Bernalwood has been monitoring developments in the Mission District, where our D9 Supervisor David Campos has spearheaded an effort to formally recognize the Latino character of the Mission’s lower 24th Street corridor. Last week, this effort culminated in the unanimous passage by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors of a Campos-sponsored resolution establishing a “Calle 24 Latino Cultural District.”
Bernalwood did not regard Calle 24 as a matter of immediate concern to the Citizens of Bernal Heights, because the effort was championed by the 24th Street merchant’s association. Publicly, Calle 24 was always described as a measure focused on the lower 24th Street corridor. Plus, it’s called “Calle 24” — which sure seemed like a good indication that Calle 24 was not about Bernal Heights. Because 24th Street is not part of Bernal Heights. Because for the last 175 years the Mission District has ended just north of Precita Creek/Army/Cesar Chavez. Because the area south of Precita Creek/Army/Cesar Chavez has always been, legally and unambiguously, Bernal territory. Because, in the 1850s, there was even a stone wall in place to emphasize that point:
Since basically forever, 24th Street and Precita Park have been adjacent neighborhoods but wholly different urban ecosystems and entities. Which is why Bernalwood viewed Calle 24 as a matter to be decided exclusively by our esteemed neighbors from the Mission District.
Which, unfortunately, is precisely what happened.
Bernalwood has learned that, for reasons not yet known, Precita Park in Bernal Heights was included as part of the Calle 24 district that was legally established in the resolution sponsored by Supervisor David Campos. Bernalwood also discovered that neighbors, merchants, and neighborhood groups in and around Precita Park were not consulted or informed about the inclusion of Precita Park in Calle 24 before the resolution was voted on by the full Board of Supervisors. Nor did Precita Park neighbors know about it after the resolution passed and went into effect. In fact, most Precita Park neighbors are probably learning that Precita Park is part of Calle 24 for the first time, right now, as they read this.
Hi Precita Park neighbors! According to this new legislation, you’re now part of Calle 24. Surprise!!
Here’s the text from the resolution adopted last week by the Board of Supervisors:
WHEREAS, the boundary of the Calle 24 (“Veienticuarto”) Latino Cultural District shall be the area bound by Mission Street to the West, Potrero Street to the East, 22nd Street to the North and Cesar Chavez Street to the South, including the 24th Street commercial corridor from Bartlett to Potrero Avenue.
All well and good so far, right? Those are appropriate boundaries for a special district focused on lower 24th Street. But then comes the weird, Crimea-style redrawing of the map:
Additionally, the Calle 24 (“Veienticuarto”) Latino Cultural District shall include La Raza Park (aldo known as Potrero Del Sol Park), Precita Park, and the Mission Cultural Center because of the community and cultural significance associated with these places.
Emphasis added. Because otherwise you might have missed it. Which may (or may not) have been the goal all along.
And so, with a stroke of the pen, Precita Park was annexed to become part of the Mission’s Calle 24 cultural district.
Is the Calle 24 designation good for Precita Park? Is Calle 24 bad for Precita Park?
We don’t have any idea, because the legislation sponsored by Supervisor Campos hands Precita Park over to a group of 24th Street merchants and Mission District power-brokers, but the Bernal Heights community was not given any opportunity whatsoever to evaluate the proposal beforehand. Now, it’s already a done deal.
Bernalwood has confirmed that Precita Valley Neighbors was not consulted about the Calle 24 designation. This is extremely odd, because Precita Valley Neighbors is a City-recognized nonprofit neighborhood group that has done outstanding work organizing and beautifying Precita Park. They hold monthly meetings at Charlie’s Cafe. They are in regular contact with various City authorities. They are awesome, and totally on top of everything, and if that’s not enough Precita Park street cred, PVN even orchestrated the restoration of the historic, beloved “penultimate satellite spinner” in Precita Playground. (Amen!!!) Yet Precita Valley Neighbors had no knowledge Precita Park was included in Calle 24.
Bernalwood also contacted the owners of three prominent Precita Park businesses: Precita Park Cafe, Harvest Hills Market, and Hillside Supper Club. None had been informed of any effort to include Precita Park in Calle 24, and none had been contacted about it by 24th Street merchants or Calle 24 organizers. All were surprised to learn that Precita Park had been designated as part of the Calle 24 district. (Bernalwood was unable to reach Charlie from Charlie’s Cafe over the weekend.)
We stopped by the Precita Center, just off Precita Park, to see if they had any insight. Bernalwood spoke to the manager on duty at the Precita Center to ask if he knew anything about Calle 24. “That’s the 24th Street thing,” he said. He too did not know that Calle 24 includes Precita Park.
Precita Eyes is headquartered on 24th Street, although the group also maintains a studio on Precita Park. With storefronts in both neighborhoods, perhaps Precita Eyes had requested the Calle 24 designation? Bernalwood visited Precita Eyes on 24th Street last Saturday, to inquire. The gentleman behind the counter at Precita Eyes on 24th Street said, “Why would Precita Park be in Calle 24? That’s in Bernal Heights!” He recommended we speak with Precita Eyes founder Susan Cervantes. Cervantes told Bernalwood that Precita Eyes had not requested to make Precita Park part of Calle 24, although she added that she thought Precita Park “was included at the last minute.”
All this would be kind of amusing in a Putinesque sort of way, except it’s not. The inclusion of Precita Park in the Calle 24 District designation may have very real legal, zoning, and planning implications in the years and decades to come — impacts that may create new use restrictions for Bernal homeowners, residents, and merchants. Supervisor Campos himself emphasized this last month in the San Francisco Chronicle, in an article that framed the creation of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District as the first step on a path to create a Japantown-style enclave in the Mission:
Eventually, Campos said, ideas generated by the community as well as information from the historic context statement could help inform new city laws such as zoning restrictions and other protections to ensure the area’s murals, businesses and community groups stay put.
“It’s really about preserving something that is very fragile that could be lost,” Campos said. “Calle 24 has become the focal point of Latino identity and culture in the Mission. … This resolution puts it on the record, recognizing this as a cultural corridor, recognizing the cultural heritage and history with the understanding there has to be a much longer community process where (people) can talk about what that means, what we want to preserve, emphasize and protect.”
Here’s how the objectives of Calle 24 are explained in the resolution approved by the Board of Supervisors:
[The purpose of the Calle 24 designation is] to stabilize the displacement of Latino businesses and residents, preserve Calle 24 as the center of Latino culture and commerce, enhance the unique nature of Calle 24 as a special place for San Francisco’s residents and tourists, and ensure that the City of San Francisco and interested stakeholders have an opportunity to work collaboratively on a community planning process, which may result in the Designation of a Special Use District or other amendment to Planning Code.
These are important goals. It just seems really really really inappropriate that if Calle 24 is all about engaging “interested stakeholders” in a “community planning process,” how come no one ever bothered to engage
North Bernal the Communities of Precitaville and Santana Rancho to find out if Precita Park should be included in Calle 24 at all?
Precita Park is neither geographically nor culturally synonymous with the Mission or lower 24th Street. Never has been. Ever. In fact, Precita Park is so integral to Bernal Heights and so distinct from 24th Street that it was originally called Bernal Park. Here’s a map from 1905 (Bonus Fun Fact: The zig-zagging Serpentine Ave. traces the route of the Bernal family’s original stone wall):
Bernal Park was established in 1894 and named in honor of the Bernal family. The park’s name wasn’t formally changed to Precita Park until 1973.
This also points to a fact that is rather obvious to everyone except the people who drafted the Calle 24 resolution: Bernal Heights has its own proud, but distinct history of Latino culture and influence. Our history begins with Jose Cornelio Bernal. Our legacy includes Carlos Santana, who lived on Mullen Street and, as one neighbor reminds Bernalwood, “began his career playing for all of us and our families every Sunday [in Precita Park] during the summers, before he was discovered at Woodstock.” Latino culture is a cherished part of life in Bernal Heights, and its influence is enthusiastically celebrated to the present day, in ways public and private.
Yet there none of that in the Calle 24 resolution. In fact, there’s not one mention of Bernal Heights in the entire document. Not a peep. It’s all Mission District, Mission District, Mission District…. from the start of the Calle 24 resolution to the end. Supervisor Campos sponsored legislation that gives Precita Park to Calle 24, but he never bothered to inform the community that lives and works in Precita Park before he overturned more than 150 years of tradition and precedent and sold-out a chunk of Bernal Heights to the merchants of 24th Street.
The appropriate remedy for this failure is straightforward: Bring together representatives of the Precita Park neighborhood, its residents, and its merchants. For the first time, give Bernal Heights the opportunity to evaluate the present and future ramifications of Calle 24 designation. Allow these representatives to publicly decide whether or not Precita Park should be included in the Calle 24 district and subject to whatever legal implications that might entail, at present or in the future.
Until such participation and public consent from the Bernal Heights community exists, Bernalwood puts Supervisor David Campos and Mayor Ed Lee on notice: The inclusion of Precita Park in Calle 24 is fundamentally illegitimate. It an act of underhanded appropriation, a fraudulent misrepresentation, an involuntary annexation, and an intolerable intrusion upon the self-determination of the Bernal Heights community, which is independent of any district or planning entity constituted, controlled, and dominated by lower 24th Street.
UPDATE 29 May: Precita Park will be removed from the Called 24 District