On Bernal Heights
The popular Bernal Heights neighborhood is primarily a residential one, but there is a vibrant commercial strip of shops and restaurants along Courland Avenue. The Cortland Avenue corridor includes a number of excellent restaurants, along with a bookstore, a number of bakeries and even a fish and butchery shop for the local foodies. In fact, the Bernal Heights neighborhood has long been a haven for Bay Area gourmets, and the second The Good Life natural grocery store set up shop here.
The Bernal Heights neighborhood is also home to some excellent wine and beer stores if you need a drink with your gourmet dinner, along with a number of bars where you can enjoy the local flavor. The Bernal Heights neighborhood is also home to the local branch of the San Francisco Public Library, built in the depression era by Frederick Myers and built with funds from the Works Progress Administration. This library, located at 500 Cortland Avenue and dedicated in 1940, is a local institution. It was closed for a while and rededicated in 2010, but it is once again a place for locals to enjoy some great literature and meet their neighbors.
While the Cortland Avenue corridor is the main shopping area of the Bernal Heights neighborhood, there is another notable spot for restaurants and cafes near the Cesar Chavez border at the foot of the northern slope. These hip shops, restaurants and trendy cafes are centered around the newly upgraded and renovated Percita Park, a popular spot for Bay Area residents and visitors alike.
This is also where you will find Precita Eyes, one of the preeminent celebrations of mural art in the entire city of San Francisco. Whether you are new to the area or a lifelong resident, this art spot is a must-see.
The history of the Bernal Heights neighborhood is a long one, and its tradition of local activism goes back many decades. The Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center was first dedicated in 1979, and its job is to promote affordable housing, community organizing and services for seniors and youths. Many local residents volunteer at the center, and many others take advantage of its generous array of services.
One of the most popular celebrations in the Bernal Heights neighborhood is the Fiesta on the Hill - traditionally the last street fair of the summer season and a time for neighbors to get together and celebrate the diversity of the city they live in. The Fiesta on the Hill is held the last Sunday in October, and it is perfect for families with young children. This popular street fair even offers donkey rides and a petting zoo.
The popularity of these late summer street fairs is in part due to the unique weather conditions the Bernal Heights neighborhood enjoys. This part of the city generally has warmer temperatures - with warm ocean breezes coming straight off San Francisco Bay. There is also less marine fog than other parts of the Bay Area - much to the delight of local residents.
Many newcomers to Bernal Heights are surprised at the diversity of wildlife in the area. The grassy space at the top of Bernal Heights is home to one of the most remarkable urban ecosystems in the country, with a stunning array of native wildflowers, including the California poppy - the state flower. Visitors to the area can also see raccoons, opossums and a large number of American kestrels, Cooper hawks, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls and other raptors. You might also see the occasional skunk, so watch your step.
If you are a dog lover, you will want to head to Bernal Hill Park, known for its off-leash policy and home to many dog owners. Bernal Hill Park is also one of the largest parks in the area, and the popular Bernal Heights Boulevard is a great place to go for a walk or run. Nearby Precita and Holly Park also have plenty of grassy play areas for the kids.
The southeast corner of the Bernal Heights neighborhood is home to the open-air Alemany Farmer's Market, one of the oldest of its kind. The market is open every Saturday, offering fine local produce and a vast array of fresh ingredients. If you love to cook, you will definitely want to check out this great shopping spot.