Bernal Neighbor Remembers Son, Organizes for Gun Violence Awareness Day

Neighbor Clare and Camilo in Lake Tahoe, 2013

Neighbor Clare and Camilo in Lake Tahoe, 2013

Bernal Neighbor Claire Senchyna lost her son to gun violence in 2014 . Today she brings details about Gun Violence Awareness Day, which happens on Thursday, June 2:

My son Camilo attended Little People’s Workshop Daycare Co-op on Cortland Ave when he was 2 years old. We fell in love with the neighborhood and found a place to rent on Moultrie St.

When Camilo was 9, we bought a house on Putnam St. We loved living in San Francisco and especially our little village in the city, Bernal Heights. When Camilo started a family, he was going to take over his childhood home on Putnam St to raise his kids here in the neighborhood. I worked as a Nurse Practitioner for the SF Department of Public Health, and Camilo’s goal was to also work for the city, in the Fire Department. He took Fire Science classes at City College and worked as an EMT. In December 2014 he completed a Paramedic program and was well on his way. He went out to celebrate on December 7, 2014 and was killed in a random shooting on leaving a club in the Mission to come home.

I am now the volunteer California Everytown Survivor Network coordinator, which is part of Everytown for Gun Safety along with Moms Demand Action, which started as a Facebook group after the Sandy Hook shootings of 1st graders in Newtown, CT. Our members are now millions across the nation. Guns are too easily accessible, each year 30,000 people lose their lives to gun violence. We want gun laws to change. Closing loopholes on background checks is an important first step

Thursday June 2nd is Gun Violence Awareness Day, when everyone is asked to wear orange. This is an event started by high school students in Chicago to honor their a friend who was killed in a random shooting. Orange is the color hunters wear to protect themselves from being shot by other hunters.

In San Francisco on June 2nd, City Hall and Coit Tower will be light Orange. Our SF Giants baseball Team will participate. And we hope to get hundreds if not thousands to join us in a Wear Orange walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, which starts from the SF side at 11:30 am. Please join us. I will be wearing Orange and walking for my beloved son Camilo.

If you are unable to join us please Wear Orange, take a selfie and email to Camomsphotos@gmail.com or twitter to #wearorange. We need to address the issue of Gun Violence . If not us, then who?

Thank You.

Clare

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Residents Demand Accountability at Bernal Heights Public Safety Meeting

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Less than 24 hours after a neighbor was brutally robbed at knifepoint on the Esmeralda stairway, a crowd of Bernal residents packed the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center to listen as a panel of civic leaders discussed how to address crime and lawlessness in Bernal Heights.

Neighbor Ryan from the Northeast Bernal Neighbors Alliance attended the meeting and took great notes, which he has generously shared with us here. There’s lots of useful information here —  as well as some truly depressing statistics about auto break-ins — so read on for the full details:

Community Crime and Public Safety Meeting
January 28, 2016, 6 pm
@ Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center

# City government Attendees:
* Supervisor Campos + Hillary Ronen
* Capt. Joseph McFadden, SFPD Ingleside
* Sarah Burton / Executive Director SF Safe
* Ernest Mendieta; SF Adult Probation Department
* Archie Wong, Bernal’s prosecutor from the DA’s office
* Reps from DPW, PUC

# Supervisor Campos (District 9 Supervisor)

* Supervisor Campos: had a prior commitment, could only stay at the meeting until 7:15
* “We’ve heard a lot of complaints about car break-ins. To be honest I am as frustrated as you are when I look at what’s going on.”
* Quoted the car note from the lovely neighbor who posted a sign in her car: “My car has been broken into 7 times… there’s nothing inside anymore, and I’m too old for this shit.”
* “What we’ve seen in car thefts in SF has reached, in my view, ridiculous levels. … It is a city-wide problem.”
* Supervisor Campos discussed discussions in government audits; other districts have had a task force-based approach to crime, but not in D9. Why not “is a question I have.”
* “I will be making sure the city takes not just a neighborhood approach, but a city-wide approach, that goes beyond what I believe could be called a ‘timid response’.”
* Proposing a new resolution Tuesday with asks for Chief Suhr: “I think the response from the city has focused too much on the citizens becoming the problem-solvers.” He continues, we all have a responsibility to minimize the risk of becoming a victim, city focuses more on what residents can do, not enough about what the city can do.
* He will ask Chief Suhr to develop an app to report thefts and crime. A big problem SF faces: “People stop reporting crime.” Reporting is critical. [Totally agree!]
* “I want to get to the bottom of how the police department and law enforcement is being used around us… there’s a lot of finger-pointing. What is happening? What kind of enforcement is the police department actually doing?” He continues, PD points finger at DA, and so on.
* “To the police department: I hope it happens not only in Ingleside, but throughout the city. I think we need better technology, and I think we need to improve our tactics,” such as bait cars (which McF has discussed before).
* “We need more information from all the law enforcement agencies. We are working in a vacuum. I know car thefts are up because I hear from my constituents, but what are the numbers of arrests?” He continues that the public has a right to that information. [Actually, lots of that information is already online here.]
* In reference to the annual budgeting process, which will begin happening shortly: “If there is any resource needed by law enforcement, as the supervisor of this district, I am committed to getting that resource. … If that means we need more officers or better technology in Ingleside, I will do that.”

# Capt. McFadden (SFPD Ingleside)
The captain’s section got cut into a bit (partly thanks to questions from yours truly) so the conversation jumped around a bit.

* To the Supervisor: “We already have an app.” It’s going out now and in the coming weeks, and it can alert officers of crimes to their city-issues smartphones in real-time. [I checked, and I don’t believe it’s out yet — no mention on the SFPD site, and nothing in the App Store (iOS)]
* “I’m not asking constituents in the community be cops, but I want you to be good reporters. … We need witnesses.”
* The discussion thus far had been almost entirely about car theft, and I asked to stop that thread momentarily, and for the Supervisor to speak to violent crime. Supervisor Campos: “In terms of crime, the priority is always violent crime. … The key is increasing our police presence. … There is something to be said about a police officer being seen in a neighborhood. … My ask would be we get more foot beats in that area. There is nothing like consistent police presence to demonstrate this isn’t acceptable.”
* Community member asks: “You’ve been Supervisor for a lot of years, it seems like the relationship with the police” is not great. tl;dr what is Supervisor Campos doing to foster this?
* Supervisor Campos: “Under the charter of SF… I don’t have the authority to tell the Captain to do x, y, and z. I have the ability to be a facilitator between the public and the agency. … I don’t know any Supervisor that works more day to day with the police department than I do.”
* “Any time there has been an uptick (in violent crime), I ask the Captain: is that enough?” [I may have transcribed this incorrectly — I think he was saying he checks in with the police captains in his district.]
* Another resident asks about cameras. “Public streets are public streets. … We need cameras on the streets.” Met with lots of vocal support and clapping.
* Nato Green asks the panel what their plans are, and “I’m sure you’re all failing completely.” Zing!
* Okay, back to the Captain: arrests are “way up” in car break-ins (aka “852s”)
* Capt. McFadden is a huge proponent of cameras, but “We also make cases on the simplest little facts.” (i.e. tiny details in clothing, bodily features, vehicles, etc.)
* The Captain also discusses some incidents of recent violent crime, followed by the same presentation as last week (showing a burglary in process) — refer to last week’s post on Bernalwood, the talking points were largely the same.
* Supervisor Campos asks Captain about the SFPD app: when will it be live? “I believe it’s already out there, I’ll have to check with the Chief.” [Again, I don’t think it’s out there yet.]
* Supervisor Campos: At the last meeting “I heard Prop 47 is the reason for all these crimes.” (Cue Archie Wong.)

# Archie Wong, prosecutor for the DA’s office
 Archie has worked over a decade here and Riverside — career prosecutor!

* Works on cases primarily in Bernal and Tenderloin — Tenderoin is the worst area of the city for all crime, per CompStat data shown. So his time is likely not spread proportionately. (More on that shortly.)
* DA has a camera registry: If you have a camera, if your neighbors have a camera please ask them, register your camera. Here’s the link!
* “Video video video, give me as much video as you can. These cases are really tough for us to prosecute.”
* In 2014 there were over 22,000 reported auto break-ins in SF. [THAT NUMBER IS REAL.] “We have 437 brought to DA for prosecution.” Out of those, Archie’s office took action on 63% of those cases. “We’re looking to prosecute these cases.” But it’s still less than 2% of cases.
* 2015: 26,000 reported auto break-ins, and 487 cases brought in to be charged. DA charged 80% of those cases 390. But still less than 2% of total cases.
* For those not keeping track at home, if you wanted to steal from vehicles in SF, you have a 99%+ chance of doing so without any repercussions (especially including all the unreported auto theft crime).
* Archie discusses common inability to get a conviction; public defenders only need to use Twinkie defenses: “That’s a very viable defense, especially here in SF. … This is a darn tough place to be a prosecutor and a police officer. The bench is very liberal. And I say that because the jurors are also very liberal.”
* “We need video, we need witnesses.”
* When taking a case to trial, “The first thing we do: ask civilian witnesses.” But many people don’t want to step forward for fear of retaliation. Archie urges people to do so anyway.
* “I can honestly tell you that in 17 years, over thousands of cases, I have never seen a civilian witness ever get threatened.” He includes himself in that too, he’s never been threatened.
* Addressing prop 47: “It didn’t cause this uptick in auto burglaries.” They’re actually able to be charged as either felony or misdemeanor before 47, and didn’t change. “They just look for easy marks. … There’s no $950 limit [referring to the felony theft threshold, see more detail ].”

# Ailed Quijano Paningbatan-Swan, BHNC Director of Community Engagement

* Proposed monthly meetings! (Sounded like the fourth Thursday of each month — didn’t hear the date)
* Nicki Hatfield: runs youth summits! Next one is in April, this one with the goal of creating a dialogue between SFPD officers and local youth, as well as empower them and give them tools, such as rights awareness.

# Q&A Period
* Neighbor: She has lived here for 55 years, talking about driving safety. “You want to know where the police are? The police are all in Martha’s. Go to Martha’s.” Zing again!
* Neighbor (who was assaulted just last night, and wore bandages and wounds to prove it… UGH. Really feel for her.): “I had a knife to my neck last night on the Esmerelda steps. … There’s been volleying to the conversation.” She asked for folks from the city to come together. “I’m an attorney and I’ve passed the bar in two states. I understand your position … This conversation needs to revolve less around trying to find evidence or witnesses after the fact, but to deter it. … Something like cameras puts criminals on notice that we’re watching them. This conversation should be more about things like that.”
* Capt. McFadden on a comment about not hearing back from police: “If you don’t hear back from one of my officers, call me. I guarantee you will get a call back.”
* Neighbor: “Will you support concealed-carry weapons?” McF: “I don’t support more guns.” He continued that he wants to do everything he can to reduce guns in the community, and he doesn’t have, like, or keep a gun except when he’s in SFPD uniform.
* Neighbor: Expressed more support for cameras. [This is definitely a trend I am noticing amongst the community!]
* Neighbor: Explanation of the district court electoral process, and requests for district judges here next month to speak to the community group. [No one seemed confident that could happen, but thanks for the strong suggestion, Buck!]
* Neighbor: Request for redistricting of Bernal’s local police station be in the Mission due to proximity. Some discussion of that idea, which seems far-fetched (other corners of Bernal will be without good coverage), followed by Capt. McFadden: “One of the positives… you’re on the border of three stations. We’re talking about getting on the same radio channel.” This was recently discussed — 911 dispatch calls can go out to multiple stations, but right now Mission and Ingleside use different radio channels to reduce chatter, but possibly for not much longer!
* Question from me to Archie: “Are you shared with the Tenderloin?” Yes. “So Bernal shares its DA prosecutor with one of the top three most blighted urban areas in the entire nation? (and, obviously, the most crime-ridden area in our city)?“ (Yes.) “How can we get you (Archie) focused solely Bernal?” Archie: things are changing, but it’s up to the supervisors. For example: “DA units in New York units have 20 prosecutors, we have 5 per unit.” The DA is asking Supervisors for more budget to hire more prosecutors.
* Neighbor: How can we get CalTrans involved in the CalTrans-run areas (like the Bayview footbridge)? In trying to fix little things, like the lighting in that footbridge, our neighbor got tons of handoffs, and eventually called every day for 60 days straight to get results. Hillary: “CalTrains is notoriously hard to get ahold of.” Followed by some discussion on how to better reach them.
* Neighbor: How can we get CalTrans involved in the homeless encampments in NE Bernal? Hillary: Hotspot walks, helping get them into Navigation Centers, “What we think we need to do with that area is try to open a new much bigger Navigation Center down the road on Cesar Chavez (in district 10). We want to activate that area [use it for city storage, etc.] so people can’t move back in.”
* Neighbor: re. Holladay, would love to put a park on Caltrans right of way and turn it into a park. It’s already terraced.
* Neighbor: one of the local leaders who led the improvement Holly Court, missed name? Bobby?) Discussed community policing strategies, community involvement, and suggesting really working hard to cooperate and get to know local PD.
* Neighbor: He’s been coming to community safety meetings “for many years” and never seen Supervisor Campos or anyone from his office, including Hillary. He appreciated their attention, but strongly implied that the citizens of D9 + Bernal were not interested in election year stunts.
* Ernie (SF Adult Probation Department): Strongly in favor of community dialogue. “Some of these ideas, these are nothing new. You’re reinventing the wheel.” [This reads defeatist in text, but I didn’t take his comments that way; my interpretation of Ernie’s tone was more like: a lot of people around SF have these problems, and there are only so many solutions, so keep organizing and communicating.] Probation team has been discussing stay-away orders, using GPS on people on probation, as well as sanctions (and rewards!) for behavior.

At this point the meeting was well over 2 hours in, and I was getting a bit loopy and ran out of steam; I may have missed a couple of questions / comments but this should have covered the vast majority.

Thanks for reading, and please keep on top of our government folks.

Hope to see you all at the next meeting, and NE Bernal folk please do sign up for the Northeast Bernal Neighbors Alliance!

Very special thanks to Neighbor Ryan for sharing his thorough notes.

PHOTO: Bernal neighbors at the Community Crime and Safety Meeting, Jan. 28, 2016. Photo by Neighbor Sarah

Thursday Eve: Community Crime and Public Safety Meeting at BHNC

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As you might have heard, we’ve been addressing property crime and robberies in Bernal Heights lately, as burglaries, auto thefts, and thefts-from-autos have been taking a wearisome toll on Bernal neighbors. And sometimes, things get violent.

Following up on last week’s meeting with the Northeast Bernal Neighbor’s Alliance, and as part of an ongoing series of efforts to address crime and public safety concerns in Bernal Heights, Supervisor David Campos and the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center are hosting a community meeting on Thursday, January 28 at 6 pm.

Neighbor Ryan from the Northeast Bernal Neighbor’s Alliance says:

Supervisor Campos and Hillary Ronen are holding a separate meeting this week to address broader Bernal safety. If you didn’t make it to last week’s meeting, would like to continue the discussion with the other city agencies noted there, or don’t live in NE Bernal, I think it’s worth showing up!

Here’s their description of the event:

Supervisor David Campos is hosting a meeting to discuss the rampant car break-ins in Bernal Heights. Captain McFadden will present on how the community can work together to guard against and effectively report these crimes. Representatives from the Department of Public Works and the Public Utilities Commission will be there to discuss areas where additional street light is needed in the neighborhood. A representative from the District Attorney’s Office will be there to explain the office’s work to address this problem. Supervisor Campos would like to hear resident ideas to address the problem and will propose a plan to start addressing the issue.

Details
What: Crime & Safety Meeting
When: Thursday, January 28th at 6:00pm
Where: Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, 515 Cortland Ave

Feel free to contact Hillary Ronen, from Supervisor Campos’ Office, with any questions or comments prior to the meeting. Hillary.ronen@sfgov.org; 415-554-7739.

01-28 Community PS Mtg Flyer

PHOTO: Capt. Joseph McFadden at BHNC, Oct. 20, 2015 by Telstar Logistics

Notes from Last Night’s Northeast Bernal Community Meeting

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Here are my notes from last night’s full-house community meeting about crime problems in northeast Bernal, held at the Precita Center:

Community Meeting on Crime and Public Safety
Organized by the Northeast Bernal Neighbors Association (NBNA)
January 21, 2016

Speakers:

  • Terry Milne – Northeast Bernal Neigbors Alliance
  • Capt. Joseph McFadden, Captain, SFPD Ingleside Station
  • Jason Elliott, deputy chief of staff to Mayor Ed Lee

Bernal Neighbor Terry Milne kicked off the meeting by explaining that NBNA was formed to solve some of the crime problems that aren’t being addressed by city officials. The goal of NBNA is to increase political representation in this part of Bernal, to provide a cohesive message in City Hall, and to make sure neighbors in northeast Bernal get their issues addressed. Want to get involved? Join the network.

NBNA thanked Joshua Arce for helping to organize the meeting.

D9 Supervisor David Campos was present, along with his aide, Hilary Ronen.

Comments from Capt. McFadden

Ingleside 2d biggest geographical district in SF

Why does crime happen in NE Bernal?

  • Lots of criminals come here from out of town
  • Gang activity
  • Easy freeway access

Northeast Bernal has coverage from a radio car, as well as some coverage from undercover units.

McFadden showed a map of burglaries (homes robbed) that illustrated a strong cluster of crime in the far northwest corner of Bernal, right around the Peralta/Holladay corner.

McFadden noted that it is hard to secure a felony conviction for a car break in. To do that, prosecutors in San Francisco require a witness who saw

  1. someone break a window
  2. the person take something
  3. the person left the scene.

Missing any one of those and the crime is likely just a misdemeanor. The San Francisco district attorney (who is independently elected) does not make it easy to secure prosecutions.

Recent example: Ingleside recently arrested 3 recidivists who are responsible for at least a dozen car break-ins. They will likely get misdemeanors or probation.

Obvious reminder that nevertheless bears repeating: Don’t leave anything in your car. “Not leaving anything in your car” means don’t leave anything at all in your car. Period. Remove your phone charger and charging cable when you park, because they signal to a criminal that they should break into the car to see if there’s a phone is there. Smartphones can fetch $100 or more, and are easily fenced.

Video evidence is a godsend: Video recordings are hugely helpful, both for catching criminals and facilitating prosecution. “Gigantic,” McFadden says. Security cameras are a great investment, and the SFPD has very good systems for managing and distributing video footage to officers on the beat. (NOTE: If you have an exterior-facing camera, you can register it with the SF district attorney’s office here so they can collect more evidence after crimes take place.)

McFadden showed a recent home security camera video of an auto break-in on Coleridge Bocana in Bernal Heights. The perp began by casing a few cars on the street. Then he began shining a flashlight into a few car windows. (NOTE: That demonstrates clear intent to commit a crime, and thus would warrant a 911/urgent call to SFPD) Then he called his friend in a getaway car, who showed up in moments. Then he smashed a window, grabbed something from the car, and drove off with his friend. Total elapsed time: About 2 minutes.

Reminder: Don’t call 911 from you cell phone, because mobile 911 calls go to CHP dispatch, far, far away. Add these numbers to your mobile phone address book:

  • SFPD emergency landline (for crimes in progress): (415) 553-8090
  • SFPD non-emergency: (415) 553-0123
  • SFPD Ingleside station number: (415) 404-4000

SFPD dispatch pro tips Part 1: If you’re not getting the help you need from an SFPD dispatcher, call back and try a different dispatcher. If you’re still not getting enough help, demand to speak to a supervisor. Or the supervisor’s supervisor. Still not getting a response? Call Ingleside station, and ask to speak to the platoon commander. Don’t cry wolf, but do act VERY persistent.

SFPD dispatch pro tips Part 2: When you report suspicious activity or a crime in progress, try to provide some specific details that make it easier to identify the subject. Don’t say “4 door white car,” say “4 door white car with a spoiler on the rear deck and small round taillights.” Or, “he was wearing a shirt with a Nike swoosh.” Ignore jackets and hoodies; those are easily shed. Look for details about pieces of clothing that are hard to remove: Pants, shoes, base-layer shirts, etc.

In response to a question about SFPD jurisdictional issues, McFadden said that Mission Station and Ingleside will soon (do already?) share a radio channel. Previously, Mission and Ingleside used separate frequencies. Being on the same channel will help improve coordination.

Jason Elliot – Mayor’s deputy chief of staff

Big Picture: Violent crime is down, property crime is up

Thanks to Prop 47, big policy questions are being asked.

More police officers will help with quality lot life crimes. Plan in place and funded to get SFPD up to 2000 officers, or the full complement as determined by a study that was conducted in 1970 (That’s not a typo. There was much eye-rolling over this.) SFPD should hit 2000 officers next year, and that will mean more officers in radio cars to focus on property crime.

The Mayor’s office hopes to pilot some new approaches, perhaps in Bernal Heights:

  • Received for a grant to assist with vehicle crime abatement
  • Gang task force grant
  • One potential program might make it possible to increase police presence at times when data shows peak crime activity

Hopefully there will be more detail on this, TBD.

Also:

Ailed Quijano Paningbatan-Swan from the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center added some helpful comments.

Good lighting reduces crime. BHNC helped instal lighting around Holly Park, and it helped.

She encouraged NE Bernal neighbors to organize Hotspot walks, in which neighbors go for neighborhood walks with SFPD and city officials to highlight areas of concern. That helps build community while also making city departments and leaders accountable for making improvements. Contact Ailed at BHNC for details.

Other Ideas:
Neighbors expressed interest in closing the steep stairway from the 101 interchange up to Peralta and Holladay. Also want to close the overpass across Bayshore. The City officials present did not provide clear guidance if this was even possible.

Many neighbors (and Ailed from BHNC) emphasized this key idea:

GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS!! Communities are stronger when people have face to face relationships. Say hello. Exchange phone numbers. There is a common perception that some new Bernal neighbors keep to themselves. (Editorial Note :This may be true, or it may be bullshit, and/or the demonization of new residents by the Old Guard certainly doesn’t do much to encourage community participation, but nevertheless: If you’re new here, take the time to say hello. It’s a gesture that matters.)

One final comments came from a Bernal neighbor who grew up in Bernal. A former gang member, he settled down once he started a family. He said: “If you don’t know your neighbors, they won’t look out for you.”

Reminder: If you want to participate in the Northeast Bernal Neighbors Alliance, sign up here.

There will be another community meeting about public safety next Thursday, Jan 28 at 6 pm at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center.  Look for additional details on that soon.

PHOTO: Northeast Bernal Community Meeting, photo by @ywxwy

Alex Nieto’s Family and Friends March from Bernal Hill to Bayview

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Just after sunset last night, family and activists rallying on behalf of Alex Nieto, the Bernal neighbor who was killed in a 2014 officer-involved shooting, organized a march that took them from the site on Bernal Hill where Nieto was killed to the Bayview District. Once in Bayview, the Nieto group joined with the family of Mario Woods, who was killed in an officer-involved shooting in December 2015.

KTVU covered the event:

The parents and friends of 28-year-old Alex Nieto paid tribute at the spot where he was shot by police almost two years ago.

“Right now, we just have to show unity and strength in numbers and just ask for the community to come out and support us– the family, but not just the family. Today it’s our family. Tomorrow it might be yours,” said Maria, a cousin of Nieto’s.

His parents led supporters on the march to the Bayview to join the family of Mario Woods, the 26-year-old shot and killed by police last month.

At 3rd and Palou streets, dozens attended a rally for Woods before marching to the police station where both groups converged and officers stood guard.

Woods’ mother, Gwendolyn, was emotional as she confronted officers. Tensions eased as supporters formed a circle.

The mothers of Woods and Nieto came together for a symbolic ritual. They joined hands, shared hot chocolate and broke bread.

The trial in the Nieto family’s wrongful death lawsuit against the City of San Francisco is set to begin on March 1.  The full text of the Medical Examiner’s report about Alex Nieto’s death is available here.

PHOTOS: Top, Alex Nieto memorial on Bernal Hill, January 6, 2015, by Causa Just Just CauseBelow, Gwendolyn Woods, mother of Mario Woods, with Elvira and Refugio Nieto, parents of Bernal neighbor Alex Nieto, by @justice4alex.

City Outsources Lundys Landing Tree Problem to Irate Bernal Neighbor

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This year, San Francisco’s Department of Public Works has been pursuing a euphemistically-named Tree Maintenance Transfer Plan that makes San Francisco homeowners responsible for tens of thousands of streetside trees that were, until recently, maintained by the city.

DPW says the crux of the plan is to “standardize maintenance responsibility such that, in general, fronting property owners will be responsible for the maintenance of street trees in the public right of way.” In plainspeak, DPW is basically outsourcing its tree problem to taxpayers, under force of law.

That’s how Neighbor Laura Gold of Lundys Lane, a schoolteacher at Buena Vista Horace Mann, ended up getting hit with a massive tree-maintenance bill recently.  Neighbor Laura tells Bernalwood:

We are fighting the city’s unfair assignment of tree care to the neighbors on Lundy’s Landing.

We all want a green city with an appropriate canopy. That is one of the many reasons we promptly pay our city taxes and support new ones when they are designed to beautify or improve our city. However, this shifting of responsibilities to citizens puts an unfair burden on already strained wallets. It also makes public spaces unsafe as homeowners scrape to come up with piecemeal solutions for city streets, easements and open spaces. Our budget is already strained by having to pay for the costs of replacing the sidewalk in front of our house and by caring for the street tree near our front door. We, in no way, can afford to take on the city’s responsibility nor its liability for a large shared public area that falls between our house and several of our neighbors.

I am a public school teacher in the Mission. I work 10-12 hour days. I make less than $3800 a month; my husband and I have put thousands of dollars of our own money and countless hours of our free time into providing materials (books, school supplies, snacks) for my classroom, since despite the fact that I work with kids whose families lack the basics to survive in this city, San Francisco has decided that it doesn’t want to take responsibility for them.

Now, it seems like city government has also abdicated its responsibility to the homeowners. A year ago, it was reported that due to high tax revenues, San Francisco was running a budget surplus of $22 million dollars — where is the money in this city going? It’s not helping the kids, and it’s not providing basic services to homeowners that other cities take for granted. Is it to further subsidize Google buses at the expense of the neighborhoods? I don’t teach math, but I know when things don’t add up.

Here is what my husband and I have done so far:

1) We have emailed and called Director Mohammed Nuru of DPW and requested a meeting and had no reply or return of our calls. Instead we have received yet another computer generated letter saying the trees are our problem. (see email below and feel free to quote as needed),

2) We have also contacted Supervisor Campos’s office, and while we have had responses, we have no evidence that anything is in the works, and the clock is ticking. (we were informed in a letter dated 10/30 we had 30 days to deal with the issue), and finally we have contacted people at the SF Chronicle, and are hoping they, too, can raise awareness about the issue.

Apparently both Supervisors Avalos and Weiner are taking up the cause,  The issue may end up on the ballot next year.

At what point does city government stop existing to benefit the citizens, and instead exist to provide a steady source of income for a few powerful people? What does that make the rest of us who thought we were participating in the San Francisco community, not working for San Francisco, Inc.?

This is the letter I sent to Director Nuru:

From: lauragold
To: “Mohammed Nuru”
Cc: “David Campos”
Sent: Sunday, November 8, 2015 2:14:40 PM
Subject: Trees on Lundy’s Landing Public Space

Dear Director Nuru –

I am writing to request an immediate meeting with you at Lundy’s Landing (DPW property at Lundy’s Lane and Esmeralda) with regard to our ongoing request for the city to maintain its trees on its land, and the patently false posting of signs designating that the owners have “requested to remove” the trees in 30 days from city land.

As I have indicated in my 311 request, we are asking the City of San Francisco to honor their responsibilities. As I indicated in my 311 response:

1) This is not our property. It is the City of San Francisco’s property. It is listed as a street and therefore the City of San Francisco’s obligation.
2) We did not plant these trees, put in stairs, etc. It belongs to the city.
3) We pay taxes for the care of public space. This is public space and therefore not our responsibility as homeowners.
4) Finally, and perhaps most insultingly, the city is asking us to request and pay for a permit to do work on THEIR land. We do not plan to request this permit.

I am also a city employee. A public school teacher that can barely afford to live here and pay taxes. I cannot afford to take on the city’s multi thousand dollar obligation.

I look forward to hearing from your office in the next 48 hours in order to arrange a meeting.

Yours,

Laura Belfiglio Gold
Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8
Teacher, 7th grade, National Board Certified Teacher

PHOTO: The tree assigned to Neighbor Laura, by Neighbor Laura

Restored Esmeralda Slide Park Wins Fabulous San Francisco Beautiful Award

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Remember just a few short months ago, when the historic and symbolic Esmeralda Slide Park was a sad ruin?

Blighted by the decaying forces of time, The City had to remove some of the wooden structures before they collapsed. Then came the rallying cry, and the heroic volunteer effort, and then the mini-park was restored and reborn. And now it’s won an amazing beautification award from San Francisco Beautiful.

Neighbors Joan Carson and Nancy Windensheim worked their tail-feathers off to make this happen, and without them, none of this would have happened. Here’s what they had to say about the recognition:

For all you folks who were waiting for the results of who is the winner of the SF Beautiful Award…

Being a nominee was cool enough, but Esmeralda Slide Park just went on record as the 2015 recipient of the Seven Hills Award.  This Award “recognizes nominees who have made a significant contribution to the creation of unique neighborhood character.”

There were 7 award categories and a winner for each. It’s very fitting Esmeralda Slide Park got the Seven Hills Award. Everybody knows Bernal is the ‘hood with the kick-ass slide; Now folks see we not only have the great slide, we have a plaza and park that is also awesome. It’s going to get even better, so stay tuned for more!

Hurray for our fabulous community, and bravo to everyone who has worked and will continue to work on the Esmeralda Slide Park.

See you at Esmeralda!

We did it! Our slides are both ass-kicking and award-winning.  Kind of like Kanye West, but with a much better attitude.

Most of all, a lot of very special thanks are due to Neighbors Nancy and Joan, who lead the charge to reconstruct the Esmeralda mini-park and make it better than ever. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Very, very well done, ladies:

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PHOTOS: Courtesy of Neighbors Nancy and Joan