Wednesday: Another Design Review Board Meeting for Long-Delayed Infill Housing in Northeast Bernal Heights



It’s been some time since we’ve heard anything about the plan to build several new homes on the “secret lot” bordered by Hampshire, Peralta, York and Cesar Chavez in northeast Bernal Heights. An East Slope Design Review Board meeting about the project was last held in May 2014,  and that session was so contentious and so depressing that it prompted one Bernal neighbor to write a powerful analysis about the dark, NIMBY heart of San Francisco’s housing crisis.

Neighbor Margo lives in a home adjacent to the proposed development site, and she brings news us about another East Slope Design Review Board meeting to discuss this project, scheduled for this Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 7 pm in the Precita Valley Community Center (534 Precita Ave).

Neighbor Margo tells Bernalwood:

There’s another hearing coming up  about the infill development project in the interior lot bordered by Hampshire, Peralta, York and Cesar Chavez.

As far as I know, the project was stalled for about a year and a half (no idea why), and now the city has asked the owner and architect to go back to the East Slope Design Review Board with revised plans. Below is a note I sent to our neighbors.

Dear neighbors:

You probably got in your mailbox, as we did, a flyer inviting us to the Precita Neighborhood Center next Wednesday, Dec.9, at 7 pm to see revised plans for building in the interior lot behind our homes on Hampshire Street.

I called Terry Milne of the East Slope Design Review Board to find out what the revisions are, and he says the board doesn’t know much. The owner and architect were asked by the city to return to the neighborhood review board with revised plans. He doesn’t know if the revisions are big or small.

We plan to go to the meeting, and hope that others who are interested will go as well.

Here is some history and background, for newer neighbors:

Patrick Quinlan, a local contractor, has owned these two interior lots and an access lot on York Street for many years — he had plans to build on the interior lots before we moved here 28 years ago, in 1988.

According to its web site: “The East Slope Design Review Board was established in 1986 by order of the San Francisco Supervisors. For building projects within the East Slope Design Review Area, a letter of recommendation from the Design Review Board is required before the San Francisco Planning Department will accept any permit application.”

The design review board’s volunteer members solicit neighborhood comments, hold hearings on a project-by-project basis, and forward their recommendations.

About 15 years ago, the board heard arguments for and against Quinlan’s plan for 10 units (5 duplexes) on the two moderately steep interior lots now covered with fennel and ivy. As the plan advanced through the Planning Department pipeline, concerned neighbors retained land-use attorney Sue Hestor and testified in opposition at a hearing before an appeals board of the city Planning Commission. The commissioners rejected the development.

Then about 10 years ago, Quinlan proposed a modified plan for 8 units. The design review board heard comments by neighbors. There was opposition, but not as fervent as against the earlier 10-unit plan. As far as we know, those plans were in the pipeline when the economy collapsed in 2008. As you know, the vacant lots are still vacant.

The next plan, reviewed by the board in 2014, was for a gated community of 6 units: 4 three-story single-family houses on the two R-2 interior lots and 2 small townhouses on a structure erected atop the entrance tunnel and gate on the access lot on York Street. Quinlan installed story-poles to indicate the heights of proposed buildings on the interior lots, but after a year and a half, some of them are now askew.

Along the cliff-like slope on the north edge (toward Cesar Chavez) of the interior lots, the plans called for a large retaining wall topped by a private street/driveway that would end in a cablecar-style turntable to turn cars around.

At the board hearing on the 2014 plans, some neighbors supported the development, saying the plan dealt with many of the neighbors’ previous concerns, including the project’s density, sufficient parking, space for garbage cans, and fire safety. Others voiced concerns, including the stability of the steep hillside above the properties on Cesar Chavez Street, the density of auto traffic in an interior lot, potential changes in rain runoff during and after construction. One other open question is the apparent need for a homeowners’ association to maintain the common structures and areas: the retaining walls, the private street and parking spaces, trash storage area, automatic gate, and the car turntable.

The review board is now set to see “revised plans.” We’ll see what’s new on Wednesday.

34 thoughts on “Wednesday: Another Design Review Board Meeting for Long-Delayed Infill Housing in Northeast Bernal Heights

  1. Great photos, Todd — I had no idea how steep or tall that cliff towards Cesar Chavez was before I saw it from this perspective. If I was in those houses on Cesar Chavez I’d want to make sure the retaining wall and water runoff were up to snuff. But that seems solvable, and hopefully this lot can finally get some houses built on it.

  2. I read your blog quite frequently and understand that it represents the proto-libertarian viewpoint that many new residents to Bernal have brought with them. But is it possible for you to lay off the absurd name-calling? Opposing the development of this specific project does not make one a NIMBY.

    If they are Nimbies, then so are you and everyone else who expresses a view what our neigborhood should and should not look like.

    Why constantly try to split this neighborhood apart between those who have been here for many years and those who have recently arrived? The “Dark Heart” here is this web site, a mouthpiece for developers, landlords, techies, and the SF Chamber of Commerce; way too often running one-sided blow-jobs like this one, ridiculing any other point of view.

    I have lived within a block of the project for 30 years and, on balance, support it. But my neighbors who oppose the development are not Nimbies or “dark-hearted”. They care about their neighborhood and their families, and you should show them respect.

    You often write nice public service pieces about local residents and businesses. Stick to those. Lay off the divisive and didactic market-uber-alles advocacy which makes you seem like the loudest NIMBY in the hood.

    • YES. THIS. This blog has become a toxic addition to the neighborhood. The last time this guy wrote about NIMBYs, he also used the word “Nativist.” When I called him out on his vaguely racist language, he deleted my comment and took out the word “Nativist” from his post. Bernalwood despises longtime Latino residents and activists. He barely hides it anymore and I guarantee that this comment will be deleted too lol.

      • I wrote because I was quite taken aback by the racial implications of the term “dark Nimby heart”. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. I hope he does not delete these comments nor edit his original words. The honorable thing would be to defend them if he stands by them, or to understand that there are people who find this kind of taunting offensive and apologize. Let’s see what happens.

    • It’s funny because NIMBY means “Not in my backyard” and the objections are from people who, literally, don’t want this development in their backyard. I understand what you’re saying about name calling, but in this case it actually fits perfect.

      • I really do not believe the author meant NIMBY as literally as you interpreting it. The “dark Nimby heart” phraseology packs some pretty heavy “other” meaning — literally.

      • I’ll let Todd stand up for his own wording, but I can say as a longtime SF resident, the NIMBY situation is ridiculous. The bottom line is that people act selfish. They don’t want their view impacted, or they don’t want more cars taking up their parking spots, or they don’t want your home to be green. People who shout the loudest get their way in SF, and a lot of people think that sucks…not just Todd

      • Hey b: The Not in my Back Yard sentiment has been around San Francisco for decades. In the past the phrase has been used in many different contexts: for example, as a description of those who opposed housing for the homeless in the Haight and other neighborhoods. My guess would be if the project in question were to convert the property into homes for those living under the interchange, this site would be leading the charge against.

        You are right that people who “shout the loudest” get their way in SF. But money shouts the loudest here (AirBnB and their $7 million, Cowen and his pals, etc), not neighbors. If you work with your neighbors, it is easy to build in Bernal Heights. I have done so in Bernal myself (including removal of parking, partial view-blocking, etc.) with full support of all neighbors and the Design Review Committee.

        Neighbors here may be of strong opinion, but they are reasonable.

        Still, that’s not what is irksome in all of this. This web site calls opponents to this project — which include several Latino families who live immediately adjacent to three sides of it — the “dark Nimby heart” of San Francisco. You DO realize, don’t you, that there is a lot of strong sentiment about a certain industry segment that has moved into Bernal Heights. For tonal equivalency and balance, may be Todd can call it the “light-skinned me-first crowd” that is displacing Latino families.

        Still waiting on him to weigh in, though hearing that he deleted posts that were critical of his writing does not suggest a willingness to seek any kind of peace.

        PS to unfed: Yes, he was (kinda) quoting a different Bernal rez, someone he has quoted from more than once, championed in his wordpresses and essentially lifted racially tinged language from. It’s his web site. He does not need to perpetuate stupidity. Point still stands.

      • I hear you marcelo, and choosing to use the term “dark heart” was unfortunate. Frankly, its a term best left to describe vampires or Voldemort, neither of which live beside me on that lot (to my knowledge).

        I think both the NIMBYs and the MFMMM’s (Me First Mine Mine Mine’s) can be selfish & greedy. I guess which one is the more selfish & more greedy will depend on the specific circumstance. Given that this contractor has owned this property since the mid-80’s, I don’t get the impression that he’s being either greedy or selfish, but that’s coming from the perspective of someone who has not been directly engaged in this project.

      • marcelo,

        You are way, way out of line with your misreading of the term “dark … heart.” The racial context you’re inserting is entirely of your own doing.

        Go back and read the earlier post, whose author used the term, a phrase a friend of hers had used. It was devoid of racial context. Todd merely echoed a previous well written first person report on a design board meeting.

        So, go back and do that marcelo. Because you are completely full of shit at this point.

      • Ay-yi-yi.

        You really have to do some serious mental gymnastics to interpret the phrase “dark heart” as anything other than it’s *obvious* intended meaning–having ill will or bad intent. To accuse Todd of racism on the basis of this is both absurd and frankly just nasty.

        Marcelo–I think your claim that Todd would “lead the charge” against housing for homeless is contradicted pretty clearly by posts like these ( Unless you have evidence to show that his concern for poor seniors is greater than his concern for the indigent.

        Finally, Marcelo–instead of telling Todd what do with his blog, why don’t you start one of your own and share your opinions? Seriously–I think that would be the most productive response–and judging from some of the comments on Bernalwood, seems like there’s some interest in an alternative viewpoint.

        Seriously, It’s a free(ish) country; I like getting Todd’s perspective on public policy, and hope he continues sharing it.

    • Let’s be fair to Todd here, when he used the term “Dark Heart” he was quoting a post by another Bernal neighbor. Personally, I don’t think it’s a big deal, but if you do your beef isn’t with Todd.

    • Agreed!
      This blog is really good at being snarky, which is sad since it’s written by someone old enough to know better.

  3. Better yet, how about one of you and find an example of the term “dark heart” actually being used to talk about minorities in a pejorative manner? Good luck. Dark heart is dark heart. Meaning, sinister nature. So one person thinks that NIMBY voices using every last objection they know to resonate down at the planning department, whether “light and air,” “plant life,” “endangered fennel species,” what have you, is a bit disingenuous, and even sinister. So what? That’s all that was said. Stop playing the race card so much. You’ll probably actually need it one day, Chicken Littles.

    • Maybe reading comes hard to you. I am not playing a race card because, as I wrote, I support the building project. I just told the author to stop calling people names that are objectionable. The use of the word “dark” when a large percentage of the families that are potentially affected are Latino is not acceptable. It may be fine with you and your cubicle neighbors, it is just not something I want my family called under any circumstances. Entiendes imbecil?

      • yeah. go fuck yourself marcelo, you fake ass clown. “dark heart” has meaning. sorry you’re so fucking stupid as to read racism into every word that describes shades under the sun.

    • My apologies. In the original post I implied Mr. Lappin was single-handedly pitting old-time residents against newcomers through his blog. I now see that he gets lotsa help from his sycophants.

      I know it won’t get through to you. The term that was used was the “dark NIMBY heart”, in reference to opponents of a project that is seen to impact Latino families disproportionately. It is the equivalent of calling you and Lappin part of the “light-skinned me-first crowd” that is displacing lower-income families from the neighborhood.

      Lappin can express his libertarian views as much as he wants. It’s his blog, and he can cry here if he wants to. I’m just asking that he stop dividing our neighborhood with this garbage name-calling.

      To Dan: I’ve run several newspapers in my life, including a rather large weekly here. I am way past the start-up stage of life. But I will tell you this, your “why don’t you do your own blog line” is a little too much like “if you hate America, why don’t you move to Syria.” I think the guy does a community disservice with his words. That’s not fixed with MORE words on another site. It’s fixed by telling him to cut it out, and hopefully get others in Bernal Heights to convince him he should.

      • in reference to a project seen to affect Latino families disproportionately?

        No, that’s wrong to start with. Then you inserted whatever you brought to the table from misunderstanding a common literary descriptor. Then you took offense, based upon zilch.

        How about you make that case dude? How is this project even affecting Latino families disproportionately in the first place?

    • Is Todd going to delete this guy’s comments or what? Since he’s throwing around FU’s it should be cause to delete them all. Or does this help/represent the nbhd in some way?

      • @ Ernest,

        Who, me? Have another read. I told Marcelo he was full of, um, it. So one bad word. Then he proceeded to challenge my reading comprehension, when it is he who seemingly cannot read the word “dark” written by a white man without ascribing prejudice or racism. He said Todd should stop calling names, when none were called, and not by Todd who did not even insert the term. Then said something about cubicles and asked if I was an imbecile. So I told him off, yeah.

        OK, maybe too harsh. Fine, delete all the ones I used the F word in. I deserve that. My point stands.

  4. I had a much bigger problem with Todd’s use of the word “nativist” than I do with the quoted “dark NIMBY heart” used here, but I think Marcelo makes a valid point that the two terms were both used as pejoratives aimed largely at Latino families who are being displaced by rapid gentrification of their neighborhoods. I think we can and should be sensitive to that nuanced conflict, and we should be choosing our words carefully as a result.

    Generally the use of the term NIMBY is race- and culture-neutral; it refers to anybody who doesn’t want something they perceive as bad to happen to their neighborhood, their immediate environment, or their “backyard.” Some people think it’s a negative, all the time, but I think it really depends on your perspective.

    For example, the best defenders of critically endangered species are often NIMBYs — the folks who live nearby who walk the trails, watch the birds, play in the fields, etc. in which the species reside. Defenders of endangered species rely on these NIMBYs to sound the alarm as to harms to the local populations, and there are countless examples of species being saved because of the hard work of these NIMBYs. The NIMBYs of San Bruno saved the Mission Blue Butterfly from extinction by caring about what was happening in their backyards, for example.

    Another example can be found in toxic waste dumps. It’s almost always NIMBYs who first complain about the citing or dumping of toxic waste, and for good reason — they suffer the consequences and they know about it first. Good for the NIMBYs!

    And it’s been NIMBYs who have saved countless historical buildings and landmarks from the wrecking ball, sounding the alarm on destructive projects that would threaten what the NIMBY might call their own, but that the rest of us eventually recognized as a shared treasure.

    Are NIMBYs’ motivations always pure? No. Do they sometimes claim that an endangered species is going to be harmed, a toxic waste is present, or a building is a historical treasure when that’s not the case? Sure. Does that make all NIMBYs bad? Obviously not. Does the fact that some of the NIMBYs abuse the process mean that the entire process is bad? I don’t think so.

    Personally I’ve seen enough examples of great actions by NIMBYs that have done great things, including many that I thought were kind of over the line when I first learned of them, to automatically condemn all NIMBY activity. I’ll take the messy process in order to get the occasional (and in some places, frequently) result.

    But the folks commenting on this blog generally condemn away. Most folks seem to think NIMBYism is automatically, always, terrrible, and that the dollar should rule and that neighbors should have no say over any development. Some folks pay lip service to “bad projects being stopped” but then fail to recognize what it means to be able to stop bad projects. Stopping the really bad projects requires that the line be fuzzy, not bright. Sometimes good projects get bottled up in that fuzzy area, but most of the time the good ones make it through.

    Back to the Latino angle on these charges of NIMBYism: I’m fine with calling somebody opposing a project a NIMBY, regardless of their race or culture. Nativist is a serious problem, though, given the term’s anti-immigrant meaning. It’s hard to call Latino immigrants families who are defending themselves from economic displacement nativists. And I feel the same way about “dark heart.” It’s not sinister to try to protect oneself from economic displacement. Perhaps fighting against this infill project is a little removed from fighting against economic displacement, but perhaps not. But it’s not obviously sinister to me to raise quality of life issues for a new development project.

    Finally, the power dynamics are different but I’ll say a similar thing about marcelo’s use of terms like “cubicle neighbors.” I think this is equally ineffective name-calling.

    Let’s talk about the project and the good and the bad about the project and stop calling each other names while claiming to talk about the project. Is this a good spot for houses? Seems like it to me. Is this a good project? I don’t know yet — and I thank the neighbors for vigorously working to find out (both those neighbors in favor and those neighbors against).

    • Thanks for understanding and writing, Adam. Bernal Heights is not the neighborhood it once was, and no one expects it to be. We have a housing crisis in SF, and it has to be addressed on many different levels. As I said, I support this project (or at least I did until one of its intellect-starved backers came on here to spew profanities at me), but it does no one any good to use terms that can be seen as racially insensitive when about half the households on three sides of the project are Latino.

      Again, I recommend that Bernalwood do its best to present a balanced explanation of the issues affecting this community, advocating any position it wishes to support (I think most Bernalites can easily separate ideology from fact when presented evenly), but doing so respectfully, wiithout name-calling and other divisive measures.,

      And maybe it can do something about muzzling the boors that come around.

      • Oh, and I meant the “cubicle neighbors” bit as irony, as I don’t know if that brainiac works from a cubicle or in his shorts at home. (Yes, more irony, I know name calling does not help the situation. ButI guess I made the point.)

      • yeah right. keep on saying I’m dumb when you didn’t even know what “dark heart” meant. It’s not racially insensitive. It doesn’t speak to ethnicity or race whatsoever. But keep playing your little race card on the internet till the cows come home. The only point you made is that you’ll bend over backwards to read racism into places it doesn’t even exist. Six single family or RH2 vacant lots surrounded by probably not very many Latino folks actually, yet watch Marcelo play his race card. Never mind the area was probably mostly black and Samoan recently anyway, if we must talk about minority folks being displaced from the neighborhood. Heh. So forced. Go ahead with your bad self Marcelo. Like I said. So fake.

  5. To all the above – just shut up…the story is about infill and housing.

    Build the damn houses and be done with it.

  6. The author was just quoting some other neighbor and the term couldn’t possibly be understood in any other way?

    I guess no one’s heard of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. Hint: it involves a white man in Africa.

    • “Heart of Darkness” is about two white men in Africa, actually. One of whom, the exploiter, dies a pitiful death. The book is a deep critique of colonialism, and of London for that matter. Yes, it is century racist in its largely one-note depiction of Africans.

      Regardless, “dark heart” has widely understood meaning as a descriptor. If people interpret it based on their own navel gazing, then OK. That’s valid. To their belly buttons and them. It isn’t enough to go and put somebody on blast though, talking about “Dark NIMBY heart” “of my neighbors.”

      Because that’s inserting another thing, OK? That’s inserting “my neighbors,” and Bernal. That isn’t what was written. What was written was, ” …of San Francisco’s housing crisis.” NIMBY abuse of SF’s building processes happens all over town, and everybody knows it! Especially in more quote unquote, “white” parts of town.

      And again, on “Dark heart,” i’s a commonly used phrase.

      Shakespeare, in fact, used similar language all the time in sonnets especially. I googled and found one from Macbeth right away: William Shakespeare. “Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires.”

      • Are you this silly all the time, of just when a keyboard is nearby.

        No one has ever suggested that the term “dark heart” has not been used in other ways for many years and in many different ways. You are having trouble with your English descriptors. If I were to say that your ideas are typical of the “white male mind” (I did not say that, as you will surely accuse me of because it gets your “white male undies” in a knot), the “white” modifies “male”, not “mind” (and not “undies” either, for that matter). When you use the term “dark nimby heart”, it tells me the heart of a dark nimby, just like the similar phrase is used will be read by you as the mind of a white man..

        My point is not that I think there is intentional racism on the part of Bernalista Todd Lapinche, just that he keeps calling people names, and sometimes they feel truly offensive. Others have pointed to similar previous instances on this blog.

        So lil’ Kenny, YOU’RE not offended. I get that. But I am, and others are too. I don’t see race in everything as you accuse me of. But when I write in once after reading one too many times this kind of garbage on a web site I actually like for other reasons, you flew off the handle with unhinged profanities.

        Why are you so defensive?

        Maybe the answer is in other words from Shakespeare. This line from Hamlet is much more appropriate in this case: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” You sure are protesting enough to make methinks that, perhaps, Kenny Dojo = Todd Lappin.

        Just a thought.

  7. “When you use the term “dark nimby heart”, it tells me the heart of a dark nimby”

    right. looks like even more of a reach by you when you break it down into your own biased operative. Ain’t nobody talking like “dark person this” “dark person that,” bud. sheesh. Bad reading is the best I can say about that.

    what about the “san francisco” part?

    you also somehow inserted “Latino neighbors in and around Northeast Bernal Heights” when what was written was “San Francisco.” It’s a citywide thing, it’s colorblind, and you freaking know it.

    So again, real fake stuff.

    As far as “unhinged profanities” and yelling at you. Go back and read it again. I first said you were full of “$*it.” then you called me like 18 disses in one paragraph, imbecile, cubicle, blah blah, and then I let you have it.

    — Not Todd

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