Facing Eviction, Marijuana Dispensary Seeks to Relocate to Former Gun Shop


Get ready for a 2016 San Francisco zeitgeist bombshell:

The Bernal Heights Cooperative, a marijuana dispensary currently located at 33 29th Street near Mission, is being evicted from its present location. Apparently, the building was recently sold to a developer who plans to open a more high-end (not a pun), luxury dispensary on the site. That means the Bernal Heights Cooperative must now find a new home, and they’ve located one: 3183 Mission Street, the storefront around the corner near the intersection with Valencia that was, until last September, home to San Francisco’s last gun shop.

Let that sink in for a moment: A local marijuana dispensary is being evicted by an upscale rival, so the dispensary hopes to move into the home of a nationally famous former gun shop instead.

As it happens, despite some favorable reviews, there’s been much disarray at Bernal Heights Cooperative in recent weeks. An email sent to cooperative members tells a tale of financial impropriety and management turmoil:

You are receiving this email as a member of Bernal Heights Cooperative. As the oldest operating in San Francisco, Bernal Heights Collective has built a legacy as a community institution that provides safe and affordable access to medical cannabis for all patients. This legacy is being threatened (click here to learn more and to sign our petition to the city), so we are calling on our members to vote toward securing our future in San Francisco.

The details of the vote are as follows:

In February, Nathan DeSomber and Johnny Batista were removed from the board of the Bernal Heights Cooperative for breaches of their fiduciary duties to the collective.

Nathan DeSomber diverted in excess of $30,000 to himself and his friends. Johnny Batista failed to pay the cooperative’s tax liabilities for many years, resulting in debts of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cooperative. Johnny also falsified W2’s for cooperative members so that he could profit at their expense.

We need our members to vote on our actions.

If you support the removal of Nathan DeSomber and Johnny Batista, please click yes.

In order for our actions to be considered valid, we need 51% of the affirmative voters to vote yes. You must cast your vote by (four full days from when sent).

Thank you,

Bernal Heights Cooperative

Apart from the awkward change of management, relocating to the site of the former High Bridge Arms (also not a pun) is a critical part of the Bernal Heights Cooperative’s recovery plan. But to do that, Bernal Heights Cooperative must transfer its permits to operate a dispensary at the new address. And to do that, Bernal Heights Cooperative is organizing a grassroots petition campaign.

At savebernalheights.org, the Bernal Heights Cooperative calls upon members to sign a petition addressed to D9 Supervisor David Campos, to allow the relocation of the dispensary to the former High Bridge storefront. Here’s the text:

David Campos
City Hall Office of San Francisco Supervisors
1 Dr. Canton B. Goodlelt Place, Room 244 San Francisco, CA 94102-4689 David.campos@sfgov.org

Dear Supervisor Campos,

Thank you for your leadership on behalf of our community. I am writing concerning the transfer of a Medical Cannabis Dispensary, Bernal Heights Collective, from 33 29th Street, to 3183 Mission Street in District 9. Such an action would continue to allow law- abiding medical marijuana patients and their primary caregivers, in District 9, to receive their medicine in a safe and convenient location and in accordance with state and local laws. This is something that District 9 has benefited from for 10 years, and something District 9 deserves to retain.

I understand that there is a transfer application for Bernal Heights Collective to be relocated nearby to 3183 Mission, near Valencia Ave. I understand this is due to the fact that a real estate developer has purchased the building at 33 29th street and is evicting Bernal Heights Collective effective March 18th, 2016. I understand the intention of that developer is to open a dispensary called ‘Harvest’ that is focused on “luxury” amenities with a “private cannabis social club”. The eviction of Bernal Heights Collective would negatively impact patients who rely on safe access to affordable medical cannabis in a comfortable neighborhood setting.

I am opposed to losing access to a well-regarded neighborhood, district, and San Francisco institution for safe and affordable access to medical cannabis. Bernal Heights Collective has become part of the fabric of Bernal Heights by way of its commitment to patients, and the community. Medical cannabis patients in District 9 deserve equal access to medical cannabis.

I hope that you feel this way as well and will do everything in your power to protect District 9 medical cannabis patients who have come to trust Bernal Heights Collective as their source of safe and affordable medical cannabis.

Sincerely, __________________________

Naturally, there’s a video to support the lobbying campaign as well:

As you’ve no doubt noticed, this is a story that weaves together several of the most of the most contentious strands in contemporary political discourse: displacement, local business, gentrification, marijuana legalization, and gun regulation. It will be fascinating to see what happens next.

But for now, a concerned Bernal neighbor summarizes the local angle:

The crux of the matter seems to be whether the city would permit so many dispensaries within a small area. If the letter is to be believed, this would lead to three dispensaries in Bernal/La Lengua— the relocated Bernal Heights Collective, a new upscale shop called Harvest in the old BHC location, plus Herbal Mission at Mission and Precita

IMAGE: Former High Bridge Arms sign, by Telstar Logistics

Saturday: Community Meeting on Proposed “90+” Units of Senior Housing on Shotwell


There’s a community meeting scheduled for Saturday morning, Saturday, February 13, from 10 am to noon at St. Anthony’s Church (3215 Cesar Chavez) to discuss the 90+-unit senior citizen housing development proposed for 1296 Shotwell Street near Cesar Chavez.

As Bernalwood previously explained:

Right now, 1296 Shotwell is basically a shed that’s home to a few automotive repair shops. The history of this project is intimately tied to the Vida market-rate development at 2558 Mission Street that also created the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema inside the restored New Mission theater. Vida is a 114-unit, market-rate project in which the developer opted to meet their inclusionary housing requirements by purchasing 1296 Shotwell Street as a land dedication site for use by San Francisco to create affordable housing. This means the City basically received the land at 1296 Shotwell for free. And presumably, since 1296 Shotwell will be senior housing, each of the units in the new building will be relatively small, although the height of the building gives it significant density.

That’s the backstory. The new building will be co-developed by Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), and Karoleen Feng, MEDA Director of Community Real Estate, explains what Saturday’s meeting is all about:

We are planning to have a community meeting on Saturday, Feb. 13, from 10 a.m. To noon, to develop our vision that will help us to better design and program the building. The affordable housing will be for seniors and be 90+ apartments, as requested by the City. Before we solidify our proposal that was submitted to the City, we are hoping to get our community’s ideas for what could be developed, so that we can incorporate as much as possible ― within the parameters of the City’s requirements.

Bernalwood requested renderings of the proposed building, to see if there had been any updates since the previous proposal was unveiled. We also asked for confirmation that the site plan still calls for a nine-story tower. Christopher Gil, MEDA’s content marketing manager declined to confirm this, and told us no rendering is available, because:

The building design is not determined. That is why there are community meetings being held — to let the neighborhood have a say in making this the best senior affordable housing development possible.

Hmm. So we know that the original proposal for the building was for 96 units in a nine-story tower, and we know that the plan for the building still contains “90+ apartments.” But MEDA won’t confirm that the site plan still contains a nine-story tower, and the organization declined to provide any further detail about what the current plan looks like in advance of Saturday’s meeting.

“Community feedback is an integral part of MEDA’s brand of affordable housing,” says MEDA’s Christopher Gil.

Maybe so, but MEDA is also a slick political operator, and this building with 90+ units is also part of MEDA’s brand of affordable housing. So presumably the building is either going to remain at nine-stories, or it is going to have a whole lot of subterranean living spaces — and the latter scenario seems likely.

As I’ve said before, I have a personal stake in this building, because I live a block away, and it will be highly visible from my home. Indeed, it will likely obstruct part of my glamorous downtown skyline view, which I welcome, because we really need more housing of all types in this area, and more density, and this is a good place for it. I welcome more housing, and I don’t mind a tower, and personally, I don’t care if it obstructs my view. Yes in my front yard! But MEDA is not inspiring much confidence in their candor as a real estate developer or future neighbor.

Hopefully we’ll learn more on Saturday.

2004-01252016_CRE-1296 Shotwell Community Planning - Information Meeting Flier_v3

IMAGE: Top, a November 2015 rendering of the nine-story affordable housing project proposed for 1296 Shotwell

Bernal Real Estate Market Less Bonkers, More Balanced in 2015 Microhood Report


As 2015 recedes into the rearview mirror of history, let’s take a moment to evaluate the real estate year-that-was, by looking at Bernal Heights Microhood Sales Trends for full-year 2015 compiled by Bernal neighbors and realtors Michael Minson and Danielle Lazier.

Just as they did for 2014 (and once again with Bernalwood’s permission) Neighbors Michael and Danielle tracked recent home sales data according to the boundaries of Bernalwood’s official Bernal Heights microhoods map.

Neighbor Michael Minson reports on a refreshing new trend: the bonkers Bernal Heights real estate market is now somewhat less bonkers. He tells Bernalwood:

We’re definitely feeling a gradual slowdown in Bernal Heights, which is welcome news for the buyers we work with. The second half of 2015 saw a slowdown across nearly all metrics:

  • The median sales price decreased $100k from $1.38M to $1.28M
  • Overbidding reduced from 20% over asking to 17%
  • Days on Market increased by nearly a full week (from 14 to 20 days)

The best looking homes in prime locations are still selling quickly, but there are fewer records being broken. Properties that are challenged in some way (like no view, no parking, bad layout or unsightly neighboring homes) are taking longer to sell and are not getting crazy overbids.

Fortunately for homeowners, we haven’t seen evidence of a declining market. Values are holding steady or showing modest gains. Days on Market increased by nearly a full week (from 14 to 20 days).

Here are the tables, in case you’re feeling especially data hungry:


DOM = Days on market
PPSF = Price per square foot

Here’s some more detail to visualize:

2015 Bernal Heights Market Report - Web

UPDATE: Also, FWIW, Paragon Real Estate shares this chart that provides a comparative perspective on home-price appreciation in Bernal Heights since 2011:


Median Home Price in Bernal Now Stands at $1.3 Million


New end-of-year data compiled by Paragon Real Estate Group confirms that San Francisco’s residential real estate market remains rather bonkers, with median home prices up by 11% citywide during 2015:

Despite anxiety about interest rates, financial markets, housing affordability, unending international crises, and possibly over-valued, high-tech unicorns, the Q4 2015 San Francisco median house sales price, at $1,250,000, is up about 11% from Q4 2014. That dovetails nicely with the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index for the Bay Area, which measures appreciation in a different way, but also calculated 11% annual appreciation (through October, its last report). The Q4 condo median sales price, at $1,125,000, is up 13% year over year, but that is influenced by the greater percentage of more recently built, and more expensive units in the sales mix.

One chart was particularly telling; it places today’s vertiginous home-price appreciation within the context of 30 years of vertiginous home-price appreciation. As it happens, 1984 is right around the time when San Francisco  implemented new land-use controls, just as the City’s population began to rebound after three decades of postwar slump:


Anyway, closer to home, Paragon also provides detail about the Bernal Heights market, revealing that Bernal homes generally hover around the same level as the citywide median. Here in Bernal, the median price for a single-family home stands at around $1.3 million, with condos selling for about $1.1 million.

Paragon doesn’t provide specific data on the price of fixer-upper homes for Bernal Heights, but since Bernal’s prices now mirror citywide medians, this is also a depressing interesting datapoint: The median sale price for fixer-upper homes in San Francisco is now $950,000. (FWIW, this fixer in South Bernal sold in December for a bit less.)

It should come as no surprise to anyone who lives here, but Paragon reveals that homes in Bernal tend to be more compact than those in other parts of the city:


But what’s surprising is that on a cost-per-square-foot basis, houses in Bernal go for prices that nestle somewhere between St. Francis Wood and Sea Cliff. Oh my:


CHARTS: via Paragon Real Estate

Sad Fixer-Upper on Nevada Sells for $725K



Depending on your point-of-view, the butt-ugly fixer-upper house at 412 Nevada that just sold for $725K is either a ridiculous symbol of our grotesquely overpriced housing market, or it’s an entry-level bargain for an ambitious home-buyer looking for a way to get a foothold in Bernal Heights. CurbedSF has the details:

The latest very expensive fixer-upper to sell in San Francisco is a seemingly unlivable Edwardian filled with piles of rubble on the south side of Bernal Heights. Its final price of $725,000 may not be as high as some of the fixers in neighborhoods like Noe Valley or the Mission, but given the state of the home it’s certainly enough to make heads turn. Windows are boarded up, the old tile in the bathroom is nearly destroyed, and there are holes in the wooden garage door.

The place was on the market for just a week before going into contract. It currently has two bedrooms, one falling-apart bathroom, a bonus room, and a garage that “possibly” could house a vehicle, according to the listing. Of course, it’s likely that none of that will matter, because there’s no way the new owners are moving in as-is.

PHOTOS: via Google Street View and CurbedSF

Renderings Unveiled for Proposed 96 Units of Senior Citizen Housing on Shotwell



YIMBYs rejoice! Renderings have finally been unveiled for a $40 million project to construct a nine-story building at 1296 Shotwell Street, just off Cesar Chavez, to provide 96 units of housing for lower-income senior citizens. Funding for the project will mostly come from a variety of public sources, including federal grants and San Francisco housing funds. Mission Local broke the story:

The Mission Economic Development Agency, an established neighborhood non-profit but a newcomer to the affordable housing game, is partnering once again with the experienced Chinatown Community Development Corporation to construct the senior housing complex. It will allocate 20 percent of its units to formerly homeless seniors and the remainder will go to seniors with annual incomes between $21,400 and $35,700.

This is great news, and we really need more housing, so your Bernalwood editor remains a big fan of this project even though it will definitely block some of my glamorous downtown view. Let’s build it! But let’s also look at some of the details:

Right now, 1296 Shotwell is basically a shed that’s home to a few automotive repair shops. The history of this project is intimately tied to the Vida market-rate development at 2558 Mission Street that also created the soon-to-open Alamo Drafthouse Cinema inside the restored New Mission theater. Vida is a 114-unit, market-rate project in which the developer opted to meet their inclusionary housing requirements by purchasing 1296 Shotwell Street as a land dedication site for use by San Francisco to create affordable housing. This means the City basically received the land at 1296 Shotwell for free. And presumably, since 1296 Shotwell will be senior housing, each of the units in the new building will be relatively small, although the height of the building gives it significant density. That probably explains why, even with donated land and many small units, 1296 Shotwell pencils out at the relatively low price of $417,000 per unit. Prop A, the affordable housing bond passed in the election this month, will help pay for 1296 Shotwell.

Also by way of context, the Mission neighborhood nonprofit partner for 1296 Shotwell is Mission Economic Development Agency. MEDA has been in operation since the 1970s, mostly as a community assistance organization providing educational and small-business support services to Latino families in the Mission. More recently, MEDA has branched out into housing development. MEDA was a major backer of the recent Proposition I push to establish a moratorium on market-rate housing in the Mission, and Gabriel Medina, MEDA’s policy director, managed the Yes On I campaign from MEDA’s headquarters at 2301 Mission Street. Prop I was rejected by voters in the election earlier this month.

Also, by way of further clarification, Bernalwood’s understanding is that 1296 Shotwell is separate from 1515 South Van Ness, the previously-discussed Lennar development that seeks to create 160 units of market-rate housing on the site of the former McMillan Electric warehouse (which was itself originally the site of the Lesher-Muirhead Oldsmobile dealership).  This diagram shows how the two proposed development sites fit together:


As far as we know, none of the proposed developments will impact the (rather charming) Johns’s British Motor Car repair shop that fronts Cesar Chavez, nor the AutoZone store with its very fashionable view of Bernal Hill.

That’s a lot of change coming soon to one Bernal-adjascent block, but it it’s good to see positive efforts to put a dent in our housing shortage. At last.

NIMBY Neighbors Seek to Appeal Approved New Housing at Board of Supervisors



A group of Bernal neighbors hope the Board of Supervisors will overturn plans to build four new homes on a patch of private land  where Powhattan and Bernal Heights Boulevard converge on the south side of Bernal Hill.

The site is zoned for development, and the proposal has already been approved by the Planning Department. SocketSite tells us what happened next:

A subdivision of the 7,500-square-foot, triangular-shaped lot at 40 Bernal Heights Boulevard was approved by the City two months ago, setting the stage for four new single-family homes – the building permits for which have already been requested – to rise across the site.

As designed, the new two-story over garage homes would total 12,058 square feet of gross space, or roughly 3,000 square feet apiece, including garages and decks. The finished living space for the homes would average around 2,100 square feet each.

And within ten days of being approved, an appeal of the subdivision was filed.

From the objecting group of Bernal Heights Neighbors in their appeal to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors:

“This lot is one of the last open space hillsides on East Slope of Bernal, and offers commanding views to pedestrians, bike riders, car passengers, and commuters on the 67 Bernal Heights bus.

Our primary objection to this development, however, is that it is too large and too dense for the space, and for the neighborhood. The four houses proposed for this space are hugely out of proportion with surrounding houses, even those built at the height of the 1960s square-box trend. Properties within a 300′ radius of the proposed development average 1313 square feet of livable space on lots averaging 2064 square feet. The developers of this lot, however, flip this ratio, proposing to build four luxury houses averaging 2139 square feet of livable space (with garages and roof decks that can take that square footage close to or over 3000 square feet), on lots averaging only 1903 square feet…

The patch of land in question is certainly nice, and the views are terrific, so it’s easy to understand why those who live nearby excited by the proposed new housing.


Except…. It’s not their property, and it’s not public property, and it’s unfortunate that a group of neighbors who themselves likely live in million-dollar homes are using the “luxury housing” trope to oppose the construction of new houses that would give a few more families the opportunity to become our Bernal neighbors.

Bernal has extremely strict planning codes, spelled out by the  Bernal Heights Special Use District. If these new homes conform to those guidelines, their density and design will meet the standards that we as a neighborhood agreed upon. The Planning Department says there are no major problems with the proposed design. Socketsite quotes the Planning Department’s response to the neighbors’ concerns:

From San Francisco’s Planning Department in response:

“We urge the Board of Supervisors to reject this appeal; to consider these issues at this time could thwart the well-established, thoughtful and public review process that occurs at the time the Planning and Building permit review takes place, which also include rights of appeal. Both Planning staff and the Commission (if Discretionary Review is requested) can contribute to the discourse on massing; and provide specific direction relative to the applicable design guidelines. Further, we would suggest…that a project where the lot is subdivided into three parcels, instead of four may result in three larger houses than the four houses currently under review.”

SocketSite says the Board of Supervisors will consider this subdivision during a meeting scheduled for December 1.

PHOTOS: Site photos, Telstar Logistics. Aerial map, via SocketSite