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

Pedestrian Struck By Car on Crescent Avenue

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A pedestrian was struck by a car yesterday on Crescent Avenue in South Bernal. Daniel Montes from SF Bay reports:

Around 8:10 a.m., officers responded to a report of a crash at Crescent Avenue and Andover Street, police said.

There, officers learned the victim, a 62-year-old man, had run into the crosswalk on Andover Street in order to catch a bus, according to police.

At the same time, a 38-year-old man was driving and came to a stop at Andover Street and Crescent Avenue. He then proceeded through the intersection, where he struck the victim, police said.

The victim suffered injuries to his head and pelvis. He was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries, according to police.

Neighbors Establish Recovery Fund for Bernal Family Displaced by Prospect Fire

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We’ll start with the good news: Everyone is okay.

But beyond that, the two-alarm fire that damaged the house at 158 Prospect last Friday morning has turned the life of Bernal’s Grant-Weisler family upside down, because their home is no longer habitable and much of their stuff is destroyed. At the time of the fire, the house was occupied by a family of two parents and three kids, their au pair, and two visiting houseguests.

But that brings us to another silver lining: This is Bernal Heights, and neighbors here help one another during times of need. A crowdfunding effort has gotten underway to help the Grant-Weisler family begin to rebuild, and all Bernalese are invited to contribute.

We’ll have more detail on the crowdfunding effort in a moment. But first, here’s a note from Neighbor Sam, the mom of the house at 158 Prospect:

Tonight I am grateful. So grateful. And I feel lucky. So lucky.

That’s not what I would expect to be feeling after standing on the sidewalk and watching my home of the past 15 years, the home where all 3 of my kids were born, the home where JJ Wiesler and I have built our whole adult life together, go up in flames.

But it’s amazing how quickly your priorities come clear when you are forced to choose, in a second, what is most important to you. People, memories, photos, videos, musical instruments, the kitchen table around which so much of my life has unfolded, my dads lap desk and typewriter, cameras, journals…

Everyone is OK. The girls are pretty shaken up, but they’re going to be fine. And the baby is just going with the flow. To him, it’s just another day of new experiences.

The only person who was injured was one of the 66 amazing firefighters from the San Francisco Fire Department who risked their lives today to save our home. I am so moved, overwhelmed with gratitude, by the moments of kindness that we experienced in this insane day from hell. The female firefighters, who are also moms, who took the time to rescue the kids lovies. The other firefighter who returned our emergency cash stash that was about to disappear into the flames. The other firefighters who went back into an active fire to recover all our family photos and videos. The neighbors who boxed up and stored our salvaged belongings without even being asked. The other neighbors who quietly pressed their keys into our hands, offering beds, pillows, towels, food, and even a friends apartment where we are staying right now. I’m so moved.

The “Grant-Wiesler Onward & Upward Fund” was launched by Bernal Neighbors Aaron and Bronwyn Ximm. They write:

Thankfully, and most importantly, everyone is fine.

Their warm and welcoming home however is unlivable, and most of the family’s posessions were lost.

The Grant-Wielsers are bracing for for a very long climb to restore, remake, and rebuild.

As friends and family, many of us immediately wonder how we can help in this time of need.

One certain thing is that during the next few months especially, the family’s cash flow is going to be both complicated and unpredictable.

There will be hundreds of compounding expenses small and large to re-acquire the tools of modern life.

One way we can help is to build the Grant-Wielsers a ‘slush fund’ for those occasions.

There will be many ways to help West, the girls, and Sam and JJ!

But if you can make a donation–and of course, of any size at all!–it will make a real difference, one that will be received with profound gratitude.

About the campaign organizers: we are Aaron, Bronwyn, Ember, and Juniper Ximm. We are a family of close neighbors and friends of the Grant-Wieslers.

Our families shared the same world-class nanny over many years. Only a few days ago our girls traded morse code messages from our front porch to their back one.

We can’t believe it’s going to be a year or more before we can trade more morse code. We love them one and all, and wanted to immediatley get some help organized on their behalf!

If you’re so inclined, please contribute to the fire recover fund here. As of this writing, the fund has raised $5500, with a goal of hitting $12,500.

You know what to do, Bernal neighbors: Let’s hit that goal — and then exceed it.

PHOTO: Fire at 158 Prospect, by Tom Baker

UPDATED: Two-Alarm Fire on Prospect Ave., Firefighter Injured, Eight Residents Displaced

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This morning firefighters are extinguishing a two-alarm fire at 158 Prospect Avenue, between Virginia and Esmeralda.

Firefighters report 8 people live in the building, but all escaped safely.

UPDATE, 9:40 am: One firefighter suffered a head injury while battling the blaze. The injury was described as moderate, and the firefighter was taken to the hospital.

Neighbor Valerie is on the scene:

Neighbor Mary shared this photo. She says, “These were taken from my west-facing deck on the hill. I first noticed the smoke about 8:30 and documented the courageous firefighters working on a steeply sloped roof. As of 9:25 the smoke is still very visible.”

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Additional coverage:

UPDATE: As of 9:45 am, the fire is reported as contained.

Bernalwood will update this story as additional information becomes available.

PHOTO: Top, via Neighbor Valerie. Below, Prospect fire as seen from Noe Valley, courtesy of Christopher Baker