UPDATED: Cheerful Painted Rock Becomes Charged Political Battlespace


Until now, painted rock on the north side of Bernal Hill has mostly been used as a festive way to celebrate seasonal holidays like Valentine’s DayChristmas, and St. Patrick’s Day. Also: your mama.

Over the weekend, however, the  colorful decor took an unfortunate turn as the rock became a political canvas where supporters of Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton took turns bashing one another.

Neighbor Karen documented the battle between the Bernie-ites and the Clintonistas.

This past Thursday: the gold-painted rock was painted blue. (shown above)

Saturday AM: Two women were spotted adorning the blue with “Bernie Rocks”:


By Sunday, this was defaced:


Later Sunday, this countered the defacement:


Frankly, this is an unfortunate development. Aside from the fact that slogans painted on a rock are unlikely to influence the behavior of even one actual voter, the only real winners in the debate are the killjoys who have always opposed any painting on the rock at all.

Just saying: As a surface for seasonal art and creative expression, the painted rock has become a Bernal Heights icon. But as a battlespace between rival Democratic factions, the rock is about as much fun as political discourse on cable television. Or, put another way, all that is pretty much the exact opposite of this:


UPDATE 26 April, 9:50 am: Ah, that’s more like it. Neighbor Christiano tells us that as of this morning, the rock has been transformed yet again. Yay!purplerock

PHOTOS: Blue rock battle by Neighbor Karen. Cupid rock from 2012, by Neighbor Rally.

MUNI Riders Resist Complaints; Say New Mission Street “Red Carpet” Is Working


Your Bernalwood editor rode a MUNI 14 bus down Mission Street yesterday for the first time in a long time. The bus was modern and new, and the ride was conspicuously swift. Thank you, Mission Street red carpet!

A few weeks ago, D9 Supervisor David Campos decided to stand with the cars, arguing that the new Mission Street red carpet and transit improvements must be rolled back:

I have heard from many of you — car commuters frustrated by traffic jams that stretch multiple blocks; pedestrians concerned about increased safety risks because of irate drivers; residents along the corridor dealing with nonstop yelling and honking horns; and small businesses unable to get goods into their stores because unloading zones have been taken away. That’s why I’m calling on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to make a radical shift in the program

While it’s certainly true that the new configuration on Mission Street has caused some disruption and side-street spillover, it’s not at all clear the program should radically revised right now.  A “Transit First” policy is city law, after all, and it takes time for old habits to change and new traffic patterns to become familiar. Best of all, there are already signs that the red carpets and mandatory turns are working as intended; MUNI riders say the changes have dramatically improved bus service along Mission Street:

Writing at the N Judah Chronicles, transit blogger Greg Dewar says the backlash typifies why it’s so devilishly hard to make MUNI the much-better transit system everyone says they want:

If you’ve ever wondered why it is hard to Get Things Done with Muni, the current brouhaha over improvements in the Mission to the 14 Mission, and to traffic in general is an example. Muni rolled out some significant improvements to the 14 Mission line, and already there’s “anger” from a few nuts online. The changes have had less than a few weeks to take hold, but apparently dealing with the changes is too difficult for some people to handle like adults – hence the temper tantrums online in places like the infamous “NextDoor.com” and in the media.

These folks have found politicians eager to score political points, enough so that the SFMTA may back down on plans it has been working on for almost TEN years (and about a zillion “community meetings” in the process).

The SF Transit Riders, a grassroots organization that represents public transit users, has launched a #KeepMissionRed campaign to support the red carpet lanes:

Starting in March, after a decade of numerous community discussions, planning and studies, Muni finally started installing transit priority treatments on Mission Street. Just a month in and despite flagrant violations by drivers, they are already benefiting riders by making their rides faster and more reliable.

However, there has been a major backlash against these changes, and some, in particular Supervisor David Campos, have called for rollback of this major progress. It is a betrayal of the 65,000 riders who are served by the 14, 14R and 49 buses, as well as a betrayal of the Transit First charter of this city.

Along with my high-speed ride down Mission Street yesterday, I’ve also noticed that the morning traffic backups at the Mission/Cesar Chavez intersection have subsided. The line of cars waiting to turn left from Cesar Chavez onto South Van Ness is longer than it used to be, but the new queue seems to move pretty quickly.

It’s reasonable to assume that some adjustments to the new red carpet configuration may be needed. But a “radical shift” to the program, as Supervisor Campos has suggested, would be irresponsible and unprogressive. The recent rollback of the single-lane configuration for the San Jose Avenue exit from I-280 provides an encouraging sign that transit officials will abandon new traffic schemes when time, data, and experience demonstrate that changes aren’t working as intended. Truth is, we don’t yet know what’s best for Mission Street.

Patience seems like the best policy here. The red carpet lanes on Mission Street need more time  to settle in. If we sincerely want to improve our public transit system, the SFMTA should be encouraged to try new things, and we should expect that real progress usually takes time to reveal itself.

PHOTO: Top, a worker installs flexible bollards to prevent traffic from crossing Mission Street at Cesar Chavez, April 7, 2015. Photo by Telstar Logistics

Bernal Hill Is Backdrop for NY Times Article on New Housing Politics


In case you missed it over the weekend, Sunday’s New York Times described the shifting dynamics of housing politics in San Francisco, as a new generation of activists seeks to fight displacement and sky-rocketing rents by building more housing for everyone in San Francisco, more quickly.

The article is an interesting read for anyone who cares about affordability in San Francisco, but the online version of the story opens with a drop-dead gorgeous view of Twin Peaks and Noe Valley as seen from Bernal Hill during a perfect golden sunset.

From our hill, the City’s multitudes are revealed.

When you’re done bathing in the fullscreen warmth of that image, the article goes on to frame the housing debate as a struggle between old-guard San Francisco ideologues and a younger generation of activists who are priced out of the housing market:

Across the country, a reversal in urban flight has ignited debates over gentrification, wealth, generational change and the definition of the modern city. It’s a familiar battle in suburbs, where not-in-my-backyard homeowners are an American archetype.

In San Francisco, though, things get weird. Here the tech boom is clashing with tough development laws and resentment from established residents who want to choke off growth to prevent further change.

[Sonja Trauss from the Bay Area Renters Federation]] is the result: a new generation of activist whose pro-market bent is the opposite of the San Francisco stereotypes — the lefties, the aging hippies and tolerance all around.

Ms. Trauss’s cause, more or less, is to make life easier for real estate developers by rolling back zoning regulations and environmental rules. Her opponents are a generally older group of progressives who worry that an influx of corporate techies is turning a city that nurtured the Beat Generation into a gilded resort for the rich.

Those groups oppose almost every new development except those reserved for subsidized affordable housing. But for many young professionals who are too rich to qualify for affordable housing, but not rich enough to afford $5,000-a-month rents, this is the problem.

Adding to the strangeness is that the typical San Francisco progressive and the typical mid-20s-to-early-30s member of Ms. Trauss’s group are likely to have identical positions on every liberal touchstone, like same-sex marriage and climate change, and yet they have become bitter enemies on one very big issue: housing.

The Times article also includes some nifty multimedia audio and a cameo from our D9 Supervisor David Campos, so check out the whole thing.

D9 Supervisor Candidates Square Off in Bernal Heights


The political hopefuls competing to become the next District 9 Supervisor convened last Thursday night, as the Bernal Heights Democratic Club (BHDC)  held a candidate endorsement forum at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center.

Our current D9 representative, Supervisor David Campos, is termed-out this year, and five candidates seek to replace him. They are:

  • Joshua Arce: 40, a pragmatic progressive with close ties to the labor, nonprofit housing, and environmental movements.
  • Iswari España: 42, a training officer with the San Francisco Human Services Agency.
  • Edwin Lindo: 29, A Bernal resident and Bernal Height Neighborhood Center board member who is also active with the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club.
  • Hillary Ronen: 40, A legislative aide to David Campos and his chosen successor, backed by the progressive establishment.
  • Melissa San Miguel 29, a former policy manager with the National Center for Youth Law and former MissionLocal reporter

Reporter Joshua Sabatini from the San Francisco Examiner attended the BHDC endorsement forum, and he proclaimed Ronen and Arce to be the front-runners. Here’s how he described Ronen’s pitch:

Ronen says she is part of a larger movement to preserve the progressive majority bloc on the Board of Supervisors, running for one of the three open seats this November with termed out progressive supervisors.

She has secured the sole endorsements of the traditional progressive candidate backers like Service Employees International Union 1021 — the government employee’s largest labor union — and the California Nurses Associations, Unite Here Local 2 and former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano.

Ronen blames the Mission’s crisis on Mayor Ed Lee and his allies for “short-sighted thinking and shutting out community voices and only listening to corporate voices — and their horrible negotiations.”

For the past six years, Ronen has served as an aide to Campos. Before that she was an attorney with La Raza Centro Legal, a group which advocates for low-wage and immigrant workers.

Arce, for his part, presented himself as a coalition-builder:

[Arce] said he voted for a measure last November that would have imposed a moratorium on market-rate development in the Mission. The measure, Proposition I, was opposed by real estate interests and developers, and lost at the ballot.

Arce condemned Ronen as part of a failed status quo unresponsive to district needs. “It’s not progressive to talk about meeting the needs of our community, but not returning phone calls or emails,” he said.

“People look at the Mission as being at a crossroads,” Arce said. The path forward, he added, is “working with communities and not only that but bringing people together.”

Arce frequently used the pronoun “we” during the interview. He prides himself on a political style he describes as forging unconventional coalitions to achieve policy wins.

Assembly member David Chiu, Supervisor Scott Wiener and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom are among those endorsing Arce.

By the end of the night on Thursday, the Bernal Heights Democratic Club overwhelmingly endorsed Hilary Ronen — an outcome that basically pre-ordained, given the close ties that exist between Supervisor Campos’s office and the BHDC.

The general election for the D9 Supervisor’s race will take place on Nov. 8, 2016

PHOTO: D9 Supervisor candidates at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, March 10, 2016. From left to right, Melissa San Miguel, Hillary Ronen, Edwin Lindo, Josh Arce, and Iswari España. Photo by Emma Chiang for the San Francisco Examiner

That Awkward Time Supervisor Campos Crashed a Community Crime Safety Meeting to Give a Campaign Speech


Opinion Disclosure Warning: The post that follows describes a recent unpleasant encounter with our District 9 Supervisor. It is strongly opinionated. If that’s a turn-off, I apologize, and I recommend you skip this post. Thanks for your understanding. — Todd Lappin


Now that the notes from last week’s Northeast Bernal Community Meeting have been posted, I also wanted to describe an incident that happened during the meeting, involving David Campos, our D9 Supervisor.

Supervisor Campos was not involved in the planning and organization of last Thursday’s community meeting. (More on that below.) Refreshingly, however, he showed up at the meeting along with his aide (and D9 Supervisor candidate), Hilary Ronen. That was a good thing, because the crime problem in northeast Bernal is such that residents there need all the official attention they can get. But halfway through the meeting, Supervisor Campos kind of went off the rails.

During a Q&A period, Campos raised his hand. The moderator called on him to speak, and Campos stood up. He started in with a pronouncement that there was “an elephant in the room.” He repeated this a few times. It left people scratching their heads, because until that moment the meeting had generally been constructive and elephant-free.

After a pause, Supervisor Campos pivoted to a speech about how the reason a representative from the Mayor’s office (Jason Elliott) was standing in the front of the room was because of his friendship with Joshua Arce (the 2016 D9 Supervisor candidate who had helped facilitate the meeting). Campos began building up a head of steam around the idea that the Mayor sent his deputy chief of staff to the meeting only because the mayor something something something something something and then…

Then I stood up, and told Supervisor Campos he was way out of line.

Actually, I said a bit more than that, and in a much more emphatic way. Basically I urged Supervisor Campos to discontinue the theatrics, in no small part because the very community meeting he was attending had been necessitated by the fact that Supervisor Campos’s office has done a poor job of responding to Bernal constituents concerns about crime problems in Bernal Heights.

Here’s some backstory: The Northeast Bernal Neighbors Alliance was formed in no small part because many Bernal neighbors in that section of our neighborhood have been unable to get a response from Supervisor Campos’s office about their crime problems. Many emails to his office have gone unanswered. Many many. I know this because when Campos’s office ignores emails about crime problems from Bernal neighbors, many of those neighbors write to me instead. I receive a lot of these emails. Many many.  Bottom line: Last week’s community meeting happened because  a neighborhood that had been neglected by David Campos’s office organized a new neighborhood group to get some help without having to rely on David Campos.

Hilary Ronen was sitting next to her boss as things got heated, and she looked stricken. I felt bad for her, because it was mortifying.

It was mortifying because Campos showed everyone in the room that he was looking at the meeting through the cheap lens of political gamesmanship, instead of listening to what Bernal residents were telling him about the crime problem in their community.

Fortunately, just before things got too hot, Buck Bagot intervened to redirect the conversation. (Note to History: Buck is a Bernal treasure.) Then the meeting resumed. There was no further speechifying from Supervisor Campos, although he did often try to politicize the issues discussed in the room by blaming others for this or that.

Look, it’s great that Campos’s office has finally decided to engage with his northeast Bernal constituents. But his effort to turn a grassroots community meeting into political spectacle was inappropriate. The most important take-away from last week’s meeting was that our Bernal neighbors need all the help they can get. It’ll take a lot of on-the-ground organization, and a lot of interagency coordination, and a lot of hard work to make northeast Bernal a safer community.

Last week, David Campos signaled that he’s more interested in scoring political points than he is in doing the real work required to be part of the solution. Yet hope springs eternal: There’s another community meeting about crime and public safety this Thursday, Jan. 28, 6 pm, at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, and David Campos helped organize this one. Bernalwood will provide full details about that meeting tomorrow.

GRAPHIC: Northeast Bernal  Crime Incident Map, May 2015 to January 2016, via SFOpenData. David Campos photo via Wikipedia.

The 2016 District 9 Supervisor’s Race Is Already Underway


Our most recent citywide election happened just a month ago, but the race is already on to replace District 9’s Supervisor, David Campos, who terms-out next year. Progressive columnist Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez looks at the line-up of candidates so far:

[Edwin] Lindo, vice president of political affairs for the local Latino Democratic Club, joins Hillary Ronen, who is Supervisor David Campos’ legislative aide, as the only publicly known candidates for Campos’ seat.

Ronen filed a candidate intention statement on Nov. 16.

Lindo said he filed Nov. 2, though the documents are not publically available online.

Ronen told the San Francisco Examiner she’s running because she has “a deep love of the district,” and, “the knowledge and experience of how to fight and move legislation.”

Now that there are two progressives in the race, however, the vote to beat back moderate opposition may be split. And though ranked choice voting may less that impact, a split may shuffle endorsements, allegiances, and overall campaign power – all which will be key for progressives to topple any moderate candidate who comes out of the woodwork.

Campos, a noted progressive, will term out in 2016. The District 9 seat he now occupies is one of three famously left-leaning supervisor seats up for election, as progressive supervisors John Avalos and Eric Mar will also term out.

With Supervisor-elect Aaron Peskin now on the Board of Supervisors, the board majority favors left-leaning progressives, with a 6-5 split. The 2016 elections then would give center-right moderates the chance to take back the board.

The real District 9 opponent is still waiting in in the wings: Joshua Arce. An attorney who works with the Laborers International Union, Arce has long been rumored to be running for the seat with the support of The City’s political “moderates.” Though he has not officially announced candidacy, a “personal endorsement” from a local San Franciscan for Arce’s candidacy has surfaced online.

Why Mayor Lee’s Pre-Election Tour of Holly Courts Still Matters



A few days before the recent election, Mayor Lee toured Holly Courts, the public housing located just west of Holly Park. (Historical Fun Facts: Holly Courts was San Francisco’s very first public housing project, and it was designed by Arthur Brown Jr., the same architect who created City Hall and Coit Tower.)

At the time, the mayor came to Holly Courts to build support for Prop A, the $310 million affordable housing bond that ultimately passed by a comfortable margin. Yet now that Prop A was approved, Joshua Arce, a Mission-based civil rights attorney who works with the Holly Courts Resident Board, tells Bernalwood why the mayor’s pre-election visit matters even more:

Days before last week’s election, Mayor Ed Lee made a surprise visit to Bernal’s Holly Courts public housing community to help build support for an increased investment in affordable housing across all San Francisco neighborhoods.

Lee came to tour one of the City’s oldest, but most resilient, public housing sites alongside Holly Courts Resident Board President Deborah Gibson and me. (I serve as pro bono counsel for the Holly Courts Board.)

Gibson and Holly Courts residents Gail Love and Herman Travis used the opportunity to show the Mayor several housing units and outdoor gathering areas in need of repair, and to discuss concerns that other residents have shared with them. In return the Mayor expressed his desire to work more closely with residents of Holly Courts and other public housing communities as the City applies federal funding to make much needed repairs at properties formerly managed by the Housing Authority.

Mayor Lee grew up in public housing in Seattle and decided to make the stop as part of a final push to build support for the Prop. A Housing Bond led by public housing resident-volunteers from the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

Mayor Lee thanked President Gibson at the end of the hour-long tour and asked the residents to stay in communication as his office works through the lists of Holly Courts concerns that were raised. With the bond approved by an overwhelming number of San Franciscans, the Mayor’s Office now has additional resources to help make good on these commitments, and the residents themselves are highly engaged in the process of holding the City accountable.

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Larry Wong