In Lockdown, a Neighborhood Opens Up

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The residents of Bernal Heights, a dense little neighborhood built around a grassy hill in the south of San Francisco, have been under lockdown a long time — since March 17, to be exact, when the city became among the first in the United States to shut down.

With incomes and freedom lost, and boredom and anxiety setting in, the neighborhood turned inward. This has led to a flurry of new activity.

Neighbors in the upper-middle-class community have formed a small newspaper for children. Socially distanced street dance parties and cocktail hours have taken over, block by block, as the sun sets. Some people have created a new micro-social safety net, turning bookshelves into sidewalk food banks and garages into medical-supply distribution centers. Email lists and text chains for each block are buzzing. And as sheltering in place eases, some of the changes in Bernal Heights are turning permanent.

t’s a sign of how Covid-19 has taken us back in time. Televisions had killed stoop culture. Those little stages for gossip, flirting and catching up went quiet as people retreated to the living room after work. Then phones killed the living room TV time and homes got quiet, too, each family member retreating to a bedroom or a far end of the sofa.

Now we have returned to the stoop.

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