Summary Notes from the Feb. 25 Community Safety Meeting at BHNC


There was a community safety meeting at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center late last month, and Neighbor Edie took some rather thorough notes which we’re sharing here. Read on for encouraging updates on some recent high-profile crimes and disappointing news from the DA’s office about auto break-in arrests:

Bernal Heights Community Convening Meeting Notes
Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center
Thursday, February 25, 2016, 6:00 pm

Welcome/Meeting Purpose
Ailed Paningbatan-Swan, BHNC

Important to have regular meetings so we can work together stay on top of issues…The Neighborhood Center will be hosting these meetings the 4th Thursday of every month.

Police Update by Captain Joseph McFadden

Esmeralda Stairs assault Update: people put in custody with the work of Bernal neighbors who looked for videos and witnesses. Booked not just the original person who assaulted, but his girlfriend who was also involved too.

Auto break-ins—Good Life and Other two arrests directly after the previous meeting, both felonies, reduced to misdemeanors and now back on the street. This is a problem that has happened with the past 4 people they’ve caught. These are primarily recidivists. Community pressure will help getting this situation turned around. Public needs to talk to DA, judges to make the point that letting them go doesn’t do any good. Send video, witnesses must agree to testify.

Questions and Answers
Q: Let’s keep a list of felons who are let loose immediately, track their cases, and go to the presiding judge and ask why they’re reducing sentences. (The Captain agreed to give us the police reports after some editing).

Q: Do you have a recommendation of video systems?
No – police can’t recommend, but SF SAFE has info.

Q: Why can’t you put bait in a car and arrest them?
Murphy’s law – when we set up, they sometimes don’t bite. Q: What happened to the video I gave the police a few weeks ago? Captain will check.

Archie Wong, Assistant District Attorney
The DA’s office has placed Assistant DAs with all the police stations to get to know the police and the area better. Archie Wong works with McFadden and Ewing in the Tenderloin. The Tenderloin CPD is planning to roll out cameras, and recommend getting the best quality you can, high mega- pixels and mega zoom, and night view. If you don’t get good images, they don’t help the police at all. On the Esmeralda Stairs assault, next court date is end of March, Judge Crompton.

Q: About the Good Life auto break-ins:
Sgt. Alvarez is tracking down white car involved, and she’s very persistent.

Q: Why do cases get reduced, people let out?
Depends on their past criminal history, what was stolen, the attorneys, the jury, the wording of the law.

Q: If someone’s on probation, can we ask the probation dept to send them back if they commit a crime?
Felonies are on supervised probation – standards are lower for sending them back to jail.

Q: Wouldn’t it be better to have health care, jobs, and education for people who criminals who come out and don’t have any other means of earning money?
There are a lot more programs in SF to help people, but there’s a lot more crime here. There are criminal gangs and families here, looking for Louis Vuitton and laptops. At some point, something has to click for people to want to get help.

Follow-up on previous meeting issues:

1. Holladay Avenue Caltrans property
Shane O’Connor, neighbor Live on Holliday, parallel to and right above 101 – close proximity to all Bayshore 101 activity, a magnet for illegal activity: lots of cars dumped, garbage dumped, homeless, people come to park in dark areas up to no good. Set up meeting with Campos HR, neighbors did a walk in the fence area belonging to CalTrans. Meeting with DPW, city agencies to see if there’s city interest in doing something productive with the abandoned area. Instead of being a magnet for garbage, mess, and crime, it could be a magnet for community participation and planning of a beautiful area that benefits the whole city.

2. Hot Spot walks : Tentative Dates
These consist of neighbors and representatives from city agencies checking areas that need attention cleanup or repairs to prevent crime and/or preserve public safety. Scheduled walks are: Region 1: Mon 03/14, Region 2: Thu 03/31, Region 3: Thu 04/14, Region 4: Wed 04/27

Supervisor Campos’ office—Hillary Ronen

1. Car Break-ins: after last meeting, learned Weiner and Yee had already had a city-wide meeting on the topic, so Campos called a follow-up. Mayor said there’s increase in break-ins all over the city, but most in District 6. City has focused their efforts using new crime-stopping techniques on the touristy areas. Campos asked for help for all city residents, since many have been broken in to several times.

2. Homeless Encampment at Cesar Chavez : it’s important for people to have a place to go so—otherwise they just move into the nearby neighborhood. It doesn’t work to throw away people’s belongings, and it’s inhumane.. This is a health, human rights, quality of life city wide-crisis. There was a meeting today to align all city departments to streamline resources and work together, but few new ideas or solutions—expanding Pier 80 is a short-term goal.

3. March 2 public hearing on Navigation Center, a full-service for homeless people who typically don’t want to use current shelters —this allows families/opposite sex partners, belongings, and pets, which are not allowed in current shelters (except for Pier 80). Here they get counseling, connecting people with social services and long-term housing, working to create stability in their lives. The first Nav Center has been open for a year in the Mission & has 75 beds, Mayor has praised it, but no new Navigation Centers are in the works. Campos putting pressure on Mayor to do more, smarter, faster.

4. Cesar Chavez and Potrero to meet DPW, homeless outreach team; will discuss how they can block off the space after the homeless are moved to shelters so they can improve the site; neighbors are welcome to attend.

Questions and Answers
Q: Have you worked with bicycle coalition?
t’s gotten challenging to use the bike path. Not yet.

Q: What about Pier 80?
It’s at capacity, all the time. You can have opposite sex partners, belongings, and pets, but there are no social workers.

Q: Are Nav Centers offering mental health, other social services?
Yes. It’s very hard for homeless to get services, but it’s very successful in the Nav Center, and there is a lot of demand. Great idea, and trying to get it implemented, but it’s very hard to make it all happen, especially with homeless persons’ lack of documentation. We also need a safe injection center and a wet house for people who haven’t stopped drugs and drinking yet. We’re having a problem with needles on the street.

Spotlight: DPW and PUC Charles Sheehan, Communications Manager, SFPUC

1. City converting over 18,000 lights to LEDs over next 5 years. City owns 60%, PGE owns 40%. However, it’s not always easy to put in new lights because not every neighbor wants them (shines in at night )

2. Holliday Ave. lights: PGE is responsible. 4 poles. Pretty bright already, but could ask for an increase to 150 watt bulbs

3. Cortland underneath highway. Some lights out, should have been repaired by now. Also two MUNI poles near residences, so they could support lights.

4. Pathway up from Andover to Bernal Heights Boulevard, possible to increase lights.

Questions and Answers
Q: What’s the best way to get a light in or increased?
Call 311 and put a request for lighting assessment, that puts it into the SFPUC queue to review and have lights added.

Q: Bennington and Cortland is a super dark area.

Neighborhood Projects—Working Together Edie Williams & Bobbie Cochran, neighbors

As a community we’re stronger if we get to know folks from all over the area, discuss our goals and concerns for Bernal, and then work together to get things done. We should work from a position of knowledge and action, rather than reacting fearfully and being victimized by unexpected crime or unsolved problems.

In the past, we’ve done hot-spot walks; the Bernal GO Team and the BHNC passed out flyers to let neighbors know how to protect themselves from theft; individuals and groups have worked with Rec and Parks to clean up the gardens and one neighbor even developed the garden walks to inform about native plants.

From January meeting survey:

What I like about Bernal:

  • Diversity
  • Nice Neighbors, great community
  • Bernal Hill, parks, weather, view, walkability
  • Shops & Services, Restaurants, Parks, & Library Parking

What I don’t like about Bernal:

  • Crime, violence, car break-ins
  • Gentrification, neighbors quarrelling
  • Not feeling safe walking
  • Trash, graffiti, dump sites
  • Parking

What else needs doing? Brainstorming Session Ideas from community

1. Get and share info on best cameras to use

2. Traffic calming in areas with the most speeding: Cortland toward Bayshore, Alemany

3. Mission between Appleton / Highland – not enough lights to see pedestrian stripes in the road or the pedestrians themselves.

4. Pedestrian safety working group? Tom Folks, DPT traffic engineer, is the best contact.

5. We can pay attention to problems and get them fixed if we all know how to use the system. The city works on data. Contact 311, explain the problem, get a CAD number, tell your friends to call too. There’s also a
new Blue 311 app you can use.

6. At Cortland and Coleridge there’s been ongoing robbery and destruction of plants, even those in pots too big for one person to take. Need to install motion detector lights on the house.

7. Clean up Cortland on both ends.

8. Use Next Door to post safety information.

9. Someone stole a bike from the bike shop on Cortland. It appears from the video to have been a crime of opportunity, and the woman doesn’t seem the type to ride this bike. Store owners would like the bike back, no questions asked. Will put up signs, see if anyone knows the woman who took it.

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

Do You Recognize This Cortland Bike Thief?

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Apologies for all the crime news this week, but we seem to be in one of those unfortunate periods where there’s a lot of crime news…

The proprietors of The New Wheel bike shop on Cortland are seeking help from Bernal neighbors to identify the woman who stole a very rare (and expensive) electric bike from in front of the store earlier this week. New Wheel co-owner Karen Wiener tells Bernalwood:

While taking inventory of our bikes, we realized that one of our demo bikes had gone missing. As you know, we display eight of our bikes outside. It turns out that while we were working with a customer on Monday evening, we forgot to secure a nice full suspension bike outside the shop. Upon inspection of our security camera, we found that it was a woman who walked away with it on Monday night at around 6:50 pm.

Super disappointing but I am optimistic that we might still locate the bike. The thief may live in the neighborhood, because other Cortland merchants have said they recognize the woman in the photo as someone whose been in their stores recently. The bike is certainly a looker — it has a full suspension with lime green accents. If anyone has any tips or suggestions, we’d be super appreciative.

Here’s the perp, walking away with the bike:

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This is what the stolen bike looks like:


Thursday: Community Safety Meeting at BHNC (and a Hot Spot Survey You Can Complete Now)


There’s a community safety meeting happening tomorrow evening, Thursday, February 25, at 6 pm at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center. Neighbor Barbara Bagot-Lopez has the details:

Many neighbors participated in the community safety meeting hosted by the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center on January 28th. This week’s meeting will include follow-up reports on the property crimes and assaults that have occurred in Bernal, “Hot Spot” walk update, and progress on the Holladay Avenue Caltrans property. Captain McFadden from the Ingleside Police Station and Supervisor Campos and staff will be there. In addition, DPW and PUC will be on hand to shed some light on how to improve lighting in the neighborhood.

These Bernal community meetings will be held monthly on the last Thursday of each month. Be there or be square!

Thursday, Feb. 25th at 6:00 pm
at the BHNC, 515 Cortland

On a related note, the valiant Neighbor Sarah encourages Bernal residents to take this Hot Spot Survey to identify incident-prone areas in Bernal Heights that require attention. She explains:

At the last community meeting at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, we are once again collecting tips on crime/safety “hot spots” in the neighborhood. These will be reported back to the police, and they will be included on upcoming “hot spot walks” with SFPD, Supervisor Campos’s office, and DPW, where we look at the problem areas and collaborate to solve the problems.

Paper forms can be picked up at the BHNC, but here is an online survey to fill out.

Note: Please submit your responses by Monday, Feb. 29.

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

Smash-and-Grab Thefts Plague Good Life Parking Lot


Memo to the wise: If you park your car in the Good Life parking lot on the corner of Cortland and Andover, don’t leave anything — anything! — in the car when you dash into the grocery.  The Good Life parking lot has been the site of many smash-and-grab thefts lately, and many a sad Bernalese have returned to their cars to find a window shattered and valuables missing.

There’s reason to believe that many of the break-ins at the Good Life parking lot have been done by a small group of repeat offenders. On Feb. 16, Neighbor Darcy reported:

There were two smash and grab type break ins at in the Good Life parking lot last week. This is the 4th time in two weeks that the same car with the same license plate has broken into cars there. It is often folks that stop at the store to quickly get something for the road and come back to a broken window and their stuff gone.

Because it is so frequent I spoke with the officers on the scene. These break ins have been happening frequently for years. The crimes are targeted to cars with goods in them. Empty cars do not get hit. The car drives up smashes the window, and flees. The car is a white honda with the front bashed in and a sun roof. The license plate is 7CDE452

A few days later, Neighbor Darcy shared this follow-up:

The white Honda returned to the Good Life parking lot, and someone recognized it and took a picture of the driver which made him drive away. And the picture did not turn out. We called the police and reported it. A van was broken into again today by another smash and grab vehicle. The crime vehicle is suspected to be a green BMW that was parked in the lot. … will keep you posted re this recent sweep of car break ins-Capt McFadden has been very proactive and communicative.”

SFPD Ingleside has reviewed security camera footage received from Good Life, and they add this detail:

An investigator’s been assigned, and has the Good Life video and car license plate. The same car’s been involved in break-ins at Mitchell’s Ice Cream and in in the Haight.

Unfortunately, the Good Life break-ins have already created a much sadness for Neighbor Maeve from Ellsworth, a young Bernal resident who was poised to embark on a big adventure with her sister and a friend:

This March, my sister, Sean, best friend, Stephanie, and I will set out for 5 months to hike The Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650 mile long footpath that crosses California, Oregon, and Washington.

Everything was all set, until last Friday. On February 12th 2016, we left our San Francisco neighborhood, Bernal Heights, for a weekend-long backpacking trip. In the five minutes it took us to grab sandwiches from Good Life Grocery, our car was broken into. We came back to find smashed windows, broken glass, and only two backpacks. Stephanie’s brand new pack, filled with all of her gear, as well as a bulk of Sean’s and my own, was stolen. A few days ago we found out our insurance policies will not cover any of our loss.

Neighbor Maeve has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help replace their lost gear. Please donate if you’re so inclined.

Meanwhile, the SFPD is hopeful that they will make an arrest soon. And most obviously, don’t leave anything in your car when you park in the Good Life parking lot.

PHOTO: The window the van that was carrying Neighbor Maeve’s backpack, Feb. 12, 2016.

What Will It Take to Reduce Street Crime in Bernal?


We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Buck Bagot is a Bernal Heights treasure. Since 1971, Buck has been involved as a activist, advocate, and community organizer in Bernal Heights. He helped co-found the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, and over the decades he’s participated in dozens of crime-reduction efforts here — including program that cut crime at public housing developments like Holly Courts.

Bernalwood asked Buck to share some wisdom on what we need to do if we want to put an end to costly car break-ins, scary home burglaries, and dangerous assaults in Bernal Heights. So over to you, Neighbor Buck:


While the recent crime wave in SF neighborhoods is certainly exacerbated by the increasing divide between the haves and have-nots, our criminal justice system is clearly not doing enough. Any assault is one too many. And I’ve lost count of the number of times street criminals have broken into cars on my block. I leave my car unlocked with nothing in it. A few weeks ago, someone entered it and stole my nail clippers.

Ending street crime may appear to be an impossible goal. But it’s not – at least not in Bernal Heights, where we have success stories of effective community policing. The two public housing developments in Bernal– Holly Courts and Alemany – were once plagued by ongoing open drug dealing, assaults, shootings and murders. I assisted the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center (BHNC) in organizing the residents of Holly and Alemany and their neighbors. We worked with the SF Police Department (SFPD) and District Attorney’s Office (DA), and held them accountable for stopping the street crime.

We’ve had great success: Holly Courts is now virtually crime free. Alemany is getting there, but there is clearly more to be done. Bernal has many formal and informal anti-crime block organizations that are part of its community policing operation. When we organize, we make a difference. BHNC – specifically Ailed Paningbatan-Swan, Director of Community Engagement – and I have worked for a long time with neighbors like Sarah Rogers, Edie Williams, Deb MacDonald and Bobbie Cochran to organize our community policing.

The Hillwide community policing meeting organized by BHNC and Supervisor David Campos on January 28, 2016 was a good start, with about 100 neighbors attending. Make sure to attend the next one on Thursday February 25 at 6:00 pm at 515 Cortland Ave. And kudos to neighbors in the northeast side of Bernal for their well-attended meeting earlier in January!

I was deeply moved to hear our neighbor courageously tell her personal story of being assaulted at knifepoint the day before the meeting. BHNC-organized “hot spot walks” are a good example of one thing we can do together to make our neighborhood safer. These walks scout out an area where assaults have happened or could happen, and change some of the physical conditions that encourage street crime: overgrown bushes get pruned, street lights get fixed/ installed, etc. The walks have included the active participation of SFPD, Supervisor Campos, and the SF Department of Public Works (DPW), and are organized by Ailed at BHNC.

The “HOW TO” list:

The Problem:  Property crimes (especially car break-ins) and personal crimes (assaults/robbery).

Here’s what SHOULD happen:

  1. SFPD, with help from neighbors if possible, identify criminals and arrest them.
  2. DA prosecutes them aggressively and effectively
  3. Superior Court judges/juries find them guilty, and judges sentence them so they are off the street.

Here’s what  ACTUALLY happens:

  1. SFPD arrests criminals some of the time.
  2. The DA either doesn’t prosecute them, or doesn’t achieve a conviction with sentencing that keeps them off of the streets.
  3. Judge/jury do not convict them; judge fails to give sentence that keeps them off the street.
  4. Criminals return to Bernal Heights and continue their street crime:

Here’s The Solution: 

Bernal neighbors must hold the SF criminal justice system accountable for ending crime on Bernal.   We must report, pressure, track, pressure, and follow up.  Here’s what we can do:

  1. Report: If you see someone “casing” cars, call 911 from landline or 415-553-8090 from cell phone. If you experience even a minor or attempted crime, call 415-553-0123 (non-emergency SFPD number) to report it. In either case, always get a Police report number.
  2. Track and pressure the SFPD to find and arrest the criminals
  3. Track and pressure the DA–Make sure that the DA prosecutes them aggressively and effectively.
  4. Track and pressure the Judges–Make sure that they sentence them and get them off the street.
  5. Hold them all accountable at regular meetings (such as BHNC monthly community policing meetings).

BHNC used this approach successfully in the past at Holly Courts public housing development, and with mixed results at Alemany.  We formed a work group with representatives from BHNC, resident organizations, neighbors, the Police, and the DA’s Office. The Police provided us with a list of persons arrested for drug dealing or violent crimes. We worked with SFPD, DA’s office, and the SF Housing Authority to get them out of the developments. We never had to meet with the Judges.


We need to make sure the SFPD arrests all persons committing crimes in Bernal. As SFPD Ingleside Station Captain Joseph McFadden said at recent community meetings, he believes that there are 3-4 people doing all of the car break-ins.  When I met with him recently, he agreed to give us the police reports for anyone arrested for car break-ins on Bernal (this is public information).  If the police aren’t arresting all of the people committing car break-ins, we keep pushing until they do.


We must ensure that the DA’s Office aggressively and effectively prosecutes anyone arrested for personal or property crimes in Bernal.  (For car creak-ins, there are two key DA representatives: the person who decides on prosecution of car break-ins and the Assistant DA who prosecutes. I believe that both were in attendance at the recent Hill-wide meeting.) We need to get the DA office’s commitment to make personal and property crimes in Bernal a priority.  If they don’t do this, we pressure DA George Gascón.


We should ensure that the SFPD and DA’s office keep us apprised of the progress of the prosecution of anyone arrested in Bernal for auto break in.

We need people to meet with the SFPD and DA on a regular basis to make sure that the Police arrest, the DA prosecutes, and the Judges sentence.


We should not allow deals that put guilty offenders right back out on the street.

The judges of SF Superior Court run for office every 6 years, which means we can assert direct political pressure on them to respond to the needs of the people of SF. The judges elect a Presiding Judge of the Superior Court to represent them; currently that is Presiding Judge John K. Stewart.  If the judges don’t get the criminals off the street, we should meet with the Presiding Judge, armed with a list of the individuals arrested and the disposition of their cases and with the SFPD and the DA included.  We may have to send the Presiding Judge a lot of emails/letters to get his attention.

PHOTO: Broken auto glass on Cortland Avenue, February 6, 2016, 11:22 am. By Telstar Logistics

Two Arrested in Connection with Esmeralda Stairs Assault


Breaking News: Two suspects have been arrested in connection with the frightening Jan. 27 robbery and assault that took place on the Esmeralda stairs in western Bernal.

Capt. Joseph McFadden of SFPD Ingleside Station reports:

Two suspects were arrested in the robbery/assault of a woman on the Esmerelda steps from January 27th. Nice work by a great witness who came forward from the neighborhood and the Inspector assigned to the case at Ingleside.. Just an FYI to let people know we are on it.

This comes to us via Neighbor Sarah, your valiant liaison to the SFPD, who adds:

I’ll also be asking neighbors to send letters to DA encouraging a robust prosecution.

That’s all we know for now; Bernalwood will share additional details as they become available.  In the meantime, thank you and well done, SFPD Ingleside.

IMAGE: Surveillance camera footage of one suspect in the January 27 Esmeralda stairway assault


Surveillance Video Shows Suspect Before and After Esmeralda Stairway Assault



Bernalwood has obtained video footage that shows the suspect in Wednesday’s Esmeralda stairway robbery in the moments just before and just after the victim was assaulted.

In the first part of the video, the suspect is seen approaching the Esmeralda stairs. In the second half, he is shown running from the scene while carrying the victim’s handbag.  Here is the video:

If you have additional information about the suspect or his identity, please contact SFPD Ingleside Station: (415)404-4000.