Ask Us: What’s up with Bernal Heights?

Where readers ask and we try to answer:

What is going on now with the real estate in Bernal [Heights]? I am concerned about the houses on the Cesar Chavez side, which are newer. One under a million, one 1.25 mil, and one for 2 mil?

We’re not quite sure which properties EXACTLY you are referring to, so here’s a list of the most recent Bernal Heights activity (listings) in the price ranges you mentioned. Feel free to elaborate more in the comments, and we might be better able to answer your question.

Kenny, Greg, and Garrett, isn’t this right up your alley?

23 thoughts on “Ask Us: What’s up with Bernal Heights?”

  1. I’ve been following two in particular. 347-3149 Folsom, a cosmetic fixer two unit, and 306 Mullen, the famous “coke dealer chic” property. Folsom is pending and Mullen is contingent. Both would be terrific upward moving comps.

  2. Oh yeah, I sold 49 Samoset for 890K when I worked for Prudential back in early ’05. Nice of Prudential to switch it to another realtor in “property history” after I left the company. Sigh. Typical.

    Anyway, it’s pending right now for right around ~$1.1M. They didn’t do a whole lot to it by the looks of things. I think they opened up one wall above a staircase, put in a new backsplash in the kitchen, and maybe leveled one small patch of warped floor.

    Hey APPLES TO APPLES PEOPLE. There’s one for you. What’s interesting is that the property still has upside. If somebody ever obtained a permit to build up that particular property would have the best views in Bernal Heights. I kid you not. It’s a corner lot too …

    I think Bernal is gonna continue going strong, especially north of Cortland, North slope with views, and West slope. Does anybody really foresee reverse gentrification at this point? A lot of capital has come into the neighborhood. A LOT of capital.

  3. from what i gather, this reader is talking about the north slope of bernal. it’s a pretty large section of the district and if he/she is speaking specifically about the homes very close to Cesar Chavez, the prices vary quite a bit. Bernal Heights is still a hodgepodge of different prices, styles and quality of homes as apposed to areas like South Beach or Pacific Heights. On the north slope, you may find a beautiful, new and contemporary home with 180+ degree downtown views for about $1.5m where on the south slope, you may find a complete tear down for $375K. so that i’m of any help, a little more detail is necessary. In a nutshell, the prices of homes in bernal are across the map from cheap and in a bad part of town to expensive and in a fantastic location.

  4. garrett, i’d love to be directed to the complete tear downs in bernal for 375K. i have yet to see them in the “expensive” or what you call the “bad” part of bernal.

  5. Anon – Garrett and I have sold severl “tear down” in the 375 – 500K range in the past few months and made a listing presentation on one just this week. They are certainly out there and I suspect we’ll see more of them in the upcoming months.

    We’re happy to speak about specific properties but this isn’t the appropriate forum to do so.

  6. Not appropriate to speak about houses on what is essentially a housing forum – hmmmm, ok. Sorry Garret, have to agree with Anon on this one. I’ve been looking at properties in Bernal for quite some time and don’t see 375K ever come up. I checked out that Folsom dump someone posted on here a while back. That place is a complete tear down yet the bank wasn’t even willing to entertain an offer in the high 400s. Can’t speak for the ones you are mentioning since you are not willing to mention them by name:-)

    As for the unsafe parts of Bernal, I would have to say that North and West slope, while more sought after, are actually the most unsafe parts of Bernal. If you read Bernalsafe or get the daily updates from the local PD dept, you would see that most crime in Bernal occur on the North and West sides of Bernal and not the South side. Perhaps because they are also the known as the nicer areas by crime-friendly folk? Personally it seems that south side gets a bad rap yet it is most accessible to Cortland shops and the Farmer’s Market which in my book are huge pluses!

  7. Randy, if you purchased a house from our company, would you want us to broadcast the address and price on a public forum? I wouldn’t do that to any of my clients without first speaking to them and making sure they were comfortable with me announcing that information on a blog. (FYI -Both homes were located south of Cortland St and north of Crescent St – West of Nevada St’s and east of Bennington St. )

    While Precita Park has certainly changed in the past 10 years, I still see a good deal of criminal activity there after the sun goes down – same can be said about Holly Park. We have a much stronger police presence on Cortland Ave now after a rash of robberies hit the restaurant community in ’07 – certainly makes it appear the south side is safe.

  8. Yeah, Precita Park can be a bit dodgy. Of course it can. It’s a park two blocks up from the Cesar Chavez projects. But the fact that there are not one, not two, but three schools in the neighborhood goes a long way toward making sure that everyone keeps an eye (plus, Precita Eyes) on what’s happening. Literally, there is a grade, middle, and high school on the north slope.

    As far as the south slope, there are the Alemany projects over there as well. Some of the streets coming up from Alemany don’t get a whole lot of foot traffic. When those two factors combine it creates a third element. I am NOT saying that everybody who lives in projects is a criminal. Far, far from it. One of my good friends actually actively develops housing for a nonprofit Bernal Heights housing commission.

  9. ah, excuse me!

    306 Mullen Ave

    that is not 24 days on market old. it’s more like 124 days on market.

    that house is my favorite description of the hugely inflated values in bernal. i believe it was coined coke dealer chic at one point as well.

  10. the Mullen house was relisted and for some odd reason they are allowed to saw it was on the market for the days it was since it was a “new listing” technically. totally BS if you ask me!

    as for advertising what houses sold for what price in Bernal. Bernalhill.com does a wonderful job of that and it is a public forum.

    [Editor's note: And as always we suggest you either get sfnewsletter from Alex, or better yet, have your Realtor send it to you. You get a list of sales in real time delivered to your email every Friday, and you can sort by property type and neighborhood.]

  11. I don’t get it. Bernal will never be a “noe valley”..I’m sorry, but Bernal has lots of public housing, meaning (let’s be real here) marginal areas, unsafe, trashy, drug deals, etc.

    Most of bernals streets are VERY narrow, sidewalks are barely walkable, not many trees.

    Views? well, some are nice, maybe the north slope facing some of downtown. A lot of views are of the low lying industrial basin to the east. not terribly nice views.

    so help me out. whats the appeal of Bernal?

  12. bernal has a nickname of baby heights. it’s one of the last places to buy tear downs for a reasonable fee, 375k and build your own dream house in the city. it’s kind of the working class noe valley, in my opinion.

    i don’t have any problem with that. i’m happy for them all. i do have a problem when they think anything is worth more than 1 million over there.

    that was just bubblicious!

    ;)

  13. jamielynn–

    the appeal of Bernal Heights:

    community. friendly folks. parking. unobstructed, unbelievable 180+ degree views of downtown from the north slope. cortland shops on the south slope (currently there are some great restaurants, coffee shops, book store, sandwich shops, convenience stores, and i anticipate more businesses to move in to the currently vacant spots along cortland as the neighborhood grows and home depot opens up). many homes need updating/additions which allow a buyer to add value. many homes are “dialed” and are turn-key, but cost a fraction of the same home in other neighborhoods. the sun shines. only minutes from Noe Valley, the Mission, Glen Park and freeway access. neighborhood “quirks” which make it feel like a san francisco of the past.

    downsides of Bernal Heights:

    aging infrastructure (though they seem to be trying to update this, which in itself is a giant pain in the ass as the roads are torn up and it causes traffic). narrow streets make driving difficult. “marginal” areas if you get too far south. “yuppisation” as bernal becomes more “noe like.” home prices have skyrocketed over the years and haven’t really let up. still vacant storefronts. not any nightlife. only public transit is bus, unless you walk to church and 30th to get on the MUNI.

  14. sorry garrett..

    not buying it. since I’m NOT a realtor, I’m not trying to “sell” or “unsell” any neighborhood. my point of view is simply a 31 year SF resident and homeowner, and yes I live in noe v. when it came time to buy some 20 years ago, we compared Noe, glen park, and bernal. prices were all similar for the house I wanted..but god…bernal felt and looked very unsafe..still does. it may be somewhat charming, old-style SF (that’s stretching it,however), but I believe it will for many years be associated with public housing nearby and constantly struggling to over come that image. It’s not Noe, but then again Noe will never be Pacific Heights.

  15. jamielynn—

    that’s fine, you don’t have to buy anything. i wasn’t trying to “sell it.” i was instead just sharing what i think to be the positives and negatives of bernal heights. we’ll just have to agree to disagree. i can tell ya that the folks i know that live there, visit there or work there, don’t often (if ever) feel like public housing has any impact on their lives. Personally, i LOVE potrero hill (in addition to Bernal Heights) and when i’m on the north slope, i never think of it as a place that is riddled with public housing problems, when in fact, it may be. the same is probably true for Bernal Heights, but I don’t think the majority of the population thinks of Bernal as an unsafe place this is surrounded by public housing (the housing project is on the extreme southern border at the end of ellsworth street.

    i love noe valley as well. i lived there for a couple of years and i shop along 24th street all the time. that said, there are many other ‘hoods in the city that i’d prefer to live. you’re right, 24th won’t ever be chestnut (mostly because north of market folks don’t come south of market), but it’s damn close…

    again, i respect your view, it’s just different than mine.

  16. fair enuf..we all like our respective “hoods for our own personal reasons. I do “mostly” love my own Noe neighborhood, but even Noe has it’s flaws and room for improvement..such as: not enuf trees, sidewalks are way too wide (we need more streetside landscape)..pockets of really dumpy houses on a great block..

    it can be too windy in the summer..and last but not least..all those damn strollers.:)

  17. Noe also has too many scary drivers pumping their brakes and accellerating between four way stops. No good grocery store (guess that may be changing soon), no good pubs, and Church street has better food than 24th street. It has also bred this weird sort of entitled attitude in recent years. Someone looked at me really skeptically the other day when I said that that Ashbury Heights has traditionally always been pricier than Noe Valley.

    But I loved living there. It’s a really liveable neighborhood. I like Bernal Heights. But I don’t love it, yet. It’s growing on me tho. So far it is definitely more “neighborly” than I found Noe to be. People just talk to their neighbors over here, it seems. (Could have been block to block tho. You never know. No control on that experiment!)

  18. noe valley has just gotten too damn precious since 2000. i lived there from 94-03, and just had enough of the baby strollers, designer dogs, and the oh-so-”special” people destined for noe. shees! in the 90′s i actually liked the place, a decent place to live with some diversity in people and attitudes. but now, it’s as uptight and bland as palo alto, albeit in the city.

    but i did get the last laugh. i especially enjoyed selling my condo at market peak in 05, and getting multiple overbids from scared-shitless desperados writing me those handwritten introductory letters of how much they love my place. $705k later (i paid $160k in ’94), and with that handy $500k cap gains tax free deduction, i’m sitting in the sun all smiles:-) bye, bye noe!

  19. jamielynn – I find it hard to believe that 20 years ago you could pay the same for a house in Noe than Bernal. I have friends who bought in Bernal 20 years ago for a little over 100K. Is that how much you bought your home in Noe?

    Statements like “bernal will never be safe or feels unsafe now”…better off in Noe with that attitude. People who live in SF or want to live you rave about its diversity yet don’t want to live in it. Ironic huh?

  20. When I moved to NW Bernal 12 years ago, I looked in Noe and Bernal. I could afford either (back then), but got a bigger house in Bernal with better views (bridge to bridge). I’ve had no problems with crime and never feel unsafe. I see on older woman and a disabled man (each individually) walking their dogs every night, so I don’t think others feel unsafe either.

    There is not much crime up the hill in NW Bernal. There are more incidents along Mission and along Cesar Chavez, but I don’t feel unsafe there either. I prefer the restaurants with walking distance of my house to those on 24th St, and it is an easier commute for me from NW Bernal to downtown than it would be from Noe. (I walk to 24th St. BART, which is much faster than the J Church.)

    Overall, I am very happy that I moved to Bernal rather than to Noe Valley.

  21. If you’re near Church street in NV, you’re closer to BART than anyone in Bernal. Public transportation is a big drawback to Bernal and it feels disconnected from the heart of the city.

    I live in Noe, but am beginning to accept I’ll never own in Noe. I’m sure Bernal is a nice little hood and would not be worried about the crime, but the dinginess and the overpowered neighborhood associations are huge obstacles to my interest in buying there. Half of Bernal should be torn down but nothing can be done without years of wrangling with the Planning Department and assinine requirements from the Bernal Heights neighbors’ association. Talk about precious… at least in Noe Valley there is some architectural charm that might be worth preserving, but in Bernal I have to wonder sometimes what’s in the drinking water.

    Besides Incanto, Bacco and Firefly, the restaurants are disappointing for such a yuppie area and I’ll admit I don’t feel much for the community. Perhaps my immediate neighbors play a roll in that: the next-door neighbors on one side are drug dealers, across the street I think is a mormon polygamy colony and the other next-door neighbors are 2 pairs of gay guys I think wouldn’t mind different neighbors than the 2 pairs of breeders occupying our building.

    And you say NV isn’t diverse, ha!

  22. “If you’re near Church street in NV, you’re closer to BART than anyone in Bernal.”

    Not true. NW Bernal is closer to BART than is Church St. Look at a map.

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