New Video Brings Celebrity “Overpass Guy” JaVonne Hatfield to Bernal Hill

For the last few years, JaVonne Hatfield has delighted motorists stuck in traffic on Highway 101 by dancing on the 18th Street pedestrian overpass, just north of Hospital Curve.

Along the way, he’s become something of a San Francisco celebrity, even if most people only know him as  “That Dancing Guy on the Overpass.”

JaVonne Hatfield on the overpass. Photo by JaVonne Hatfield

Recently, JaVonne appeared in a fun little video that celebrates life in San Francisco. The video is structured as a comedic chase across town, but it culminates on Bernal Hill, in a kind of a rapturous coming-together that’s totally uplifting, and totally Bernal.

See for youself, and feel all the feels:

Hat tip: Neighbor Rebecca

Bernal Heights Mourns Ralph Carney, Celebrated Musician and Former Neighbor

Ralph Carney in 2010. (Creative Commons photo by Ralph Carney)

Bernalwood is sad to share news that former Bernal neighbor Ralph Carney has died. He was 61.

A career musician whose primary instruments were the saxophone and clarinet, Carney’s many collaborations included work with the B-52s, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, The Waitresses, and Galaxie 500. More recently, he’d worked with the Kronos Quartet, St. Vincent, Sun Ra, and many others. A documentary about Carney’s career has been in the works for several years.

On Saturday Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney, Ralph Carney’s nephew, posted this tribute on Twitter:

For many years Carney was also a resident of Bennington Street in Bernal Heights. He moved to Portland, Oregon in 2015, but family and many of his friends still live in Bernal.

Bernal Neighbor Ken Shelf shared these memories of his friendship with Ralph Carney:

I’m pretty broken up about Ralph. He lived on Bennington until about 2 years ago. At that point, he and his wife had separated and he moved to Portland with his partner. His wife and his daughter Hedda still are here in the neighborhood.

He was a real larger than life type of guy, but super modest and quiet. He really let his music tell his story. He was dedicated to music in its totality. He was known to play 5, 6 sometimes 7 gigs in a week. He played with a huge variety of musicians.

He had his own projects, and he played with some huge bands, like They Might Be Giants, Tom Waits, Jonathan Richman and the B-52’s, and he played with tons of smaller local bands, including my old band The Dont’s, for whom he provided horns and wind instruments on two albums, and played many gigs with us. He also played weddings, bar mitzvahs, Strolls on Cortland Avenue, and sat in with jazz combos, open mics, blues bands and pretty much whoever wanted to rock out.

There is a joke in the SF music scene that Ralph has played on about half the albums that have been released during his time living here. For me, just about every musician I know has a connection to Ralph, whether that means playing with him, or sharing a bill with him, or just talking shop.

Ralph always had a nice word for other musicians. He wasn’t at all about trying to compete. He also was a strong voice advocating for musicians to get paid fairly. On top of everything else, he was a madman on stage, frequently playing multiple instruments at once sometimes while lying down on his back and just totally freaking out. He never held back while performing, emptying the tank every time. It was incredibly inspiring playing music with him, because he made you feel like going totally crazy yourself, just to keep up with his energy.

I didn’t know him super well, but I was always psyched to stand on the corner and chat about life and music and life in Bernal. I was sad when he moved to Portland, though we still shared many text chats and stayed connected to each other. I have a new music project right now and in the back of my head I’d been excited to send him some tracks to collaborate on. It is such a total bummer that Ralph passed. I really loved Ralph, and I will miss him greatly.

Fund Created to Help Bernal Neighbor After Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Bernal neighbors Fran Maffeo and Even Lammers, in a recent photograph

It’s been a little more than a week since Bernal neighbor Even Lammers died of carbon monoxide poisoning in his Moutrie Street home. In the meantime, Even’s surviving partner, Fran Maffeo, must now carry on without her companion of the last 40 years.

Neighbor Deborah used to live next door to Fran and Even, and she’s spreading the word about a crowdfunding campaign underway to help Fran navigate this difficult time. Deborah tells Bernalwood:

There’s now a Go Fund Me page for Fran Maffeo, the surviving victim of last week’s carbon monoxide poisoning on Moultrie.

Fran is a senior neighbor of ours with limited resources and no surviving family.

Fran and Even’s former next-door neighbor Jennifer set up the page “to pay for a simple service for Even and to ensure that Fran has a safe home to live in for her last years.”

Additional details are on the GoFundMe page; Bernal neighbors who are so inclined are encouraged to contribute to the effort.

Meet Jack Hart, the New Captain at SFPD Ingleside Station

Capt. Jack Hart at an Oct. 2017 community meeting in Bernal Heights.

This interview was originally published at Hoodline by reporter Will Carruthers and was created in partnership with the Ingleside-Excelsior Light. The interview has been edited and condensed.

On October 21, Captain Jack Hart, an 18-year member of the San Francisco Police Department, took the top post at Ingleside Station, which covers the city’s second-largest policing district.

We spoke with Hart about his background, his first month in charge and the challenges he expects to face.

Hoodline: What’s your background with the SFPD?

Jack Hart: My great-grandfather, Charles W. King, was a streetcar driver going up and down Market Street. He and his wife, Georgia King, had their first son right around April 1906. When the great quake hit on April 18, the hospital they were in collapsed, and Charles joined the Police Department immediately.

His star number was 596, the same star number I wear. He served for 25 years [before being] hit and killed by a drunk driver while acting as a crossing guard for school kids on Alemany Boulevard in 1931.

I grew up in Diamond Heights and I currently live in Sunnyside, both in the Ingleside District. Generations of my family have lived in Ingleside District, yet I have never policed the area because I have worked at four of the other stations: Southern, Tenderloin, Mission and Bayview-Hunters Point.

I’m also an attorney, so I spent several years in our legal office acting as an attorney on behalf of the Police Department in civil, criminal, state and federal courts.

I joined the department in June 1999, so I’m relatively new in the department but I have a lot of family experience. I was a police cadet with the Police Activities League when I was 14.

With all of those connections, it’s not just a professional accomplishment to be the captain of Ingleside Station, it’s also a personal mission because I’m so connected to this district. I want this place to be great too.

How have you spent your first month on the job?

I’ve spent the entire month trying to figure out the cops, the community and the crime, and not necessarily in that order.

I’ve probably been to about 30 community meetings so far. It’s been great because everyone is so motivated to fix these neighborhood issues. I’d be really concerned if there were only three or four people showing up to these meetings, but most of them have 30 or 40, which is great.

Even if they’re yelling at me, it shows me they care.

What are some of the unique features of Ingleside Station and what do you think will be some of the biggest challenges?

One of the challenges of the Ingleside is that it’s a big district. I think we’re about 25 percent of the city, about the size of Daly City with the population of Daly City, basically shoved into one police district. It’s a lot of real estate to cover.

All of that creates this challenge that we are really reliant on our police cars to cover the distance, which kind of sucks, to be frank.

Our challenge is that our cops are all in their cars. They put an average of 50 to 60 miles a day in the car.

One of the challenges is getting officers out of their cars to engage on a block-by-block basis, so that they can understand the unique challenges and strengths of each neighborhood—especially in areas that have violence issues like Visitacion Valley in the Sunnydale neighborhoods.

We’re spending a lot of time down there, and other neighborhoods are not necessarily getting the same investment on a day-to-day basis.

The biggest challenge is that we need more cops. We’re probably a good 25 to 30 cops short of where we should be in terms of all our responsibilities and all the things we need.

Saturday’s Celebration of the Restored Esmeralda Slides Was a Best of Bernal Moment

Heroes of the Esmeralda Slide Park: From left, mosaic artists Jesse Medina and Rachel Rodi, project organizers Nancy Windensheim and Joan Carson

In case you missed it, last Saturday’s celebration of the re-restored Esmeralda Slide Park and its new sidewalk mosaic was a lovely moment of Bernal at its best.  About 50 Berenal neighbors showed up to admire the now-gorgeous little park, along with representatives from The City’s Department of Public Works, who did much to help make it happen.

Artist Rachel Rodi, the creator of the fabulous new sidewalk mosaic, was also on hand as a special celebrity guest.

Some may recall that Dianne Feinstein zipped down the slides when the slide park first opened in 1979:

DiFi didn’t show up to reprise that feat on Saturday, but Bernal neighbor Michael Nolan was on hand to complete the circle between past and present. Neighbor Michael, of course, helped organize the effort to create the Esmeralda slides in the late 1970s:

Esmerlada slide crew in 1978. That’s Neighbor Michael Nolan, circled on the left.

And here’s Neighbor Michael on June 24, 2017, braving life, limb, and potential liability by plunging down the slide like the true daredevil he is:

Of course, the slide is all about motion and laughter, so here’s a little video that captures a moment on Saturday that will hopefully be repeated tens of thousands of times in years to come. Turn the volume up to hear the sweetest sound any neighborhood can possibly experience:

PHOTOS and VIDEO: By Telstar Logistics

“Devastated” Family of Bernal Homicide Victim Seeks Witnesses, Answers

Giovanny Alvarez, shown in a family photo with two of his children

There’s a community meeting scheduled for tomorrow night, Wed., May 31, at 6 pm at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center (515 Cortland) to discuss the homicide that took place last week, when the body of a man who had been fatally stabbed was found on the south side of Bernal Hill in the early hours of the morning on May 25.  Capt. Joseph McFaden from SFPD’s Ingleside Station and D9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen will be in attendance.

The Medical Examiner’s Office has identified the victim as Giovanny Alvarez, 33, a San Francisco resident.

According to Giovanny Alvarez’s family, the victim was a family man and the father of four children. He grew up on Moultrie Street in Bernal Heights and attended Leonard Flynn Elementary School next to Precita Park before moving to The Bayview.

“We’re devastated. We’re also frustrated,” Alvarez’s sister told Bernalwood. “We’re desperate to know what happened.”

“He was a normal person who liked going out with friends, but we don’t know what happened or who he was with,” she said. “Our family is looking for justice, not only for us, but for our whole community. We don’t feel safe knowing there is a killer walking the streets. We don’t want this case to be just another murder that goes unsolved here in San Francisco.”

Alvarez’s family is looking for information from anyone who may have seen Giovanny on the night of May 24-25, or witnessed the crime. Please call the San Francisco Police Department Tip Line at (415) 575-4444. Tipsters may remain anonymous.

In addition, Alvarez’s family has set up a GoFundMe page to help defray costs associated with his burial.  They write:

Giovanny Alvarez a Beloved father, son, uncle and friend. He was loved by many, his laughter brightened our day and he didn’t deserve to die like he did. He was passionate, artistic, and funny. People took him away from us too soon, he was too young. He was murdered on May 25th , 2017 and left to die in our local park In San Francisco. The police is investigating and trying to get justice for our beloved Gio. If you have any information regarding this monstrous crime please contact the police as soon as possible. Please help and share so we can properly bury him how he deserved and wanted. Keep us in your prayers and thank you so much.

En español

Giovanny Alvarez un Querido padre, hijo, tío y amigo. Él fue amado por muchos, su risa iluminó nuestro día y no merecía morir como lo asecinaron. Él era apasionado, artístico, y divertido. Su vida fue arrebatada de el y nosotros tomó nosotros demasiado pronto, él era demasiado joven. Fue asesinado el 25 de mayo de 2017 y abandonado para morir en ub parque local en San Francisco. La policía está investigando y tratando de conseguir justicia para nuestro amado Giovanny. Si tiene una informacion de este monstroso crimer porfavor llamar a la policia. Por favor ayude y comparta para que podamos enterrarlo adecuadamente como se merecía y quería.Manténgannos en sus oraciones y muchas gracias.

Saturday: Remembering Bernal Neighbor Bill Guedet

Sadly, Bernal Neighbor Bill Guedet of Gates Street passed away recently. His friends and family wth host a memorial celebration of his life on Saturday, May 20 at Wild Side West from 3-5 pm.

Neighbor Toria tells us more about Neighbor Bill:

I wanted to share the sad news about the passing of a longtime Bernal/Gates Street resident and San Francisco original — Bill Guedet.

On behalf of his son Ruben and his partner Erica, I’m spreading the word about a toast/memorial/celebration to be held on May 20th at Wild Side West from 3-5pm. Ruben grew up on Gates Street, and is currently living in New York.

Bill moved to San Francisco in the 60s. He lived in the Haight, hanging out with Janis Joplin and others from the community there. He moved out in 1967 because he saw the change that was heading for that neighborhood. After a time in Potrero, he landed in Bernal in 1976. He was a cable car driver and an avid photographer.

Bill was a familiar sight on Cortland, and always good for a story about the past, or opinions about the present. It still hasn’t quite sunk in that he’s gone.

Bill son Ruben grew up on Gates Street, and he tells us more about his dad, and his life in Bernal Heights:

My father was born Oct 2nd, 1942 in Merced, California. He remembers growing up in the 40’s and 50’s, fondly recalling sharing Sunday lunch with his grandfather, a field hand who did not speak English, but taught him how to eat in the Italian way, and developed Bill’s palate for anti pasta, olive oil and vinegar. Bill was one of a handful of white teenagers to see Little Richard play in Merced, and he tried to get over the wire fence that separated him from the Latino and African American kids that were having a much better time.

As soon as he could, he left the valley for San Francisco and stayed with some gay classmates who escaped with him. He never saw any real reason not to be friends with them; indeed his family’s request to avoid them was even more reason to, and studied theater as SF State.

He would have told you that SF State was the real ground zero for the 60’s. It was wilder, much messier, far more fun than posturing UC Berkeley, and it spilled out into the Haight. In a strange coincidence, Bill’s great grandfather ran a pharmacy at Haight and Ashbury for a while with his three brothers from Italy. Bill would continue that fascination with the scene there, he famously (though not uniquely) danced with Janis Joplin. She called him “dude”, saw the Stones, poo poo’d the Dead, and lived many stories there, before he saw the good natured feelings turn away from the hope and transformation once promised.

It was in the Panhandle that he made the acquaintance that would lead him to my mother Holly (an early date being the fabled Beatles show at Candlestick). This began the great tragic romance of his life, and Bill eventually settled in Bernal Heights when I was 6 years old. Some of that time he worked as a photographer for the Chronicle, but ultimately found that less satisfying than just pursuing his own work.

In the early 70’s Bill had gotten a job working nights on the Cable Cars. This began a rollicking few years of fun and misbehavior while “the folks” (or tourists) never let on that they were the main attraction. In 1984 the cable cars were renovated, and a poorly designed switch at Powell and Market brought an end to Bill’s time with Muni. Severely injured, Bill sought training as an accountant and came to find work at the Vintage Court Hotel as a night auditor.

In the 1980s Bill began to really invest time in Bernal Heights; he was always known as the guy who cleaned the streets by picking up trash in the area (this was before recycling gave value to cans and bottles), and was instrumental in getting trash cans installed on Cortland street. Closer to home, he began the epic house renovation that continues to this day; transforming our home on Gates street from a flophouse into a family home.

It was this success that encouraged Bill to start a neighborhood tree planting program shortly thereafter. He was a leader in getting street trees planted in Bernal Heights, and was very proud the tree he had planted in front of our house. He continued his civic engagement by working against a city plan to implement street cleaning on Gates Street. BIll’s focus and drive allowed him to improve the area, and devotion to Bernal Heights is an important part what the neighborhood is today.

Bill’s energy turned inward when my Mom was diagnosed with cancer, a disease neither would ever recover from. After years of fighting with an implacable enemy, my mother succumbed and with her passing Bill would never have her far from his mind. For most of the last two decades this is the Bill that his Gates Street neighbors would come to know. Longtime residents might remember his messy attempt to redo the front of house (resulting in home made scaffolding up for years), or the eventual removal of the tree in front, but those who took the time to know Bill would understand that his passion for the area, and his love for San Francisco was never dimmed.

Bill passed on April 28th. Just as in life, he was supported by his neighbors on Gates Street in that time.

PHOTO: Bill Guedet, courtesy of his family