Six Timely Thoughts About Bernal Heights from Neighbor Darcy of Heartfelt


Neighbor Darcy Lee, a resident of Alemanistan and owner of Heartfelt on Cortland, recently shared some miscellaneous thoughts about the July 21 Epicurean Trader vandalism incident and several other matters of topical concern to the people of Bernal Heights:

I read all these comments when [the vandalism] first happened and I just read them again. Because this vandalism hit retail I am chiming in:

1. Retail takes long hours and many days a week. I have worked 7 days a week for years and am now down to 6 days. There is no whine tone here, because I love what I do. I have thought long and hard at what the graffiti person was trying to express, and it seems that it was aimed at the customer that shops at these posh shops, and the storefront or what the business symbolized got caught in the crossfire. Thus I loved the comments that said ‘Hey I do not make a ton of money but I appreciate a business that is selling food from the little makers that are concerned with how we farm and manufacture stuff affects the environment and our bodies.’ Same with Pinhole Coffee; I think we could not have landed a more kindcontributor to the neighborhood, or a more concerned-with-the-world kind of person. (ie. JoEllen) My mantra here, bear with me, is that it is important to not assume new is bad.

2. Random vandalism to prove a misdirected point is lame.

3. Change happens within a city. I know a family that lives in the ‘burbs and rent out their family home in Bernal. They inherited it from working class parents and grew up in the small Bernal house. They maintain it, but they have not remodeled, and they rent it out at less than market rent (not way less, but less). Their mildly disabled sister lives in an inlaw unit in the back. The three kids feel this extra income has allowed them to buy their own homes outside of the city. They have no desire to live here, and they do not get why it is appealing. But they are respectful of what the changes in the neighborhood have brought them. The son told me that their parents, both from Mexico and now deceased, would be very surprised if they knew.

4. The other day on the radio I heard a short clip about Japan and why they are now in financial trouble. Excuse my summary if I got the facts wrong, but as I heard it, Japan loved itself too much. Japan thought it was invincible, and that it would always be the leader in selling the world shiny, modern stuff. (think Walkman) I think we in Bernal love ourselves too much, and we are trying to hold onto something that is already gone. Thus we stay in this sort of negative rant-mode. And SF, too. This way of thinking lets us hold to an ideal in our minds instead of looking around us. Walk the streets of Bernal. We are not just shiny dark grey and black homes; there are lots of different stories within our midst. Volunteer at the local public schools, visit our library, go to the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, visit the farm on Alemany, chat with your neighbor who is elderly and ask if they ever need help. I find this much more productive towards preserving what you miss as opposed to constantly whining what you loved is gone. I found this article Todd posted on Facebook to be fascinating.

5. Some say Airbnb is bad, because it takes apartments off the market.  Some say Airbnb is good, because it allows folks to get extra income to rent out rooms and stay in the ‘hood. Regulations are good, they make it so landlords cannot rip off tenants. Some tenants take advantage of this, so some landlords do not want to get anywhere near the rental market after a bad tenant. As a person who works on the street in Bernal, the stories we hear are endless and every point of view is expressed.

6. If you insist you are right, then someone else has to be wrong. Perhaps it is more important to take a breath and listen. I hear you Cortland graffiti person, I am curious about you, and I hate that you expressed yourself this way, but I hear your frustration. There are so many stories out there.

PHOTO: Neighbor Darcy Lee outside Heartfelt, December 13, 2014. Photo by Telstar Logistics

56 thoughts on “Six Timely Thoughts About Bernal Heights from Neighbor Darcy of Heartfelt

  1. I say this often, but it bears repeating: Heartfelt is a neighborhood treasure, and Miss Darcy is an enormous reason why. Thank you. ❤

  2. yes. yes. I agree. Miss Darcy is wonderful and her store has added a lot to our shopping area. Thank you! (we’ve lived in Bernal for 35 years on Eugenia Ave)

  3. you 1% need to get real. what is the big deal over a little graffiti in a city? you millionaires are hated all over the world, so what is the big deal? are you in such denial and so out of your minds that you think you are loved. it reminds me of the last time you all went off on this trip , it started with how it is perfectly fine that people who are born here are forced out but the millionares who move here must be treated with the utmost consideration as they are neighbors and locals. what a load of crap. you are hated all over the world because of this type of high handed bullshit.
    you all should be grateful for the graffiti. someone is expressing themselves in a non-violent manner. they could do it with a gun instead! you could come out of your million dollar house one morning and have someone shot you in the head because they hate you. now that would be a real tradegy, rather then a fake tradegy of graffiti. do you donkies know where you are? in an American city graffiti is common, this is not the gated community you dream of.

    and I have to say it, it is terribly foolish to think of the cause of the Japanese economic crisis is excessive self luv. please . get real

      • hey this is the nice version. the rude version has been edited down, ie donkies from 1% donkie motherfXXkers. see i am a real nice person 🙂 it is funny, all the hateful evil wicked shit the millionaries who come into this neighborhood are responsible for and you worry about me being nice : ) pretty weak. but the standard for this blog.

      • Yes, how dare all these evil, wicked new people try to … live here.

        You sound nice. And not at all mentally unstable.

      • Could someone please tell me what a “donkie motherfXXer” is? Is it some sort of hybrid animal? Is it something scientific? I bet it’s a new science animal that I don’t know about/can’t possibly understand on account of my attending liberal arts school and having ovaries

        Thanks neighbor Aaron for teaching me new science. I was put off by the scary rant words, but you’ve taught me that every deranged cloud has a silver lining! Donkie motherfuXXer science animals FTW.

    • As someone who probably would be considered a gentrifier, I think “1% donkie motherfXXkers” is classic and should take the place of “Fiesta on the Hill.”

      • since you guys like it sooooooooo much, you should hold a contest, how many ways can you say “1% donkie motherfucker” without it sounding like a “rant”. it is so important that we are all nice at all times.

    • It’s not like violence *or* property destruction are the only valid methods of communication. Why can’t we have a productive dialogue, as Darcy and this blog is suggesting? The fact that you are commenting here and adding your thoughts proves that you believe it to be a useful forum; why can’t the graffiti-er also channel their energy this way, instead of at the expense of a small business?

      In my view, the graffiti (vandalism, actually – sure, graffiti exists in a city, but this was not simple tagging or street art, it was targeted) did its job and we’re all talking now. So please don’t dismiss this ensuing conversation as you seem to be doing, by saying it could be worse. So could everything! Doesn’t mean it couldn’t also be better for everyone.

      Even if I or others disagree with you, the fact that we can reply to each other here means we have a chance of getting our views heard and makes this a more useful conversation than either violence or graffiti, which are blunt, one-way channels that allow no follow-up. So, Aaron, what’s your story? And what’s the graffiti-er got to say? You have my and the community’s ear, for now. Take advantage.

      • Actually graffiti can be subtle and it can allow for follow-up (and back and forth).

        I suggest you take a trip to Berlin if you want to see how graffiti and civilized society can coexist – it’s pretty interesting to walk down the blocks and take it all in.

      • terasita – hello
        I agree completely about violence or property damage not being the best way to communicate. what I found offensive is how many people in the neighbor live in a fantasy world of the gated community where a little witty graffiti is a terrible outrage when really it is nothing but a triffle. if that. I found it stupid and boring for soooooooooooooo many people to call names and make it into a totally absurd cause, as if the “bernal village” is not part of a city, and every American city has garaffiti. I think the garafiti head should be applauded for his/or her creativity and wit, I mean it was really funny. it came down so fast that I did not see what was on the coffee house. but how terrible can it be when it get wiped out in a matter of minutes? I know the 1%think they are beyond criticism, as this list constantly shows. if you want to have a discussion with all the neighbors you should do it someplace that dose not have the reputation as the fox news for the 1%

    • May your home, car and belongings be covered in someone’s tags for as long as you hold them dear. Then, maybe you’ll understand why having your stuff pissed on by someone else sucks.

    • I cleared $38K last year after taxes, live in Bernal, and I thought the tagging was dumb. Defend whichever position you take, just do it without all the filler. You can say your piece without the 1% rhetoric and all that, right?

      My other thought about that tag was that it was pretty clearly done with a $13 bottle of high pigment Montana Gold. Talk about excessive self-luv; Rustoleum’s, what, four bucks?

    • They have free mental health services in the city. You shouldn’t be so angry that the new neighbors who wemt to college got a good job and where able to buy their dream home. I’ve lived in bernal 29 years (my whole life)I’ve seen bernal go from crap to something incredible the people who don’t see change in a positive way like you make the whole neighborhood come down if you embrace and be nice and just say hello they’ll be nice to you, I know that it seems ridiculous because you might be moving we’re getting evicted but maybe try taking a class maybe try getting a better job just try you don’t have to be so angry because you’re broke you don’t have to say people getting shot you sound extremely violent and I would be completely afraid to even leave my house because of the comment you just made, I don’t understand why you hate people you probably have never met is it your mediocracy or your failures in life. Anger amd violence never win or achive anything

      • it is funny how you think the people who once lived here are crap but now that rich white folks are here it is incredible. don’t worry about me, I do not own guns and I never ever commit felonies of any kind, at any time and at any place for any reason. your fear is blinding you. the point was that there are real issues and fake issues. getting shot would be real and tragik, but graffiti in a American city is just part of daily life. of course rational discussion is always better but with so many people immedaitly dismissing any oppion not there own as insane or thru character assaination, maybe a little steam is a good thing. maybe let go of the fear and judgment and start your conversation there. is greed nice? why should I put my comments it a nice form when you are going to lie and dismiss them? why not just add a little heat right at the beginning? that way it is clearer. and lets keep it real, who are you to tell me who I am or should be? not very nice : )

    • Got into a nice college as his parents expected but soon flunked out and has been rationalizing it as hard as he can ever since.

      • ahahaha How many times have I seen this comment? and Teresita wonders why the graffiti-er doesn’t just express him/herself on this blog….

    • yeah right dude. people love ugly ass tags the world over. get a clue. that shit was toy fakeness. a real graf writer would’ve slapped that toy. you’re the one who’s fake, goin off on here about shooting people and whatnot. fake.

      • Kenny – hello
        if by fake you mean it was a lame fucked up asshole rant I would agree with you. there were to many issues all mixed up together when all I really wanted to do was yell a big fuck you. the other issues should have been addressed seperatly, if at all, and if I wanted to be coherent. and without a doubt I need a better metaphore. that fell on its face. my rant should be interpreted as contempt, mockery and sarcasm, more about the spirit then the actual tag. what I like was changing the name to epicuran traitor for the 1% (from trader). it really worked for me. it was less about that store then about the whole neighborhood. to be honest if it was not “toy fakeness” I probably would not of liked it. i like the graffiti from 30 years ago when the punks scralled on the wall like dumb children “eat the rich” and “die yuppie scum”. they were so crude you probably could not call them a toy but a drunk retarded child who did not know how to write english. i liked the directness and power and impact they had. still, I wonder why red paint did not read well on a dark wall?

  4. Well said Darcy! I love your store and especially Kicker, your darling parakeet. I appreciate your thoughtful insights and balanced perspective. Change happens whether some of us like it or not.

  5. As always, Darcy has the perfect combination of philosophical and political balance to her commentary. Darcy, please put your commentaries together and publish a book: Kick-ass philosopher/shop owner of Bernal Heights.

  6. Overall I enjoyed the tone of this piece.

    I’ll have to disagree with the idea that “regulations are good.” That depends on which side of the regulation you are on. When you’re a tenant, the regulations are empowering. When you are a landlord, those same regulations take away control of your investment.

    For example, an elderly landlord of a single family home that is being rented month to month (for example the lease expired after a year), cannot sell the home until the tenants decide to vacate or are motivated to vacate through higher rent or an Ellis act eviction, and/or a cash payout.

    That strikes me as burdensome to the property owner, but for most people what’s fair is dependent on which side of the equation you are on.

      • There’s no doubt it can be done, but is usually costly for the landlord. Once you’re renting, it’s the tenants’ house until they choose to leave.

      • “Once you’re renting, it’s the tenants’ house until they choose to leave.”

        Wait, what? You’re talking about a single family home here, which is not subject to rent control. You can legally remove a tenant from a SFH any time you want simply by raising the rent to astronomical levels.

        I know you have to know this, because you commented on an article describing a famous example:

      • You’re wrong that a single family home is not covered by rent control. It’s just a different set of provisions.

        The situation you cite was different in that the owner lived in the home and rented out rooms.

      • From the SF tenants union site:

        Single Family Homes Including Condos Have Limited Rent Control Coverage

        You do not have full rent control protection if you live in a single family home (a single family home with an illegal in-law unit counts as a 2-unit building) or a condominium and you (and your roommates) moved in on or after January 1, 1996. While these units do not usually have limits on rent increases, they do have “just cause” eviction protection (unless otherwise exempt for reasons such as above), meaning you can only be evicted for one of the just causes.

        Tenants can only be evicted for one of 16 “just causes.” Most of these deal with allegations the tenant can dispute (e.g., tenant is violating the lease) but some are “no-fault” like owner move in or an Ellis Act eviction. See the Evictions section for more information on evictions.

  7. I find Darcy’s comments to be refreshingly balanced. I completely agree about the SF rants about the “good ol’ days,” and the perspective of the inherited home or AirBNB renter. The reality is the “good ol’ days” weren’t good for everyone, and change is going to happen whether we’re ready for it or not. Thank you Darcy for lending your rational voice to the conversation!

    • I think it is not about the good ol days but the changing nature of our city and neighborhood. bernal used to be a diverse working class neighborhood. that is over here and in sf. there is no room for workers or really anyone that is not very rich. this has become a city for corperations and the super rich. that is what I miss from my youth, to have space to exist and live. even if I had to hustle and bust my ass. it not about how good the old days were but that it was a diverse city for many different people from many different backrounds. money was never easy here, sf has always been a hard town that ate her children, but now it is something much more sick and very very sad

      • todd – hello
        to place blame is hard. at the end of ww2 the powers that be decide that sf was going to turn into a corperate city for the rich. this was written openly in redevlopement documents that can be reviewed today. of course in 1950 male wasps ran cooperate America, but since then we have had many revolutions that changed America and San Francisco. civil rights, feminist. gay, and industrial-techno. and yet here we are with that original plan that has come to pass. blame everyone? no one? what good does blame do? with our current crop of leaders all the plans do nothing to change this sad social reality. just go along in a different style, but gentrification is sure to continue. there seems to be too much money to be made. at least that seems to be all the plans I have seen. one thing that I find soooooooo offensive is the lie that this neighboorhhod was crap or shit and now it is great.
        it makes me want to scream fuck you at your list as I see one version or another here all the time. this has always been a great neighborhood, ethnicly diverse working class. calling my people crap or shit is really hateful and offensive. you know it was always great because that is why soooooooooooooooo many people have moved here. but this lie covers the actions of the rich and justifies gentrification and allows the rich to dismiss people as crap people rather then human beings that deserve respect. they can come here and do what they like and shit all over you and they are the savior that cleaned up the neighborhood rather then gentrified it and ruined its character. another version of this lie ties into rich peoples fear of crime. the “Cortland was a shooting gallery” story. why can no one show me any evidance of this is based in reality of any kind? I have never seen this in all the years I have been here. if its true why can no one show me details of any kind?? it is rather absurd. rich white folks stopped the crime and saved us all. hey if you believe that I have a bridge for you all to invest in.

  8. I’m a newbie here–less than two years–but am finally in the city I’ve ached to reach since I first visited in 2005. I make far, far less than most of my neighbors, but my partner makes more than I do and we were very lucky to be able to buy a tiny TIC here. We love it, and didn’t know the previous Bernal at all. Like many people who buy their first house, we aimed to buy a place we could afford and happened to find one here. All our neighbors are awesome and welcoming, and the only time I get the impression of unwelcome is when I venture into online discussions or see the place I go to buy suckers for my nieces and nephews very dumbly tagged.

    So thanks for this! It’s good to hear, as a newbie. Also, this made me laugh because I didn’t know it was a thing that people other than us noticed: “We are not just shiny dark grey and black homes; there are lots of different stories within our midst.” Ha! As much as grey/black seems to be the new it thing, don’t worry you guys: our place is, and will remain, the calmest sunny yellow I’ve ever seen. Newcomers: we’re not all atonal!

  9. I love that somebody spending 30 seconds writing “banal hill” has caused so much discord in our utopia.

  10. Bernal Heights has great people and great stores, restaurants and bars. Keep it all coming. Bernal Hill just gets better all the time.

  11. I was evicted from my idyllic happy Bernal single family home by a real estate speculator in 2011 while seven months pregnant. I miss Bernal a lot. A lot. But the good news is I’m making cool community with neighbors in Oakland now. And I spend less money on coffee. 🙂 thanks to the wonderful people of Bernal who keep it cool, hope to see you all again in other places.

  12. Excellent article, valid points.
    I have been living in Bernal Heights since Oct 2000. Bought a home on the south slope. Happy to see the area has greatly improved, especially on Cortland Ave!
    People seem to forget that not too long ago Bernal Heights, especially Cortland Ave, was a shooting gallery. Between the various gangs, the violence took its toll. BofA wanted to leave the area. Fortunately, Liberty Cafe & Wild West opened early 1990s which started the good change on the street & brought businesses like Heartfelt, Progressive Grounds, Good Life, etc. to the fold.
    Look at Precita Park – Vastly improved with new people coming into the neighborhood. Back in the day, the Precita Park Café was known as ‘the drugstore’.
    The graffiti is vandalism. No cause, good reason for it to be done. On the other hand, at least the person did not torch the building like the guy did to the the Mission’s Gay Pride mural.

    • pamela- hello
      my point exactly. the difference between arson and spraypaint is huge. I have to ask where you got you information about Cortland being a “shooting gallery”. you mean bullets rather the dope? I have been here going on 50 years and I have never seen that. can you tell me more. like the incident(S) details and the dates? where did you get this information?

  13. In response to the posting of this video I was going to write “Racism much?,” but decided not to bother.

    I too really like Heartfelt, and agree with what Darcy wrote. I agree with most of the views expressed above. But I also agree with “aaron”‘s basic point (if not her/his prose stylings).

    All three of these things can be true – That Bernal has changed dramatically, in many ways for the better. That there are many “losers” as well as “winners” as a result of these changes who fall, not fully but partially, into different socio-economic and racial categories. And that these changes, if they continue along current trend lines, will transform Bernal along with the rest of SF into a city devoid of the very character and attributes many of us moved here for in the first place.

    I like having a Heartfelt on Cortland, I don’t mind having an Epicurean Trader (nothing personal, and I shop there from time to time), but I don’t want to live in a neighborhood or a city that no longer has room for a Skip’s Tavern, either. To put a finer point on it, I don’t want to live where artists, non-profit workers and the working class can no longer afford to, or where it no longer feels welcoming and comfortable for the diversity of inhabitants I used to see at Skip’s and don’t often see at great little shops providing much appreciated local, organic or fair trade products.

    Times, and cities change. Change is often good. But the changes we are seeing around the world, in the Bay Area and – especially – in our own Bernal Heights are reflective of (not the cause of, reflective of) deep and growing patterns of structural inequality that we know to be fundamentally destructive of social cohesion and of community. I, along with most of us I think, want as much social and economic diversity in our neighborhood as possible. We are moving away from that though, and many on the “losing” side (and some on the winning side – we bought a house here in 1997 with $30k down) aren’t comfortable with it at all.

    Finally, I agree that there are more creative ways to express understandable fear and resentment about these profound changes than what happened to Epicurean Trader. But there are more violent and destructive ways too. In SF, protesters blocked the Google Bus for a few hours. In France in June, “Irate taxi drivers blocked roads, burned tires and attacked drivers who they thought were working for Uber, the ride-hailing company, during a day of protests…”).

    If economic forces continue to exacerbate income and wealth inequality, along with class and other resentments, and this is compounded by impacts of climate change which we know fall disproportionately on poor and already vulnerable communities, social and political violence will certainly grow. To my mind, it won’t be pretty and it won’t often be good, but it will be understandable, and in some cases at least, not always illegitimate. I don’t like what happened to our neighbor Epicurean Trader, and to our little community. But I don’t like what’s happening to our world and to our global community either, and I think, in some ways, these are all part of the same conversation.

    • You were going to write “Racism much?” but instead you decided to write “Racism much?” ???

      That sentence has me really confused…. and is a terrible start to an otherwise interesting comment.

      Please, please, please explain the accusation of racism.

      It’s a great song, and the glory of graffiti is God’s alone.

      Again, please, please, please explain the accusation of racism.

      • Sorry if I misinterpreted your posting. The video of Meyhem and NYC taggers was jarring to me, in the context of a discussion of the message on Epicurean, and seemed to hold implications that may not have been intended. I think I’ve been a bit traumatized by some comments coming from (a minority within) the Bernalwood community in the past, around Alex Nieto’s killing and other racially charged incidents. Again, my apologies if I got your intent wrong.

    • Thank you, Mark.

      I bought my little house in Bernal 30 years ago. It was a neighborhood I could afford with great diversity of race and class and immigration status. Like me, my neighbors were parents, teachers, artists, social workers, etc. Since then I have watched the Hill change steadily, along with the City itself, first into a place for the very rich and the very poor, and lately into a place where only the rich can afford to live (alongside people like me who have not yet “cashed out”). It’s an odd and sad feeling to know that if I were to come to San Francisco today as the person I was 30 years ago (a city employee with no family inheritance), I could never afford to rent (let alone buy) a house in my neighborhood.

      I miss the mix–of classes, ethnicities, etc. And I also miss the increasingly scarce voices of people like you who look at our neighborhood issues in the context of the big picture and see the system in which “economic forces. . .exacerbate income and wealth inequality, along with class and other resentments . . .compounded by climate change.” This perspective, I think, can initially frighten people and make us feel powerless. But speaking out as you and Darcy and others have done here does the opposite by reminding us that community, working for the common good, standing up for what’s right, is part of the heritage of our hill, once know as Red Hill, and is worth remembering and being inspired by.

  14. OK Mark R – I feel you. I remember the Nieto discussions and the Calle 24 discussions on here and they definitely trend that way.

    But I was taken aback because I happened to be listening to that song – I’m a huge Meyhem fan – while reading these comments and the intent was to express positivity around graffiti (a possibility foreclosed by most of the comments on this event) and that for many it’s an addictive form of self-expression and for many others a source of inspiration.

    Something along the lines of right and wrong isn’t as cut and dry as the legal system would like us to think and something along the lines of truly putting yourself in someone else’s shoes….

  15. Darcy, well said and I echo all those who say you are a treasure for the community and everyone who knows you. What I want to add to this discussion is that regardless of how easy it is to remove tagging, the message on the Epicurean Trader was hurtful to the owners who are just trying to make a living in the neighborhood where they work and provide something good to the neighborhood. They don’t deserve to be the target of hostility.

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