Rural Renewal

Will paving one of S.F.'s last dirt streets improve or ruin east Bernal Heights?

Those wealthier newcomers provided the impetus for the Bernal Heights improvement program begun last August, and now that construction is near completion, city planners envision a parklike neighborhood in which residents greet each other on new, winding stairways, talk politics as they putter in the planned community gardens, and sleep soundly, knowing city firetrucks and ambulances can reach their houses on widened and paved Brewster Street.

"Some people say we're paving over paradise here," says city landscape architect Brian Gatter, who is overseeing the project. "That's nonsense."

Sage Schaan, a 17-year-old high school student who lives on Brewster Street, agrees. He'll be glad when he can step from newly laid pavement -- instead of mud -- into his black 1980 BMW convertible.

"Now, it's hella messed up; you can't do nothing unless you wipe off your shoes before you get into your car," Schaan says. "When everything's done there'll be wires underground, nice light posts -- I think it's great.

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