What Happened to the Big Tree in the Bernal Heights Library Playground?

Bernalwood has received several shouts of alarm from Central Cortlandia, where neighbors report that the big shade tree in the playground behind the Bernal Heights Library was suddenly and summarily cut down.

Neighbor Melissa writes:

Sad news for the younger set: The Bernal library playgrouind tree has been taken down without comment. This was really the only source of shade on the playground, so many youngsters (including my own) loved this tree. No word from Rec and Park on the tree’s removal, and no word on what’s next for the hundreds of families that use this park. What gives?

Neighbor Kathryn adds:

The beloved library tree was taken out. Apparently, it was dying. People are really missing this tree.

I know a lot of trees are dying due to the extra rain after our long drought, but how do we know the tree was dangerous? Lots of things are dying, but they may still be around for years or even decades to come.

One thing that is baffling – there is no plan to replace the tree yet – or even a plan to remove the stub.

Apparently, SF Parks and Works doesn’t have access to a stump removal machine, which strikes me as very bizarre considering they remove trees often.

If it takes an act of God for homeowners to get approval to remove a tree – why can Parks and Recs just swoop in and cut down a tree? For homeowners, there is a long drawn out process for notifying the community. Most requests are denied – and if a home owner appeals, they must provide proof of why the tree is an endangerment. If any tree is removed, there must be an approved plan for replacing it BEFORE it is removed.

Why is this not the case for Parks and Rec?

Questions of arboreal equity aside, Bernalwood reached out to the San Francisco Rec and Park department to learn more about the situation.

Connie Chan from Rec and Park tells Bernalwood:

The tree was assessed as hazardous and deemed unsafe by the Department’s Urban Forestry crew. At this time, our crew is working to remove the remaining stump so that it would allow new tree planting in the area in the near future.

We definitely plan to plant a new tree, but in order for that to happen, we have to remove the stump so that it has the space to plant the tree.

Chan adds there is currently no timeframe or estimate when the tree in the Bernal library playground will be replaced.

PHOTOS: Top, Bernal library playground with no tree, by Neighbor Melissa. Below, tree stump by Neighbor Kathryn

Deadline Extended to Apply for Free Street Tree Planting


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!


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

Ballot Measure Would Make City Responsible for Public Tree Care


A few months ago, Bernalwood told you the sad tale of Neighbor Laura from Lundys Lane, a schoolteacher who had just been told she had to foot the bill to pay for the astronomical cost of maintaining a tree that sits on City property next to her house.

That’s standard procedure under the Tree Maintenance Transfer Plan, which puts San Francisco homeowners on the hook to pay for required maintenance on the tens of thousands of streetside trees that used to be maintained by the City.

Now  San Francisco Chronicle reports that D8 Supervisor Scott Wiener plans to introduce a ballot measure that would eliminate costly tree-care bills for homeowners by making the City responsible for sidewalk trees again. The Chronicle says:

It’s the same old story: too many street trees and not enough money to take care of them all.

The city couldn’t afford the maintenance and upkeep for its 105,000 trees, so in 2011 it began transferring ownership to homeowners. Residents often didn’t have the cash for costly pruning and associated sidewalk repairs either. But a new piece of legislation could soon bring relief to those neighbors and infuse about $18 million into the city’s tree maintenance budget.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Scott Wiener will introduce a November ballot measure that would mandate that the city take back ownership, maintenance and liability of all street trees. It would be funded by a combination of a progressive parcel tax — one that increases with the property’s size — and an $8 million annual budget set-aside, the average of what has been spent on urban forestry over the past 10 years.

“This has been a festering problem for decades,” Wiener said. “Trees are getting dumped on adjacent property owners who don’t want them, and that’s an unfair burden. For most property owners, they are going to save money. They will pay a $30 or $40 tax, and they will no longer have to hire an arborist or a contractor or insurance.”

All properties must pay the property tax. Properties with less than 25 feet of street frontage would pay $29.50, while those between 25 to 150 feet would pay $1.42 per frontage foot, and properties with more than 150 feet would pay $2 per frontage foot. The average resident or business would pay about $35 annually.

PHOTO: The tree assigned to Neighbor Laura, by Neighbor Laura

Mutant Tree in Holly Park Baffles Bernal Neighbor


Neighbor Heather is fascinated by a strange little tree in Holly Park that has sprouted a very tall appendage. She says:

I’ve been watching tree in Holly Park for a month or two now. I think it deserves a profile.

The tree has sprouted one “reach for the sky DeVry!” branch that is easily twice the height of the tree. With a little tuffet of 6 or 7 leaves on the end. It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. (Well, OK, this is San Francisco and I go to Folsom St Fair every year, so not REALLY… But certainly the weirdest thing in Holly Park.)

Bizarre! Can any of our armchair arborists explain this strange mutation? Here’s the view from a different angle:


PHOTOS: Neighbor Heather

Supernatural Forces Suspected In Odd Case of Vanishing Fig Tree


Neighbor Beth is baffled by the sudden disappearance of a fig tree from her enclosed back yard on Gates Street:

We are trying to make sense of the mystery of the missing fig tree.

We planted this fig sapling a few years ago. After losing all of the leaves, it remained a bare stalk for for a year (or two?). When I finally decided I may as well get rid of it, I climbed the slope to find – lo, and behold – it had 2 grown leaves. Miraculous! Since then, it gained about 1 leaf per year and at last count had about 6.

Last week, while Margot Mouse and I were making DIY garden gnomes, we noticed that the fig tree was COMPLETELY GONE. Nothing left but the tag. The rocks around the base were neatly moved aside.

There are some potential witnesses who guard the yard but they won’t talk, not even under the influence of catnip. I thought maybe a kid had broken it and hid the evidence but there’s no trace, nowhere. Animals? We have no deer, goats, or cows. Raccoons starting a garden? Raptured? We remain mystified.

PHOTO: Neighbor Beth

Tuesday: Drink Wine, Eat Cheese, Plant a Tree In Front of Your Glamorous Bernal Heights Home



Psst. Hey! Want to get a tree in front of your house? Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) has scheduled one of their periodic Bernal Heights tree plantings for September, but the time to sign up to get a tree is now. FUF coordinator Kyle Lemle tells Bernalwood:

We at Friends of the Urban Forest are organizing a tree planting in the Bernal Heights on September 26th.

The deadline to apply for this planting is August 12th. The plantings are a fantastic way to build community, neighbors come and help each other plant their trees, and then join together for a community potluck at the end.

We are hosting a happy hour at Bernal resident John Monson’s house at 185 Lundys Lane, on Tuesday, July 21st. We will serve wine and cheese, answer any tree-related questions, and discuss ideas on how to plant more trees in Bernal Heights.

I will answer tree related questions and make sure we are set for a big neighborhood planting in Bernal Heights! We will have some wine and cheese and brainstorm outreach ideas to get even more trees planted in the neighborhood.

Can you make it?

Tree Planting “Happy Hour” for Bernal Heights
Where: The home of Neighbor John, 185 Lundys Lane (@Virginia), SF
Date: Tuesday, July 21st
Time: 6:30pm to 7:30pm

PHOTO: Courtesy of Friends of the Urban Forest

Help a Bernal Neighbor Working to Beautify Part of Mission Street


One of the most conspicuous things you notice when you look at older (pre-1970) photos of San Francisco is that there were far fewer trees in our open spaces and along our streets. The city looks somewhat more harsh, and vastly more naked. Tree-planting has done a lot to make our glamorous urban lifestyles more lovely, but some parts of Bernal Heights have not yet received an arboreal upgrade.

Neighbor Erik Williams is leading the charge to get some trees planted along the College Hill stretch of Mission Street, and he could use your help. Neighbor Erik writes:

I live on Mission Street in Bernal Heights, very close to St Mary’s Pub.

I’m currently working with the SF Department of Public Works to have trees planted along Mission between Crescent and Park streets. I feel this would improve the look of the neighborhood. The city is supportive, and we have a good advocate within the department. However, we need other residents to contact the DPW to show support in order to get the plantings funded.

Mission Street is a vital corridor for Bernal Heights, and we have an opportunity to convince the city to invest in making Mission Street more beautiful. DPW will evaluate the corridor for tree planting, provided those of us in the neighborhood write in to show our support.

Although much of Mission Street is tree-lined as it runs through Bernal Heights, there are no trees along the 3800 block, from Crescent Ave to Park St. This area is the top of College Hill, where the Bernal subregions of Holly Park, St Mary’s Park, and College Hill border each other. This area includes many local business such as St Mary’s Pub, Giovanni’s Pizza Bistro, and Balompie Café.

We want to make this a better neighborhood for families and children, and we need your support. Please write in support of this tree planting for the 3800 block of Mission St by emailing the SF department of Public works at: urbanforestry@sfdpw.org.

I’ve created some images to show how the plantings could look. As I’m sure Bernalwood readers will agree, the addition of the trees would add appeal and vibrancy to the neighborhood.

Please take a few minutes to write in and support the tree planting. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

PHOTOS: via Neighbor Erik

Neighbor Stumped by Mysterious Trunk of Sidewalk Tree


Over the break, Neighbor Matthew wondered about the odd tree in front his house on Wool Street:

What’s the deal with the strange Bernal trees that are stumpy on the bottom and narrower on top? See attached photos. I have noticed these while running all over the ‘Wood Hood. This photo is from in front of my house on Wool Street. I’m stumped (wakka wakka wakka) as to whether these trees grow this way naturally, whether they had some sort of disease, or whether a smaller tree was somehow transplanted into a previously larger tree.

Any insight from Bernal’s many armchair arborists?

PHOTO: Neighbor Matthew

With Assist From Local Contractors, Bernal Trees Terrorize Neighborhood Cars



With help from a team of indifferent landscaping contractors and Sir Issac Newton’s laws of gravitation, there was an awkward interaction on Monday between a few oversize Bernal trees and a few undersize Bernal cars.

Neighbor Janna reports:

Tree cutting (contractors? from city?) on Cortland with no protection to cars below. Is that legal? Not my car, but a neighbors car.


As a matter of policy, Bernalwood celebrates the mutually prosperous relationship that has long existed between Bernal trees and our mechanized vehicles. We would hate to see this relationship grow strained for want of a simple tarp. Thus, looking ahead, we trust that these sorts of interactions can be managed more elegantly.

PHOTOS: Neighbor Janna



Neighbor Chuck Finds New “Everyday Sights in Bernal Heights”





Neighbor Chuck got a job, which has been great for his finances but bad for fans of his blog. Luckily for those patient fans, Neighbor Chuck found some time recently to go for one of his horticultural walks around Bernal Heights, and the result is a new installment in his occasional series of  posts on “Everyday Sights in Bernal Heights”:

I don’t get to do this much anymore — walk around my neighborhood. Because I work all the time. Well, it’s nice to be wanted (for work). Up to a point. And then, blech.

This edition is huge and beautiful and full of gorgeous Bernal perspectives, so put on your virtual walking shoes and let Neighbor Chuck show you around.

PHOTOS: Neighbor Chuck/My Back 40 (Feet)

Sign Up Now to Get a Sidewalk Tree In Front of Your Bernal Home



Neighbor Phil Pierce live on Tompkins Street. By day he works as the community outreach coordinator for Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF), the greentastic group that organizes sidewalk greenery plantings here in the City.

Neighbor Phil is spreading the word that Friends of the Urban Forest is planning a tree-planting in Bernal Heights, so if you want one in front of your house, you should sign up now:

FUF has green ($$) to make your block green!

Do you want to get a tree in front of your property?
We are coming to the Bernal Heights, and now is your chance to be a part of it!

Friends of the Urban Forest has funding to subsidize 75% of the costs to plant trees, with a Community Planting Day planned for June 14, 2014.

You only need to pay $135 and choose what species you want — then FUF will handle all of the prep work, remove the cement, provide the tree itself, and do three scheduled tree care visits over the first three years of the tree’s life to help it thrive!

For more information, visit the Bernal Heights page.
Contact Caitlin@fuf.net, (415) 268-0772

Deadline for forms is 4/30

PHOTOS: Friends of the Urban Forest

Parched Aloe Plants Bloom with Orange Spikey Flower Thingys


It’s January, but it feels like October. Which is nice, except for the fact that it’s unholy and terrible. Bernal Hill is supposed to be verdant and green this time of year. Yet today Bernal Hill is only sort of green, with lots and lots of brown.


Meanwhile, Danielle Mills posted this photo in the Bernalwood Flickr group. I believe this is an aloe plant, because I’ve got several of them in my own back yard that look exactly the same right now.

The red body means it’s a bit parched. I also believe the big red aloe flowers may have bloomed a bit early this year, but I defer to our resident botanists on this.

Regardless, please commence rain dancing.

Tangentially Related PS: Speaking of the Bernalwood Flickr group, Neighbor Markus shares word that you can now add your photos to the Bernalwood group simply by adding #bernalwood to the photo title, description, or tags. No need to manually add the photo to the group anymore; just type #bernalwood somewhere in there and the photo will magically appear in the Bernalwood group. As shown here. Handy. Share with us please!  Your photos are always beloved.

Alemany Farm Raising Funds to Build Outdoor Kitchen



There’s some tasty infrastructure news coming out of the Alemany Farm that overlooks scenic I-280 along Alemany Boulevard. Plans are afoot to build an outdoor kitchen on the site, and  former Bernal resident Aaron Mckenzie from the California College of the Arts is spearheading involved with the design effort. Aaron writes:

A team of artists, architects and designers from California College of the Arts is working with the Alemany Farm to design and construct an outdoor community Kitchen on site. The team has been awarded a $10,000 grant though the IMPACT Social Entrepreneurship Awards to execute this collaborative, community-based project.

Meanwhile, a Kickstarter campaign got underway yesterday to complete funding for the project:

Our set goal is to raise $5,000 to help cover the cost of permitting fees, contract labor, an ADA accessible walkway, as well as some finishing touches to the kitchen. With the additional funds, we anticipate to finish construction by the end of September. But with this minimum goal, we can only give the farm the bare essentials. So we’re hoping to raise more than just $5,000. The hope for us is to build the farm a fully functional kitchen, complete with natural gas line and stove. This will allow the farm to conduct proper cooking classes in the long run.

Here’s the video:

The fund drive ends on August 19. You can find more information about the project on the Facebook, or visit the Kickstarter page to make a contribution.

PHOTOS: Alemany Farm Outdoor Kitchen