San Francisco

After 90 Years, Bank Of America To Close Bernal Heights Branch

Customers of the Bank of America branch at 433 Cortland Ave. in Bernal Heights received a letter late last month stating that the branch will close in November. The notification comes a year and a half after the bank announced it would no longer staff human tellers.

The closure is part of a recent trend as more customers look to their phones to do business—Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan moved to close many of its retail locations in an effort to lower costs by bringing more customers onto its online and mobile banking platforms.

The decision by the native San Francisco business—now based in Charlotte, NC—was the result of internal data indicating a shift in how customers interacted with their local branches. 

Crowd outside the Bank of America on Cortland Avenue after a robbery in 1936. | Photo: SF Public Library

Community banking is essential for small businesses, as well as for more marginalized members of the community like seniors or those whose primary spoken language isn't English.

"This has a big impact on us as merchants, and that further extends to our customers that use the bank," nearby Heartfelt owner Darcy Lee told Bernalwood in 2015. "There are many senior citizens that use this as a resource in Bernal."

While many consumers are content with mobile and online banking, it's not so simple for shopkeepers. "All of us as merchants need money—actual coins and bills—sometimes multiple times in one day," said Lee. "We also make large cash deposits."

Bank of America at 433 Cortland Ave. | Photo: Google

Bank of America's Cortland Avenue location opened in 1927 as the neighborhood was still rebuilding after the 1906 earthquake; the bank still owns the building.

The branch was also historically the only banking center on Cortland Avenue—even to this day—making the closure even more problematic for neighborhood residents. The nearest banking service is a Wells Fargo ATM at 601 Cortland Ave. 

Wild Old Women of Bernal Heights, 2012.

The branch also garnered local attention in 2012 when a group calling itself the Wild Old Women of Bernal Heights staged a protest in front of the bank in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The group—which lived nearby in a senior home and forced the bank's closure for a day—demanded that BofA lower its fees, pay higher taxes, and stop foreclosing on and evicting homeowners. 

"I don't usually get choked up about banks," Julie, a neighborhood resident wrote to Hoodline. "But this one does feel like a piece of the neighborhood."

The last day for banking at the Cortland Avenue branch is November 28th. 


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