Whale Fail: Video Shows Bernal Dads Spinout at Sears Point

Recognize the red-and-white car in the photo above? That’s right, it’s “The Whale,” the battle-scarred Volvo 240 wagon driven by the Bernal Dads Racing Team during the recent 24 Hours of LeMons race at Sears Point.

Notice something funny about The Whale? That’s right, it’s tracking perpendicular to the flow of traffic, with tiny whisps of smoke emerging from beneath the tires. Those whisps of smoke indicate the car is sliding out of control. Oops.

The image is screen grab from a nicely edited in-car video created by Team Tinyvette, a friendly-rival race team that also competed at LeMons. Here’s the backstory:

At Sears Pointless we had a great battle with [the Bernal Dads] car, lasting for 7 hours, both cars on either the same lap or just one lap apart, vying for the class win in a race that ran for 16 hours. So when Zep caught up with the car on Saturday at the Skankaway race he was 1. surprised, because they are usually faster than us, and 2. determined to win this one. It was a good chase, lasting 3-4 laps, while passing and being passed by other cars in the 150+ car field. This one ended in our favor, but the Bernal Dads got lucky on this one too because their spin did not get them black flagged.

The video gives a great sense of what it was like for those brave Bernal Dads out on the racetrack during LeMons, but jump ahead to about 10:44 if you want to see the part where The Whale car runs off the track and goes into the spin.

It’s not necessarily the Dads’ finest moment, but there were two good things to say about the incident: 1) Both driver and car emerged unscathed, and 2) I wasn’t driving at the time.

Gulp! Why You Should Be Nervous About a PG&E Gas Pipeline with History of Big Trouble That Runs Through Bernal Heights

Did you happen to catch this anxiety-generating bit of news last week regarding the safety of PG&E’s gas pipelines?  From the San Jose Mercury News:

More than a year after the San Bruno natural gas explosion, PG&E still lacks “a large percentage” of the information it needs to accurately assess its pipeline risks and hasn’t taken needed steps to inform the public about its gas lines, according to the National Transportation Safety Commission’s final report on the 2010 disaster released Monday.

The 153-page report went further than earlier NTSB statements by including a strong warning about PG&E’s limited understanding of what other dangers may lurk underground.

Noting that PG&E uses data in a computerized system to gauge the risk posed by its pipelines, the agency said it fears the system contains “a large percentage of assumed, unknown or erroneous information for the Line 132” — the one that erupted in San Bruno — “and likely its other transmission pipelines as well.”

In addition, the report — the board’s final statement on the San Bruno catastrophe and largely a repetition of previously released documents — scolded PG&E for its continued failure to sufficiently educate the public about its gas lines and the hazards they pose.

In other words, PG&E basically has no idea WTF is going on with its pipelines. Why is that an issue for Bernalwood? Because one of PG&E’s worrisome “other transmission pipelines” runs right through Bernal Heights:

The PG&E pipeline that caused in the San Bruno explosion, Line 132, does not run through Bernal Heights. Instead, Bernal is traversed by another pipeline, called Line 109.

The flow of gas within Line 109 runs south to north. As you can see, the line comes in from Alemany and then heads north via Folsom, with an odd dead-end spur that shoots east along Tompkins Ave. At the top of Bernal Hill it traces Bernal Heights Boulevard, before heading down Alabama to Precita and north via York.

According to a must-read article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Line 109 has a long list of safety concerns and many of the same vulnerabilities as Line 132.

Experts point to the totality of Line 109 problems as warning signs that the older, untested lines in PG&E’s system are fraught with potential risks.

In the case of Bernal Heights, these concerns are not at all theoretical. Line 109 has caused big big BIG problems here before, most notably in 1963, when a segment the intersection of Nevada and Cresent exploded. Part of it looked like this:

And like this:

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

A Pacific Gas and Electric Co. gas pipeline running up the Peninsula into San Francisco has a long history of cracked and poorly constructed welds and even exploded once – but it’s not the one that blew up in San Bruno last year.

The pipeline is known as Line 109, and it failed disastrously in 1963 in the Bernal Heights neighborhood in San Francisco. The blast injured nine firefighters and led to the heart-attack death of a battalion chief. […]

Line 109’s problems first came to everyone’s attention almost 50 years ago.

On Jan. 2, 1963, the transmission pipe sprang a leak under Alemany Boulevard in San Francisco. About 1,000 homes were evacuated as firefighters rushed in to help.

Before PG&E crews turned off the line, gas spread to a nearby home, which exploded. Two of the nine injured firefighters were critically hurt, and Battalion Chief Frank Lamey, 63, died of a heart attack.

One of those critically injured was Anthony Marelich Jr. In an interview last week, he said PG&E had left the line active during the evacuation to avoid cutting off thousands of other customers and believed the gas was safely venting into the atmosphere.

Instead, it was filling a house on Nevada Street. Marelich said he had been standing with several firefighters when the home blew up and a wall “landed on top of me.”

“It was instantaneous,” said Marelich, now 73. His face was crushed, and doctors gave him almost no chance to survive.

He was forced to retire the next year, having lost several teeth and his sense of smell. Surgeons had to wire his jaw back on.

“Safety, right now, is in the limelight because of San Bruno,” Marelich said, adding that he thinks PG&E should have paid a steep price for the 1963 blast, “but they never showed any blame for it.”

“What happened to me and what happened to those people down in San Bruno, it should never have happened,” Marelich said.

Put another way, here’s a question we all should ask: In light of the NTSB’s staggering revelations about PG&E’s incompetent management of its gas pipeline network, what are the company and City officials doing to make sure it doesn’t happen in Bernal Heights… again?

IMAGES: Pipeline maps, PG&E; 1963 photos, San Francisco Chronicle

Tonight! Buy Chicken John’s Book, Help Save His Space for ‘Odd and Unlikely Artworks’

On Cesar Chavez Street near Mission, there’s a prominent mural on a jaunty red building that shouts advice to all passers-by: “Fail…to WIN!”

That slogan is the subtitle of The Book of the IS, a new book written by the building’s owner, Chicken John Rinaldi.

I’ve read it, and I was genuinely inspired by its rallying cry to embrace the “Is” — that which “allows and accepts and laughs and courts” — and reject the “Un,” which “prevents and contains and moderates and disdains.”

The key to pulling off this trick? Don’t be afraid to fail. “The minute we’re as comfortable with failing,” Rinaldi writes, “as we are with winning — the moment we’re in it for the experience and not the victory lap — is the moment we’re free.”

A showman provocateur whose multifarious capers have increased the colorfulness of our city and Bernalwood in particular (anyone remember the Odeon Bar?), Chicken John’s most recent claim to fame is his (failed) mayoral campaign in 2007.

But for the past five years or so, he has quietly put on all manner of interesting artistic and cultural events ­— oracular Q&A salons, trapeze classes, puppet shows, mayoral debates, you name it — at 3359 Cesar Chavez Street, the aforementioned jaunty red building. Quietly as in, you know, lacking all the permits and stuff.

That space is now at a crossroads, and Chicken John needs help. He needs you to buy his awesome book, either online at bookoftheis.com or, preferably, in person tonight, Sept. 30, 7 p.m.-2 a.m., at a spectacular free event at 111 Minna and the surrounding block (the street will be closed to accommodate over 100 performers and god knows what kind of mayhem).

Did we mention that the book is an objet d’art? And that 550 of the 2,500 copies in existence sport handmade slip covers by renowned street artist Swoon as well as a smattering of local artists? You can even choose (for a slightly higher price) to have your book include a coupon worth one “anything,” redeemable directly from Chicken John. “It’s gonna kill me,” he says, “but I’m serious about it. I will do anything to save the warehouse.”

If he can raise the dough, Chicken John will be able to (a) keep his warehouse and (b) make an honest art space out of it via the nonprofit he created: the San Francisco Institute for Possibility. “We want to champion odd and unlikely artworks,” he says. “There is so much cool stuff that wants to happen there that I have to pass on because we are just not legal enough. Together, we can put the warehouse’s problems away and focus on doing shows, manufacturing culture, and battling the onslaught of mediocrity.”

Hear, hear! Help the man fail at failure.

PHOTO: Neil Berrett

Car Crash Creates Big Bang on Bocana

There was some unwelcome excitement on Bocana yesterday, as a vehicle rollover disrupted the evening. Reader Paulie from the Bernalwood Action News Team was there with his mobile phone, and he filed this report:

The accident happened near Chuck’s Market on Bocana. The driver floored it when he made the turn off Cortland. He lost control and hit a parked car. Then his van rolled. A guy who lives nearby tried to get the driver out with help from a sledgehammer. The driver is OK, but he may have been drunk, according to a witness.

Reader Jillian was also on the scene, and she filed some additional photos. Here’s the parked car that was hit. (Sad):

UPDATE: Aaaaaaand more photos. New neighbor and photojournalist Adrian Mendoza was out for a walk when the accident happened, and snapped this one:

UPDATE: Confirmed, the driver was DUI:

From the SFPD Ingleside Police Station newsletter:

5:44pm 200 Blk Bocana D.U.I./Collision
Officers Hom and Castillo responded to the area regarding a vehicle accident. Upon arrival, Officers found a silver Mazda mini-van that had flipped over after striking a parked car. SFFD and Paramedics were already on scene rendering aid to the driver and sole occupant. The driver had made spontaneous statements to Paramedics indicating that he had been drinking prior to the collision. Officers escorted the driver to the hospital and could quickly detect the strong odor of alcohol emanating from his breath and person. Due to the severity of the injuries sustained, he was unable to complete any field sobriety tests. A blood draw was completed and he was issued a citation for driving under the influence. Report Number 110737997

UPDATE: Steve Rhodes rolled the satellite truck to get heart-stopping footage of The Righting of the Minivan. Watch real towing professionals, in ACTION (Action… action…):

PHOTOS: Top, Reader Paulie. Middle, Reader Jillian. Bottom, Adrian Mendoza