The People's Guide is Curbed SF's tour of neighborhoods, led 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 time around, we welcome noted celebrity and philosopher, Casey Newton, Silicon Valley editor for The Verge.
How long have you lived in Bernal? I moved to Bernal Heights three years ago from the Lower Haight. Now, my address is technically in Bernal Heights, but only by about 30 feet. The surrounding neighborhood is more often called La Lengua, or the Transmission. To most people Bernal Heights means Cortland Avenue, but I live in the other, basically unknown part of the neighborhood.
What brought you to the neighborhood? It was a classic San Francisco story. My previous landlord evicted my friend and me on the pretense that he was moving his family back to America so his kids could go to school in San Francisco. The week we moved out, he turned around and sold the house for millions of dollars. It was a useful reminder to never trust anyone for any reason.
What do you like least about the neighborhood? Our main grocery store is Safeway at Mission and 30th Street, and it is just an unbearably sad place to be. Nearly anything you would ever want to buy is behind lock and key, and so buying groceries there basically requires a staff escort at all times. It's like shopping in a minimum-security prison.
What's the neighborhood housing stock like? The houses are newer than you find in a lot of San Francisco, but older than, like, SoMa? It's mostly houses with a few small apartment buildings mixed in. I don't know a lot of good, descriptive words about housing stock. "Fine"? The housing stock seems fine, mostly. They did have to tear down the house next door to me when the person living in it died, though. That place was a dump.
Better for buyers or renters? Who can afford a house in San Francisco? Not me! If you have the means to buy a house, sure, buy a house! Can I live in it, preferably at a reduced rate? DM me.
Do you need a car to get around? No. I have one because I occasionally have to drive down to Silicon Valley, and owning a car that I drive once or twice a month is still my cheapest option to do that. But that probably won't be the case forever! And the neighborhood is supremely walkable—it's hard to think of an amenity that isn't within a half-mile or so.
Most reliable public transit? The 24th Street BART station is a 10-minute walk from my house, and usually the fastest option to get downtown. You can also pick up the J or the 24 on 30th Street, which are convenient for getting to the Castro. When I first moved down there I thought I was at the edge of the earth, but transit makes the rest of the city surprisingly accessible.
Nearest grocery store? Safeway, though because of the minimum-security-prison problem mentioned above I use Instacart. Which is kind of a shady company, to be honest, but still better than going to Safeway. There's a Whole Foods on 24th Street that feels like your best option otherwise, particularly if you have a car and are willing to fight a weekly parking war with your neighbors.
Good for kids? Not really. There's a pre-school on Mission that always has little tykes wandering in and out with their parents, and they look perfectly happy. But there aren't a ton of schools in the neighborhood, and like most of San Francisco, it's a neighborhood where all the children seem to get raptured away once they turn three.
Best place to get a coffee? I'm a Cafe St. Jorge partisan. Good coffee, homemade pastries, and an ever-expanding menu of ridiculous Bernal Heights foods. This place was very, very early to the artisan toast craze. It started with peanut butter toast, evolved to include avocado toast, and today you can probably get acai berry lobster toast for $26. But the economics of coffeeshops are brutal and so I mostly support this.
Unfortunately too many people liked using St. Jorge as their office on the weekends, when it also does a brisk brunch business, and so now laptops are forbidden on Saturdays and Sundays. So I go there less than I used to. The Wi-Fi password is "iloveportugal."
Best park? Bernal Heights Park, of course! It has trails to run or walk your dog, a fun (if short) hike to the top of Bernal Hill, and sweeping views of the city. I don't enjoy going outside myself, but when I want to stretch my legs in the neighborhood this park is my go-to.
Beloved neighborhood joint? Emmy's Spaghetti Shack is exactly what it sounds like, and it's basically perfect. The spaghetti is honestly pretty average, but their meatballs are rich and fatty and amazing. I love Emmy's for its ramshackle vibe — the menus are handwritten, the servers are frantic, and everything there seems like it might be on the verge of falling apart. But they moved to a larger location within the past couple of years, and with the expanded dining room they now take reservations. It's worth stopping in.
Best-kept secret? Pizzahacker has the best pizza in San Francisco, and I don't understand why there isn't a line out the door every night. The Cousin Vinny, with sausage and ghost peppers, is a dream. If you're getting two, throw in the Rocket Man, which tastes like lemon and arugula and comes with a gooey farm egg on top. If you don't want to dine in, you can order online or via text message, and they'll text you to come pick it up when it's ready. I can frequently be seen walk-running down Mission back to my house with a pizza box in my hands, going as fast as I can so that when I take my first bite the pie will be as fresh as possible. I am currently single.
Stereotypical residents? La Lengua offers a nice mix of singles, young families, LGBT people, and their dogs. Before the latest batch of newcomers showed up, it was primarily a working-class Latino neighborhood, and we still have a fun, diverse mix along my stretch of Mission Street.
Are the stereotypes true? Honestly, there aren't *enough* stereotypes about La Lengua residents. Let's start a few. Everyone in La Lengua is very kind, computer literate, and startlingly attractive.
Who wouldn’t be happy here? Farmers, probably. People who do a lot of outdoor tanning. The alt-right.
Most common sight? For the last year: construction workers. There's some sort of all-consuming construction project going up and down Mission and Valencia streets, and shiny orange vests are everywhere. Apparently we're getting one of those street-side parks out of the deal, but in the meantime it's perpetual chaos.
Final word? There aren't enough houses in San Francisco. They should build more houses!