The Mysterious Case of the Brompton on Brompton Street

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Kate and David Evans, with the Brompton at Brompton street.

By Elizabeth Weise

The strange and wonderful still happens every day, we just don’t always know it. Take the surprising case of a stolen bespoke bike that found its way across the Bay and back to its owner with the aid of a sharp-eyed Glen Park resident and a surprising coincidence.

It all started on July 3rd, a Sunday.

A gentleman who asked that we just use his first name was relaxing with friends from his bike club at a Berkeley pub called Fieldwork Brewery after a long ride in the Berkeley hills.

His car was parked just 50 feet away from the outdoor seating, but somehow thieves managed to break in without anyone hearing them.

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The smashed car window through which the bike was stolen.

When he went to leave, he found that the very cool fold-up commuter bike he’d gotten just six weeks before was gone. The chances of recovering it seemed vanishingly small.

“I thought ‘Well, so much for that,’” Mike said of the bike he’d been using on BART to get to his various jobs as a therapist around the Bay area.

What he didn’t know was that same evening, around 8 o’clock, someone had shot off a large firecracker in San Francisco’s Glen Park. The booming explosion sent neighbor Kate Evans outside to investigate.

She didn’t find the source of the explosion but she did see something metal leaning up against a tree near the corner of Brompton and Chenery.

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The bike folded up and in the car’s trunk.

Walking over, she realized it was a folded up bike.

“It looked fancy enough that I didn’t think someone left it there as a give away,” she said.

Evans brought the bike into her house, where by a remarkable coincidence she noticed its brand name was Brompton.

That seemed odd, as she’d found it on Brompton street.

“I thought ‘Maybe it belonged to someone who lived on Brompton and they had left it out by accident,’” she told the Glen Park News.

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Kate and David Evans and the bike by the tree where she found it.

Taking a closer look, she saw that the bike was a limited “Nickle Edition,” only 1,500 were made and it had a serial number.

Monday was a holiday, but on Tuesday Evans decided to do a little online sleuthing.

“With that much identifying information, I figured it would be easy to find the owner. I found a list online of bike shops that carry the Brompton Nickel Edition, I called one of them up (in Fremont) and told them about the bike,” she said.

Meanwhile, across the Bay in Berkeley, Mike had filed a police report about his missing bike and friends in the bike club had been scouring Bay area stolen bike reports to see if his turned up.

When nothing popped up , he figured there was no hope and called Perennial, the Minnesota bike shop where he ordered his lost bike, and started the process of getting another built to his specifications.

By this time, Evans had texted a photo of the bike’s nameplate to the Fremont shop, which in turn sent it along to Brompton, which is based in London.           Calls and emails were flying between Glen Park, Fremont and London. Within 24 hours Brompton had found the serial number and discovered the stolen bike had been sold by Perennial Cycle in Minneapolis. Its owner was added into the loop.

Back in Berkeley, Mike was well into the process of working with Perennial to finalize the details on a replacement bike when he got an odd message from his contact there.

“It said ‘You’re going to get a really nice phone call, so be sure to answer,’” he told the Glen Park News.

Mike thought maybe the shop’s manager was going to call to say he was getting a discount because his first Brompton had been stolen.

So when the phone in his office call rang at noon on Thursday, he picked up.

But instead of the manager, it was a woman in Glen Park, calling to say she had his bike and would he like to come over and get it?

“I was just stunned,” he said. “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was completely elated,” he said.

That very night he took BART over to Glen Park where he met Evans and her husband. They showed them where she’d found the bike and the trio spent some fruitless minutes trying to figure out how the bike had possibly gotten from Berkeley to Glen Park in the less than 90 minutes between when Mike’s car was broken into and when Evans came out to see what had blown up.

Ultimately, the mystery of how a bespoke bike made by Brompton Bicycle Ltd. in London, England and stolen in Berkeley happened to end up 20 miles away on Brompton Street in Glen Park, a mere 90 minutes after the smash-and-grad robber, remains unsolved.

But the wonder of how his bike came back to him has not left Mike, even a month after it was first stolen. “I just keep thinking ‘Wow, despite everything bad that’s happening in the world, there really are good people out there.’”

 

 

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95 Norhoff redwood tree move approved

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A view of the tree from Google maps.

The Board of Appeals has approved a plan to move a redwood tree at 95 Norhoff.

 

Thirteen months ago the board denied a permit to remove the tree so that the lot could be subdivided into four individual parcels of property.

The board reconsidered the matter in April, but deadlocked 2-2 with an absent board member.

On August 17, 2016 the Board of Appeals approved a plan to move the tree in a 3-2 vote.

The developer has contacted EDI, a Texas-based company, considered one of the preeminent tree moving company in the world. According to the developer, the company has previously moved trees in northern California and in multiple other areas, which what it says is a 98% success rate.

You can see video of the meeting here.

 

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Check out the Joost & Baden Mini-Park

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Story and photos by Murray Schneider

If you’re up for a walk, take a moment to amble over to Sunnyside’s Joost & Baden Mini-Park.

Tucked away between Joost Avenue and Mangels Avenue, the whimsical corridor is sandwiched between the Sunnyside Conservatory on the south and Nordhoff Street on the north.

San Francisco boasts a plethora of such off-the-grid sanctuaries, tiny public places that offer residents rustic respite where they can gather in both natural and neutral venues. In Glen Park, Ohlone Way, Poppy Lane and Penny Lane all come to mind.

But Sunnyside’s postage size mini-park is possibly the most nondescript of the lot, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it lost opportunity if you’re not observant.

Minipark 2“We call it the Butterfly Garden,” said Sally Ross, leaning over a broom one morning this August. She relaxed for a moment, after sweeping her Joost Avenue sidewalk, only minutes from the mini-park that first saw daylight in 1974.

Ross has lived in the Sunnyside for over twenty years and was on the scene as the community mini-park evolved.

“A group of seven Sunnyside friends, seeing the potential for a nearby butterfly habitat, collected eggs, then nurtured them in the comfort of their homes.

“We began about 15 years ago,” said Ross, an officer in the Glen Park Association. “We’d start each spring. I kept the eggs in a large glass container, covered in gauze in my kitchen.”

Mini park 3Ross watched the metamorphosis from egg to caterpillar to winged butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, expanding and then drying its wings.

“I’d open a kitchen window and release the butterflies,” said Ross, about a process that continued through the summer.

“Mini-Parks, such as Joost & Baden are truly special for neighbors,” Joey Kahn, Rec and Park spokesperson, told the Glen Park News. “They can often feel secluded and far away from the noise of the City. They are great places to have a peaceful picnic, catch up with friends, or just take a deep breath.”

Sunnyside residents assuredly know about Joost & Baden Mini-Park, which offers the additional benefit of a place to take a breath after walking up Baden Street and leaving Monterey Boulevard for below—a climb that even Sir Edmund Hillary might have found challenging.

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Amy O’Hair giving a Sunnyside conservatory history tour, sponsored by the Glen Park Neighborhood History Project.

Craig Scott and Erin Peters have lived on Nordhoff Street for a dozen years. In August, the couple headed off with their five-year old son, Walter, down the gently graded easement that begins, for them, on Mangels Avenue and boasts drought-tolerant plants and shrubbery such as kangaroo paw and a variety of succulents.

 

With the empty 149 Mangels Avenue lot on the left and residential backyards on the right, Walter, who begins Commodore Sloat kindergarten this fall, skipped between his parents, stopping at a wall of decorative tiles grouted into place by neighbors around the time the butterfly propagation had begun.

“The lane is only a path through,” said Craig Scott, employed as a Geographic Information Specialist for the GGNPS and who knows his share about mapping.

His declaration fell upon the receptive ears of Walter’s mother, who teaches high school humanities.

“It’s ever so much more pleasant than Baden Street, which is a nightmare to climb,” Peters said. “Here it feels like a total break from the urban surroundings.”

“The Rec and Park gardener is here more than you’d think,” said Scott, about David Carroll who tends carpets of pollinator-friendly blue chalk stick sedum that abound in the parklet.

While Scott spoke, a butterfly, possibly a Spring White, flitted among autumn joy sedum, which is a big-time nectar plant. The narrow alley performs as a cloistered funnel, sheltering butterflies. California sage, braided in a quilt along the lane’s 54-step path, serves as another host plant for butterfly colonies. A Painted Lady joined the Spring White. They performed a ballet, pirouetting across the tapered easement before settling on a California native plant gifting them succor.

Butterflies like hill tops and are lured there. Joost & Baden Mini-Park certainly has the altitude, as does even higher Twin Peaks, which serves as habitat for the Mission Blue butterfly.

David Carroll, spends four hours a week weeding, hand watering and pruning in what he believes is special habitat.

Parklets more than 50 years old

Mayor Joe Alioto first envisioned the mini-parks concept in the 1960s. Today the City boasts dozens of them. Typically fewer than 5,000 square feet, they’re laid out to discourage loitering and usually built on vacant, development land or city property such as sewer lines where city workers might need access. Over the last 50 years, the parks have been funded by a triumvirate of matching grants from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, HUD and Urban Beautification.

The park parallels an empty lot, once occupied by a fixer-upper, 149 Mangles Avenue, that hurtled off its foundation in 2007, careened down the hill and quickly became the stuff of neighborhood legend.

On the park’s south side is Sunnyside Conservatory, which traces its origins back to 1898. Remodeled and reopened to the public under the auspices of Rec and Park in 2009, it was the beneficiary of a $4.2 million restoration project. Now, seven years later, Sally Ross and the Friends of the Sunnyside Conservatory, pending Rec and Park approval, mount regularly scheduled volunteer work parties that assist in maintaining the grounds.

They’re one of over 150 ‘Friends of’ groups “who care deeply about neighborhood parks and we couldn’t do our job without them,” said Joey Kahn.

On one of her recent Sunnyside guided history walks sponsored by the Glen Park Neighborhood History Project, Amy O’Hair, who lives on Flood Avenue, told attendees that the busy four-lane roadway once was designated Sunnyside Avenue. Predictably, 1920s real estate buskers ballyhooed Westwood Highlands, sales pitching spacious lots to the swells moving west of Ridgewood Avenue. These barkers of Babbittry changed the street’s name to Monterey Boulevard, not wanting to conflate their newer, upscale houses with the working class cottages closer to the Southern Pacific railroad tracks that paralleled Circular Avenue.

Now the neighborhood seems all of one part, livability and connectivity extolled by Craig Scott.

“This is so pretty,” said Peters. “I love it here.”

 

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