New “Lake Alemany” Entices Local Media and Watersports Enthusiasts

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After several days of nonstop rain, Lake Alemany has taken form beneath the 101-280 “Spaghetti Bowl,” in southeast Bernal, and the new reservoir quickly attracted the attention of local television crews.

Neighbor John was also on the scene at Bernal’s own version of the Salton Sea, and he reports that Lake Alemany is 1-2 feet deep in the middle, and about 30′ wide. Here’s a close-up:

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No word yet on whether the Recreation and Parks Department plans to open Lake Alemany for bumper-wakeboarding and alligator hunting, but Bernal residents are advised to keep their air boats, amphibious vehicles, and fishing equipment at the ready, just in case.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Neighbor John

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

Deadline Extended to Apply for Free Street Tree Planting

FUFplanting2

If you’d like Friends of the Urban Forest to plant a tree in front of your glamorous Bernal Heights home, then you’re in luck: The deadline to apply for a tree-planting has been extended until January 18.

Esmeralda Martinez, a volunteer coordinator with the fabulous Friends of the Urban Forest says:

Exciting news! Our next big tree planting in Bernal Heights is just around the corner, coming up on February 25th.

We need more trees requests! The deadline for neighbors to apply to green your street has been extended one more week. The new deadline to submit forms is Wednesday January 18th. If you know anybody interested in getting a new tree, please have them contact me at 415 268 0772.

Your neighbors can sign up for a free, no-obligation site visit from our arborist team here.

Check out our community pages for more information.

Thanks for all your help greening your neighborhood!

Cheers,
Esmeralda

Hat Tip: Neighbor Vitaliy.
PHOTO: Tree planting, courtesy of FUF

Hard-Working Bernal Heights Storm Drains Need Your Love and Attention

drainbeforeafter

It’s another rainy, wet day, which begs the question: Have you given your nearest storm drain some love today?

Keeping storm drains free from obstruction and debris is an important way to prevent local flooding during heavy rains. Neighbor Susan tells Bernalwood about San Francisco’s adorable Adopt-a-Drain program, and how you can help keep our streets flood-free. She says:

I’m not sure how I heard about adoptadrain.sfwater.org – it has a nifty website that shows where storm drains are as you move through a map o the city. Of course I moved the cursor south to check out Bernal Heights. Drains everywhere! – and some adopted, on Banks Street. Upon inspecting the drains at the intersection nearest to my home, I decided this would be a good civic responsibility to take on. (Some people will argue that “the city should” but I prefer action to waiting.)

The photo above shows my “bad” drain, on the northwest corner of Banks, along with the implements I use to give it care – a broom, a dust pan with a long handle, and a bucket. The third photo is my bad drain, cleaned. The activity took about ten minutes and afforded me some pleasant conversation with people walking by – always good to find a new way to connect with others in the neighborhood.

A couple of keys to success: Check on street sweeping days to be sure that stuff near your drain is in the street to be swept. If rain is coming, clear the drain ahead of time. It doesn’t take long, and you’ll look at all drains differently from now on. As an added plus, no one will have to jump over or wade through a giant puddle caused by your drain being stopped up!

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Neighbor Susan

Thursday: Neighbors Wanted to Discuss How to Make the Tompkins Stairs More Lovely

tompkinsstairs1

There’s a community meeting happening on Thursday night, November 17 to begin mapping out a plan to make the Tompkins Stairs vastly more sexxxy. Neighbor Vicky has all the details:

Just wanted to call to your attention to a community meeting to envision an improvement to the Tompkins Stairs (on Tompkins between Putnam and Nevada).

We would love to get as many members of the community to this meeting. We’re excited to make another great park like the Esmeralda Stairs, so we hope that folks who care about the stairs will show up.

This property is owned (but not maintained!) by DPW. Come meet with DPW staff and share your thoughts. We need a good turnout to let them know this neighborhood cares!

Many thanks,

Neighbor Vicky
(on behalf of the Tompkins Stairs Beautification group)

###

ENVISIONING THE TOMPKINS STAIRCASE:
A CALL FOR COMMUNITY INPUT
PLEASE JOIN US

Thursday, November 17, 2016, 7:00 pm
Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center
515 Cortland Avenue, across from the Library

The purpose of the meeting, which will be facilitated by representatives of the Department of Public Works, is to sketch out a community-driven vision for the stairs. What would you like to see this space look like going forward?

  • A clean, safe open space?
  • A relaxing and beautiful green space?
  • Public art?
  • A pollination garden?
  • A children’s play space?
  • Community gardens?
  • Something else??

Please join your neighbors and help envision the future of the Tompkins Stairs!

For more information, visit our new website tompkinsstairs.org or contact us at info@tompkinsstairs.org.

PHOTO: View of the Tompkins Stairs, courtesy of Neighbor Vicky

Bernal Heights Is Getting a New Street (With No Muss, No Fuss)

newmartinavemap

Oh hey. Bernal Heights is getting  new street.

Don’t worry: There won’t be lots of messy construction, weeks of temporary parking restrictions, and cumbersome detours that make it harder to get around. No, there won’t be any of that, because our new street already exists — but until now, it didn’t really have a name.

Yesterday the City’s Land Use and Transportation Committee approved the creation of  Martin Avenue on the east side of Bernal Heights. Our friends at CurbedSF broke the story and provide the essential background:

It’s a humble affair, just a short stretch of pavement in Bernal Heights, near the Dogpatch Miller Garden.

Previously, these blocks were home to a messy, confusing triangle, as Brewster Street splits into two before terminating at Mullen Avenue, creating a weird, nameless stretch on city-owned land.

Today the Land Use and Transportation Committee is set to approve a measure conferring the name Martin Avenue on the corridor.

Why Martin Avenue? Well, that’s where this story gets downright charming.

According to the relevant paperwork, the name honors “Martin Ron, a land surveyor whose admiration for his adopted city inspired him to dedicate his career to achieving expertise in San Francisco land surveying.”

Ron established a firm in 1969 (although the city says 1968) that’s done survey work for almost every major project in the city for decades, including the likes of SFMOMA, Millennium Tower, AT&T Park, and even fix-ups on landmarks like the Cliff House and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Cool!

To be honest, it wasn’t easy to figure out exactly where our new Martin Avenue is located. The maps provided in the official documents are a bit disjointed, and Google Maps makes things a little more confusing by labeling the previously unnamed street as an offshoot of (the otherwise contiguous) Brewster Street. As shown:

notbrewster-2

Don’t blame Google; the current street signs also indicate this is was part of Brewster:

brewstersign

But no. That’s not Brewster Street; it’s now officially Martin Avenue.

Once you find it, Martin Avenue turns out to be a lovely little lane. This is Martin Avenue, just west of the point where it connects with Mullen:

martinstreetviewIt’s not clear if any Bernalese humans will have a Martin Avenue address, but earlier this year, I actually (and unknowingly) visited Martin Avenue with Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter to capture a sighting of a coyote hiding in an adjacent thicket:

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Very fashionable!

Accident on Coleridge Highlights Concerns About Speeding Traffic

coleridgecrashnov16

A weekend car accident on Coleridge Avenue (at Heyman) accentuated the concerns that several neighbors have expressed about new traffic patterns that may stem from the creation of the Muni “red carpet” on MIssion Street, one block to the west.

Neighbor Stan tells Bernalwood:

Traffic has increased on Coleridge since the changes were made to Mission. Traffic is heavier, and cars often speed. Looks like it resulted in a fairly serious accident Sunday  morning.

I don’t know for sure, but it appears that the car in the rear was speeding down Coleridge while the car in the front was turning off of Heyman onto Coleridge. I don’t believe anyone was seriously hurt, but a little girl in the front car was very traumatized.

Just wanted to share this, to get feedback from the community on the need for traffic calming on Coleridge.

PHOTO: Car accident on Coleridge, Nov. 13, 2016, by Neighbor Stan