Neighbor Builds Stunning 3D Topographical Map of Bernal Heights

Cardboard Bernal Hill, from the northeast. That's 101 on the far left.

3D Bernal Hill, from the northeast. That’s 101 on the far left.

Bernal Hill, from the northwest

3D Bernal Hill, from the northwest

A few weeks ago, Neighbor John from Lundys Lane invited your Bernalwood editor to see his latest project: A 3D topographical map of Bernal Heights, made entirely from sheets of cardboard.

It’s so cool! So incredible! So WOW! Bernalwood asked Neighbor John to tell us more about how he did it:

I started the project to create a three dimensional piece of art for my living room. I was inspired by some abstract landscape brass reliefs, and I’d been searching for an inspiring idea. Then I saw a very detailed Bernal topographic map, and knew I had my subject.

I was able to get a version of the data for the topographic map. The original data had lines for every 5 feet of elevation, which was too detailed, so I removed every other line to create a elevations for every 10 feet. This took a bit of time, but it was super cool to engage with the detailed topography of Bernal, especially since I run or walk on the hill almost every morning.

The next step was to decide on a material to use for each elevation layer. Through this process I met almost-Bernal neighbor Alex at Pagoda Arts. He convinced me that architectural chipboard would be relatively easy to work with, and it came in the right thickness so that the total height of the piece would be between four and five inches — three dimensional, but still hangable on a wall.

I created a file that Alex could use for his laser cutter, and he cut forty-five layers for me. I then glued them together using high quality tacky glue.

The gluing process was laborious and tense. The layers are very detailed, so positioning them precisely was required, all with fast-drying glue. But it was amazing to watch Bernal Heights grow from the top of my work bench. At the end I could hardly wait to get the next layers on.

We live on a beautiful hill, and it’s fun to see it from this perspective.

Here are a few more pics:

View from southeast

View from southeast


Sutrito Tower site on Bernal Hill, viewed from the south

Funny thing about these photos, of course, is that it’s hard to tell that it’s a physical object.  So here are a few more pics, with objects added to provide more depth and scale. Here’s a pair of glasses sitting on Cortland Avenue around Nevada Street:


And here’s a Sharpie pen, roughly following the path of Gates Street:



PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Data Visualization Reveals Parking Availability Trends in Bernal Heights


Street parking  —and anxiety about street parking — is an evergreen topic for the Citizens of Bernalwood. And no wonder; for better or worse, parking is one of those daily chores that directly impact perceptions of quality of life. But how hard is it to park in Bernal Heights, really?

We all know the answer to that question varies from street-to-street and block-to-block. But a new data-visualization from Trulia and Parknav allows us to identify the streets in Bernal Heights with the best and worst parking. Here’s Trulia’s explanation of the methodology:

We created parking scores for neighborhoods, streets and actual Trulia rental listings using Parknav’s proprietary street parking availability data. We did this by looking at how difficult or easy it is to park on five typical days including weekdays and a Saturday, during evening and morning times, on a street-by-street level. Parking scores ranged from 0 to 100, where 0 means parking is impossible and 100 means parking is easy.

We calculated street parking scores by averaging all of the parking probability samples assigned to a given street within a city.

We then calculated listing parking scores by averaging the street parking score of each street that was within a mile distance from actual homes for rent on Trulia between January 2015 and October 2015

On the bright side, Bernal didn’t make the list of the 10 worst San Francisco neighborhoods for street parking. But we didn’t crack the Top 10 list for abundant street parking either. Generally, parking seems to be hardest in central and northwest Bernal, but it’s relatively easy in the southeast part of our dominion.

Since context is king, here’s a San Francisco map to give you a sense of how (somewhat favorably) Bernal compares to our neighbors in other parts of town:

Trulia Parking Map SF

MAPS: via Trulia

Bernal Artist Offers Handy, Handmade Moon Calendars For 2016


After our spooky moon sightings and a super rare bloodmoon, it’s already been a great lunar year. Luckily, Neighbor Annie on Precita near York has been making moon calendars for the past five years, and she recently cooked up a new batch.

Wolf moon! Snow moon! Sturgeon moon! Beaver moon! Who knew there were so many moons?

Neighbor Annie says:

I originally began making these calendars as holiday gifts for loved ones when I moved here from Canada five years ago. They were so popular that I kept doing it, changing the design each time since I knew I wouldn’t want to look at the same calendar every year. Plus, it keeps it fun! This year, I was looking to give it a bit of an art nouveau/architectural feel. I hope it reads that way!

If you’re in the neighbourhood and you want to do a local pick up, just send me a message and we can arrange one.

Alternatively, you can also pick them up on her online store. They’re two-color screenprints that measure 16×20 inches — plenty big enough to ensure you’ll never to miss another full moon again. Plus, they’ll look great on the wall of your personal observatory.

PHOTO: via Annie Axtell

Space Station Astronaut Captures View of Bernal Hill from Outer Space


Good morning, earthlings of Bernal Heights! Perhaps you saw that tweet from ISS astronaut Scott Kelley on Saturday morning? The one that had a remarkable image of San Francisco, as seen from the International Space Station?

If you saw the image, you were probably grateful for the extensive training you received as a Bernal Heights astro-navigator. You remember, right?

Locating Bernal Heights from outer space is actually pretty easy. The trick is to know what local landmarks to look for.

Bernal Heights sits roughly at the intersection of two imaginary, perpendicular lines that extend from Islais Creek Channel to the east of Bernal Heights and Aquatic Park to the north. Both of these have a distinctive, easy-to-spot profile when viewed from above, so just find the intersection where the lines come together and then… hey, you have located your home, Earth creature.

As you can see, that technique works quite well with the image Scott Kelly shared over the weekend:


Here’s an unedited version of the image. Can you find your house?

Ye Shall Walk Bernal Streets, And Know They Are (Really, Still) Steepest


Every few years, a young quant-geek with a passion for data analysis and a sadistic taste for urban cycling attempts to answer an important local question:  If San Francisco is a city famous for its steep hills, which streets in San Francisco are really the steepest?

The question was asked in 2011, and in 2013, and (like clockwork) it was asked again this week, as a young quant geek from the excellent Pricenomics blog studied the topographic datasets for San Francisco and concluded (once again) that Bernal Heights has the steepest streets in San Francisco — and quite possibly the world.

To which any hill-toned Bernalese can only say: DUH!


Pricenomics writes:

Containing 5 gradients over 25% (four of which are over 30%), Bernal Heights claims bragging rights as the city’s steepest living quarters. Prior to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the neighborhood was largely undeveloped due to its hilliness. But shortly thereafter, merchants settled there, and houses were built along some unusually steep pitches.


They were particularly fascinated by the steep block of Bradford at Tompkins just above the Farmer’s Market:

With an astonishing 41% grade, Bradford Street, in the hilly Bernal Heights neighborhood, is the city’s steepest (at least of those surveyed). Admittedly, this stretch is quite short: the majority of Bradford Street climbs steadily at about a 24% grade before exploding into a 30-foot stretch of 41% paved road. “On such a slope,” writes Von Worley, “gravity alone pulls a one-ton car downhill with 800 pounds of force, accelerating it from zero to sixty in 7.2 seconds.”

“My (totally unsubstantiated) theory,” he tells us, “is that if you somehow got a high-center-of-gravity vehicle (like an SUV) sideways on the 41% section, then wiggled it the wrong way, it might actually roll over.”


They act surprised.

Anyway, this brings Bernalwood back to our original conclusion about the intense steepness of our streetscapes, and what this means for our identity and self-image as a neighborhood. As we wrote in 2011:

Let’s face it: Bernal Heights may not always be the smartest, or the prettiest, or the most popular neighborhood in the world. But we may rest secure in the knowledge that we will always be the steepest.

GRAPHICS: via Pricenomics

New Map Reveals the Lost Waterways of Bernal Heights


In his amazing new Seep City map of San Francisco’s lost creeks, springs and waterways, natural history researcher Joel Pomerantz reveals the places where groundwater once flowed in Bernal Heights.

Here’s the story it tells:

[On the map] today’s land forms are shown with 5-foot-interval contour lines. At this level of detail, we can easily see where human activity has filled extensive portions of the bay and where streets, highways, reservoirs and railroad grades cut into hills.

Our city had significantly more water before it was developed. Consequently, most of the water shown is from historical sources. The purple squiggles are bedrock springs found today. Natural and artificial lakes present today are outlined in white. Creeks of today are highlighted yellow.

Only a couple creeks still flow on the surface today. Finding them can be a challenge without this map. Some are virtually unknown.

The detail is remarkable. Here’s a close crop of northeast Bernal, with Precita Creek running along the upper part of the map and draining into the intricate Islais Creek watershed (where Bayshore stands today). Notice also the two active springs on the northern slope of Bernal Hill:


And when you pull back to look at the city as a whole, you see how Bernal fits in to a much larger ecosystem:


Want a copy of Joel’s maptastic creation? Visit his Kickstarter page, where you can order a map in your favorite size.

IMAGES: Courtesy of Joel Pomerantz

Bernal Neighbor Creates Clever Cardboard Contour of Cortland Avenue



During a recent constitutional in Cortlandia, your Bernalwood editor met Neighbor Miles Epstein as he was preparing to photograph his new artwork: a topographically accurate cross-section of Cortland Avenue, created entirely from sheets of cardboard. Neighbor Miles writes:

3D Surface Modeling – The Cortland Map Project
Inspired by finishing an extraordinarily flat cork tabletop, I fell into this idea of modeling our local commercial street. Cortland Avenue runs east/west for 0.9miles. Branching off Mission St at 140 feet above sea level Cortland crests at 240 feet before descending sharply to Bayshore Ave, resting flat at just 20 feet above the waves.

Turns out, Neighbor Miles is friendly with the folks at New Wheel on Cortland, and his 3-D map was assembled from scrap cardboard collected from the store.

He mapped it out based on the amazing 5′ topo map of Bernal Heights created by the legendary Eric Fisher (and shared on Bernalwood a few years ago). Then Neighbor Miles reproduced the contours of Bernal by gluing custom-cut pieces of cardboard together to create the entire length of Cortland from Mission to Bayshore. Take a closer took:

Neighbor Miles tells Bernalwood he was directly inspired by the work of Neighbor Gregory Gavin, and on his website, Neighbor Miles reveals that he even built a version of his Cardboard Cortland that uses the streets as structural ribs.  Check this out:


Woa. Mind blown! Amazing! Geektastic! Brilliant! Inspiring!

Well done, Neighbor Miles.


PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics (above) and Miles Epstein (below)