too much to say – personal and political, complicated and tricky – potentially misunderstood as “sour grapes” – likely relevant to all of SF not just bernalwood etc. – for a site like this.

    but then today i saw the “wanna buy a house in bernal heights” post. and the $$$ signs kinda turned my brain to mush. i’ll simply say this: living on a social security income i can’t even afford a rental here (hence my part-time resident status as i sometimes stay with a friend in a one-room basement cave).

    what happens to us once socioeconomically “legitimate” baby-boomers who lose our health —> income —> friends —> resources?

    okay, don’t want to continue with this. but just thought the post today ironic in light of my response to the “what ___ sees … ” idea.

  6. I really enjoyed the ‘old guys’ comments, they are colorful and insightful to the history that so many of us ‘newcomers’ to the neighborhood love (I have lived here for almost 8 years). I just dont think most of the people that live in bernal fit the funny stereotype of this cranky bernalian.

    I think it is hysterical that this opinion is complaining about other people complaining 🙂 What makes this neighborhood so great is that so many people are engaged. For every person of the type being called out here, there are 500 more that are creating community here. Like the Bernal history project, or even this blog, there are so many examples.

    One of my personal favorite things about Bernal Heights is the mix of people living here, from young to very old.

    Come on cranky neighbor, i dont think most people are complaining about you. Sit down and have a coffee, how about a decaf? or maybe a chamomile tea?

  7. Shawn, who made you the guy who decides ‘what isn’t good enough’? I think that is a privileged attitude. When you wrap your commentary in such foolishness, you are alienating people that are actually on your side.

    • I certainly benefit from my whiteness. And I use this privilege to speak to other white people about comments and attitudes they have against people of color. I do this for moral reasons and also because my black and brown friends have shared that they are often attacked verbally when they bring the topic of race up. People make choices if they want to respond to my commentary– the “anonymous white lady” chose to respond to mine. As far as alienating— I find it is mostly fellow white folks who do are offended by my comments. Again, white folks who are now moving into the Mission, Bernal Heights and BayView Hunter’s Point need to be aware that they are newcomers and they are changing the landscape of neighborhoods in some positive ways, but also many negative (750,000 homes)—it’s called gentrification and it isn’t new

      • Can you explain more about how I’m alienating people that are on my side? What side? The side that asks people to not make “ghetto” and “crack” comments. The side that asks that when people say gentrification is a good thing for neighborhoods– they really think about what they are saying. Have you ever heard of a neighborhood being gentrified by black folks. No you haven’t because what happens is white flight. So when someone refers to gentrification, your really talking about white folks coming to “clean” the neighborhood up. So, I hope these comments activate some other white folks to wake up. Here is a good site for anyone interested to start becoming an anti-racist activist: http://www.timwise.org/ and truly help your neighborhood besides just being happy with a new coffee shop.

      • Shawn, no surprise, but I would disagree with your assertions rather categorically. But you are also factually incorrect: Gentrification and the resentments it can generate are color blind:


        Similar tales are told in Washington DC, Chicago, Pittsburgh, etc. The point being, it is facile to focus on the racial dimension of gentrification — it’s one of the less significant and least interesting aspects of the process.

      • Shawn,

        If you want to know why you offend/alienate some people, i would start by saying that you are calling people yuppies, but you dont like ghetto or crack jokes, so what is anyone to make of that?

        You also said ‘Maybe if you good yuppie white folks would have helped these folks while you were spending your years getting drunk at college parties and making jokes about the hood, then crack wouldn’t have ruined so many families and children’s lives’

        Seriously, that is non-sensical, who can respond to that?

        You are assuming that most of the readers of this blog fit these stereotypes, but clearly they dont

  8. Shawn,

    First, I take offense at being labeled a “white lady.” Second, why are you trying to turn this into a racial argument? Now all of a sudden we “privileged” “white” people are all also racist. Next you’ll devolve this thread into an attack against homosexuals who live in Bernal. You are laughable, sorry.

    Re: “Have you ever heard of a neighborhood being gentrified by black folks. No you haven’t because what happens is white flight.”

    Have you ever been to Oakland? The neighborhood I grew up in in the ’70s was, in fact, gentrified by “black folks” and it was a beautifully empowering thing for all of us. So again, STFU.

  9. UUHHMM–not sure what the homosexual comment is about–got no problem with that. Also you referred to yourself as a white women. I live in East Oakland and sorry, but I’m having a hard time seeing a neighborhood gentrified by Blacks (got to deal with white people’s comments on a daily basis though: “is it dangerous there?”, — (Gentrification and urban gentrification are terms referring to the socio-cultural displacement that results when wealthier people acquire property in low income and working class communities)–Are you telling me that Blacks moved in and Whites moved out because housing prices were driven up—please. I’m sure your a wonderful women (also recognizing that I have certain privileges do to gender here) , but I find it amazing that you are taking more offense to this rather than people’s “good quality crack comments.” As far as being racist–I’ll refer to Beverly Daniel Tatum’s definition of white racism (paraphrasing–you are either an over racist, silent and complacent or an active anti-racist). What do you choose? As far as the STFU abbreviation—witless provoked and by what?

    As far as the Yuppy comment goes (your right–probably not scoring any points, but I have a hard time thinking you or anyone else lost any sleep over that–I think what some white folks are losing sleep over is they don’t like to admit that they are privileged and want to throw the “colorblind” comments out—sorry one article from the New York Times isn’t backing your assertion up)— gentrification has detrimental effects on black and brown communities. So since you want to go their here is another link that you might read: http://angrybrownbutch.com/category/gentrification/– a few years old, but personal and powerful (and yes she’s butch)

    As far as what is nonsensical–the point is that most many white folks didn’t give a damn about the poverty in Bernal or any other poverty stricken neighborhood until they moved in because even richer, more privileged white folks increased real estate in whiter neighborhoods so high–they had to run back to the neighborhoods that white folks abandoned way back when when too many black and brown folks moved in–which left these neighborhoods depleted of tax revenue because Whites took all the money and opportunities away (yes–plenty of research to support the “white flight”–phenomena)

    And since I’m ranting away–one more thing to fire you up— white people need to stop pretending their middle class if they are able to buy a 500,000 to 750,000 dollar home.

    • I guess I should be a bit more specific–if you buy a house for 750,000 and it is only a 1,000 square feet — stop calling yourself middle class

      By the way- I’m not saying white folks should get up and leave, but rather they need to help level the playing field and become truly anti- racist activists–that means question the white folks who say gentrification is good for neighborhoods or talk about “crack” and “pit bull fights” and “that’s ghetto” and all the other “coded” racist words white folks use when trying to be witty

      • Maybe I didn’t read the entire thread, but I am wondering why someone who lives in East Oakland is flaming on a Bernal Heights blog.

        I bought my house for under $200K back in the day.

        Sorry you have to live in East Oakland. Don’t take it out on us.

        I’m done here.

  10. Your doneness reveals a lot about your attitude— “sorry you live in East Oakland”—what is wrong with East Oakland? Sometimes what we don’t say reveals a lot about our true feelings– sounds like you got some reflection to do–read the links I provided

    I have many connections to that community–one being that I partially work in it–second because there are a lot of white people in many communities that need to educate themselves to the situation they have created for black and brown folks

  11. I just want to get this straight — are we wistfully longing for crack and drug dealers from the days of yore? And am I racist if I don’t?

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