Rumor Report: Gourmet Food Store Coming to Former Red Hill Books Space


A nosy curious Bernal neighbor heard some innnnnnteresting things about what’s planned for the former (and much-lamented) Red Hill/Badger Books space on Cortland at Bennington:

I caught Matt locking up the old Red Hill Books and asked if I could be nosy and ask what he’s planning…

He was sweet, said it’s not a secret. The corner of Cortland and Bennington will become The Epicurean Trader — gourmet and local packaged goods. He’s hoping that locals will tell them what’s missing from the other nearby shops so he can keep us all stocked in fav products (not compete with Good Life or Avedanos). They also plan to invite local purveyors to present and so on and such  I think he also mentioned selling wine and beer too, but not positive.

Hmmmmmm. Bernalwood reached out to the owner of the building for comment, but we have not yet received a response.

Treat this as a rumor for now, although in the last few days several other Cortland merchants and curious neighbors have also told Bernalwood more-or-less the same thing about the plan for this storefront. Stay tuned…

PHOTO: via Google Maps

Call Me a YIMFY: New 160-Unit Housing Development Proposed for Full Block of Cesar Chavez at South Van Ness


NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect additional detail about the properties involved (and not involved) in the Lennar housing proposal.

At a time of remarkable economic prosperity and intense housing scarcity, there comes a moment when even the most ardent urbanist must confront their own deepest and most self-interested feelings about change, development, and the clash of old vs. new.

For your Bernalwood editor, that moment would seem to be just about now.

News has reached us that the gigantically impersonal Lennar Corporation has announced plans to develop an most of entire block of Cesar Chavez Boulevard, between South Van Ness, Shotwell, and 26th Street. Under the plan, the site will become the location for 160 units of new housing in a very large new residential development.

This block, which was once home to the former Lesher-Muirhead Oldsmobile dealership, is now occupied McMillan Electric, a few smog inspection shop, a private garage,  a rather glamorous Auto Zone, and John’s ridiculously charming British car repair businesses (though not all of these would be demolished; see update below):

John's Jaguar

Closer to home, this vast new housing complex will stand right between me and the beloved view of downtown San Francisco that Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter now enjoys from her bedroom window.

Here’s our current perspective on the proposed development site, as seen from my home:


SocketSite broke the news late last week:

Lennar Urban has filed a proposal to raze the McMillan Electric building at 1515 South Van Ness Avenue, between 26th and Cesar Chavez, with plans to construct a 160-unit apartment building on the Inner Mission site which stretches to Shotwell.

As proposed, the six-story development would rise to a height of 65-feet along South Van Ness, stepping down along 26th Street to five stories and a height of 55-feet along Shotwell.  And twelve (12) percent of the 160 units would be designated as below market rate.

Aside from a proposed 1,740 square foot commercial space on the corner of South Van Ness and 26th Street, the rest of the development’s ground floor would consist of either apartments or programming for the project, including a leasing office, an amenities room for the residents and a private 7,803 square-foot courtyard.

An underground garage would provide parking for 90 cars and the average size of an apartment as designed is around 890 square feet.

Well, if this is the moment when my values and interests are tested, then sign me up me a YIMFY‚ as in Yes In My Front Yard.

I hope the new building doesn’t gobble up all of our view. But if it does, well… so it goes. That view wasn’t mine in the first place, we desperately need more housing supply, and this is an ideal location for it.

There are no proposed designs yet, but you can read the Preliminary Project Assessment (PPA) on file with with the Planning Department right here to get the details of the proposal.

Will there be quibbles? Things to dislike? Details to revise and improve? Of course. But overall, my personal sentiment is… BUILD IT!!

Neighbor Rachel wrote to Bernalwood about this proposal, and she has more specific concerns:

I’m not opposed in principle to development and this lot is pretty disgusting right now. I just think that developers who are proposing a project of this size with huge profit potential, which will take up scarce parking spaces, block views (or the sky in my case), cause noise and disruption for years, spew toxic chemicals into the atmosphere (maybe), and otherwise tax the neighborhood resources and patience, need to include lots of give-backs in their plans that will help the neighborhood.

These give-backs must go beyond the bare minimum. The commercial space should serve the hood by providing needed retail outlets and space for local businesses. The street-scaping should beautify the whole area, not just the sidewalks adjacent to the building. The set-backs should be appropriate for the neighborhood. A good solution for parking for all of the new residents should be found that doesn’t cause more strain on the existing neighbors. And more. If we just let the project go ahead without making any noise, then the developers will give no more than they are required to give by law, if that. They are counting on the neighborhood remaining ignorant and apathetic.

No doubt, there will be much to discuss about this in the weeks and months ahead. Still, until further notice, you may count me in the YIMFY camp.

UPDATE AND CLARIFICATION: It seems that the proposed development may not occupy the entire block after all. Bernalwood received this note from Dan Simpson, the manager at John’s British Car Specialist:

I read your blog post about the proposed apartment complex to be constructed at the McMillan Electric building. I hope you will be happy to hear, as it stands, the John’s British Car Specialist (formerly John’s Jaguar Service) building shall remain at the face of Cesar Chavez and Shotwell St. The planned development would knock down the 3 units behind our building. These units have already been sold to the city, our building remains with the original owner. So we hope to stay here as long as we can!

To further clarify: The AutoZone parcel is not part of the proposed development, nor is the building that contains John’s British Car Specialist. This latter detail is confusing, because while the big building that contains John’s looks continuous, it is actually two structurally separate buildings united by a common roof. So while John’s building would stay, the garages north of it would become part of the Lennar development.

And lo, hidden in plain sight at the very end of the PPA document, Dan steered us toward this diagram of the proposed building configuration (shown in blue outline). The proposed courtyard would sit in the southeast corner of the site, along Shotwell right behind John’s British Car Specialist:


Still unclear, however, is the question of whether the City plans to do a separate bel0w-market-rate development on the site of the garage spaces behind John’s British Car, or if that land is somehow tied up with the Lennar proposal.

IMAGES: Top, Google Earth Pro. Below, view from the bedroom, by Telstar Logistics 

Extremely Sexy, Extremely Short Raised Bikeway Coming to Part of Our Part of Valencia Street


As we all know, infrastructure is sexy.

Not the building and construction part… that’s a big honking mess. But when it’s done, infrastructure represents an investment in our collective future, which is why Bernalwood is always glad to learn about new infrastructure projects coming to our humble corner of the citysphere. Extra credit when the new infrastructure is the first of its kind.

Recently, the City unveiled a plan to build some particularly sexy new infrastructure along the La Lengua stretch of Valencia Street, between Mission and Cesar Chavez, alongside St. Luke’s Hospital. Its all part of that proposal to improve the sewer system and streetscape for that segment of Valenica, which we told you about a year ago. Well, now the design has solidified, and it includes a plan to create a Scandinavian-style raised pathway for bicycles that will be insanely cool and the first of it’s kind in San Francisco. But oddly, this completely cool new raised bikeway will only extend along part of the La Lengua stretch of Valencia Street, between Duncan and Cesar Chavez — which isn’t very big in the first place.

In other words… for one block

Let’s visualize the proposed elevated bikeway site, using the futuristic Google Earth Pro map tool thingy that Neighbor Vanessa generously provided to Bernalwood. Shall we?


As you can see… Infrastructure! Sexy! First of its kind! The best bikeway in all of San Francisco! But just not very much of it. Hmm.

Here’s what the San Francisco Bike Coalition said about the project:

San Francisco is set to get its first raised bikeway next year! The showcase bikeway is part of the Mission/Valencia Gateway project and will stretch southbound on Valencia Street from Cesar Chavez Street to Duncan Street. This one-block bikeway heralds a completely new type of bicycle infrastructure to our city, one that will become more common in the next few years, as raised bikeways are integrated into the Masonic Avenue and 2nd Street projects.

Raised bikeways are common in great bicycling cities like Copenhagen, but relatively new in the United States. Raised bikeways create a protected bikeway without bollards or barriers, instead building the bikeway at an intermediate level between the sidewalk and roadway.Learn more about raised bikeways and see designs here. 

The raised bikeway is an unexpected but very welcome enhancement to the Mission Valencia Green Gateway project, which wrapped up public outreach last year after three community open houses as well as feedback from hundreds of neighbors and SF Bicycle Coalition members. In addition to the raised bikeway, the final project design also includes wider sidewalks, permeable pavement and two new plazas, one at Mission and Valencia and a smaller one at Duncan and Valencia.

So when this sexy new bikeway is completed sometime in mid-2016, it may herald the beginning of a much larger elevated bikeway network that could extend… all the way across Cesar Chavez! Someday! Or maybe it will even extend all the way to the fabled Southern Crossing. Someday!

In the meantime, come mid-2016, if you want to make the new bikeway feel more substantial, you can simply ride back and forth along it a few times, very slowly. Go back and forth six times, and you’ll cover about a mile. Do that while listening to ABBA on your headphones, and you may even begin to feel like you’re in Scandinavia. So sexy!!!

IMAGE: Elevated bikeway rendering via NACTO

Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack Moving to El Zocalo Space Up the Street


Miss Emmy Kaplan from the eponymous Spaghetti Shack sent Bernalwood a Priority One Urgent Message last night to share some important news: Emmy’s is moving into a bigger location just up the street on Mission, in the soon-to-be-former El Zocolo space. But as the Emmy’s press release explains, it’s all cool:

Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack, the beloved San Francisco fixture, is moving two blocks north to 3230 Mission St. this November.

Restauranteur Emmy Kaplan, a native of the neighborhood and a fixture in the local culinary scene since opening her original location 13 years ago, is excited about both expanding the restaurant’s square footage as well as helping preserve the character of the neighborhood by remaining at the juncture of the Mission and Bernal Heights.

“The current location of the Shack is over capacity, the lines are long and we’re constantly turning away large parties,” says Kaplan. “I’m really looking forward to sharing more of what we love with the people who love us with more legroom for our regulars and new friends as well.”

Lauded as a “comfort food standby” and known for its heaping portions of pasta, outsized meatballs and “sassy” service, Emmy’s has long been a regular stop for locals and tourists seeking a truly San Francisco experience. The expanded restaurant takes over a location that was originally founded as El Zocalo in 1965 by owner Victoria Reves’ mother.

“I heard that they were interested in selling their business and thought it would be a golden opportunity to expand the Shack and continue serving our friends and neighbors in the Mission,” says Kaplan. Though she fretted finding a suitable location in the neighborhood in light of the increased corporatization of the area, Kaplan’s timing proved fortuitous.

“I decided that it was time for me to retire,” says Reves, who purchased the El Zocalo from her mother in the 70s. Though Reves entertained other offers, she was taken with the prospect of Kaplan moving her restaurant to the address not least of which because it maintains a tradition of women-owned and -operated restaurants in the location. “It was meant to happen and I’m very happy about it. I liked Emmy immediately. I am really excited about the sale.”

Extra bonus: New Emmy’s will also feature some additions to the menu, a bigger wine list, later hours and more to-go items.

Notice also that with the move to a new space, Emmy’s will complete the emergent Bernal/La Lengua Liminal Zone “Bermuda Triangle of Yum”:


PHOTO: Top, Emmy Kaplan, via Emmy’s

Pinhole Coffee on Cortland Aims for Septemberish Opening


Anticipation has been building in Western Cortlandia as neighbors look forward to the grand opening of Pinhole Coffee at 231 Cortland, on the corner of Bonview. Bernalwood first told you about Pinhole last November, but opening a business in this town is famously non-easy, so things take time.

Lately, however, we’ve seen lots of construction underway in the Pinhole space, and when we poked our head in last weekend we saw lots of great stuff, including a handsome new coffee bar, a cool new mural (which features Sutro Tower for bonus cool credit), and  colorful wood strips on the walls. It’s going to be a beautiful space.

Pinhole founder JoEllen Depakakibo was onsite too, so Bernalwood posed the question everyone’s been asking: When is the opening date?!?!

Miss JoEllen smiled, laughed nervously, and said, “in a few weeks!”

So, end of August?

She scrunched up her face. “More like September,” she said.

Fair enough. Septemberish! Can’t wait. And in the meantime, you’ll find lots of construction photos on the Pinhole Coffee Facebookplatz.

PHOTO: via JoEllen Depakakibo

Kickstarter Campaign Underway for New Red Hill Station Oyster Bar on Cortland


When the new Red Hill Station oyster and seafood bar opens, it will be exciting new addition to the Cortlandia culinary ecosystem. In the meantime, though, co-founders (and Bernal neighbors) Amy and Taylor are doing the contemporary fundraising thing by holding a Kickstarter campaign:

We are Amy Reticker and Taylor Pedersen of Red Hill Station and we’re opening a restaurant in our neighborhood because Bernal Heights needs Oysters. We’ve signed the lease, begun renovations, and have a target opening date in June!

We have a $20k budget gap we need to close. With the help of Kickstarter, and you, I think we can make our funding goal, and our opening day in June.

I can’t wait to cook delicious seafood that would make my Sicilian grandmother proud.

New Creamery on Cortland Has a Name, but No Opening Date (Yet)


Since its existence was first revealed here almost one year ago, there hasn’t been much news about the new market and eatery at 800 Cortland that’s going in to the old Bernal Heights Produce store at the corner of Ellsworth.

As you recall, the new place will be operated by the folks from Harvest Hills Market on Folsom at Precita. And since your Bernalwood editor shops at Harvest Hills regularly, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to inquire about the progress of 800 Cortland.

Frankly, we haven’t learned much. We understand that there’s been some construction, and much time has been spent dealing with various City permitting agencies. Some new equipment has been installed, including an ice cream machine.  Still, no word yet on a target opening date, other than soon, hopefully.

Oh, and based on the lettering that appeared recently on the side of the old truck Harvest Hills uses to haul stuff around, the new place may now have a name: The Harvest Cafe and Creamery. Coming soon. Hopefully.


PHOTOS: Top, 800 Cortland in May 2013. All photos by Telstar Logistics

Kinfolk to Convert from Popup to Permanent Inside Former Pizza Express


Well, the rumors turned out to be true. Our foodie fwiendz at Inside Scoop confirm that Kinfolk, the Cortand popup restaurant launched by Bernal neighbor Greg Lutes, will open a permanent location inside the former Pizza Express space at 919 Cortland:

For the last several months, Kinfolk has been popping up regularly for brunch and dinner at 903 Cortland. Well, it’s moving up.

The chef-owner behind the project is Greg Lutes, and he’s finally found a permanent location — and as it turns out, it’s just a few doors down from 903.

Lutes has inked a deal to take over 919 Cortland Avenue, which was most recently home to Pizza Express, though it’s currently home to a dirt floor. After a full build-out, Kinfolk is hoped to open this summer, with 40 seats — double the size of its set-up at 903.

New Purveyors of Warm Drinks Coming to Western Cortland



If you are of the opinion that what Cortland Ave. needs is more places to buy warm drinks west of Bennington Street, then the gods have heard your prayers, because that stretch of Cortland will soon be home to two (2) new purveyors of fine warm drinks.

While walking on Cortland on Saturday, I noticed that the door was open at 317 Cortland, just west of the 331 Cortland food marketplace. Inside I met Joe, who let me snap some photos of his new shop specializing in the sale of loose Chinese tea. Joe hopes to open for business in the next few weeks.

A little farther west on Cortland, Neighbors Alex and Alexei tell Bernalwood that Pinhole Coffee, a new coffee shop, is preparing to open at 231 Cortland, on the corner of Bonview near Avedano’s. Pinhole Coffee already has a thriving Facebook page, and this note is posted in the window:

pinholeletterPHOTOS: Top, 317 Cortland, by Telstar Logistics. Middle, Pinhole Coffee interior renovations, by Pinhole Coffee. Bottom, note by Alexei Oreskovic.

Belgian Restaurant to Open in Former Locavore Space; Bernal Moule Frites Junkies Rejoice


Bernal foodies, our long neighborhood nightmare of moule frites deprivation will soon come to a close. No longer will we have to venture beyond the comfortable confines of Bernal Heights to get a moule frites fix, because Tablehopper reports that the folks behind the wonderful Pi Bar plan to remedy Bernal’s moule frites deficit by opening Bel, a new Belgian restaurant, on Mission at Valencia:

Liquor license activity reveals a new taker for the former Locavore space on Mission in Bernal: Richard Rosen, one of the partners are Pi Bar in the Mission. We had a chance to catch up with Rosen on the phone, and he confirms that he is working on the new spot. It will be called ~BEL~ and is all about Belgian food and beer. He says it will be a full-service café, inspired by the sidewalk cafés of cities like Brussels and Bruges. The beverage selection will focus on beers (obvs), many of them Belgian, but you’ll also find Belgian-style beers from other parts of the world, and some local options with different flavor profiles.

In the food department, look for traditional Belgian dishes like moules frites and a California take on the Belgian shrimp croquette, but made with local crab. Rosen will serve as the chef and is looking toward early spring 2014 to open.

PS: While it’s not a proper moule frites, it should be noted that the skillet-roasted mussels at the Old Clam House on Bayshore are a satisfying stopgap alternative.

Revealed: The Future of the Former Stray Bar on Cortland



Bernalwood has received lots and lots and lots of questions about the former home of the (much-loved) Stray Bar on Cortland.

The interior of the bar was gutted a few weeks back, and a peek through the window reveals a hollowed-out shell that has been stripped down to the studs.  Clearly, this will not be a lightweight refresh of the old space. But what will it become?

Bernalwood has been in touch with the new owners for the last several weeks, and here’s what we’ve learned: The new proprietors also own two other bars in San Francisco, Churchill on Church at Duboce Triangle and Bloodhound on Folsom in SoMa.

The new name of the Cortland location has not been revealed, but Michael Goebel, a co-owner of the bar, tells Bernalwood:

We are still in the infant stages of our design/aestetic part of the project. What I can tell you is that we will be a friendly, locally focused, simple neighborhood bar. We are very excited about being a part of this close knit and unique community. The more time we spend here and the more we get to know people, the clearer our vision gets of how to create our space.

I can tell you that we will create something along the same lines as our sister bars Churchill and Bloodhound. We will be cocktail focused, spirit driven, and serve regional beers and wines.

If you have been by the space you can see  we are still in the beginning of the construction phase of things. We have relocated the bathrooms and opened the place up quite nicely. We are still hammering out final touches of design and concept, but what i wrote earlier is definitely true. We will be a great neighborhood bar focused on great, approachable, hand crafted cocktails. We will feature local artisan beers and wines and our staff will be focused entirely and creating a great customer experience.

This bar is a neighborhood bar first, with a laid back setting, comfortable for everyone. The space will have some amazing design elements to it as well, but more to come on that later — once I figure it all out 🙂

A final note: The new owners have informed Bernalwood that the big old painting that was on the wall of the Stray Bar has found a good home at Avedano’s, up the street.  That’s a relief.

PHOTOS: The former Stray Bar, June 2013. By Telstar Logistics

Portugese-Style Cafe Planned for Former Nervous Dog Space



There was sadness in La Lengua when Nervous Dog Coffee closed down last December. But this week, Andrea de Francisco contacted Bernalwood to tell us about the new Portugese-style cafe she’s planning to open inside the former Nervous Dog space on Mission Street just north of Cortland.

The new place will be called Cafe St. Jorge, and her press release brings the deets:

Cafe St. Jorge will open in San Francisco’s Mission district Bernal Heights this summer at 3438 Mission Street. Named after the Açorean Island birthplace of owner Andrea de Francisco’s family, Cafe St. Jorge is a Portuguese-inspired cafe featuring Stumptown Coffee. From 6:30am – 3:30pm, staying open later once they get their beer and wine license, customers can choose from an array of meals, snacks and share portions, alongside fresh juices and smoothies.

Cafe St. Jorge’s Kickstarter campaign is open until June 15th and offers an array of thank you gifts including bottomless mugs, barista classes, monthly baked goods deliveries and use of the spacious cafe for private events.

Truly passionate about food and coffee, de Francisco has worked in the San Francisco food industry for over a decade. The former manager of Lower Haight’s beloved The Grind Cafe, de Francisco also founded and runs her own vegan and gluten-free bakery, Test Kitchen Bakery.

Every dish at Cafe St. Jorge will be made from scratch using only the freshest organic produce, grains, cheeses, herbs and spices. With an array of vegan and gluten-free items available, Cafe St. Jorge will deliver Portuguese fare with a San Francisco sensibility, alongside healthful and delicious California cuisine–all based in tradition and rooted in community.

Cafe St. Jorge’s seasonal menu includes several selections from each of the following categories: breakfast and pastries (orange blossom waffles, shirred duck eggs, grain bowls, toast series), entrée style salads, sandwiches (hot and cold), savory share snacks/petiscos, freshly squeezed juices and smoothies. Portuguese sweet rolls will be baked and served every morning, as well.

Pantry items and packaged Stumptown Coffee will also be for sale. Hard-to-find Portuguese items will also be available for purchase.

The menu is already online, if you want to take peek.

PHOTOS: Cafe St. Jorge nterior build-out photos, courtesy of Andrea de Francisco.

New Renderings Reveal the St. Luke’s Hospital of Tomorrow, Today




Now that all the squabbling over the plans has been settled (knock wood), California Pacific Medical Center has released a new set of renderings that show what the new, redesigned, 120-bed St. Luke’s Hospital on Cesar Chavez at Valencia will look like when it’s done.

SF Appeal provides the overview:

A previous development agreement reached between city and hospital officials last year called for a smaller-scale hospital at St. Luke’s and a larger one at the Cathedral Hill site at Van Ness Avenue and Geary Boulevard, but was shelved by supervisors unhappy with the deal.

One of the aspects of the previous proposed deal that supervisors criticized was an escape clause that could have allowed CPMC to close St. Luke’s if its operating margin stayed negative for two consecutive years.

In addition, residents near the proposed Cathedral Hill site had complained about the prospect of increased traffic congestion from a hospital being built at the intersection of two of the city’s main thoroughfares, he said.

Supervisor Mark Farrell applauded the new agreement in March, which he said “incorporates the needs and concerns of our neighborhoods.”

Supervisor David Campos, whose district includes St. Luke’s, said that hospital is “very personal to me” because he had received care there when he was uninsured as a young adult.

He said the new plan “ensures the long-term viability of St. Luke’s.”

With luck, construction should begin by the end of the year. Find more detail about the project at the RebuildCPMC website.