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The People's Guide: Bernalwood Editor Todd Lappin

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The People's Guide is Curbed SF's tour o' the nabes, lead by our most loyal readers, favorite bloggers, and other luminaries of our choosing. Have a piece to say? We'll be happy to hand over the megaphone. This week, we welcome Todd Lappin; Editor of Bernalwood.

[Halo Over Bernal Heights via Todd Lappin]

Neighborhood: Bernal Heights

Tell us something we don't know about Bernal Heights? It exists! For a long time, Bernal Heights was off the radar for many San Franciscans. And in general, that worked out pretty well: Bernal’s hilly geography and narrow streets -- many of which were unpaved until well into the 1990s -- kept outsiders away and allowed the neighborhood to develop it’s own small town culture and identity. But now we’re ready to be glamorous and strut our stuff, and that’s a big part of what Bernalwood is all about. Sort of.

Local customs of note:

The annual Soapbox Derby down Bernal Hill is a showcase of San Francisco at its oddball best. It’s also good clean fun to go for a stroll on Cortland Avenue -- it’s like Main Street USA hidden in the center of a big city, and you always seem to run into someone you know.

Hidden gems in Bernal Heights: The top of Bernal Hill is a world unto itself. The views are always good, but it’s most spectacular at night -- climb to the top after dark on any clear evening and you feel like you’re alone on an island adrift in a sea of urban light. And then, of course, there are those dual 40-foot slides at the foot of Esmerelda Street. Wheeeeeeee!

Are your neighbors "rotten neighbor" worthy? If so, dish. If not... well, why not? I’d love to dish. (Bernalwood is all about dish.) But the truth is, my neighbors are fantastic. There’s an unbelievable sense of warmth and community here. But it wasn’t always quite so tidy: A house a few doors down from me was used by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) in the 1970s as a safe house during the Patty Hearst kidnapping. Domestic terrorists are generally rotten neighbors, although I’ve heard that the SLA’s Emily Harris was actually rather friendly.

Inflate the bubble or burst it: What's not-so-swell about your "perfect" neighborhood? The best thing about Bernal Heights is that its residents care deeply about the neighborhood, and they are highly engaged. The worst thing about Bernal Heights is that its residents genuinely care about the neighborhood, and they are highly engaged -- which can sometimes devolve into preciousness and NIMBYism.

The final word on Bernal Heights: Everyone in Bernal Heights is totally off-leash.
· The People's Guide [Curbed SF]