Wednesday: Learn The History of Earthquake Shacks in Bernal Heights

111 Years Ago Today: The 1906 earthquake, as seen from Bernal Hill in April 18, 1906. The St. Anthony’s Church steeple is visible in the foreground. (Image courtesy of the Bernal History Project)

This month’s Bernal History Project meeting is dedicated to the memory of the earthquake and fire on April 18, 1906. The meeting happens on  Wednesday, April 19, at 7 p.m. at the Bernal Heights Library (500 Cortland). All are invited.

Woody LaBounty and (former Bernal neighbor) David Gallagher, co-founders of the Western Neighborhoods Project, will present a slideshow featuring selected OpenSFHistory views of San Francisco’s recovery from the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. They’ll also tell the story of the Relief Cottage Plan that housed more than 16,000 refugees after the disaster.

These refugee cottages were popularly known as earthquake shacks. “Earthquake shacks are palpable reminders of the greatest disaster the city has experienced,” Woody says. “The surviving cottages are also, like the phoenix on the city’s seal, a symbol of San Francisco’s resilience.”

Camp 23, in Precita Park, had 250 refugee shacks, many of which still exist in Bernal Heights. (Courtesy SFPublic Library History Collection.)

Immediately after the 1906 earthquake and fire, tented camps for residents who’d lost their homes sprang up across the city in parks and other public spaces. In Bernal Heights, this included  a camp in Precita Park.

The shacks were very basic, one-roomed wooden structures without plumbing or heating, and they were intended to be temporary. Residents paid a minimal rent and had to obey military-style rules against peeking, drunkenness, and misbehavior in the camps.

After about a year, the camps began to close —  and some people took their shacks with them. More than 5,600 earthquake shacks, built in city parks as part of organized relief encampments, were moved out of refugee camps to be used as housing throughout the city, including Bernal Heights.

The Western Neighborhoods Project saved three of these cottages from demolition in the Sunset District in 2006, placing a restored one on Market Street for the centennial of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

Surviving refugee cottages in Bernal Heights, Santa Cruz, and elsewhere in San Francisco. (Courtesy the Bernal History Project)

Woody last talked to BHP about refugee cottages in 2004, when we knew of just a handful of surviving shacks in Bernal Heights. Since then, BHP has identified dozens more, and we’re discovering more all the time.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free, kid-friendly, and open to all.

Wednesday: Community Meeting on Controversial SFMTA Parking Permit Plan

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On Wednesday evening the SFMTA will hold a community meeting about the agency’s much-debated plan to implement an experimental residential parking permit (RPP) system in northwest Bernal Heights. The meeting will happen on Wednesday, April 19 at 6:30 pm at Flynn Elementary School (3125 Cesar Chavez Street).

The postcard SFMTA sent to neighbors living in the proposed Northwest Bernal RPP zone says:

The SFMTA and Northwest Bernal Heights Residents invite you to a public meeting to discuss permit parking in Northwest Bernal Heights.

Residents on the following blocks have voted with over 51 percent to move forward with residential permit parking in Bernal Heights: Mirabel and Montezuma, Shotwell (1400-1599), Prospect (1-99), Esmeralda (200-299), Coso (1-299), Precita (1-299), Coleridge (1-99), Winfield (1-99), Lundy’s Lane (1-16) and Powers.

Please join use to hear details about next steps in the permit process, which includes a discussion about how this will affect residents in the area.

The Northwest Bernal RPP proposal, which started as a routine petition drive in 2015, has since become a polarizing exercise in  bungled communication, ad hoc rulemaking, and bureaucratic unaccountability.

After RPP petitions were collected from Bernal neighbors in 2016, SFMTA officials decided  Bernal Heights would become the test site for an experimental parking permit regime that de-emphasizes the impact of parking by non-Bernal residents to focus instead on curtailing parking by adjacent Bernal residents and restricting the number of parking permits each household may obtain within the RPP zone. Under the SFMTA’s experimental system for northwest Bernal, RPP permits would be limited to one RPP permit per driver, with a maximum of two RPP permits issued per household.

Source: SFMTA

Advocates for the RPP zone say parking in northwest Bernal has become increasingly competitive because of daytime parking by non-residents, long-term parking by travelers, and residents who park in the street while using their garages for storage.

Opponents say SFMTA’s plan to use northwest Bernal as a test site was not disclosed in the original RPP petition drive, which renders those petitions invalid. After the petitions were received, SFMTA altered the requirements used to determine is whether a neighborhood qualifies to become a new RPP zone while repeatedly declining requests to define their new requirements. The agency has also faced allegations that SFMTA officials colluded inappropriately with RPP supporters by sharing private emails with RPP petition organizers.

As Bernalwood wrote last month:

The SFMTA is moving ahead with plans to use Bernal Heights as the site of an experimental Residential Parking Permit (RPP) scheme that will no longer emphasize preventing non-residents from parking on neighborhood streets. Instead, under the new system, the RPP program will also seek to limit the number of cars residents can park on the streets of their own neighborhood.

As previously reported, the SFMTA’s Bernal parking survey showed that roughly 70% of the cars parked on northwest Bernal streets on a typical weekday afternoon likely belong to other Bernal Heights residents. Under SFMTA’s longstanding rules, at least 50% of parked cars would have to belong to non-residents in order to establish a new RPP zone.

Yet after some residents organized a petition drive last year to establish a new RPP zone in northwest Bernal, the SFMTA moved its own goalposts. The 50% non-resident requirement was quietly disregarded, but SFMTA has not explained what the updated criteria for establishing a new RPP zone will be.

For current information about the Bernal RPP proposal, visit SFMTA’s Northwest Bernal Heights Residential Permit Parking Pilot page.

PHOTO: Top, by Telstar Logistics

What Happened to the Big Tree in the Bernal Heights Library Playground?

Bernalwood has received several shouts of alarm from Central Cortlandia, where neighbors report that the big shade tree in the playground behind the Bernal Heights Library was suddenly and summarily cut down.

Neighbor Melissa writes:

Sad news for the younger set: The Bernal library playgrouind tree has been taken down without comment. This was really the only source of shade on the playground, so many youngsters (including my own) loved this tree. No word from Rec and Park on the tree’s removal, and no word on what’s next for the hundreds of families that use this park. What gives?

Neighbor Kathryn adds:

The beloved library tree was taken out. Apparently, it was dying. People are really missing this tree.

I know a lot of trees are dying due to the extra rain after our long drought, but how do we know the tree was dangerous? Lots of things are dying, but they may still be around for years or even decades to come.

One thing that is baffling – there is no plan to replace the tree yet – or even a plan to remove the stub.

Apparently, SF Parks and Works doesn’t have access to a stump removal machine, which strikes me as very bizarre considering they remove trees often.

If it takes an act of God for homeowners to get approval to remove a tree – why can Parks and Recs just swoop in and cut down a tree? For homeowners, there is a long drawn out process for notifying the community. Most requests are denied – and if a home owner appeals, they must provide proof of why the tree is an endangerment. If any tree is removed, there must be an approved plan for replacing it BEFORE it is removed.

Why is this not the case for Parks and Rec?

Questions of arboreal equity aside, Bernalwood reached out to the San Francisco Rec and Park department to learn more about the situation.

Connie Chan from Rec and Park tells Bernalwood:

The tree was assessed as hazardous and deemed unsafe by the Department’s Urban Forestry crew. At this time, our crew is working to remove the remaining stump so that it would allow new tree planting in the area in the near future.

We definitely plan to plant a new tree, but in order for that to happen, we have to remove the stump so that it has the space to plant the tree.

Chan adds there is currently no timeframe or estimate when the tree in the Bernal library playground will be replaced.

PHOTOS: Top, Bernal library playground with no tree, by Neighbor Melissa. Below, tree stump by Neighbor Kathryn

Bernal Neighbor Joins Mt. Everest Charity Effort with DJ Paul Oakenfold

Neighbor Greg, with a different big hill in the background

Bernal neighbor Greg Miller has been away from our hill for the last few weeks. Instead, he’s been tromping around another big hill — Mt. Everest — with celebrity DJ Paul Oakenfold to help raise money for local charities in Nepal. Neighbor Lisa tells Bernalwood:

My husband Greg Miller is part of a film crew that’s hiking to Everest Base Camp with Paul Oakenfold, the world-acclaimed DJ, where they just performed the world’s highest elevation DJ show ever. Folks can follow the day-to-day adventure here.

The adventure is raising money for local children’s charities and earthquake relief.

My brother Mark’s production company from Teton Valley, Idaho is leading the effort to make a feature-length movie about the effort, and Greg is in charge of the audio, capturing the natural and human soundscapes that Paul will incorporate into his music and future movie soundtrack.

The team staged the highest concert in the world on Monday night in Nepal. They’re about to start a Nepalese New Year’s Eve concert in Kathmandu as the finale of the trip. Look for videos from the show here.

PHOTO: Neighbor Greg with Mt. Everest in the background, courtesy of Neighbor Lisa

Bernal Author Publishing Gender-Fluid Book for Children

In June Bernal Neighbor Beth Reichmuth will release a gender-fluid children’s book she wrote, called I’m Jay, Let’s Play. Neighbor Beth tells Bernalwood:

The story itself is sweet, playful, and engaging to young children. The narrator, Jay, loves playing in the kitchen, driving dump trucks, twirling in skirts, and crashing tall towers. When a friend, Casey, notices Jay’s sparkly skirt with excitement, Jay surprises Casey by pulling an identical skirt out of their backpack to share. All of the children are then inspired to visit the dress up corner and have a party together.

I originally began writing I’m Jay, Let’s Play two years ago, when there were a couple of boys in my class that really liked wearing skirts and dresses, and the only books I could find that reflected them also addressed the teasing and bullying that, unfortunately, often happens in response. I wanted a book in my preschool classroom that simply showed that we should all get to wear the clothes that help us feel good– and one that modeled to all children a kinder (and more fun!) way to respond. Illustrator Nomy Lamm painted dynamic and energetic characters of varying skin tones and abilities playing together.

On June 3rd, I’ll be hosting a Book Launch and LGBT Family Pride Party at local San Francisco preschool, The Little School. Come hear a reading and celebrate with us! All are welcome and it would be great to see my Bernal neighbors there. Find more event info and reserve your free ticket here.

I’m Jay, Let’s Play will be available in June through local bookstores and on Amazon. To learn more, please visit ImJayLetsPlay.com .

PHOTO: Neighbor Beth Reichmuth

Black Jet Bakery Now Open for Business on Cortland

Gillian Shaw at her new Black Jet Bakery

There’s been a lot of excitement and anticipation about Gillian Shaw’s plan to open her celebrated Black Jet Baking Co. in the former Sandbox/Pinkie’s space at 833 Cortland, at the corner of Gates. Now the wait is over, because Black Jet is officially open for business.

As you may recall, Gillian Shaw is a former Bernal Heights resident who was also the baker the former Liberty Cafe. She tells Bernalwood:

We are in love with our space, our goodies and so delighted to be open!

We are so excited to be in the space and seeing all the friendly faces! As a wholesaler, we’re not used to seeing our customers in the flesh, and it has been such a treat! I love seeing all the Liberty faces and longtime Black Jet fans who remind us of pastries we have done in the past. Bernal is such a special place and I feel so lucky to have learned to bake on Cortland and have a bakery on this street!

I am planning for a GRAND OPENING PARTY on Saturday APRIL 29th, which also happens to be my birthday! We were thinking of having a happy hour party with cupcakes and snacks to celebrate! Would love to welcome people to stop by! I am thinking festivities to begin at 5 and go til 7.

For your info, we carry the following Liberty Items:

  • Blueberry Corn Muffins
  • Raspberry Bran Muffins
  • Banana Cream Pie
  • (Chicken Pot Pie to come sooooon)
  • Liberty Scones

MY FAVORITE ITEMS that are exclusive to the shop:

  • Danish!
  • Boston Cream Croissant is a croissant filled with pastry cream and topped with ganache. This beauty is named after my sister Jen, who is the mastermind.
  • Croissants! We are using the SANDBOX recipe under the kind guidance of Mutsumi who is the best landlord ever. We adore her and are so proud to be using the Sandbox recipe.
  • Mascot/Somerville: our signature beverage is the SOMERVILLE which is a shot of espresso, steamed milk and dollop of housemade toasted FLUFF. Fluff, my obsession was created in SOMERVILLE, MA where I used to live. We developed the’ MASCOT’ after Audrey Duane, our amazing mascot who doesn’t care for espresso… and has a hot chocolate with fluff instead.

Other Points:

We have the best staff ever and I am so proud of each and every one of them! It is a stressful and crazy time opening a bakery, but everyone has been so determined and excited and hardworking to create our little shop.

I am also over the moon to let people know that Max B. Newman, who worked with me at the Liberty, is BACK in the Black Jet fold after working at Zuni & Marla. We are so lucky to have him back in Bernal.

I am a happy happy tired baker and are so grateful to everyone!

Hope to see everyone in the shop soon, especially you!

The Bernalwood Culinary Expedition Team had the opportunity to visit Black Jet last weekend.  We ate many things during our foray, including a meyer lemon and havarti danish, a ham, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich, and a morning bun. We  can confirm that everything we tried was insanely delicious. Yum!

PHOTOS: All photos by Telstar Logistics

UPDATED: Neighbors Say Fertilizer Used in Precita Park Made Dogs Sick

Two Bernal Heights neighbors say their dogs became ill after visiting Precita Park last week, shortly after City workers applied a chemical to the grass.

In an email to D9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, Neighbor Linda writes:

Last week, the day that fertilizer was applied to the grass in Precita Park, our dogs started foaming at the mouth and throwing up. My dog became seriously lethargic for 24 hours.

We need to know:

  1. What fertilizer was used? so that we can tell our veterinarians.
  2. What is the schedule for applying fertilizer on Precita Park grass and can it be posted in the park?
  3. How do we stop the use of this/these chemicals in Precita Park?

This must also be dangerous for babies and small children. It couldn’t be healthy for larger children and adults either.

I expect that the rain has diluted the chemicals for now, but Precita Park will get fertilizer again.

In a follow-up note to Supervisor Ronen, Neighbor Roman adds:

My dog Yogi went to the park around the same dates and has gotten very sick. He has been vomiting and foaming at the mouth. Please do advise us the type of fertilizer and if any new type of grass has been used to replace dry spots. We have taken our dog to surrounding parks and not encountered these issues. I will continue to ask other dog owners if they are experiencing similar issues. This is a major concern for us and we are taking this matter very seriously.

Supervisor Ronen says she will follow-up with the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department to learn more. Bernalwood will provide additional information as it becomes available.

UPDATE: 1:30 pm: Connie Chan from Rec and Park sent this response to Bernalwood:

The Department received feedback including possible concerns about dogs getting sick after visiting Precita Park last week.

Recently, the Department has roped off newly seeded areas in Park as these areas were re-seeded some time ago with standard grass mix, and the grass mix should not have any negative effect on humans and animals, including dogs. We have checked in with our park operations staff about their maintenance activities, and they confirmed that there were no fertilizer applications at the Park for well over a year.

It should also be noted that the Department utilizes Integrated Pest Management (IPM) throughout our park system, which means we minimize any use of herbicide (and no rodenticide or any toxic chemical are allowed) and all herbicide application that meets the SF Environment regulations would be posted at the site for public notice and documented in our records. Here is more info on IPM from SF Environment.

However, with abundance of precaution, we are still looking into our maintenance activities last week and would welcome any input from the public on any incidents that they might have possibly witnessed and believed to be related. At this point, the only other maintenance activity of note that was occurring at the park, was our spring irrigation system tune-up. We will be inspecting the Park this week to see if we can identify any potential hazards that could be related to this incident.

PHOTO: Magic, one of the dogs that recently became ill. Image of Magic shown in Precita Park prior to the sickness incident, courtesy of Neighbor Linda.