UPDATED: Driver Runs From Rollover Car Crash on Cortland


Neighbor Meredith captured the scene after an automobile rollover accident incident on Cortland last night:

There was a crazy car accident on Cortland between Elsie and Winfield last night at about 11:40pm. We heard the crash and ran outside to see if anyone was injured, but the driver had fled already!

I don’t know how that was possible in what was about 15 seconds from hearing the crash to seeing the car. I think someone was gunning down Cortland and flipped the car with the front hood crashing into the street and the car landing on its top. It took over an hour for the police/fire to clear the scene.

Thankfully no one else was on the road at the same time.

UPDATE 10:00 pm. Over on the Facebook, Neighbor Kristine shared more details about the incident, and the driver of the car:

This happened almost literally outside my bedroom window.

I scrambled to the window after hearing 3-4 smaller crash sounds and then the big final one. I saw the fellow emerge from the drivers side door and amble off. I’m sure he was in shock, but there’s no way he was not also drunk with the way he was moving his body. with determination he wandered (“run” is much too generous”) up Windfield, clearly abandoning the scene.

Neighbors were already gathering at the time and a fellow was trying to talk to him and ask him questions. it wasn’t even obvious at first that he was “fleeing” because he was moving so slowly. the neighbor was distracted by the intensity of seeing the car upside down and the driver kept walking/jogging/skipping.

it was about a minute later that the various neighbors helped the passenger get out of the car. I clearly heard him say that he didn’t know the driver, they had just met and he’d simply accepted his offer of a ride. he gestured west, downhill toward Mission St, as where they had met and had been coming from. I’m sure he was also in shock, but he was surely inebriated as well.

There was a truck parked on Cortland that was hit and leaking gas. I didn’t see the crash itself, but it’s amazing that the driver was able to damage a parked car to his right while also still having enough momentum to completely flip his own vehicle upside down.

I am SO grateful that myself nor another cyclist didn’t happen to be riding on Cortland at the time. I hope this incredibly reckless individual is caught and thoroughly prosecuted.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Neighbor Meredith

Woman Critically Injured in Mission Street Hit-and-Run Saturday Night


A pedestrian was critically injured in a hit-and-run incident on Mission at Precita last Saturday night, and the SFPD is looking for leads to help catch the driver. The SF Appeal reports:

The collision was reported at 9:58 p.m. at Mission Street and Precita Avenue, where a 24-year-old woman was hit by a pickup truck, according to police.

The truck driver did not stop after the collision and continued north on Mission Street. The truck and driver had not been found as of this morning, police said.

The victim was taken to San Francisco General Hospital with head and torso injuries that are considered life-threatening, according to police.

Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call the Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or to send a tip by text message to TIP411 with “SFPD” in the message.

With Assist From Local Contractors, Bernal Trees Terrorize Neighborhood Cars



With help from a team of indifferent landscaping contractors and Sir Issac Newton’s laws of gravitation, there was an awkward interaction on Monday between a few oversize Bernal trees and a few undersize Bernal cars.

Neighbor Janna reports:

Tree cutting (contractors? from city?) on Cortland with no protection to cars below. Is that legal? Not my car, but a neighbors car.


As a matter of policy, Bernalwood celebrates the mutually prosperous relationship that has long existed between Bernal trees and our mechanized vehicles. We would hate to see this relationship grow strained for want of a simple tarp. Thus, looking ahead, we trust that these sorts of interactions can be managed more elegantly.

PHOTOS: Neighbor Janna



Deli Pub Clean-Out Leaves a Bocana-Sized Mess


It’s not clear at this point who now controls the space formerly occupied by the lost, lamented Deli Pub. But over the weekend several neighbors grumbled to Bernalwood about the huge mess left on the street during the current Deli Pub clean-out.

Neighbor Jean, who shared the photo above, writes:

In this day and age of public airing – we neighbors on Bocana are disgusted. Since the new owners took over the Deli Pub, they have been leaving garbage out for hours at a time. But this last dump from clearing out was over 24 hours, and during the night folks added to it and broken glass and old food – a real health hazard in so many ways. The worst part of it is actually behind those bins. It finally got cleaned up mid- morning (Saturday) after being there since Friday.

Rent a dumpster like everyone else and do it the right way.

May your pastrami sandwiches NEVER taste as good as Imad’s.

Karma is a B&^#H!

Bernal Heights Man Found After 18 Days Lost in Forests of Mendocino

Gene Penaflor2


The story of the 72 year-old San Francisco hunter who was found on Saturday after spending 18 days lost in a Mendocino forest is generating worldwide interest, with write ups in the NY Daily News, the Washington PostCNN, and the Melbourne Herald-Sun.

He is one of our own: Bernalwood has learned that the hunter, Gene Penaflor, is a long-time resident of Andover Street in Bernal Heights. Here’s NBC Bay Area’s retelling of the tale:

A San Francisco man who was feared dead after going missing in the Mendocino National Forest for nearly three weeks survived alone in the wilderness on a diet of squirrels, lizards, frogs and snakes, his family said.

Gene Penaflor, 72, was found alive by a group of hunters Saturday morning at the bottom of a canyon about three miles from where he first disappeared while hunting.

“Basically, he ate whatever he needed to survive,” his son, Jeremey Penaflor, 31, said.

The elderly hunter was reported missing on Sept. 24, when he didn’t show up for a planned meeting with his hunting partner for lunch. On the first day of the hunt, Penaflor split up from his partner and fell, hitting his head and was knocked unconscious. When he woke up, he was disoriented and a thick bank of fog had made its way to where he was. After some time spent walking around the area, Penaflor was unable to determine which direction to travel and stopped moving.

After he was found and given a clean bill of health at the hospital in Ukiah, Penaflor returned to his family, where he watched the 49ers game on Sunday in his Bernal Heights home in San Francisco.

Woa. Welcome home, Neighbor Gene!


Hat tip: Neighbor Linda

UPDATED: Mother Killed by City-Owned Truck in Holly Park Hit-and-Run Identified; Driver Arrested



An unimaginable tragedy has transpired in Holly Park.

This is what we know: [UPDATED] During a warm and sunny afternoon on Thursday Sept 5, 2013 in Bernal Heights, Christine Svanemyr, 35, her infant daughter Isa, and her dog Ponyo were relaxing under a tree on the south side of Holly Park. Shortly after 2 pm, a green Ford pickup operated by the San Francisco Department of Parks and Recreation and driven by Rec and Park employee Thomas Burnoski, 57, ran over Svanemyr as she lay on the grass. Burnoski fled the scene of the incident, and despite valiant efforts by first-responders, the gravely injured mom later died at SF General. Her infant and dog were unharmed. Police quickly located Burnoski near St. Mary’s Park, and took him into custody. A Rec and Park employee since 2006,  Burnoski has been charged with vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run, and remains in jail with bail set at $315,000.

Reporters Nanette Asimov and Vivian Ho from SFGate describe what happened:

The 35-year-old woman was lying with her baby and a dog in the grass at Holly Park when the driver struck her at about 2:20 p.m., said police spokesman Officer Tracy Turner.

The woman was taken to a hospital, where she died. The baby girl was not injured and is now in the custody of her father. The dog is with Animal Care and Control.

The driver left the park after running over the woman, but was detained by police several blocks away, Turner said. He was taken to Ingleside Station for questioning, and police plan to book him on suspicion of felony hit and run.

His name was not released because he has not been officially arrested.

The driver has been an employee of the Recreation and Park Department since 2009, parks spokeswoman Sarah Ballard said. Neighbors said there is a gardener known for driving recklessly on both the grass and paved pathways.

Neighbors report that streets around Holly Park were closed by the SFPD after the accident, with multiple TV news vehicles onsite.

KCBS says this was the Park & Rec vehicle involved in the incident:


ABC7 News details how and where the driver was located:

A witness tells ABC7 News that the truck was driving across the grass, which was very busy at the time, and then ran over the woman who was sunbathing with her child and dog nearby.

The woman was transported to San Francisco General Hospital with life-threatening injuries where she later died. The child and dog were not hurt.

The driver of a green parks department vehicle took off after the incident but was later found and detained by police at Crescent and Agnon avenues.

Neighbors say that parks vehicles are always here and it’s a big problem with people driving on the grass.

KTVU carried aerial footage of the scene, which clearly showed both the vehicle tire tracks and the white blanket where the victim had been sitting:


The San Francisco Examiner has a view of the same scene from street level:



Bernalwood will provide updates as additional details become available. We will also provide guidance about memorial and neighborhood assistance efforts as soon as possible. In the meantime, please keep the victim and her family in your thoughts.

UPDATE Sept 6, 9:30am: The San Francisco Appeal has an update on the victim’s identity. She was Christine Svanemyr, 35, from Daly City.

A woman who was fatally struck by a San Francisco Recreation and Park maintenance truck at a park in the city’s Bernal Heights neighborhood on Thursday has been identified by the medical examiner’s office as 35-year-old Christine Svanemyr.

Svanemyr, a Daly City resident, was struck by the Rec and Park vehicle shortly after 2:20 p.m. in a grassy area on the south end of Holly Park.

She was taken to San Francisco General Hospital where she was pronounced dead, police said.

Bernalwood has located a biography for Christy Svanemyr, Director of Development for New Ventures West:


UDPATE: 10:55am The driver of the Park & Rec pickup has been identified as Thomas Burnoski, 46. He has been arrested and charged. From SFWeekly:

Police say it was 46-year-old Thomas Burnoski was driving the city truck when he ran over Christine Svanemyr, killing her. He was arrested and booked into San Francisco County Jail on charges of vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run.

Added tragedy: It appears that Mr. Burnoski’s daughter died in April 2013 at age 20. The SF Chronicle wrote about the car accident that took Tiffany Burnoski’s life at the time.

UPDATE Sept 7 8:50 am: The SFPD released this photo of Mr. Burnoski after his arrest.


In today’s front-page story, the SFChronicle brings details of the Rec and Park Department’s policy on staff driving in public parks:

Sarah Ballard, a spokeswoman for the Recreation and Park Department, said she couldn’t comment on an open investigation, but said the department’s vehicle policy is that workers are never allowed to drive on park pathways, sidewalks, closed roads or the actual park area “merely for convenience purposes.”

“If work requirements necessitate operating a city vehicle on a park-scape or other surface not designed for vehicle operation, utilize a staff person outside the vehicle to serve as a safety watch or otherwise guide vehicle movement,” the policy reads.

No spotter was in place, according to police reports, and the site of the collision was well off any roadway.

“It was definitely on the grassy areas. It didn’t have a sidewalk near it or a pathway,” said police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza. Svanemyr was on the southeast end of the park when she was hit.

Ballard said employees who operate Rec and Park’s 707 vehicles, which include mowers, cars and trucks, must complete training every two years. The department’s vehicles include 312 road vehicles that travel more than 1 million miles a year.

The Chronicle also reports that of the four official complaints filed with Rec and Park by citizens over the past two years about poor driving by employees, two were filed about Rec and Park driving in Holly Park.


UPDATE: 2:15pm, Sept 6: D9 Supervisor David Campos just released a statement about the death of Christine Svanemyr:

 “I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the killing of Christine Svanemyr yesterday in Holly Park. I, like the rest of the City, am dismayed and upset that a new mother was taken from her family in such a senseless way.

I have been in conversations with the General Manager of Rec and Parks and law enforcement for answers as to how this horrific event could have happened in a place where families and children expect to be safe and protected. I assure you that my office will do everything we can to get to the bottom of what happened and to ensure that there is accountability and transparency about this tragedy.

Any residents who may have witnessed the tragedy or who have surveillance video of the area should contact the Ingleside Police Station to help further the investigation.

UPDATE: 11:50 pm Sept 5: Via NBC Bay Area, we learn that Park & Rec General Manager Phil Ginsburg issued a statement Thursday night:

“On behalf of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victim of a tragic accident that occurred at Holly Park this afternoon. This is a devastating day for all. The Recreation and Park Department is cooperating fully with the San Francisco Police Department as they investigate this accident.”

NBC Bay Area also reports that Bernal neighbor have already started leaving flowers on the patch of grass where the mother had been sitting.

Friday, 6 September 7:30 am: Neighbor Sarah sends this photo of the scene at Holly Park this morning. It’s a preview of what will follow in the days ahead; sad memorials and intense media scrutiny:


IMAGES: Top, screengrab via NBCBayArea. Map via GoogleEarth. Pickup truck via KCBS; Aerial of scene via KTVU; Street-level view by SF Examiner; Flowers, Neighbor Sarah.

Stop! Runaway Car Collides with Wild Side West

It’s been a bad week for vehicular control here in Bernalwood. Last Saturday we had a car flip over on Precita, while on Wednesday a runaway car bonked into the sidewalk bench at Wild Side West on Cortland. Neighbor Teri tells it:

My friend took the shot. All I heard was that a runaway ghost car parked in front of BofA just slowly rolled across the street and hit that bench. Through the crosswalk!! It was Wednesday around 5:30.

Looks like damage was light and no creatures were injured, but… WHEW!

PHOTO: Neighbor Teri’s anonymous friend

Precita Neighbors Gather to Remember Stephen

On Sunday morning, a group of Bernal Heights neighbors gathered to participate in a memorial service for Stephen, the gracious resident of Precita Park who died on January 20.

It was a simple but warm affair. There were some cookies, and some coffee, and a modest shrine set up on the table where Stephen often passed the days. There were grey-haired old-timers on hand, along with families with kids, dogs with their owners, and a few Precita Park merchants. I overheard one young attendee say, “When my mother came to visit, I took her to meet him.”

Stephen died of complications from alcoholism, but he made a strong impression during the many years he spent living in the park. He’d apparently lost track of his real family, but he’d adopted the people of the neighborhood as surrogates. “Over and over I’d ask him, ‘Why don’t you get a room somewhere?'” one neighbor recalled. “Every time he’d say the same thing: ‘It’s the people. I look out for them, and they look out for me.”

One man said, “some people may have had a problem with his being here, but his presence made this a safer and more family-friendly place.”

Then someone pulled out a guitar, and everyone sang “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.”

Stephen is also remembered via an eerily modern memorial: During a late stage of Stephen’s illness, while he was confined to a wheelchair, the Google Maps car apparently drove up Folsom Street on a sunny and pleasant day. As the car passed the intersection with Bessie Street, its cameras captured Stephen resting in the sun, in the very spot where his many friends and neighbors would gather to remember and appreciate him months later, after he was gone:

RIP Stephen, Familiar Resident of Precita Park

RIP Stephen

Stephen's Bench

Sad news: Stephen, the homeless gentleman who lived in the western end of Precita Park, died on January 20.

Neighbor Jennifer fills in the backstory:

Stephen – a longtime resident of Precita Park (he lived at the picnic tables on the park) – passed away last week.  I noticed a flyer near the tables while I was out walking the dogs this morning.  Not sure how the readership feels about the homeless, but to me Stephen felt like a real part of the neighborhood.  His memorial is this coming Sunday @ 11 am.

From the note posted near the picnic benches, it sounds like he died of multiple organ failure while in hospice. Last I saw of him was Christmas morning (or the morning after?) when the ambulance came to pick him up. As you may know, he was jumped while sleeping in the park this fall and injured badly. He recuperated in the hospital and in the house(s) of neighbors, and came back to the park briefly before leaving for good. I am not sure he really ever recovered.

Super sad. He has been a mainstay of my daily dog walks in Precita Park for the past ~ 7 years. I always appreciated his friendly smiles and greetings. He looked out for me – kept me posted on chatter in the neighborhood, let me know if sketchy things were going on. I always felt safer and happier with him around.

I’ll second that. Stephen was unfailingly polite and always particularly gracious to Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter — as a fixture in the neighborhood, he was also a fixture in my daughter’s life from the time she was born. “She’s getting big! So fast!” he would say. It made my daughter blush.

As Neighbor Jennifer mentioned, there will be a remembrance for Stephen on Sunday, January 29 at 11 am, at the picnic benches on the west end of the park where Stephen enjoyed passing the time.

Lastly, and sadly, I was unable to find any photos of Stephen. If you have one that we can post here, please send it to us at bernalwood at gmail.com. Thank you.

PHOTOS: Top, sign in Precita Park. Below, the bench where Stephen often rested. By Telstar Logistics

Oops! Tow Truck Drops BMW on Steep Bernal Heights Hill

That Beetle on the right? It got hit. The car jumped on the sidewalk and took out it's passenger side.

The tow truck driver removed those little wheel things that were under the rear wheels which apparently allowed the car to roll down the hill.

Ouch! Reader Rusty captured the chaos last night on Treat Street:

Some guy was getting his BMW 335i towed back to his house near the top of Treat, above Precita Park. Unclear why it was being towed back. As the tow truck operator was unhitching it, it broke loose and rolled down the hill. It jumped on the sidewalk at some point, damaged the passenger side of a Beetle parked on the street, and then came to rest sideways in the driveways seen in the pics.

The sound was crazy: it was like a truck full of metal beams had dropped them and they were rolling down the street and then a big crash/thud.

I think the problem was that the tow truck operator hadn’t removed those mini wheels that they place under tires to tow cars when you can’t move the rear wheels. It’s actually amazing that more damage wasn’t done; the stairway of the house wasn’t wrecked, only the garage door and maybe some of the concrete retaining wall between the two houses.

The fire department didn’t arrive for a while, I had to leave and run an errand and when I came back an hour later the fire trucks were there. I suspect the police called the fire truck, they came out, looked at things, didn’t seem to do anything and left. After the (original) tow truck driver removed the car from the driveway, the SFFD came back and boarded up the smashed garage door.

PHOTOS: Rustymerin

… In Which I Am Revealed to Be Only Marginally Prepared for a Very Big Earthquake

A few months ago, I volunteered myself, my daughter, and my home to serve as on-camera crash-test dummies for a series of earthquake-preparedness videos produced by Totally Unprepared, a public-awareness organization which describes itself as…

… what happens when you put forward-thinking state agencies, earthquake geeks, social media nerds, a web analytics genius, a professional filmmaker, a hot firefighter or two, and a bunch of unsuspecting Californians in a blender and hit frappe.

During their visit to our home, Totally Unprepared pretty much put us through a blender and hit frappe. But that’s what we’d signed up for, to foster better earthquake preparedness in California — and the Dominion of Bernalwood.

The videos have been now released as a series of installments optimized for Web-length attention spans, and they feature both me and Bernalwood’s brave Cub Reporter. In the first episode, our home is given a thorough inspection, and we are subjected to a somewhat terrifying jostle in an earthquake simulator — which the Cub Reporter endured with true native-Californian aplomb:

In the second installment, we hone our duck-and-cover technique in various awkward and uncomfortable places throughout our home:

The third episode reveals (somewhat embarrassingly) that I had neglected to properly secure the bookcase that sits next to the Cub Reporter’s cute little Hello Kitty bed. DOH!

Thus, with my humiliation complete, I now encourage you to find out more about how to prepare for the Big One.