Neighbor Builds Stunning 3D Topographical Map of Bernal Heights

Cardboard Bernal Hill, from the northeast. That's 101 on the far left.

3D Bernal Hill, from the northeast. That’s 101 on the far left.

Bernal Hill, from the northwest

3D Bernal Hill, from the northwest

A few weeks ago, Neighbor John from Lundys Lane invited your Bernalwood editor to see his latest project: A 3D topographical map of Bernal Heights, made entirely from sheets of cardboard.

It’s so cool! So incredible! So WOW! Bernalwood asked Neighbor John to tell us more about how he did it:

I started the project to create a three dimensional piece of art for my living room. I was inspired by some abstract landscape brass reliefs, and I’d been searching for an inspiring idea. Then I saw a very detailed Bernal topographic map, and knew I had my subject.

I was able to get a version of the data for the topographic map. The original data had lines for every 5 feet of elevation, which was too detailed, so I removed every other line to create a elevations for every 10 feet. This took a bit of time, but it was super cool to engage with the detailed topography of Bernal, especially since I run or walk on the hill almost every morning.

The next step was to decide on a material to use for each elevation layer. Through this process I met almost-Bernal neighbor Alex at Pagoda Arts. He convinced me that architectural chipboard would be relatively easy to work with, and it came in the right thickness so that the total height of the piece would be between four and five inches — three dimensional, but still hangable on a wall.

I created a file that Alex could use for his laser cutter, and he cut forty-five layers for me. I then glued them together using high quality tacky glue.

The gluing process was laborious and tense. The layers are very detailed, so positioning them precisely was required, all with fast-drying glue. But it was amazing to watch Bernal Heights grow from the top of my work bench. At the end I could hardly wait to get the next layers on.

We live on a beautiful hill, and it’s fun to see it from this perspective.

Here are a few more pics:

View from southeast

View from southeast


Sutrito Tower site on Bernal Hill, viewed from the south

Funny thing about these photos, of course, is that it’s hard to tell that it’s a physical object.  So here are a few more pics, with objects added to provide more depth and scale. Here’s a pair of glasses sitting on Cortland Avenue around Nevada Street:


And here’s a Sharpie pen, roughly following the path of Gates Street:



PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Ellsworth Street Gets Glamorous Cameo at Apple Launch Event


Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference is happening downtown this week, and yesterday was the big keynote presentation at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Several Bernal neighbors were in the audience for the big event, and they took note of a big Bernal Heights cameo when the topic turned to Home, Apple’s home networking app.

Neighbor Toria described what happened next:

I was pleasantly surprised to see one of our fair Bernal streets prominently highlighted in this morning’s WWDC Keynote address. Apple used it to demo a new iOS app, called Home — which is a place where you can control all your fancy connected home devices.

Of course, I’m only assuming that the Ellsworth St shown is our very own, because if you wanted the maximum amount of attention, it makes sense to reference The Most Popular Neighborhood In America. Obvi.

Well, we’re pretty sure the Ellsworth shown in the preso is an homage to the glamorous street in Bernal Heights, but fact-checking rigor demands we disclose that there’s also an Ellsworth Street in Fremont.

But whatever. A virtual tour of THAT Ellsworth suggests there’s no way Apple would have selected it as Demo Street, USA. Deep in our hearts, we know Apple had OUR Ellsworth Street in mind.

If you go to right now, Ellsworth gets the love right up front:


Reporters are writing stories like this:

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 8.52.14 AM

And so it comes to pass that people all around the world are now enjoying an Ellsworth Moment. Meanwhile, the people at Apple clearly wish to remind all the Citizens of Ellsworth that their front doors are unlocked, and they left the lights on.

IMAGE: Top, Apple senior VP Craig Federighi presents Ellsworth Street to an unsuspecting planet at WWDC.

Use Your Smartphone to Swim Underwater With Bernal Author James Nestor


Through the miracle of modern media technology, you can go scuba diving with Ellert Street neighbor and celebrity journalist James Nestor as he dances with dolphins deep below the ocean surface. Right now.

Neighbor James is the author of Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves, an acclaimed book about people who dive deep in the oceans without using external oxygen tanks. More recently, he wrote a beautiful article for the New York Times about what scientists are learning about how dolphins and whales communicate with one another. Now, as an added bonus, the Times has produced a stunning virtual-reality version of that story that lets you use you use your smartphone to experience what it’s like to explore a sunken ship and swim underwater with whales.

Neighbor James tells Bernalwood:

Since Deep came out, people keep asking me what it was like to have your body vibrated by the click vocalizations of sperm whales, the world’s largest predators. I’d usually offer up a few clumsy adjectives, then shake my head and say, “Oh, you just needed to be there.”

In November, the NYTimes approached me and director Sandy Smolan with the idea of developing a virtual-reality (VR) piece based on Deep, specifically focused around cetacean freediving research. “The Click Effect” is the result. We just premiered it at Tribeca Film Festival.

I’d never seen VR before working on this film. I suspect most VR will be used for video games and porn, but it’s also a cool way to bring people into a world they’ll never see to get face-to-face animals they may not have known existed.

VR really is the closest thing to freediving deep and communing with these majestic, watery beasts that I’ve seen. And the best part about it? You don’t even have to hold your breath.

Tongue-in-cheek comments aside, The Click effect really is an amazing thing to experience. It’s optimized for VR rigs like Google Cardboard, but it also works as a simple 360-degree video that you can watch and explore simply by moving your phone to look around. (Headphones strongly recommended!)  As an added bonus, Neighbor James makes a cameo in a wetsuit. Raaawr!

The Click Effect is available for iPhone or Android, and you can experience it by following the download links at the top or bottom of his article. Try it!

PHOTO: Screengrab of Neighbor James Nestor in The Click Effect. Raaawr!

The Faraday Cortland is a New Electric Bike Named After… Us!



It’s a well-known fact that transportation companies like to name their vehicles after glamorous locations in California.

When Chevrolet needed a name for their rugged all-season SUV, they chose to name it the Tahoe. When Chrysler needed a name for their luxury minivan, they called it the Pacifica. Chevy’s midsize car with affluent aspirations is the Malibu. And when San Francisco’s Faraday electric bicycle company needed a name for their ridiculously stylish (yet eminently practical) new machine, they decided to call it… the Cortland.

Yes! The Faraday Cortland is a new electric bicycle named after Bernal’s very own main street. Adam Vollmer, the founder of Faraday, even confirmed this:

Wow. How sexy is that??

Faraday says the Cortland offers “the perfect balance of style and utility,” which means the new bike is exactly like everyone who lives in Bernal Heights.

Unlike Bernal Heights, the Cortland offers easy access, thanks to a  new step-through frame design. Faraday’s Kickstarter page for preorders outlines some of the ebike’s other highlights:

With the Faraday Cortland, we’ve added an extra 20% of range, more efficient motor, upgraded software, and more. We’ve also made it more comfortable, more fun to ride, and, dare we say, more stylish with the introduction of a step-through frame.

Prices start at $1999 with the Kickstarter campaign discount, and of course we expect you’ll also be able to get a Cortland on Cortland, at Bernal’s much-loved local purveyor of newfangled electric bicycles.

Finally, here’s the promo video for the Cortland, produced in the self-parodying Cortlandia Portlandia style:

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Faraday

Sandwich-Making Robot in Andi’s Market Looks Like Terminator, Tastes Like Proust


Last week, a new worker joined the staff at Andi’s Market on Cortland Avenue: a fully automated, sandwich-making robot. Created by Bistrobot, the newfangled machine makes peanut butter sandwiches on fancy white bread with your choice of honey, blackberry jam, sweet chili, or chocolate sauce.


Bistrobot CTO Hamid Sani tells Bernalwood:

The machine at the Andi’s market is our first deployed automated sandwich maker. The machine is placed inside the store and the customer can place an order through a tablet kiosk, pay $2 (cash or credit), and watch our robot make them a custom sandwich. Simple as that.

Bistrobot is a startup that recently graduated from Y Combinator. We have a small but dedicated team with the goal of making robotic platforms that can make food, starting with sandwiches.

Neighbor Flo adds that some Bernal Heights DNA flows deep within the Bistrobot’s mechanized heart:

I live on Ellsworth St. My nephew, Steve Littell, is a chef and machinist from Chicago who came to SF with five engineer start-up buddies for the purpose of making this machine and others like it with more sophistication. My nephew now lives on Ellsworth St. too!

Locavore robots! Perhaps this was inevitable.

Neighbor Darcy filmed a video of the sandwichbot in action:

Yesterday, your Bernalwood editor visited Andi’s to conduct my own taste test of our robotic sandwich future. I ordered a peanut butter and honey sandwich, and when it emerged from the Bistrobot’s mechanical maw, it looked like this:


And the taste? Well, it tasted just like a sandwich mom would have made — if mom was a faceless automaton who looked like a mutant Lionel train set encased in a transparent plastic box. As a culinary experience, it was certainly worthy of any school lunchbox. As an entertainment experience, it was far more tasty than anything you’d get at the Musée Méchanique — and much closer to home too.

But don’t take my word for it. Stop by Andi’s Market, 820 Cortland (between Ellsworth and Gates) and command the Bistrobot to make you a sandwich.  Do it while you still can, because today, the sandwich robot works for you. Someday, however, you may work for it.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics. Video courtesy of Darcy Lee

Bernal Neighbor Brilliantly Trolls Tech Industry, Tech-Haters, Media, Chickens, and Us


For the last few days, Neighbor Andi Plantenberg on fashionable Samoset Street has generated a lot of buzz and a few headlines by creating a pitch-perfect website for Qoopy, a luxury day care service for chickens.

Operating in Brooklyn, Portland, and (of course) Bernal Heights, Qoopy promises that “when you travel, we give your chickens the royal treatment.” But only if you can get to the top of the waitlist.

Naturally, this has been was greeted with howls of shock and zeitgeist-encapsulating derision. For example:

Some saw it as a clear sign of late-stage urban bourgeois affluenza:

Bernalwood heard about Qoopy earlier in the week, and with Bernal featured so prominently, we decided to reach out for more information.  Neighbor Andi sent this reply:

One of the most common questions we get is “Is Qoopy real — or is this some kind of affectionate satire of the world we live in?”

I’m not a shaman. I’m not qualified to answer questions like that.

I do see that today’s urbanites long for a return to the simplicity and immediacy of raising their own food. This new generation has its own answers to questions like “What should I do with my chicken once her egg-laying days are done?” And even, “When I go to work, will my chicken miss me?”

On the other hand, the tech industry is racing to provide services that cater to urbanites’ every whim. I can have my dirty skivvies picked up with a tap of my smartphone.

Qoopy’s biggest innovation has not been our hand-crafted chicken curriculum, but our willingness to ask the question “Is the innovation economy solving the right problems?”

Truth be told, even after receiving this response, Bernalwood remained unsure if Qoopy was real, or satire, or both.

After all, experience has taught us that proper chicken care is a legitimate need in Bernal Heights, and besides; the idea of creating a satirical thing that nevertheless operates as a real thing is … errrrrrrrrr … uummmmm … well, suffice to say, we don’t find this hard to imagine either, because Bernalwood has been doing exactly that for almost five years.

We were candid about our ongoing confusion in the conversation with Neighbor Andi, and she was gracious enough to provide a less ambiguous reply:

Last Thursday evening, my husband Alan Peters and I were joking around like we normally do, and the notion of a Chicken Daycare for Urban Hipsters came up. We laughed and I said “I’m just going to launch it tomorrow’. I made a landing page, came up with a company name and a domain. And posted to facebook. The goal was to entertain myself.

That was Friday. Qoopy had a handful of up-votes on Product Hunt by Monday afternoon. By Tuesday mid-day I had thousands of hits, a few serious inquiries (all from Brooklyn) and a playful VC inquiry.

I think the reason it went viral was that it seemed like a joke, but could conceivably be true (Wait– maybe this *is* real”). The innovation economy is making services like this left and right, hence my earlier blurb.

So it began as a fun couple hours on friday, but has tapped on something larger. Qoopy has started some healthy and entertaining dialog.

Yeah yeah, sure sure. Seriously though… how do we get to the top of the waiting list?


Ace Drone Pilot Captures Breathtaking Fog Footage High Above Bernal Hill

Bernalwood has friends in high places, including Jedi drone pilot and videographer Eddie Codel, who recently shot this time-lapse drone footage of Karl the Fog from atop Bernal Hill.

The footage is so perfect you’ll hardly think it’s a time-lapse — until you notice all the cars zipping along at impossible speeds in La Lengua. Adjust video settings to HD, go full screen, and this is what it would look like if you had a penthouse suite in a Bernal Hill skyscraper.

Bravo, Eddie, and thanks for sharing.

VIDEO: Eddie Codel