Citing “Vibratory Impacts,” Planning Department Puts Folsom Homes on Hold

Rendering of proposed homes, view southwest from public garden below Bernal Heights Blvd.

Rendering of proposed homes, center, as seen from public garden below Bernal Heights Blvd.

Something strange happened yesterday when the Board of Supervisors prepared to take up the ongoing effort to block the construction of two single-family houses on undeveloped land along Folsom Street, near the intersection with Chapman.

As Bernalwood described earlier in the week, a group of nearby neighbors have opposed the construction of two new homes at 3516 and 3526 Folsom, and  they recently appealed to block the project based on concern about Line 109, a PG&E gas pipeline that runs underneath the South Bernal length of Folsom Street — and alongside the lots where the two homes would be built.  PG&E has said that the pipeline is safe and inspected regularly, and that building homes alongside the pipeline route would be routine.

Last year, after compiling a 903 page project docket and twice voting unanimously to approve on the matter, the San Francisco Planning Department gave the plan to build the houses an unequivocal thumbs-up, in the form of a Categorical Exemption that eliminates the need for an expensive and time-consuming Environmental Impact Report.

All that was the backdrop going into yesterday’s meeting, where neighbors who oppose the new homes brought their last-ditch appeal to the Board of Supervisors in the hope that the Supervisors would vote to overturn the Planning Department’s Categorical Exemption and send the project back for further environmental review.

Yet as soon as the full Board of Supervisors began to consider the matter, it immediately turned weird. Lisa Gibson, a representative from the Planning Department announced that it was reversing itself, and summarily rescinding the Categorical Exemption that it had previously issued.

The sudden move appeared to come as a surprise to  everyone — project sponsors, appellants, and Supervisors alike — and much chaos then ensued.

D9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen spoke up to say that while she felt further environmental review of the project seemed necessary, the Planning Department’s last-minute move to reverse itself was “incredibly unprofessional and frustrating.”  In response, Lisa Gibson, the Planning Department’s acting environmental review officer, took to the mike to explain that the decision to withdraw the Categorical Exemption had been made on that same day, based on concerns expressed in two December 2016 letters from project opponents, and as a result Planning wanted to explore the risk of  potential “vibratory impacts” on the adjacent pipeline that might occur while the homes are under construction.

The explanation seemed to put Supervisor Ronen at ease. Although she again expressed frustration with the last-minute action on the part of the Planning Department, she added that “additional environmental review is required, because if [Planning] is finding that there is an unusual circumstance that requires additional investigation on the environmental impact of this project, then perhaps a Categorical Exemption is not appropriate.”

There was also a lot of frustration among the members of the public who had come to comment on the project, however. Lawyers for the families hoping to build the new houses said they had only been notified about the Planning Department’s decision to rescind the Categorical Exemption at 2:30 that day, or 30 minutes after the Board of Supervisors meeting had started.

An exasperated man, who appeared to represent the project sponsors, complained that the circuitous planning process had already resulted in a two-year delay and significant additional cost. “We’ve been here for two years now, waiting for two single-family houses,” he said. “Go and explain that to the mother of those children, who are wondering where are they going to live and what’s going to happen here.”

Meanwhile, several project opponents, including a representative from the executive committee of the San Francisco Sierra Club, said that while they were happy about the outcome, they were sad to have wasted an an otherwise lovely afternoon attending a meeting that was moot from the outset.

And so, with no Categorical Exemption to uphold or deny, the Board of Supervisors voted to table the matter. In practical terms, that leaves the proposal to build the two homes on Folsom in limbo, again, as Planning will require further environmental study before taking it up again.

Yet what really happened? Why did the Planning Department reverse course on its Categorical Exemption, and at such a late hour? It’s difficult to know for sure, but sources familiar with San Francisco’s planning process say such last-minute reversals are unusual, and may indicate Planning Department staff had come under pressure from other City officials to subject the project to further scrutiny.

Supervisors to Consider Neighbors’ Appeal of New Homes Proposed on Folsom

Rendering of proposed homes and new Folsom Street extension; view northwest from Chapman

Rendering of proposed homes and new Folsom Street extension; view northwest from Chapman

The ongoing battle over a proposal to build two family-sized homes on an undeveloped Folsom Street lot on the south side of Bernal Hill will move to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, January 24, as a group of nearby neighbors who oppose the new homes at 3516 and 3526 Folsom have appealed to block the project on environmental grounds.

Despite previous efforts to block the homes, the proposal was unanimously approved by the Planning Commission in October 2016.  Bernal Neighbor Herb Felsenfeld is again organizing project opponents in advance of the Board of Supervisors meeting, as outlined in a talking-points he sent to allies in mid-January:

We have spoken before about the proposed development @ 3516/26 Folsom Street. After almost 3 years of sustained effort we are now at a critical pivot point. We have the support of over 300 individuals + community groups like the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, Bernal Heights Democratic Club, The Sierra Club and the East Slope Design Review Board. Finally, we have an opportunity to present a reasonable, appropriate, and legitimate request for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to the full Board, with a District Supervisor who can speak about the issues.

Tuesday, January 24, City Hall, Room 250,
Starting at 2:00 PM*

*If you can attend, let me know & I can tell you where we are on the Agenda as we get closer to the date of the Hearing

I hope you will consider joining me in one of the following:

  1. Attending the Hearing
  2. Speaking at the Hearing
  3. Contacting our District 9 Supervisor:
    1. Email: RonenStaff@sfgov.org
    2. Call: 415-554-5144

These are the issues that are most pressing and should merit an EIR

  • This is one of the steepest slopes in the City. It rests atop a 26” gas transmission line, for which safety records and pipe weld reports have never been released.
  • The line is maintained by a company, PGE, known for its shoddy record-keeping and its secrecy.
  • The developer’s Geo-technical & topographical survey of the slope is over 3 years old. Its analysis lacks detail and rigor.
  • There are “cumulative effects” that need attention: “Piece mealing” (infrastructure would be in place for 6 houses not 2); still to be considered – proper drainage; emergency vehicle access; blocking the nearest intersection, traffic issues, etc.

While PG&E’s reputation has suffered greatly as a result of disclosures and criminal wrongdoing related to the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion, reporting by Bernalwood in 2014 indicated that Pipeline 109, which currently runs under Folsom Street, has been regularly inspected, and that routine procedures exist to safeguard any construction activity near the pipeline.

Current route of PG&E's Pipeline 109 through Bernal Heights

Current route of PG&E’s Pipeline 109 through Bernal Heights

Fabien Lannoye, the owner of the lot at 3516 Folsom, previously told Bernalwood he plans to build a home there as a residence for his family. In a recent email to project supporters, Lannoye wrote:

Most of you know that we purchased a residential lot on Bernal, planning to build our house, a discreet 2,200 SF 3 bedroom home, with its garage tucked into the hillside, in scale with the existing adjacent homes. We filed our permits three years ago but have met much resistance from a few of the adjacent neighbors, who consider the land their private open space.

Those neighbors filed 19 Design Reviews against the project. At the Planning Commission Hearings the Planning Commissioners unanimously voted in favor of our project 6-0, and then 7-0 (we had to go back to the Planning Commission after the Planning Department re-issued the Categorical Exemption). A Categorical Exemption (known as a “CatEx”) is the norm for any project LESS than 3 residences, exempting such projects from having to do an EIR (Environmental Impact Report).

The neighbors have now appealed the CatEx.

Their appeal will be heard this Tuesday 1/24, and voted upon by the SF Board of Supervisors. This is why we are contacting you, for your brief kind help in sending a simple e-mail note this weekend to District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, asking her to vote to support the project and Affirm the Categorical Exemption Determination – Proposed Project at 3516-3526 Folsom Street.

The neighbors have been using the scare tactic that a PG&E Gas pipeline runs up Folsom Street and that construction on our lot would trigger a new San Bruno. A PG&E representative came to the Community meetings we held with the neighbors to answer their concerns, and to clarify the step-by-step, strictly regulated process of investigation, verification and guidance before and during construction.

PG&E stated that they had no concerns since the excavation would take place more than 10’-0” ft away from the existing pipeline (we will be 15-16 ft away).

We have tried to get more information from PG&E, as have the Planning Department and DPW, but PG&E states that they will not provide any further information until the Site Permit is issued, which is the normal process.

The neighbors hope that we will abandon the project if we’re forced to do a full EIR, or, at least delay the project an additional 2 years.

Although most of the Supervisors seem inclined to support the CatEx, our concern is that the local Supervisor (newly elected Hillary Ronen, replacing David Campos) has already been approached by those neighbors. David Campos  resides 200 feet from our project.

We were able to (briefly) meet with Supervisor Ronen, and she seemed sympathetic to our case but she may be politically pressured to side with the neighbors.

We appreciate if you would e-mail Supervisor Ronen and let her know that you support the project and hope she will uphold the Categorical Exemption carefully and rightfully issued by the Planning Department.

Requiring an EIR will not serve any other purpose than to delay the project. It would create a precedent of requiring an EIR for any project within 20 feet of a gas pipeline, pipelines exist everywhere in the city. An EIR costs $50,000 – $200,000 and takes approx two years.

Here’s how the appeal is listed on the Board of Supervisors agenda for the January 24, 2017 meeting:

[Hearing – Appeal of Categorical Exemption from Environmental Review 
Proposed Project at 3516-3526 Folsom Street]
Hearing of persons interested in or objecting to the determination of exemption from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act issued as a Categorical Exemption by the Planning Department on July 8, 2016, approved on October 13, 2016, for a proposed project located at 3516-3526 Folsom Street, to allow the construction of two 3,000-square-foot single-family residences on two vacant lots. (District 9) (Appellant: Ryan J. Patterson, on behalf of the Bernal Heights South Slope Organization, Bernal Safe & Livable, Neighbors Against the Upper Folsom Street Extension, Gail Newman, and Marilyn Waterman) (Filed November 14, 2016)

PHOTOS: Rendering of proposed homes via Fabian Lannoye

Proposed Pinball Center Mired in City Permit Purgatory

sfpinball

Last November, many Bernal neighbors were thrilled to hear about Bernal Neighbors Christian and Elisabeth’s plan to open Skillshot Pinball at 1000 Cortland Avenue, on the corner of Folsom. However,  it seems some nearby neighbors were decidedly less-thrilled about the plan, and now Skillshot Pinball’s grand opening faces significant delays as the proposal grinds its way through San Francisco’s bureaucratic maw.

In a newsletter, Neighbors Christian and Elisabeth write:

This is our first letter and we were hoping it might be more exciting, but it’s mostly about bureaucracy and the fact that we may not be opening as soon as we’d originally suggested.

The space we’re seeking to occupy was not previously an eatery or drinkery so though it’s allowed by zoning, we have to apply for a change of use. This isn’t that big of a deal, except for anyone who’s not crazy about having an eatery or drinkery in the neighborhood, these applications allow them opportunities to protest the changes. And that’s what’s happening. We’ve had such a wonderful outpouring of support from Bernal neighbors and families, but all complaints, rightly so, must be properly heard out. Most of the issues surround concerns about noise and the effect on the neighborhood, but some concern mixing sales of beer with proximity to children. On our website we’ve got a list of those concerns and our approaches to how we deal with those issues. And we’ve met with some of the complainants, but we’ve been unsuccessful at changing their minds. They say they love the concept, they think it’s right for Bernal, and they like us, but they don’t want it right next to them. Ahem.

So we’ve had, or are expecting to have, protests against our Change of Use with the Planning dept, our alcohol application with the ABC and separately with the ALU, and the Board of Supervisors approval of our alcohol application. Add that all up and it could be quite a while before we’re able to open. We’re trying to push things along, but it’s probably more like a year now, or even longer. The protests don’t usually keep you from getting the permit, they just significantly slow things down and put conditions on operations (like hours) so you guys don’t have too much to worry about. We’re still totally dedicated to opening up here on The Hill!

PHOTO:: Williams San Francisco pinball machine (1964) at the Pacific Pinball Museum, by Telstar Logistics

SFMTA’s Data Indicates Bernal Parking Permit Zone May Not Meet SFMTA Requirements

northbernalrppbluezone2

Source: SFMTA

In the comments to last week’s post about the community meeting held on Dec. 7 to discuss the implementation of a Residential Parking Permit (RPP) area in portions of northwest Bernal, an astute Bernalwood reader noticed something odd: The proposed Bernal permit area does not appear to meet a SFMTA’s requirement for establishing a new RPP zone.

As Neighbor Rebecca points out, the SFMTA’s published requirements for creating a new RPP area are as follows:

To create a new Residential Permit Parking Area, a petition signed by at least 250 households (one signature per household) in the proposed area must be submitted to the SFMTA. See “Expand an Existing Permit Area” for petition forms.

Requirements
  • The proposed block(s) must be contiguous to each other and must contain a minimum of one mile of street frontage.
  • The proposed block(s) must be of a low- or medium-density residential character — high-density land use is generally not suitable for RPP
  • At least fifty percent of the vehicles parked on the street in the proposed area must be non-resident vehicles.
  • At least eighty percent of the legal on-street parking spaces within the proposed area are occupied during the day.

That third point is of interest:”At least fifty percent of the vehicles parked on the street in the proposed area must be non-resident vehicles.”

During the December 7 community meeting, the SFMTA released the results of its survey of vehicles parked in northwest Bernal Heights. The survey showed that no more than 33% of the vehicles parked in northwest Bernal belong to non-residents — a ratio well below the 50% required under the RPP rules. (In the evening, the percentage of non-resident vehicles drops to about 23%.)

Meanwhile, the SFMTA data shows that the percentage  of vehicles belonging to Bernal residents who live less than 1/4 mile away from where their cars were parked in northwest Bernal ranges from a weekday low of 67% to as much as 80% during predawn morning hours:

northbernalrppwhosecars

Source: SFMTA presentation

Bernalwood reached out to the SFMTA three times over the course of the last four workdays to seek clarification on the apparent discrepancy between the agency’s moves to establish a new northwest Bernal RPP zone, the SFMTA’s published non-resident vehicle percentage requirement to create a new RPP area, and the SFMTA own vehicle survey data which indicates northwest Bernal does not meet the non-resident percentage requirement to become a RPP zone.

SFMTA has acknowledged these requests, but clarification has not been forthcoming.

Many Questions, Some Answers During Meeting on Proposed Parking Permits

northbernalrppbluezone2

As you may recall, there was a big community meeting last week to discuss the creation of a new Residential Parking Permit (RPP) zone in Northwest Bernal Heights. The effort to create an RPP zone was initiated by some Bernal neighbors, yet now that that the plan is closer to becoming a reality, the conversations for and against the proposal have become more intense.

Neighbor Peter attended last week’s meeting, and he shared these excellent notes:

Notes on the North East Bernal RPP Petition meeting
at Flynn Elementary
Dec. 7, 2016

The Flynn cafeteria was surprisingly full of people for a rainy December night. Standing room only suggested to me a high degree of community interest in the topic. The attendees seemed to be a reasonably equal mix of people in favor, people against and ‘undecideds’ wanting more information about the proposed RPP zone. This was evidenced by relatively sparse ‘yays’ and ‘boos’ for any typical cheer-lines that might have garnered a crowd reaction. There was a table with SFMTA brochures comment forms. Also, there were large printed graphics showing the proposed RPP area and an analysis done by the city of resident vs. non-resident vehicles parked in NE Bernal:

northbernalrppwhosecars

SFMTA Presentation
The presenter described what a wonderful thing RPP has been for San Francisco ever since Telegraph Hill implemented it all those years ago. The city has been more and more successful in bringing it to areas that do not have it, culminating in the elimination of one of the last free parking ‘doughnut holes’ (her words) around Alamo Square recently. RPP has been the start of many Neighborhood associations etc.

The SFMTA Presenter seemed clearly in favor of RPP and was essentially making a pitch to the adjoining streets to join the current ‘blue street’ zone being proposed. This was evidenced by the presenter repeatedly pointing out Prospect St and saying ‘I’m worried about you guys, you better get on board quick!’.

The purpose of this meeting was primarily to inform the public/surrounding streets about the petition and the process the city follows to grant a RPP area. The presenter explained how each of the criteria so far had been met:

  • What the neighbors did to get enough ‘yes’ signatures to proceed. 250 ‘yes’ were required, 270 were obtained. >50% of households in the blue area voted ‘yes’.
  • Talked about the process of getting the ‘Parking Utilization’ data. Took photos of cars on the street to determine the percent of residents parking in the area (The result: 80% of parked cars belong to residents).
  • She clarified that one mile of street minimum is needed for an RPP zone to be established. It seems that the zone in Bernal has met the minimum area.
  • While there are a few more steps in the process to clear, it would take 3-6 months to fully implement the RPP plan: put up street signs, issue permits etc. The presenter seemed to suggest that this was not a completely done deal yet, as the city still needed to give final approval. I can’t confirm this is a fact though, it was a bit vague. (Editor’s Note: Bernalwood got a little more clarity on this issue; additional details are provided at the end of this post.)

No evidence was presented that showed parking has gotten worse in recent years. While it was clear that the SFMTA wants to push this program, it was not made clear why.

Questions, Answers and General Comments from the public
This was mostly civil, and very little aggression was expressed beyond a couple of brief outbursts. A couple of comments included a Lyft driver/local neighbor who said that he regularly takes people to the airport who drop off their car in the neighborhood. There was some concern that notification cards had not been sent out adequately, in particular neighbors on Lundys street said they never heard about the plan and didn’t get notified. Some wanted to be included, but felt there hadn’t been much outreach. There were quite a few questions asked and all answers were given by the presenter:

Q: Doesn’t the 72 hour rule eliminate the need for RPP?
A: The ‘72 hour rule’ is meant for abandoned, broken down and stolen cars in the eyes of the MTA. Therefore they don’t enforce it much. Claimed people abuse this to call against neighbors and tried to downplay this as a means of solving the ‘vacationer parking’ problem.

Q: A neighbor on Mission street (where there are parking meters) asked if he could get a permit and park in the RPP zone.
A: Yes, all neighbors on adjoining streets with parking meters (i.e. Mission St and Cesar Chavez) may obtain an RPP permit for the new zone.

Q: Could street sweeping be implemented instead of RPP?
A: Some streets are too narrow and don’t qualify (width minimum not given).

Q: could the graph be interpreted as there is a much greater interest in NOT getting RPP based on the number of streets that did NOT sign on?
A: Yes, that is one way of interpreting it. But keep in mind, these neighbors do want it (blue streets).  A neighbor with a computer then shared a stat from the petition summary that showed only 18% of units in the NE Bernal Canvas area (outlined by the dotted yellow line) voted ‘yes’ for an RPP Zone, the remainder voted ‘no’ or did not vote. This information was not shared with the entire group, just near the person who asked the question. The data seems to confirm this.

Q: If I live just outside the zone, and my neighbor lives just inside of it, does this mean that she can park in front of my house, but I can’t park in front of hers?
A: Yes. Follow up Q: ‘Well that doesn’t sound very fair’. The SFMTA presenter replied with a chuckle ‘Well, life isn’t fair’ (her words verbatim).

Q: If 80% of the parking is done by people who are residents of the neighborhood (as demonstrated in presentation.) how can you say there is a problem that needs RPP?
A: Every spot counts, RPP will make those extra spots available.

Q: Are the times fixed once RPP is established?
A: No, parking hours can be changed: 1-4 hours, weekdays only or with weekends added. Start and finish times can be adjusted, but no restrictions on overnight parking.

Q: I visited Chicago recently and there they have night parking restrictions which addresses the parking problem much more adequately, is there any plan for that?
A: We’ve talked about it, it’s a great idea, but putting that into action is a long way off.

Q: Can we expand RPP to our street too?
A: Yes, you need to get over %50 of the units on your block to vote ‘yes’. If there are 100 units total, you need 51 to say ‘yes’. It is not a ‘yes’ total vs ‘no’ total. The street also needs to be connected to the pre-established zone.

Q: Can RPP be ‘undone’ in the same way that it can be expanded?
A: Yes. If a re-canvasing is done on a given street and fewer than 50% vote ‘yes’ the street can be eliminated from the program. The total area of streets must maintain a minimum one mile for the permit program to continue. Eliminating RPP in an area has been done just once before.


Q: How much are permits?
A: Price of permit is $127 a year per passenger vehicle and will be going up next year (new price not mentioned).

Q: How many permits can you buy?
A: Currently any individual house may purchase up to 4 residential permits. The reason for this is to accommodate roommate situations, not the car collectors, but they benefit too. The presenter suggested that at some point the MTA might try to switch it to one permit per licensed driver per house, but it was only in the idea phase, no proposal on the table currently.

Q: Do the red ‘Scoot’ motorbikes need a permit to park in the RPP zone?
A: No permit is required for motorbikes, personal or private, so long as they fit in a spot that a car could not reasonably take. A space of 9 ft or less was mentioned. (Note: online I saw that motorcycles DO require permits and cost $95 annually, not sure how this jives with what the presenter said.)

Q: A neighbor asked about the possibility of friends coming over and parking over the limit in the zone.
A: Yes, you can get a permit for guests/contractors etc. They are $5 a day for the first one and get more expensive from there. The more you want, the more you pay! When you request your 10th pass it is $7, $10 per pas beyond 20 passes.

Q: I’m concerned about cyber security and do not wish to put my info online, can I get printed documents regarding this plan?
A: Yes, please call us and we will send you info by mail.

Small Group Discussions
The presenter had us break up into groups by street to share our thoughts. I had a very nice chat with some of my neighbors afterward, all of whom were in favor of RPP. It was noted that the city is responsible for eliminating quite a few local parking spots, most recently to create the bike lanes on Valencia between Mission and Chavez. It seems that many fear parking has gotten out of hand due to the new hospital on Guerrero and Chavez. One woman who voted ‘yes’ commented to me ‘This RPP is a terrible idea, I admit. But what else can we do?’ It was suggested (by me) that requesting increased street sweeping, pressuring the city to allow street sweeping on all but the narrowest of streets, and having SFMTA change their policy on 72 hour parking to affect ‘non neighbor, vacationers’ would do a lot to alleviate the situation. This would also eliminate the neighbor to neighbor antagonism that is created with the start of RPP and ends up with everyone buying in due to the negative effects the zone creates.

It was great to meet and chat with everyone at the end. Though we didn’t see eye to eye, everyone was very reasonable and considerate of each other’s opinions and viewpoints.

I really hope that there is still some scope for neighbor input though, particularly since those near, but outside the zone will be negatively impacted by it. I don’t think neighbors in the zone were reasonably informed that this plan may not make parking easier for them — while simultaneously making parking worse for others. I live just outside the canvas zone on Coleridge, but I see the snake slithering this way and would love to send it back to where it came from. It was clear to me in the small group session that neighbors on Coleridge voted ‘yes’ having been sold a bill of goods from the main proponents of this plan. The misinformation about the ‘benefits’ of RPP was evident.

Bernalwood followed-up with the SFMTA to learn more about the next steps in the RPP process. Here’s what happens now, according to SFMTA:

  • Revise proposal to reflect tonight’s input
  • If needed, hold another community mtg.
  • Begin the legislative process
    a) SFMTA staff meetings
    b) Interagency staff meetings
    c) Public hearings
    d) Presentation to SFMTA Board of Directors

Neighbors who wish to express an opinion on the proposed RPP can do so via the SFMTA survey for northwest Bernal, and additional documentation about the Bernal Heights proposal is available on the SFMTA website.

SFFD Concludes Cole Hardware Fire Caused by Cigarettes or BBQ

Missionfire.aerial.ssmarni4

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:

prefiretrashbins

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.

Citizens! Get Thee to a Polling Place, TODAY!

precitavoting

Citizens! it’s Election Day!

The future of the galaxy hangs in the balance, so you know what you need to do: Vote!

If don’t know where your polling place is located, click here to find it.

If you’re still not sure how to vote on the ridiculously long list of local candidates and San Francisco ballot propositions, check out Bernalwood’s endorsements for the November 8, 2016 election.

And finally, if you’d like to gather with other upstanding Citizens this evening to watch the results pour in, the fabulous Precita Park Cafe at the east end of Precita Park is having an Election Results Viewing Party TONIGHT, from 5:30 to 10 pm.  Ms. Dana from Precita Park Cafe says all Bernalese are invited to come enjoy Happy Hour prices on select beers and wine along with pizza specials and complimentary punditry viewable on a brand-new high-definition color television! So futuristic!!!

Get out there and vote, have a nice democracy, and as always, Viva Bernal.

PHOTO: Voters on Precita Avenue, 8:10 am, November 8, 2016.