This map comes to us via the good offices of the esteemed Eric Fisher. It shows what a group of city planners saw in 1968, when they evaluated Bernal Heights as an urban canvas in need of some serious beautification.
This wasn’t some grandiose urban-renewal effort, like those crazy 1940s visions of turning Bernal’s stretch of Mission Street into an elevated superhighway. Quite the opposite: In 1968’s “Bernal Heights Improvement Program” (PDF here), the goal was to use Bernal to improve Bernal; to evaluate and exploit the geographic realities of Bernal Heights to offset the gathering forces of deterioration and “economic decline:”
So with that as the context, it’s fascinating to see what those planners saw when they looked at Bernal Heights as set of assets and opportunities — at a time when Bernal’s streets were a little rougher around the edges and Bernal Hill was still just a feral, open space.
The “Design Elements” map notes the features that make Bernal feel like Bernal; the “physical elements that give definition and identity to Bernal Heights.” It identifies existing resources. It respects the topography. It celebrates great views. It highlights open spaces. It seeks to nurture interesting clusters and sub-corridors.
Those observations were distilled into a separate “Bernal Improvement Plan” map:
Basically, the proposed plan advocates paving the last of Bernal’s dirt streets, building a few landscaped stairways, turning Bernal Hill into a proper park, creating a few other mini-parks, and planting lost and lots of trees
If all this sounds kind of familiar and ho-hum, it’s because that’s pretty much what we’ve spent the last 45 years doing here in Bernal Heights. So hats off to those clever planners in 1968. From the vantage point of 2013, we can now say that their vision looks pretty great today.
UPDATE April 2016: Neighbor Andras tells us that the full text of the 1968 Bernal Heights Improvement Program report is available here.
PHOTOS: Maps via Eric Fischer