This Proposed Freeway Tunnel Under Bernal Heights Would Have Destroyed My Home


Courtesy of Eric Fischer, king of the map geeks, your Bernalwood editor was alerted yesterday about a 1941 map detailing a freeway proposal that would have required the construction of a 2945 foot-long automobile tunnel under Bernal Hill.

Unlike other unrealized plans to tunnel through our neighborhood, this scheme would have created a tunnel running underneath the most central parts of Bernal Heights, via Andover starting at Cortland on the south side, and exiting beneath Shotwell on the north:


On the bright side, the exaggerated side-cut elevation of Bernal Hill is rather cool:


There’s a lot of obvious things for everyone to dislike about this idea. Yes, of course, cutting the neighborhood in half and clogging it with smog-belching automobile traffic would have been terrible and all… but the real issue for me is that the northern portal of the Bernal Heights Tunnel would have been located on the exact location of my Precita Avenue home:

Indeed, it appears that the very spot where I write this sentence right now would have been appropriated to make way for a four-lane concrete slab carrying traffic in and out of the northern tunnel opening.

All in the name of progress, naturally.

What this means, of course, is that in some sort of alternate science fiction timeline, the tunnel project was approved and completed, resulting in the condemnation and demolition of my home. Which means I never ended up in Bernal Heights, and Bernalwood never existed, and we would not be enjoying this lovely day together.

Of course, in an alternate-alternate science fiction timeline, it’s also possible that I used a chronological wormhole to return to 1941 as a time-traveling NIMBY to prevent the construction of the Bernal Heights Tunnel from happening in the first place. It’d be kind of like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator, only I’d be armed with vast wads of inflation-appreciated cash and an intimate understanding of bureaucratic minutiae. (As an added bonus, I’d probably also warn them about Pearl Harbor.)

Or perhaps that’s not science fiction at all. Perhaps the only reason we are enjoying this lovely day together at all is because some Future NIMBY actually did travel back in time to prevent the tunnel from ever being built!

The mind reels…

PHOTOS: via the ever-fabulous Eric Fisher

14 thoughts on “This Proposed Freeway Tunnel Under Bernal Heights Would Have Destroyed My Home

  1. That idea was reintroduced in the 90’s, I think, to help Bayview with the sewage run-off. They were going to build a big pipe through Bernal that would take sewage from Bay View to Ocean Beach. That was the worst idea EVER! There was NO WAY Bernal was going to go for that. Sewage gas released from the top of the hill? I think not. Destabilizing bedrock? No way. It didn’t have a prayer.

  2. What makes Jennifer K. think that the sewer pipe under and gas vent on top idea ever went away; and that it will not be back?

    “The only big project left in the Clean Water Program is the Crosstown Transport tunnel. This tunnel, if built, will be a fifteen-foot diameter tube from Jerrold Street in the east to the Southwest plant. Much of it would be under Bernal Heights, Diamond Heights, and the other bedrock hills between the two plants. As currently designed, there would be only three entries to the tunnel: the two ends, and a gas-belch valve at the top of Bernal Heights. Residents of Bernal are fighting to stop the tunnel from being built, but Bayview residents are sick and tired of sewer effluent on their shoreline.”

  3. It’s a Time Tunnel. It exists in the place that is now that has ended before the beginning (paraphrasing Roger McGuinn).

  4. Given the era and the diagrams, it’s not really accurate to call this a freeway. This would have been a tunnel like the Stockton tunnel. Wouldn’t having cars go under the hill mean fewer cars (ie less noise, fumes, and inconvenience for pedestrians) on surface streets? Mission Street would be quieter if cars had an efficient alternative to driving down a shopping street.

  5. is this like that Bradbury butterfly thing?…you would not be here to tell us that you would not be here

  6. You should of herd the story’s my mom & dad & grandpa
    used to tell us about the hill & the river or lake down crescent st.
    by Farmers market ? My dad said when he was a kid they
    Used to go fishing there, & the house across the st. On Gates st.
    From us Used to have a rail road that they used for moving
    Wine that they made next door to us. It was a big family from
    Italy & they own most of the hill. The story’s I was told…..
    I should write this down to remember ???

  7. Craig: The proposal was for an 8 lane freeway plus 2 emergency lanes, as part of the Mission Parkway. That’s much wider than the Stockton tunnel. And the best way to limit traffic is not to build freeways, but rather to encourage mass transit, cycling, and walking.

  8. Pingback: Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog San Francisco

  9. I’m glad that your house wasn’t torn down. I’m glad that you live in Bernal Heights and put together this wonderful, neighborhood blog. And I’m glad we are all sharing this nice day together.

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