Supervisors to Consider Neighbors’ Appeal of New Homes Proposed on Folsom

Rendering of proposed homes and new Folsom Street extension; view northwest from Chapman

Rendering of proposed homes and new Folsom Street extension; view northwest from Chapman

The ongoing battle over a proposal to build two family-sized homes on an undeveloped Folsom Street lot on the south side of Bernal Hill will move to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, January 24, as a group of nearby neighbors who oppose the new homes at 3516 and 3526 Folsom have appealed to block the project on environmental grounds.

Despite previous efforts to block the homes, the proposal was unanimously approved by the Planning Commission in October 2016.  Bernal Neighbor Herb Felsenfeld is again organizing project opponents in advance of the Board of Supervisors meeting, as outlined in a talking-points he sent to allies in mid-January:

We have spoken before about the proposed development @ 3516/26 Folsom Street. After almost 3 years of sustained effort we are now at a critical pivot point. We have the support of over 300 individuals + community groups like the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, Bernal Heights Democratic Club, The Sierra Club and the East Slope Design Review Board. Finally, we have an opportunity to present a reasonable, appropriate, and legitimate request for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to the full Board, with a District Supervisor who can speak about the issues.

Tuesday, January 24, City Hall, Room 250,
Starting at 2:00 PM*

*If you can attend, let me know & I can tell you where we are on the Agenda as we get closer to the date of the Hearing

I hope you will consider joining me in one of the following:

  1. Attending the Hearing
  2. Speaking at the Hearing
  3. Contacting our District 9 Supervisor:
    1. Email: RonenStaff@sfgov.org
    2. Call: 415-554-5144

These are the issues that are most pressing and should merit an EIR

  • This is one of the steepest slopes in the City. It rests atop a 26” gas transmission line, for which safety records and pipe weld reports have never been released.
  • The line is maintained by a company, PGE, known for its shoddy record-keeping and its secrecy.
  • The developer’s Geo-technical & topographical survey of the slope is over 3 years old. Its analysis lacks detail and rigor.
  • There are “cumulative effects” that need attention: “Piece mealing” (infrastructure would be in place for 6 houses not 2); still to be considered – proper drainage; emergency vehicle access; blocking the nearest intersection, traffic issues, etc.

While PG&E’s reputation has suffered greatly as a result of disclosures and criminal wrongdoing related to the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion, reporting by Bernalwood in 2014 indicated that Pipeline 109, which currently runs under Folsom Street, has been regularly inspected, and that routine procedures exist to safeguard any construction activity near the pipeline.

Current route of PG&E's Pipeline 109 through Bernal Heights

Current route of PG&E’s Pipeline 109 through Bernal Heights

Fabien Lannoye, the owner of the lot at 3516 Folsom, previously told Bernalwood he plans to build a home there as a residence for his family. In a recent email to project supporters, Lannoye wrote:

Most of you know that we purchased a residential lot on Bernal, planning to build our house, a discreet 2,200 SF 3 bedroom home, with its garage tucked into the hillside, in scale with the existing adjacent homes. We filed our permits three years ago but have met much resistance from a few of the adjacent neighbors, who consider the land their private open space.

Those neighbors filed 19 Design Reviews against the project. At the Planning Commission Hearings the Planning Commissioners unanimously voted in favor of our project 6-0, and then 7-0 (we had to go back to the Planning Commission after the Planning Department re-issued the Categorical Exemption). A Categorical Exemption (known as a “CatEx”) is the norm for any project LESS than 3 residences, exempting such projects from having to do an EIR (Environmental Impact Report).

The neighbors have now appealed the CatEx.

Their appeal will be heard this Tuesday 1/24, and voted upon by the SF Board of Supervisors. This is why we are contacting you, for your brief kind help in sending a simple e-mail note this weekend to District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, asking her to vote to support the project and Affirm the Categorical Exemption Determination – Proposed Project at 3516-3526 Folsom Street.

The neighbors have been using the scare tactic that a PG&E Gas pipeline runs up Folsom Street and that construction on our lot would trigger a new San Bruno. A PG&E representative came to the Community meetings we held with the neighbors to answer their concerns, and to clarify the step-by-step, strictly regulated process of investigation, verification and guidance before and during construction.

PG&E stated that they had no concerns since the excavation would take place more than 10’-0” ft away from the existing pipeline (we will be 15-16 ft away).

We have tried to get more information from PG&E, as have the Planning Department and DPW, but PG&E states that they will not provide any further information until the Site Permit is issued, which is the normal process.

The neighbors hope that we will abandon the project if we’re forced to do a full EIR, or, at least delay the project an additional 2 years.

Although most of the Supervisors seem inclined to support the CatEx, our concern is that the local Supervisor (newly elected Hillary Ronen, replacing David Campos) has already been approached by those neighbors. David Campos  resides 200 feet from our project.

We were able to (briefly) meet with Supervisor Ronen, and she seemed sympathetic to our case but she may be politically pressured to side with the neighbors.

We appreciate if you would e-mail Supervisor Ronen and let her know that you support the project and hope she will uphold the Categorical Exemption carefully and rightfully issued by the Planning Department.

Requiring an EIR will not serve any other purpose than to delay the project. It would create a precedent of requiring an EIR for any project within 20 feet of a gas pipeline, pipelines exist everywhere in the city. An EIR costs $50,000 – $200,000 and takes approx two years.

Here’s how the appeal is listed on the Board of Supervisors agenda for the January 24, 2017 meeting:

[Hearing – Appeal of Categorical Exemption from Environmental Review 
Proposed Project at 3516-3526 Folsom Street]
Hearing of persons interested in or objecting to the determination of exemption from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act issued as a Categorical Exemption by the Planning Department on July 8, 2016, approved on October 13, 2016, for a proposed project located at 3516-3526 Folsom Street, to allow the construction of two 3,000-square-foot single-family residences on two vacant lots. (District 9) (Appellant: Ryan J. Patterson, on behalf of the Bernal Heights South Slope Organization, Bernal Safe & Livable, Neighbors Against the Upper Folsom Street Extension, Gail Newman, and Marilyn Waterman) (Filed November 14, 2016)

PHOTOS: Rendering of proposed homes via Fabian Lannoye

Wednesday: Celebrate Bernal Neighbor Kelsey Crowe’s New Book

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Neighbor Kelsey Crowe from Anderson Street has a new book out today, and it’s very timely.  Neighbor Mike, her husband, invites all Bernalese to the  book party tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 18 at Books Inc.:

My wife and Bernal resident Kelsey Crowe’s event next week for her new book There Is No Good Card for This: What to Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love.

Here’s the book summary:

Written in a how-to, relatable, we’ve-all- been-there style, There Is No Good Card for This isn’t a spiritual treatise on how to make you a better person or a scientific argument about why compassion matters. Crowe and McDowell have created an essential illustrated guide to active compassion that takes you, step by step by step, past the paralysis of thinking about someone in a difficult time to actually doing something (or nothing) with good judgment instead of fear.

Kelsey will be at Books Inc Opera Plaza (601 Van Ness Ave.) on Wednesday evening, Jan 18 for a reading and Q&A — it should be a really nice event and all are very welcome!!

PHOTO: Courtesy of Neighbor Mike

Today: Wild Old Women of Bernal to Protest at Mission Street BofA

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Today at noon, the iconic Wild Old Women of Bernal Heights will stage an anniversary protest at the Bank of America branch at 3250 Mission Street to put an end to Big Bank malfeasance.

Neighbor Lynn, one of the Wild Old Women, says:

The Wild Old Women of Bernal will be celebrating our 5-year anniversary of weekly demonstrations to protest foreclosures, evictions, and other disdainful corporate-bank acts. The demonstration and celebration will be in front of the Bank of America on Mission near 29th St. on Thursday, Dec. 29th from noon until 1 pm. We’re inviting one and all to join us.

PHOTO: Courtesy of the Wild Old Women of Bernal Heights

Cortland Floral Designer Creates Ephemeral “Petals for Peace” on Bernal Hill

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Natasha Lisitsa is a floral designer who operates Waterlily Pond, a floral design studio on the hard-working end of Cortland Avenue (near Bradford). Bernalwood has told you about Natasha before; she’s offered pop-up Valentine’s bouquets at Pinhole Coffee and had work featured at the fabulous deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park.

Yesterday, one week after the national election that changed everything, Natasha Lisitsa and her husband Daniel Schultz created an ephemeral installation on the north face of Bernal Hill that beautifully represents a hopeful spirit during an anxious age.

Waterlily Pond tells Bernalwood:

Internationally recognized floral artists Natasha Lisitsa and Daniel Schultz, owners of Bernal Heights, San Francisco-based Waterlily Pond Floral Artistry, have created Petals for Peace, a gesture of beauty and peace for uncertain times focused on fear, anger, and division.

The pink and white petals of 10,000 roses have been recycled from a weekend wedding and arranged into a 40′ diameter peace-sign facing the city of San Francisco from atop the steep, verdant slopes of Bernal Hill.

Neighbor Maria went for a run and she saw us working on the hill and helped us. We are very grateful.

Beautiful! Special thanks go out to the recent rains, which brought the water, which turned Bernal Hill green again, so the color of the roses really pops.

Check it out while you still can; rose petals dry out and decompose quickly, so the installation will soon be gone without a trace.

Here are some more photos shared by Bernal neighbors:

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UPDATE, 10:35 am: It’s sunnier today, and I had a chance to head up to the hill to check out the installation. It’s amazing! Here are some flower-fresh images from a few minutes ago:

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PHOTOS: Top, aerial photos courtesy of Waterlily Pond. Petals close-up by Michael Ashe. View from below by Estelle Fraise.

Boo! You’re Invited to Dr. Rick’s Fabulous “Rebel Yell” Halloween Party on Saturday

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Fear not, Bernal Heights goblins. Dr. Rick’s annual Halloween party at the Farmhouse Mansion is happening again this year, on Saturday, October 29 at the fabulous Farmhouse Mansion in Bernal Heights. Dr. Rick shares all the details:

Hi Everybody,

it’s that time of year again. And I cast my vote for… Scary!

This year’s “Rebel Hell” Halloween is patriotic-themed explosion of talent and delights.

Six bands, fire dancers, lasers, bag-pipes, tarot card reader, film festival, poetry slam, catered delicacies, full host bar, and much more. See attached for more info.

This is a benefit is for three organizations: ZSFG Hospital Vol Rehab Programs, AgeSong/Pacific Institute for elderly and disabled, and SFSMILES.

PLEASE bring a bag of adult clothes for donation.

The hospital especially needs… everything. Our clothing supply is very low.

Sat. Oct. 29th
6pm till ?
at the Farmhouse Mansion, Gardens, and Unofficial Polling Place
3340 Folsom Street, SF CA

$20 per person minimum donation, or half-price if you bring a bag of adult clothes.

See all you patriots at the rebellion soon,

Dr. Rick

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A Brief History of Bernal Heights Rogues, Hoodlums, and Characters of Ill Repute

Bernal Hill, circa 1924. View looking south, roughly from above Precita Avenue,, Folsom Street at left; Coso to the right. The ad on the hilltop is for Maxwell Automobiles. Courtesy of OpenSFHistory.org.

Bernal Hill, circa 1924. View looking south, roughly from above Precita Avenue. Folsom Street at left; Coso Triangle to the right. The ad on the hilltop is for Maxwell Automobiles.

There’s a terrific new story posted by SFGate that provides lots of colorful detail about Bernal’s shady past:

Sometimes the digital archives tell a story, uncovering long forgotten history. My dig in the Bernal Heights archives even revealed the moment in 1873 where the courts determined that Holly Park was public ground. Stories of gang activity in the neighborhood were found over and over in the early days. Reporting soon painted a picture of abject violence that seemed to rule the hill in the 1870’s.  […]

Bernal Heights was originally part of the Rancho de las Salinas y Potrero Nuevo, and owes its name to Jose Cornelio de Bernal, to whom the land was granted in 1839 by the Mexican government. In the 1860s the rancho was subdivided into small lots, and was first populated primarily by Irish immigrants who farmed the land and ran dairy ranches. According to legend, a mini gold rush was triggered in 1876 when con artists planted the hilltop with traces of gold. We found evidence of people claiming the “Eureka Lode” in reporting from the 1870s.

The article also includes some tasty archival tales of Bernalese rogues from centuries past. Here’s just one example:

December 3, 1877 Lawlessness of the Bernal Heights Gang
On Friday Dan Murphy and Charles Manchester, members of the Bernal Heights gang of hoodlums, were held to answer to a charge of assault to rob, and the former was also sentenced by the Police Judge to one year’s imprisonment for simple assault. These men, with five others, a few nights ago went to the house of Patrick Haight and his wife and with terrific blows upon the door awakened Haight and his wife. They demanded admittance upon the ground that they were policemen, and wished to search the house. Upon obtaining admittance the seven men, partially masked by handkerchiefs tied around the lower part of their faces, attacked Haight and his wife and demanded money. They ransacked the house from top to bottom and beat the inmates unmercifully. Mrs. Haight was knocked down and beaten about the face while kneeling in her night clothes upon the floor. But an accidental raising of the handkerchiefs, with the recognition of the voices of two of the robbers enabled Haight to identify Manchester and Murphy and bring them to justice. The six ruffians did not succeed in finding any money, and went off empty-handed after their attack. On Friday, after the two criminals had been held to answer, Herbert Manchester, a brother of Charles, and a member of the Bernal Heights gang, with four others, went to the house of Haight and entered the yard. Haight’s cow was lying there, and the brutal ruffians at once seized her and cut her throat. The arteries were not reached, but the trachea was severed so that the air enters the lungs in great measure, through the cut. This Bernal Heights gang is now under the captaincy of Tom Farron, and it has an open field for operations, there being no policemen beyond Twenty-sixth Street. The lawless characters have for some time kept up a reign of terror in that locality, and have so impressed the people with their ability and willingness to do any act, that they are afraid to testify against criminals when caught or to make complaints. The members of the gang are said to make frequent raids upon the houses, disguising their features by a liberal supply of soot or blacking. Saturday morning Herbert Manchester and John Smith were before the Court on charges of petty larceny. Thomas Brown, who lives at Bernal Heights, discovered these two young men walking along a fence at 6 o’clock in the morning, carrying a bag that contained geese. Seeing that the fellows had no gun Brown gave chase and captured them. In the bag they found four geese. They were found guilty as charged, and will receive sentence today.

By all means, read the whole thing… and enjoy all the terrific old photos.

PHOTO: Top, 1924 aerial view, courtesy of OpenSFHistory.org.