Bernalwood 2015: The Year in Superlatives


It’s the last few hours of December 2015, so let’s take a moment to review some of The Most Mostest Moments that happened in Bernal Heights this year.

Most Iconic Celebration of Marriage Equality

Marriage Equality0016

On the morning when the Supreme Court established marriage equality as the law of the land in all 50 states, Neighbor Valerie shared this magnificent photo taken atop Bernal Hill. “Love always wins,” Valerie said — and she’s so right. (June)


Most Amazing Ad Hoc Effort to Restore a Doomed Bernal Treasure


There was great sadness when we learned that the City planned to demolish the structures at the historically symbolic Esmeralda Slide Park because decay had rendered them structurally unsound. Luckily for all of us, however, Neighbors Nancy and Joan joined forces to sound the alarm, energize the City’s dense bureaucracy, and rally volunteers to restore the Slide Park and make it better than ever. Bonus Prize: In September their heroic efforts were recognized with a San Francisco Beautiful Award. (June to September)


Most Mind-Blowing Bernal Rainbow Alert in the History of Bernal Rainbow Alerts


Rainbow sightings in Bernal Heights are a blessedly common occurrence, but the Rainbow Alert that happened on the morning of Feb. 27, 2015 so uncommonly vivid and exceptionally euphoric that even the double rainbows had double rainbows.  Afterward, it took several weeks for the Citizens of Bernalwood to clean up all the unicorn glitter left behind by the prismatic barrage.


Most Inspiring Reminder That Life Is Best Lived Large


Neighbor Bernice Van Eckhardt from Cortland (at Elsie) died in January at age 99. By the time she moved to Bernal in 1972,  she’d already enjoyed several enviable decades in 20th century San Francisco — including several years spent living in a  bohemian penthouse atop the Phelan Building downtown. As we wrote in her obituary, Bernice “was clearly an expert at the fine art of living, and her decision to settle down in a Bernal Heights farm house was just the final chapter in a lifetime spent living well.”


Most Unsettling Story That Only Gets More Unsettling With the Passage of Time


In June,  San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced that the four SFPD officers involved in the March, 2014 shooting death of Cortland resident Alex Nieto on Bernal Hill would not face criminal charges as a result of the incident. There is evidence to suggest that Nieto’s behavior that evening was highly erratic and possibly violent, but nevertheless; Given everything we’ve  learned about the conduct of police in situations that result in the death of people of color — in San Francisco and elsewhere — it’s tragic that we may never know what really happened when the SFPD encountered Alex Nieto on Bernal Hill.


Most Overdue Introduction to a Bernal Institution That’s Been Here for 60 Years


Our local Mosque, The Islamic Center of San Francisco (ICSF), has  been on the corner of Crescent and Andover since 1959, but it maintains a very low-profile.  That changed this year, after Bernalwood interviewed Bernal native and lifelong attendee Zishan Safdar to introduce Bernal neighbors to our local mosque. The outpouring of welcome and neighborly cheer that resulted from the post culminated in the mosque’s first-ever Open House for the Bernal community. (September and November)


Most Depressing Discovery About the Long Lines at Our Local Safeway


The ridiculously long checkout lines at our local Safeway on Mission Street are a frequent source of complaint, but the saddest thing of all was the grim discovery that Bernal neighbors were complaining about the long lines at our local Safeway as far back as 1972. As a Bernal Journal writer wrote back then:

I am still mad – for me, and everyone around here who continually has this frustrating time waste wait at our store. The faces in the lines seem to say, “it’s always been like this; we’ve ALWAYS had to wait.”



Best Reminder That There Was Life Before the Long Lines at Our Local Safeway


Since the line situation at our local Safeway is probably hopeless, it’s soothing to visualize the scene from an earlier time, before our local Safeway was even an idea. This 1904 photo taken on Virginia looking toward Mission contains so many vivid details that you can spend lots of time exploring it — say, on your mobile phone, while waiting on line at our local Safeway. (April)


Most Over-Passionate Way to Demonstrate That Bernal Heights Is for Lovers 


They were young, and they were in love, and they were determined to consummate their affections. That’s what the SFPD learned after arresting two not-so-bright lovers who smashed through the gate on Bernal Hill to drive their car up the access road near Sutrito Tower. The summary of the incident in the SFPD crime newsletter was delightfully deadpan-hilarious. (March)


Highest-Profile Way to Turn a Local Family Feud Into a Citywide Media Spectacle


A citywide media frenzy ensued when Neighbor Deb Follingstad was given notice that the rent for her Bocana apartment was being hiked from $2145 to $8900 a month— a cruel 315% increase. But the story of real estate woe morphed into a tale of sibling pathos when KQED reporter Dan Brekke revealed that the rent increase could be traced to a long-simmering feud within the Lama family over how to divide the estate they inherited after their father passed away. (March)


Most Promising Movie By Bernal Heights Filmmakers That We Haven’t Seen Yet


Bernal filmmakers Joe Talbot and Jimmie Fails first made a splash when the teaser for their film, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” won the “Best of Bernal” award at the 2014 Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema festival. In 2015 the duo focused on raising funds to turn the idea into a feature-length film, and they got off to a great start by crushing their Kickstarter goal in May and garnering plenty of national media attention along the way. Our fantasy: A gala opening night screening of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” at the restored New Mission Theater, sometime soon. (May)


Hottest New Restaurant Opening of the Year in Bernal Heights


When we first learned that the new Old Bus Tavern on Mission near Valencia would serve house-made beer and chili, the concept sounded like standard-issue brewpub fare.  How wrong we were. Instead, founders Jimmy Simpson, John Zirinsky and Bennett Buchanan serve modern, sophisticated Southwestern cuisine that garnered rave reviews from the Michael Bauer, among many others. Added Bonus: Thrillist just named the Old Bus Tavern San Francisco’s Best New Opening of 2015,  lamenting that “the only thing we don’t like about [Old Bus Tavern] is that we don’t live right next door.” Lucky us; we do.


Funniest Indication that Bernal Heights Real Estate Has Become Completely Absurd


It was a telling reflection of our ridiculous real estate market that the video created to sell 52 Mirabel was a comedy that featured Mercedez Munro and Katya Smirnoff-Skyy — two glamorous San Francisco drag queens — serving as tour guides. But darling, who are we to judge?


Most Boneheaded Way to Address Our Housing Crisis


San Francisco faces a chronic housing shortage because we haven’t been building nearly enough new homes to accommodate our growing population. Nevertheless, D9 Supervisor David Campos spent much of 2015 trying to outlaw the construction of market-rate housing — first in the Board of Supervisors, and then with a ballot initiative called Proposition I. Both efforts failed, which was a big victory for common sense, but a big waste of time and energy for everyone else who seeks real solutions to San Francisco’s housing crisis.


Most Unexpected Indication That The Times, They Are A-Changin’


It’s hard to say if the November 2015 election results in Bernal Heights reflected the crudeness of the propositions on offer, or Bernal’s changing demographics, or some combination of both. Nevertheless, when the votes were tallied, Prop F (the anti-Airbnb initiative) and Prop I (the Mission moratorium) passed in Bernal by only very slim margins, with several Bernal precincts rejecting each. (November)


Most Unrealistic Reality TV Episode About Bernal Heights (Which Was Still Great for Our Street Cred)


In July, Bravo network’s “Million Dollar Listing San Francisco” focused on a realtor trying to sell a perfectly lovely home in South Bernal. ““We’ve got a great house in a crap neighborhood,” the realtor complained. Normally we might be inclined to take offense, but this is “reality TV” after all, so we don’t expect things to be realistic (Donald  Trump notwithstanding). Yet in a paradoxical way, Bernalwood reasoned that the high-profile dis was actually a blessing in disguise: “This week, a million Americans learned that respectable, high-achieving people want nothing whatsoever to do with Bernal Heights. Which, of course, can only mean… WE ARE FUCKING COOL AGAIN!” 


Best DIY Rescue of a Neglected Patch of City Property


When squalor overtook a neglected piece of City-owned land at the corner of  Ellsworth an Bernal Heights Boulevard, a heroic group of Bernal volunteers joined forces with DPW to clean up the mess and make the spot beautiful again. Very inspiring. (January)


Most Sociable Encounter with a Celestial Phenomenon

When a rare super “blood moon” lunar eclipse filled the night sky, several hundred neighbors gathered on Bernal Hill to laugh, oogle, peek through telescopes, and partake of the awe-inspiring celestial spectacle. The next super blood moon lunar eclipse lunar eclipse happens in 18 years, so we look forward to seeing you all again in 2033. (September)

24 thoughts on “Bernalwood 2015: The Year in Superlatives

  1. Interesting that your boneheaded attack on Campos for trying to pass Proposition I is directly followed by an item that shows that the majority of Bernal voters who voted in the last election wanted it to pass.

    Happy Gregorian New Year,


    PS: Perhaps you’ll just refuse to post this comment on your blog like you did my last one.

    • I don’t understand what’s so notable about that Stardust; are you implying that Todd should only express opinions that conform to the local majority view?

      BTW, it’s not just Todd and I that agree that Prop I was boneheaded. Virtually every economist–on the left or the right–agrees that this Prop I would have almost certainly made things worse for the very people that it purported to help. (c.f. Paul Krugman, Enrico Moretti, etc.)

      Maybe one reason Prop I and the like have support here is that Bernal is about 50% owner occupied housing, and anti-development policies like these are hugely beneficial to homeowners–in purely financial terms, anyway.

    • “the majority of Bernal voters who voted in the last election wanted it to pass”

      A bunch of Bay Area voters want all new housing in the Bay Area built further away from them; film at 11.

    • Stardust, as in the noted economist, Harold J. Starduski? How wonderful to hear that supply and demand no longer apply at all, and we can go on restricting the addition of housing supply while expecting rent control to solve the housing crisis! I’m so glad to hear this will no longer threaten the ability of my children’s teachers to find an affordable place to live and everything will be just peachy!

  2. It would be nice if Todd, in addition to bully pulpiting his opinion, included the views of those who oppose his own. Good on him for doing it this time, but he’s not above censoring others’ opinions from his blog. It is his blog after all I suppose.

    “Virtually every economist….” blah, blah, blah, the same tired old argument against stopping the same old game of super-inflationary “market rate” housing.

    At least the threat of of a Prop I seems to have gotten some movement on the housing front in San Francisco and perhaps with the election of Supervisor Peskin, the Board will swing a bit more towards housing justice for the City’s residents. Now let’s see if Mayor Ed “Handouts for the Rich” Lee follows through on any of his promises to generate affordable (wait, I guess affordable doesn’t really mean affordable anymore) housing.

    • Stardust, if you had a comment deleted, it was not because of the substance of what you said, but the manner in which you said it. And you will notice, of course, that you were not banned from commenting overall. Happy New Year to you.

      • Todd censors comments and then when you point it out, backtracks with “look, you’re commenting now”. How many others get censored because they say something Todd doesn’t agree with and don’t jump through hoops in order to get their thoughts on this board? That’s the real tragedy.

        And to vilify Campos as a NIMBY after interjecting yourself into the process already underway for the Precita Eyes murals on the top of the hill? I see this reflection on 2015 didn’t involve any self-reflection.

        Here’s a new years resolution for you, Todd: Stop being in a hypocrite in 2016 and change course before this blog’s fate is sealed as the Fox News of Bernal.

      • Hi Todd,
        I respectively disagree… it was either censorship just prior to the election or a mistake on your part.

        I do want to take a moment to recognize that Bernalwood is an awesome blog in many ways.

        Although I don’t agree with you on some local San Francisco politics, I do appreciate the time and effort you put into providing this service to our community.

        Sometimes folks focus on the differences way more than the commonalities and I’d like to take a moment to focus on the commonalities.

        I know how much time it takes to run a popular blog like this one and again, I do appreciate your service, even if I don’t agree with you on everything.



    • ” super-inflationary “market rate” housing.”

      Yes! Dr. Starduski! Your econometric training has hit the nail on the head! When you build something that people want, you cause inflation! It has nothing to do with the fact that there are dozens of people who want each unit you build, and that in capitalism, one is entitled to sell to the highest bidder. So true that the fault is in the supplier, not the people who restrict supply!

      • Homework for bldxyz: Explain the effect of increasing, static, or decreasing requirements for (percentages of) various pricing levels of affordable housing in San Francisco housing development projects on the elasticity of supply and elasticity of demand in the overall San Francisco housing market. Provide an analysis of the relative economic substitutability of affordable housing as an economic necessity with lower rates of turnover over time than non-essential commodities.

  3. Not to get too far off subject ( we were talking about 2015, right?) but most of the staff at the Safeway are really nice. Even as a geezer who has no idea who those people in the tabloids are while waiting to check out, I appreciate the mostly kind demeanor of the clerks.

  4. Most locally read and appreciated, politically correct but often unrealistic, but OTT pretentious in a way that makes one wonder why anyone would feel so insecure about where they live, blog:
    Rainbows and unicorns, indeed. I need to brush my brain a few times after reading headlines like “Most Iconic Celebration of Marriage Equality” accompanied by a banal photo of people kissing while waving equality flags atop a typical SF hill.

    I do appreciate the blog all in all, Todd, so thanks. I just prefer the tone of, say, Burrito Justice. Your milage may vary, and obviously does.

    Happy 2016


  5. Thanks for the year end wrap up. Entertaining and important, folks tend to forget yesterday’s news..

  6. Todd, you are a true mensch and we could all learn something from you about how to interact with the Danny Bs of the world.

    • Ya, if you don’t like divisive racist blogging, just stick your head in the sand and forget about it!

      • well that’s some weird context shifting pretzel logic there, Danny B.

        You went “racist + Fox News,” devoid of any real reason. Other than some silly SF internet user “progressive” idea that conventional liberals, and left of center democrats, well to the left of even centrist Dems, let alone the GOP rank and file, are deserving of language better used toward Tea Party weirdos.

        Again, so doggone fake.

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