Saturday: Let’s Celebrate the Restoration of Esmeralda Slide Park

The secret slides on Esmeralda have always been a symbol of community spirit and cooperation in Bernal Heights, and the recent re-restoration of the slides and the surrounding park was no exception.

Spearheaded by Neighbors Joan and Nancy with support from a diverse cast of Bernal neighbors and City officials, the Esmeralda Slide Park now looks better than ever, and the installation of “The Locator,” a gorgeous new mosaic funded by donations from our community, was the crowning detail.

So now it’s time to celebrate. Neighbor Joan shares this invitation to a celebration happening on Saturday morning, June 24:

“The Locator” mosaic wouldn’t have been created if it hadn’t been for your generous donations. So, once again, thank you.

Saturday, June 24, 2017
10:00 am to noon
Esmeralda Plaza (Esmeralda Stairs @ Winfield Street)

Come celebrate Our Collective Achievement!

Rachel Rodi (the tile artist) & her team, along with Nancy Windesheim & Joan Carson (the designers) will be on hand to answer any questions. We hope many of you can attend. Over 100 donors contributed to this project through GoFundMe.

Although the City did not fund the tile installation, Director Nuru graciously permitted it’s construction on public property. He and his key staff were very supportive of this project and will be present to share in it’s celebration.

Please RSVP to by June 22

City will provide refreshments based upon RSVP replies.

PHOTOS: Top, The Locator mosaic, installed at the Emeralda Slide Park. Photo via Neighbor Joan. Below, restored slides, via Google

Play Pac-Man In Your Favorite Bernal Heights Microhood


Today is April Fools Day, which means you should definitely be on guard for things that sound too good to be true. Yet one such too-good-thing that turns out to actually be quite true is the special treat your friends and neighbors from the Google Maps team created to celebrate the day: A special, playable PacMan layer for Google Maps that can be applied to areas with lots of criss-crossing roads. Areas, like, say, Bernal Heights.

Let’s let The Verge geeksplain:

Your neighborhood just got a lot more interesting. Google has released a new feature for Maps that lets you turn any location into a game of Pac-Man — all you have to do is click the new Pac-Man button that resides in the lower left corner of the screen. When you do, whatever section of the world you’re looking at will transform into the pixelated arcade classic, complete with four colorful ghosts and the iconic music. While developers have created similar hacks before, this version of Google Maps Pac-Mancomes directly from Google, and even supports mobile devices.

You can’t play all of Bernal Heights in one screen. But you can play one of our Bernal microhoods (including popular footpaths). Bernal Hill is shown up above. Here’s Holly Park:


This is central Cortlandia:


This is Precitaville and Precita Park:


And this is St. Mary’s Park:


Caution: You may find that there aren’t enough ghost-munching Power Pellets in some areas of Bernal Heights Pac-Man. This is completely unacceptable. We recommend filing lots and lots and lots of requests for additional Bernal Heights Pac-Man Power Pellets with and D9 Supervisor David Campos’s office. They’ll be totally glad to assist you.

… April Fools!

Animated GIF Shows Very Animated Nighttime View of New Bayfront Mural


Neighbor Joe Thomas  (Codename: Jobius) operates a Bernalwood Observation Post at an upper altitude on the east side of Bernal Heights. He also uses this location as an Animated GIF manufacturing facility.

All this means that Jobius now spends a lot of time looking at the new Bayview Rising mural, and he’s excited to see the mural’s ability to transform at night, once they turn the lights on. In fact, Jobius is so excited about this that he forged an Animated GIF of the mural’s three nighttime color modes to simulate his future views.

Behold, his Animated GIF of Our Future Skyline:


PHOTOS: Mural renderings via the Port of San Francisco.

Mysterious Bernal Hill Tree-Shrub Thing Now Protected by Powerful Force-Field


It’s a well-known fact that the big tree/shrub thingy atop Bernal Hill plays host to many dark mysteries. But now it seems that the distinctive plant has also acquired supernatural powers.

Over on the Instagram, photographer Nick Hatamiya channeled the wonderful “Kamehameha” Dragonball photo meme coming out of Japan to show Bernal’s tree-shrub thingy repelling an intrusive bystander with a powerful blast of invisible energy.

Nicely done!

PHOTO: @nickhata

What Happened to the Old Cancilla’s Market Sign, and What You Could Do With It in Your Living Room

Once upon a time not really all that long ago, the Precita Park storefront on the corner of Folsom and Bessie that we now call Harvest Hills was a rather typical corner store known as Cancilla’s Market.

It was called Cancilla’s Market for several generations and many moons, until the space changed hands. Today’s Harvest Hills has a decidedly more gourmet flavor, and little now remains of the former Cancilla’s except the funky midcentury San Francisco wallpaper that still lines the walls. All the other bits and pieces of the old place have been scattered to the wind — including the big Cancilla’s Market sign that used to hang out front. Until now.

The former Cancilla’s Market sign has resurfaced in Sacramento, and Bernalwood has learned that it has been repurposed for use as a home media center.

Wait… what?

Artist Cody Lane contacted Bernalwood to explain:

I am an artist/builder of things in Sacramento CA. I purchased this sign some time ago at a used furniture store in Davis CA, and it transformed it into a media center or book shelf. The piece will accommodate a flat screen up to 50″ and components. The Cancillas sign was a lucky find and it’s a really interesting piece of functional found art. The sign is for sale, and I can deliver and install if needed.

Email Cody if you’d like to watch television inside a genuine slice of Bernal Heights history.

PHOTOS: via Cody Lane

Newfangled Gas Pump Converts Sunlight Into Text Messages

Just in time for tonight’s glamorous Summer Solstice Stroll, a clever new fixture has been installed in front of the exceedingly clever New Wheel Electric Bicycle Shop on Cortland.

As you no doubt recall, The New Wheel sells newfangled electric bicycles that make it easy to pedal up Bernal Hill without really breaking a sweat. The bikes run on batteries, and the batteries need recharging, and recharging requires electricity. So our newfangled bicycle shop has installed a newfangled solar-powered recharging station out front, to recharge bicycle batteries.

The solar pump will also be available for use by all the Citizens of Bernalwood as a refueling stop for our luxurious personal electronic devices.

The pump on Cortland was custom-built by Sol Design Lab, and it’s the same solar -powered recharging pump that was last seen hanging out inside the fence at Hayes Valley Farm:

The SolarPump Charging Station is a self-contained island of free solar power available for the public to charge any electronic device (electric bicycles to cellphones and laptops, etc.) using a standard 110v AC plug. The bus stop-sized station inspires conversation about energy consumption, solar power and growing adoption of electric mobility.

The SolarPump was originally envisioned to combine a repurposed American car culture symbol (a 1950s Citgo gas pump) with an interactive display harnessing solar energy to charge electric bikes and mobile electronics.

The station has standard 110v outlets, so anyone can walk up and charge a cell phone, laptop, electric bike or scooter. The power is collected by Sanyo Bifacial solar panels on the roof of the station.

Finally! No longer will you have to worry about running out of juice on Cortland as you send text messages while batch-processing photos to send by email as you upload your star-sighting videos to YouTube and geolocate all your friends within a 500′ radius! Right??? If all that gets to be just too much for your poor little battery, rest assured that you can now use the SolarPump to perk back up.

Just remember: It’s BYOC (Bring Your Own Cord).

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

What Is Buried Under the Big Shrub/Tree Thing on Bernal Hill?

Bernal Hill

Bernal Hill

The big shrub/tree thingy on the eastern slope of Bernal Heights Park is one of the most impressive — if underrated —  features on the hill. The consensus among our local plantspotters is that it’s a California Buckeye (Aesculus californica).

The Buckeye cuts a dramatic profile from almost any angle, but if you look at it closely you might notice two small grave markers tucked away under the branches on the downtown-facing side. How creepy! How gothic!

So who’s buried under there? The answer becomes clear if you dare approach for a closer look: The grave markers belong to departed subcultural pets.

One of the tombstones remembers a punk rock rabbit named Vikktor who died earlier this year:

Buckeye Grave

The other is a snake named Spike that began its eternal rest in 2010:

Buckeye Grave

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

1959 Cadillac Emerges from Bernal Garage; Smart Cars Rejoice

Neighbor Mason was on hand to witness the opening of an ad-hoc time capsule on Bocana last week:

Last Friday at 305 Bocana, a garage was opened to reveal a collection of cars (and parts) owned by the late Edward Cicero, longtime Bernal butcher and possibly the founder of what is now Avedanos. (Factcheck please!) His son, Edward Jr, and grandson Steve just sold this stunning yellow ’59 Cadillac and were moving it outward and onward to its new owner.

To my surprise, there were two late 30’s Packards stashed in the other garage bay, and even a transaxle for Ford Model A. We remain excited to see what will take the Cadillac’s place, as apparently Mr. Cicero was an avid collector of metal, and there are several other examples of his curatorial prowess in other undisclosed locations.

Some interesting facts divined by yours truly:

  • This 1959 Caddy’s wheelbase (130″) can accommodate the length of an entire Smart car (98″) with an electric bike on a rear bike rack (18″) and still have 18″ left over for a clean parking job.
  • This 1959 Caddy’s engine 390 cubic inches is over ten times that of a Smart car (36cui).
  • The Smart Car boasts a passenger area of 45.4 cubic feet. While certainly impressive, this is only slightly larger than the capacity of the Caddy’s fuel tank (42.29 cu ft).

PHOTOS: Mason Kirby

Who Created that Cool Kinetic Sculpture in Holly Park?

La Principessa Errante, a blog about San Francisco art and architecture, has the answer. The sculpture is called Odonatoa, and it was created by Joyce Hsu:

Born in Hong Kong, Joyce Hsu received her BFA from the Mount Allison University in Canada in 1996 and her MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1998. She works out of Oakland and creates all kinds of mechanical sculptures.

This kinetic sculpture of painted stainless is one of many insects that Joyce has created.

PHOTOS: La Principessa Errante

Man Creates Bernal Heights Haven for Lost Stuffed Animals

There was a wonderful little piece on the SFGate website this weekend about Jose Marquez, a man who has turned his Cortland garage into a foster home for cast-away stuffed animals:

Basically, we give these stuffed animals a second chance,” said Marco Marquez. His grandfather, Jose Marquez, stood by his side and his year-old son Anthony sat in his arms. The collection of stuffed animals started 16 years ago shortly after Grandpa Jose purchased a Bernal Heights apartment building. Back then, Jose was a construction worker and would rescue the toys that had been thrown into gutters, bringing them to the garage for a second life. Now Jose is retired, and the garage has become a haven for him.

Amazing, amazing, amazing multimedia storytelling, and the video above is a gorgeous must-see (be patient while the video player loads, please). Don’t miss it.


Tonight! Buy Chicken John’s Book, Help Save His Space for ‘Odd and Unlikely Artworks’

On Cesar Chavez Street near Mission, there’s a prominent mural on a jaunty red building that shouts advice to all passers-by: “Fail…to WIN!”

That slogan is the subtitle of The Book of the IS, a new book written by the building’s owner, Chicken John Rinaldi.

I’ve read it, and I was genuinely inspired by its rallying cry to embrace the “Is” — that which “allows and accepts and laughs and courts” — and reject the “Un,” which “prevents and contains and moderates and disdains.”

The key to pulling off this trick? Don’t be afraid to fail. “The minute we’re as comfortable with failing,” Rinaldi writes, “as we are with winning — the moment we’re in it for the experience and not the victory lap — is the moment we’re free.”

A showman provocateur whose multifarious capers have increased the colorfulness of our city and Bernalwood in particular (anyone remember the Odeon Bar?), Chicken John’s most recent claim to fame is his (failed) mayoral campaign in 2007.

But for the past five years or so, he has quietly put on all manner of interesting artistic and cultural events ­— oracular Q&A salons, trapeze classes, puppet shows, mayoral debates, you name it — at 3359 Cesar Chavez Street, the aforementioned jaunty red building. Quietly as in, you know, lacking all the permits and stuff.

That space is now at a crossroads, and Chicken John needs help. He needs you to buy his awesome book, either online at or, preferably, in person tonight, Sept. 30, 7 p.m.-2 a.m., at a spectacular free event at 111 Minna and the surrounding block (the street will be closed to accommodate over 100 performers and god knows what kind of mayhem).

Did we mention that the book is an objet d’art? And that 550 of the 2,500 copies in existence sport handmade slip covers by renowned street artist Swoon as well as a smattering of local artists? You can even choose (for a slightly higher price) to have your book include a coupon worth one “anything,” redeemable directly from Chicken John. “It’s gonna kill me,” he says, “but I’m serious about it. I will do anything to save the warehouse.”

If he can raise the dough, Chicken John will be able to (a) keep his warehouse and (b) make an honest art space out of it via the nonprofit he created: the San Francisco Institute for Possibility. “We want to champion odd and unlikely artworks,” he says. “There is so much cool stuff that wants to happen there that I have to pass on because we are just not legal enough. Together, we can put the warehouse’s problems away and focus on doing shows, manufacturing culture, and battling the onslaught of mediocrity.”

Hear, hear! Help the man fail at failure.

PHOTO: Neil Berrett

Jane Underwood Sees the Lovely in Bernalwood’s Details


Red Steps

Neighbor Jane Underwood recently submitted a nice batch of photos to the Bernalwood Flickr group, and though each one is different, they are all clearly of a kind. Jane has an eye for the small details; the lovely juxtapositions of color and shape that are so much a part of like in Bernal Heights — if you bother to look.

Billboard Overlooking Allemany Flea Market

As she explained in the caption for the above image:

This billboard overlooks my neighborhood’s weekend flea market. It’s the kind of eccentric scenery that, I think, city dwellers become so accustomed to that they often don’t even notice it after a while. I try never to take my San Francisco environment for granted, and that includes the obscure parts as well as the obvious ones.

PHOTOS: by Jane Underwood

Bernal’s Battle-Scarred Race Car Returns Home for Repairs

Recovering the Whale

Recovering the Whale

Recovering the Whale

Last weekend I took part in an unusual rescue mission. Our task: Recover a race car used by the Bernal Dads Racing Team from the suburban jungles of Davis, California, and haul it back to Bernalwood so it can be prepped for a 24 Hours of LeMons race coming up in late October.

The car itself is a battle-scarred Volvo 240 that’s been dubbed “The Whale,” and it’s adorned with sponsorship decals from many of your favorite Cortland merchants. The body is a mess, but the real disaster lies under the hood: After it seized up during a race earlier in the year, the entire engine may need to be replaced. Can those racy Bernal Dads get the job done before October?? Stay tuned!

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics