Departing Neighbor Writes Goodbye Note to Bernal Heights


Sadly, Neighbor Laurel is moving away.

She’s packing up her dog, and her husband, and her dog, and her bird, and selling their house to leave Bernal Heights. Awww. 

We’ll miss her. Before she goes, however, Bernalwood asked Neighbor Laurel to write down some parting thoughts to reflect on the time she spent here. Here’s what she said:

San Francisco has always been known for its neighborhoods and the particular sort of people who live in each of them. Any midwestern tourist sporting a ten dollar Alcatraz Triathalon t-shirt could give you a quick character sketch of the Marina, Nob Hill, and Haight populations, but if you asked them about Bernal Hill, they couldn’t do the same — and not just because the hop on/hop off quacking cable cars don’t roll up this way, either. They wouldn’t be able to do it, because Bernal (and the people who reside here) defy categorization.

Sure, some might say the Bernal is mainly made up of adorable babies. BABIES. EVERYWHERE. But then again, others claim that there aren’t any humans living here at all — only dogs. I heard a rumor once that Bernal is a lesbian neighborhood, but I think Bernal’s gay male population would beg to differ. Some folks say Bernal is for families, and while it’s true that it seems like a great place to raise a kid, I have been a guest at (and may have possibly even hosted) some fairly debauched happenings on this sweet lil hill. Lately, some say Bernal is changing, getting uppity and is downright losing its charm.

As my heterosexual life partner Brett, our bulldog Manchester and parrot Pixel (See? Straight, human, child-free and not all dogs) prepare to cash in our chips and ride the Bernal property gold rush right on out of the state of California, I hear saw blades turning all over the neighborhood and wonder if this changing tide will somehow irrevocably alter Bernal’s magical blend. That thought does make me sad. But, moping around is for suckers, so I tear off those fear-of-gentrification pants, slap on my thinking cap and recollect . . .

When the New Wheel first opened, I thought maybe the mustachioed fixie army down in the flats would retrofit themselves with the power assist motors needed to climb Cortland and swarm our peaceful streets. Didn’t happen. When Four Star Video announced they were closing, I was bummed – and then Ken and Amy turned it into just about the greatest plant store, ever! When Sandbox Bakery opened their doors I thought, “Here come the snotty baristas and overpriced pastries” and — well, at least they installed some pretty comfortable benches!

And while its true that the Prize Pocket, library mural, the marmot, hilltop piano and wafting stench of Skip’s Tavern may have faded into the mists of time, you holdouts (and recent arrivals) shouldn’t fret — while there are certainly changes ahead, no matter who or what lives on this hill, that undefinable Bernal magic is forever. Bernal magic — oh, and Hunan Chef.

Thanks for the memories!
Laurel May

All the best, Neighbor Laurel, and welcome to the Bernal Heights Alumni Network.

PHOTO: Manchester and Pixel, by Laurel May

16 thoughts on “Departing Neighbor Writes Goodbye Note to Bernal Heights

  1. Beautifully said! However, what a loss for bernal that you are leaving! Best wishes to you in your transition to your new life!

  2. After 18 years in the city – six of them in Bernal, my family said good-bye in August. We’ve gained a lot – more space, better weather, shorter commutes and wonderful schools – but we miss Bernal – the hill, the people, the community. Its a special place.

  3. Wait… was that a slam on Sandbox? The pastries are expensive, true, but also delicious. And no one in there, barista or otherwise, has ever been snotty to me.

    • Wonderful food, delicious coffee, friendly staff and customers, and sweet furry dogs to pet while you’re waiting. Worth it!

      • Sandbox is a sweet neighborhood bakery.
        The Owners have truly invested in Cortland Avenue… New restaurant and the
        parklet. Many thanks to the Bradfords.

  4. Nice note. Curious where you’re heading. I often fantasize about what I could get elsewhere with the proceeds of selling my house, but I’m too attached to SF to actually leave.

  5. Ellsworth St will miss you guys, especially your cool fire displays on Halloween. Best of luck in your new adventures!

  6. Another positive spin is that the recent uptick in real estate prices hopefully helped you make a good chunk of money on the sale. Good Luck in your next adventure. My family and I saw you and you and your pet family on Cortland a while back and will miss being able to spot Pixel again!

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  8. How can a “shack” be worth so much money?? Desperate San Franciscans think the city is the “cat’s meow”; wow, what a rude awakening will occur once they travel to other parts of the world. Now BERLIN or STOCKHOLM might be worth the $$$ but frame shacks. Give me a break please.

  9. Pingback: RIP Laurel May, Former Neighbor, Honorary Chairwoman of the Bernal Alumni Network | Bernalwood

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