Wall Collapses at Crescent Avenue Construction Project

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A wall collapsed yesterday at a home renovation jobsite on the corner of Crescent Avenue and Moultrie in South Bernal. Fortunately, Bay City News reports no one was injured:

The collapse was reported at 501 Crescent Ave. just after 10 a.m., according to a fire department spokesman.

The two-story residential building is currently under construction. No injuries have been reported, fire officials said.

The city’s Department of Building Inspection has been called to the scene.

June 2016 Google streetview of the site shows what the project looked like before the accident.  Neighbor T. adds that the property has been — and remains — a magnet for drama:

The house at Crescent and Moultrie that collapsed Tuesday morning has been undergoing the most recent of MANY unfortunate renovations.  The crew that was working on it today scattered/disappeared just as it was collapsing.  Then, after hours of police investigating and photographs/red tagging it, they came back after dark and were demolishing more. At 7:30 pm there were 2 police cars on the scene with three guys face-down on the street, I imagine arrested for trespassing a red tag.

PHOTO: 501 Crescent yesterday, courtesy of a Bernalwood reader

Oakland Fire Victim Cash Askew Had Deep Roots in Bernal Heights

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Cash Askew

A few neighbors have alerted Bernalwood that one of the victims in last weekend’s horrific Oakland warehouse fire had roots in Bernal Heights. Cash Askew, 22, perished in the blaze.

Neighbor Paula says:

Cash Askew, one of the artists who perished in the Oakland fire, grew up in Bernal and also worked at Bernal Beast for a few years before she moved away to go to school.

Neighbor Jordan adds:

Cash Askew died in the Oakland fire. Cask was a graduate of Children’s Day School and she was in a band named Them Are Us Too.

Cash’s step-dad, Sunny Haire runs a dog-walking business and walks many a Bernal dog (including mine). Cash’s mom, Leisa Askew, owns Fix Studios on Valencia Street.

Neighbor Jordan adds that a memorial fund has been set up to assist Cash’s surviving family as they come together to recover. Bernalwood readers are encouraged to contribute.

The Washington Post published a profile of Cash Askew yesterday:

Cash’s stepfather, Sunny Haire, is a transgender man and skilled guitarist who for years worked as the manager of one of the last lesbian bars in San Francisco, the Lexington Club, he told The Washington Post. As a child, Cash would spend time with her stepfather in the Lexington Club, sipping cranberry juice and watching the clientele.

Since 2013, Cash had been performing in a musical duo called Them Are Us Too alongside Kennedy Ashlyn, whom she met while studying at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Some have described the group as “goth” or “synth-pop,” but the duo prefers to refer to its sound as “visceral,” “euphoric” or simply “feelings.”

Most of all, the two identified as “queer femmes” and connected most with underground, queer or transgender communities of young people in different parts of the country, Ashlyn told the Post.

“It’s our chosen family, our radical music community,” Ashlyn said, describing their circle as one of “creative, beautiful people who are not as highly valued in normative spaces as they should be.”

Them Are Us Too released its first album last year, and had since toured the country several times, Ashlyn said. Cash had been working on a new demo track for years, and the duo had hoped to finish writing a new album within the coming year. They planned to tour South America at the end of January, Ashlyn said.

This is “Eudaemonia,” from Them Are Us Too’s 2015 album, Remain.  It’s wonderful:

Once again, you can contribute to the memorial fund for Cash Askew’s family right here.

Bernalwood Readers Report on Monday’s Alex Nieto Memorial Meeting

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What happened during Monday night’s community meeting about the proposed City ordinance to install a memorial for Alex Nieto on Bernal Hill? Several Bernalwood readers attended the meeting, and shared their perspectives on what happened.

rikitiki49 felt the meeting wasn’t really about soliciting input from the Bernal community about a memorial:

Just left this meeting disappointed that the first 1 1/2 hours was not about establishing a memorial for Alex Nieto, but a memorial come-together meeting. It was very touching and sad to to hear from the Nieto family and indeed other families of recently shot citizens who were introduced by Campos.

Campos and Avalos (with a brief but sympathetic cameo by Hillary Ronen who left shortly after 7) spoke at length . Then the father of Alex spoke o Alex’ life and then warmly about once sitting on that bench with his son overlooking the city. Then, a woman from the arts commission distributed paper info with photos re plaques, sculptures and other forms of remembrance. She noted that given the story she heard from the father perhaps a special bench might be what the community wanted…(I thought this was so appropriate and hoped the crowd would agree but this was not to be that kind of meeting.)

There was then another round of much shouting “Amor, Amor” for Alex and posturing by one man in particular. I left about 7:20 hearing no constructive talk about a memorial other than Campos/Avalos saying there would be a community process, two supervisor meetings, and a guiding committee you could sign up for. The vast majority of people in the room appeared to either express love for Alex or anger for the incident.

Craig says he’s still unclear on why a memorial for Alex Nieto is being proposed:

I attended the meeting together with about 40 others. The people attending were all supporters of Alex Neito and friends/families of the other 2 victims of police killings this past year. The family of Alex Neito spoke in Spanish and was translated to English. Alex apparently grew up in Bernal and attending local public schools. He later attended a [junior college] and studied criminology. He did a lot of volunteer work with children. I attended to learn more about his contribution to Bernal and to understand the reasons to establish a public memorial on the hill. Campos, Avelos and Hillary Ronen attended. Each spoke and their comments were unremarkable.

An artist from the city art commission spoke about the type of memorial that might be considered. She had a portfolio of brass plates, benches and bronze bust. She mentioned that a bronze bust of Newsom cost about $120,000 that some of his wealthy patrons contributed to have it made. She did mention the public must pay the cost of this type of project. However, Campos chimed in to announce that he inserted language in the ordinance to possibly include city money to purchase the memorial. He received a round of applause.

I left the meeting after 45 minutes and still cannot understand why two public officials – Campos, Avelos and Supervisor-elect Ronen would endorse a public memorial for Alex Neito. Hearing scheduled Dec 5th at 1pm. If approved by this committee, it will go to the full Board for a hearing.

But mimiklausner had no trouble understanding why a memorial might be appropriate:

I went to the meeting. It was an overflow crowd. Once the resolution is passed, it is up the the Nieto family with input from the community to decide what form the memorial will take. Someone from the Arts Commission made a presentation about the process, gave ideas about plaques, benches and statues. Right now there is no City money available for the memorial. Some in the audience wanted to approach the City to fund it; others thought it should be funded by the community. Beth Stephens who teaches at UC Santa Cruz offered to fabricate the plaque at the USC bronze foundry. Other people offered to write grants.

Rufugio Nieto talked about his son and said that at one point he dragged Rufugio up to the hill at 3 am and they sat together on a bench and Alex said he loved seeing the City asleep and that he felt so safe there, safer there than anywhere else.

 

 

Tonight: Community Meeting on Ordinance for Bernal Hill Memorial to Alex Nieto

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Back in September, Bernalwood reported that an effort was underway in the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to require the City to install a memorial for Alex Nieto on Bernal Hill. Tonight, a community meeting will be held to discuss the ordinance introduced at the Board of Supervisors which would create the Alex Neto memorial.

This morning, Ailed Paningbatan-Swan from the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center tells Bernalwood that in one of their final acts before leaving the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor John Avalos and SupervisorDavid Campos  have introduced an ordinance to establish a permanent memorial for Alex Nieto. The measure would direct “the Recreation and Park Department to install in Bernal Heights Park a memorial in honor of Alex Nieto.”

The complete text of the ordinance can be found here.

Alex Nieto was the Bernal Heights neighbor who was killed during a March 2014 confrontation with the San Francisco Police. A San Francisco District Attorney investigation of the incident concluded that police acted lawfully during the incident, and during a subsequent wrongful death suit initated by the Nieto family, a jury ruled that the SFPD officers involved in the incident had not used excessive force. Friends and family of Alex Nieto maintain his death was a byproduct of gentrification.

In addition, Ailed also passes along word this morning that BHNC will host a community meeting TONIGHT at 6 pm to learn more about the proposal:

Join the Bernal Heights Community to discuss the Creation of an Alex Nieto Memorial on Bernal Hill.

Please join us for an informational meeting and community discussion to learn about efforts taking place to create a Bernal Hill memorial for Alex Nieto, a long-time Bernal Heights Resident and City College Student.

Date: Monday, November 28, 2016
Time: 6:00pm-8:00pm
Location: Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center
515 Cortland Avenue, SF CA 94110
Dining Hall

For additional information, please contact Ailed Paningbatan Director of Community Engagement at BHNC 415-206-2140 x 130, or Carolyn Goossen, legislative aide to Supervisor David Campos, at 415-554-7729.

PHOTO: Top, ad hoc Alex Nieto memorial on Bernal Hill, September 14, 2016, by Telstar Logistics

SFFD Concludes Cole Hardware Fire Caused by Cigarettes or BBQ

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The devastating fire that destroyed several buildings on Mission Street near 29th St. and left 56 people homeless last June was most likely caused by smoking or unsafe BBQ charcoal disposal. That’s the conclusion of the San Francisco Fire Department’s investigation into the June 18 blaze, which apparently started of the roof of 3316 Mission St., the building that housed Cole Hardware store.

KQED reports:

After the fire was subdued, investigators encountered extensive damage: floors, ceilings and hallways collapsed; a roof on one building that had been completely consumed by flames; and windows that had blown out because of the intense heat.

The first clues of a potential cause came from an unidentified woman living in one of the residential units. She told investigators she saw smoke and flames coming from an area where there were two plastic trash receptacles. She said she occasionally saw a neighbor smoke on the adjoining balcony. She stated “sometimes he uses an ashtray and sometimes he does not,” the report said.

Two unidentified Cole Hardware employees told investigators that they saw smoke and fire coming from trash receptacles on the roof. One of them said “the ‘whole trash can’ was on fire,” according to the report.

Investigators found the melted remains of one trash receptacle they say had burned into the roof. Another receptacle was also severely damaged by heat and fire. It was in that area officials believe the fire began.

“In this immediate area we located the remains of burnt combustible materials,” the report stated. “In the area we also located the remains of discarded smoking materials.”

Investigators also believe that “improperly discarded smoldering barbecue charcoals” could have been placed in the trash receptacles.

Here’s an aerial view of the same scene as it looked before the fire, as archived by Apple Maps. Notably, two plastic trash bins are visible on a deck above the ground-floor Cole Hardware store, though it’s unknown if these were the same ones where the fire originated:

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UPDATE: Wow. Back in January 2015 when he visited 3316 Mission Street as part of his historical research into the Catto family’s connection to the building, Neighbor Michael Nolan took some close-up photos on the small deck off the upstairs apartments above Cole Hardware. As fate would have it, he also photographed the trash bins on the deck too. Here’s a close-up from January, 2015, shared with us today. This is the spot where the fire may have started:

2015 photo of trash bin on the rear deck of 3316 Mission, courtesy of Michael Nolan

2015 photo of trash bin on the rear deck of 3316 Mission, courtesy of Michael Nolan

Notice the text on the trash can lid? “No Hot Ashes.” Ugh.

Meanwhile, the KQED article also contains a sad footnote, to the effect that Cole Hardware is unlikely to make a permanent return to Bernal’s stretch of Mission Street.

However, all hope may not be lost. Cole Hardware will operate a local pop-up shop on Mission near its old location during this holiday season, and Cole Hardware co-owner Rick Karp says:

[Cole Hardware is] opening a temporary holiday pop-up shop at the intersection of 29th and Mission. It’s next door to Pizza Hacker. We will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Thanksgiving until Christmas. We’ll have Christmas trees, both cut and live, garland, poinsettias, lights, gift wrap, lots of decor and more!

Please come by and say hello, have some wine or cider, and do some holiday shopping too. Former Mission store staff members Jose, Shanead and Jonathan will be running the show.

We are so sad not to be a part of the neighborhood anymore. We continue to watch for vacancies that could be a new home for us. No luck thus far, but we are hopeful. The landlord of the previous store has sold the property. We will be doing whatever we can to lease the retail space in the new building. We’ll keep you posted.

PHOTO: Top, annotated aerial view of the Cole Hardware fire site, as captured via drone in late June, 2016 by Alan Musselman.

1944: Another Big Fire on the 3300 Block of Mission Street

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In the wake of the big fire that ravaged several buildings on Mission Street last June, there’s now a big, sad gap in the cityscape where Cole Hardware and Playa Azul used to be. But this isn’t the first time that block has been devastated by fire.

Vicky Walker, Minister of History from the Bernal Heights History Project, reminds us about the Sports Center bowling alley fire of 1944:

I was recently swapping emails with Pat (Patrick) O’Brien, a proud Bernal Heights native who lived on Holly Park Circle and then Gladys Street. Pat graduated from Junipero Serra, attended Mass and church at St Kevin’s, and delivered the San Francisco Examiner on a route along Cortland Ave. “After 70 years, there’s still one homeon that route which owes me money,” he says.

Seeing news of the Cole Hardware fire on Mission Street reminded Pat of another big fire on the same block.

“Strange coincidence,” he says. “In the 1940’s the Sports Center, a bowling alley, across from the Lyceum Theater on the other side of Mission Street, burned down.”

Bernalwood and the Bernal History Project have looked into the history of bowling on Mission Street before. Once upon a time, Bernalese had two large bowling alleys within a block of each other, so there was clearly a craze for the sport. But the Sports Center fire was news to me, so I dug into the newspaper archives.

Pat recalls, “Sports Center was built during my time in San Francisco as a kid; it was so much larger and better than the Mission Bowl, which was adjacent to Sears.” (Today the former Mission Bowl building is now occupied by the Roccapulco nightclub.)

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“With two stories, meetings and games could be played upstairs at Sports Center with plenty of room,” Pat says. “I learned to bowl with the Cubs on a few Saturdays; I later took a job as a pin setter — a tough job with everything done by hand. The environment wasn’t too good for a young kid, with many winos making a little money with that job, too.”

Construction work to build Sports Center was underway in late 1941, as the US entered World War II after the Pearl Harbor attacks.  Sports Center opened at 3333 Mission — the site of today’s Big Lots store — on July 1, 1942.

It had 38 bowling lanes, eight badminton courts, an “extensive” table tennis setup, a cocktail bar, a fountain lunch counter, and plenty of parking:

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The site had originally been home to a Market Street Railway car barn, and the car barn’s brick walls and structural steel frame were re-used to create what the Chronicle described as a “bowling palace” and “magnificent edifice.” Renowned San Francisco muralist Don Clever painted caricatures of sports stars like Joe DiMaggio and Joe Louis on the walls of the cafe and bar.

Sports Center general manager Gerry Watkins had done his research, and he knew he could capitalize on the bowling craze. The Sports Center was a huge success, with many of the city’s bowling teams and badminton champs playing there regularly.

The San Francisco Chronicle certainly rarely missed a chance to run a photo of young women bowling…

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…. or leaping with their badminton racquets:

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But it didn’t last long. A fire broke out at the Sports Center at around 5 p.m. on February 8, 1944, in an attic storeroom full of paint, wax, and lacquer used to maintain the alleys and bowling pins.

“It was a gigantic fire and my dad, a fireman, was at the fire,” Pat recalls. “I along with hundreds watched it. The fire engrossed that entire structure, and that’s where I saw my dad go up on the roof to survey the fire and damage. He got an uneasy feeling about the roof and told the other firemen to get down from it. A few minutes later, the roof caved in — but no firemen were hurt. The fire was so dangerous because of the gallons of paint, varnish, and combustibles stored inside.”

The Chronicle and the Oakland Tribune both made sure to report that the Sports Center’s extensive supply of liquor in the cocktail bar were saved, but the building itself was a write-off —  although the brick walls remained solid.

The Sports Center was rapidly rebuilt by a group of directors that included then-Supervisor Edward T. Mancuso. Some questioned how a country at war could spare the steel for a mere bowling alley,

But Mancuso told the Chronicle that the government had deemed the bowling alley worthy of AA-3 priority because the diversion of playing sports  was a “positive factor in soothing the tension of war workers and service men.” The Sports Center reopened in August 1945.

Tonight: Have Fun in La Lengua to Benefit Victims of the Cole Hardware Fire

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Lest we forget, many of the neighbors and businesses displaced by last June’s Cole Hardware Fire are still still struggling to rebuild.

Neighbor Eden Stein from the Mission-Bernal Merchants Association invites all Bernalese to stroll our stretch of Mission Street tonight, Friday, Oct 7, as local merchants and eateries raise money for the fire victims. Neighbor Eden says:

Help us meet our goal for the MBMA Fire Relief Fund!

What are you doing Friday night? Secession Art & Design, Coronitas Bar and Grill, and Old Devil Moon are each hosting fundraisers for the Mission Bernal Merchant Fire Relief Fund.

Start the evening off at Secession Art & Design’s party at 3235 Mission from 6-9pm. 3300 Club will be selling t-shirts at this event. Then have a Corona and some delicious buffalo wings at Coronitas at 3326 Mission. Walk just up the street to Old Devil Moon at 3472 Mission to have a Po-boy and some beer, whisky, or rum – your choice.

When you shop, eat, or drink you’ll be making a difference. Each business will donate a percentage from their proceeds.

Our fundraising efforts end on Sunday at midnight, so help us reach our goal of $25,000. Forty locals and fifteen restaurants have brought hope to the merchants of the 3300 block by raising close to $20,000 already.

The merchants on this block still need support from our local community so they can have a chance to open again and do what they love best. Our fundraiser is a small thank-you grant to remind these businesses that we got their back, and let them know that we’re still thinking of them and want them to be able to return.

See you Friday night!

XO
Eden

PHOTO: 3300 block of Mission Street after the fire. Photo by Jonathan Koshi via MBMASF