Feb 17

Portography: Happy Chinese New Year!

It’s that time of year when the Portola’s large and diverse Asian community celebrates the coming of a new year with a bang. As most Portolans know by now, the neighborhood typically explodes with the sounds of celebratory fireworks during the month of February. Due to the nonstop but much-needed rains, the firecrackers have been a bit subdued this time around. Luckily, a small break in the weather over the past two weekends provided an opportunity for several San Bruno merchants to bring the year of the Rooster celebration to the Portola. Last Saturday morning you may have heard the rhythmic rumble of beating drums and popping firecrackers echoing through the neighborhood from San Bruno Ave. Accompanying the beat of the drums and bringing good luck to neighborhood businesses were two lion dancers making their way down the Avenue. . Several neighborhood photographers heard the celebration and made their way down to the Avenue to capture some of the excitement. Enjoy and Happy Lunar New Year Portola!

Credit: Ken L.

Credit: Ken L.

Credit: Arthur K.

Credit: Arthur K.


Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2017/02/portography-happy-chinese-new-year/

Feb 06

“PORTOLOVE”, Drag Queen Bingo Fundraiser This Thursday!

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Portola Neighborhood Association presents “Portolove”, Drag Queen Bingo 3.5 at El Toro Nightclub!  Portola’s BEST (and only) night club!

Due to popular demand, this yearly community fundraising event is now occurring bi annually. The Portolove edition of D.B.Q. will feature some changes to create more of a drag show atmosphere around the fierce bingo competition. The emcee is now “Vandetta”, a Portola Drag Queen who promises to sprinkle in some surprises between rounds. El Toro club owner, Jorge, is also rumored to have booked a full drag show that will begin after the last prize has been handed out. There will be a full cash bar as well as more food options including extra helpings of the wildly popular homemade Paella (sold out in 15 minutes last year). Finally, there will of course be plenty of prizes. Ranging from Portolove themed door prizes to Amazon gift cards and the coveted cheesecake. The funds raised by this event will benefit the Goettingen Neighbors Group, a local nonprofit focused on the beautification of Portola’s Goettingen staircase. As you may recall from past posts, the group is working with a local artist to create a grassroots community art project on the stairs.

All the pertinent information is on the flyers posted above but here are a couple of additional tips:

Cash Only with the exception of the Bar & Portola merchandise (Bank of America ATM across the street)

Those who come in drag or a fabulous costume will be in good company and will receive a complimentary bingo card

Seeing as how this is San Francisco, children are welcome and encouraged to wear their favorite Halloween costume or dress up attire

Hope to see a lot of neighbors there, I’ll be int he blonde wig so say hello!

Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2017/02/portolove-drag-queen-bingo-fundraiser-thursday/

Feb 02

The Bay Times & The Chronicle Feature L.G.B.T.Q. Life In The Portola

Move over Castro, southeast S.F. appears to be home to a growing L.G.B.T.Q. scene.  Last week, not one, but two Bay Area publications had pieces profiling the rainbow culture of the Portola.

Portola as featured in The Bay Times. Note the free advertising for our upcoming Drag Queen Bingo

The San Francisco Bay Times had a lovely article about “Queer life in the best little neighborhood you’ve never heard of.”  It was written by a Portola couple, John Lewis & Stuart Gaffney, who have proudly called the neighborhood home for over seven years.  You may recognize John & Stuart from the extensive media coverage on the marriage equality movement in California and nationally.  They have been active in the fight for L.G.B.T.Q. rights for over 30 years.  During this time both have held prominent positions at the advocacy group, Marriage Equality USA and they are now co-directors of the non-profit, Marriage Equality. Most notably though, they were plaintiffs in the 2004-2008 California Supreme Court case for Marriage Equality which catapulted the couple into the national media spotlight (see image below).  Despite their relentless drive for human rights, John & Stuart still find time to be active in the Portola community, attending and supporting the various neighborhood groups and events.  You can read further about their love for the neighborhood here.

Portolans, John & Stewart, showing their pride on the cover of the New York Times

Meanwhile over at the Chronicle, a story popped up last week profiling the life of another notable neighbor.  In this piece we are given a peek into the life of a prominent San Francisco Drag Queen.  Pollo Del Mar, a.k.a Paul Pratt, lives on the “outskirts of the Excelsior” (a.k.a. literally on the border of the Portola according to my sources).  Ms. Del Mar’s story is a familiar one for most artists struggling to make ends meet in an increasingly expensive city.  Priced out of the traditional gayborhoods, now living in the rear cottage of a home in what she describes as a “very heterosexual, very diverse and very blue-collar neighborhood.”   A slightly different take on the community from John & Stuart’s in the article above but perhaps they can introduce her around to the Portola’s gay scene.  You can read the whole article here and hopefully we will see Pollo Del Mar at our upcoming Drag Queen Bingo!

Keep your eyes peeled for this muscular 6′-0″ tall blonde strutting around the neighborhood.

Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2017/02/bay-times-chronicle-feature-l-g-b-t-q-life-portola/

Jan 16

Interview with our new District 9 Supervisor, Hillary Ronen

The Portola Planet was created in 2011 (yip we past our 5th year birthday on Dec 19th last year!) to be an online resource for those interested in neighborhood goings on. We made a decision to avoid any politically charged posts and wouldn’t be publishing any content that endorses any campaigns.

However, we did interview David Campos in August 2012, after the redistricting of the city. The goal of the interview was to learn about how his role impacts our neighborhood, considering the Portola had just become a part of District 9 along with The Mission and Bernal Heights. So after the cities 2016 elections, we thought it would make sense to interview our new incoming supervisor, Hillary Ronen.

We reached out and she’s more than happy to meet with us and discussion her plans for her office and how they will reflect on the Portola.

So… unlike last time where we made up our own questions for David Campos. This time we have many more readers to the blog and we’d like to know what you want to ask her. Contact us via email at [email protected] or Tweet us @portolaplanet. You can also leave a message for us on our Facebook page!

We have not confirmed a date yet, but we hope to be sitting down with Hillary sometime in Feb… so get your questions in now!

Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2017/01/interview-with-our-new-district-9-supervisor-hillary-ronen/

Jan 12

Check Out Seeds At The Portola Library

Attention Garden District green thumbs, you can now “borrow” seeds from our local Library. Thanks to Alta Vista’s second grade class (now third grade), there is a free collection of seeds available to all patrons. The students took on the project with the help of their garden education teacher, Miss Marissa and our own fabulous Portola Librarian, Nicole. The students created the charming depository that is now located in the Library and then reached out to seed suppliers.  They were able to fill the seed library all through donations from local Bay Area companies.  The project was installed just before the holidays at the Portola Branch Library and now open to all local gardeners.

FullSizeRender (16)

So how does a seed library work (I had no idea myself to be honest)?  It’s quite simple, you can “borrow” the seeds to plant in your garden.  When the plants you have grown go to seed, collect some of those seeds and return them to the Library to restock. Seeds are dormant but living and have a time frame before they are unusable, so the cycle of replenishment is key to the Library’s success.  You can find a much more detailed explanation of the idea and benefits of a seed library here.


This is Alta Vista’s second project in the Portola community. Last year, they worked with the Portola Neighborhood Association to install the very popular Little Free Library nestled in Burrows Pocket Park.  Thank you Alta Vista!


Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2017/01/check-seeds-portola-library/

Dec 31

Want To Celebrate N.Y.E. in the Portola Tonight?

Come celebrate New Year’s Eve within walking distance tonight! Say goodbye to a crappy year and welcome 2017 with your neighbors at F.D.R. It’s a theme party, so put on your dancing shoes and 70’s best and head down to San Bruno Ave.!brew-years-eve-promotion-poster-autosaved-copy

Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2016/12/want-celebrate-n-y-e-portola-tonight/

Dec 08

Sweet, Salty & Bubbly: This Saturday On San Bruno Ave.



Sugar Foot Southern Food Pop-Up & Iron Brewer Competition

As much as I enjoy Ling Ling Chinese or a sandwich from the new Bahn Mi house, I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more culinary diversity on San Bruno Ave. This Saturday, there will be something a little different available, Southern Food. Sugar Foot is teaming up with F.D.R. Brewery to host a pop-up during the Brewery’s “Iron Brewer” Competition. The menu will be small but tasty with favorites like Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese and Hot Wings.. F.D.R. will have their wide selection of beers and sodas to wash down the comfort food.

Concurrently, while Sugar Foot is serving up Southern cuisine, FDR will be crowning their “Iron Brewer.”  36 brewers submitted their beers using the same “secrete ingredient”.  The judges have narrowed them down to four finalists and with the purchase of a $10 ticket, you can help decide the winner. The champion will brew their winning beer to be served at FDR and will also go on to present their creation at San Francisco Beer Week.  All proceeds from this event are being generously donated by F.D.R. to the Portola Neighborhood Association.

The Details:

Where: F.D.R. Brewery, 2636 San Bruno Ave.

When:  This Saturday 4pm-7pm

Honey harvested in our back yard.

Honey harvested in our back yard.

Holiday Honey Sale

To add a little something sweet to our pulled pork and beer weekend.  The San Francisco Bee Cause, our neighborhood bee farm, is having their holiday honey sale.  All the honey is collected from their hives along San Bruno Ave in the “Vis-tola”.  The honey is so good that it is currently  one of 25 finalist in the national 2017 Good Food Awards.  In addition to straight honey, there will be spreadable honey, beeswax tea candles, t-shirts and a variety of Fermented Honey & Fruits.  All proceeds go to supporting the farm.

The Details:

Where:  The Bee Farm, San Bruno Ave @ Ordway (East Side of Street)

When:  This Saturday 12/10, 11AM – 3PM

Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2016/12/sweet-salty-bubbly-saturday-san-bruno-ave/

Dec 06

Grocery Outlet Is Open & It Came With A Mural

This is a good sign.

This is a good sign for our neighborhood.

It’s been a tough month for most of us but we have some good news. As we careen headfirst into the holiday season, Portola finally has a proper grocery store again! Grocery Outlet finally opened 2 weeks ago in the old Fresh & Easy space at Silver Ave. & Goettingen (I spelled it right this time). The Grand Opening  was marked with a ribbon cutting celebration that included G.O. staff and supervisor David Campos.


My partner Jonathan and I have now shopped at G.O. no less than 8 times and our impressions are overall very positive so far. The store appears to be much nicer than other Grocery Outlets locations that we have shopped in the past.  To start, the Portola store actually looks like a proper grocery store. For example, items are either displayed in new refrigerated cases or placed on shelves rather than the boxes they were delivered in. Gone are the annoying Fresh & Easy self check-outs, replaced with real live people. In fact, those employees are our neighbors as the management focused its hiring on the 94134 zip code.  The store franchise owner, Raymond Ng, is even a Portola resident.  Born and raised in the neighborhood and he welcomes any suggestions for products that customers would like to see or general feedback on the store. In fact, Grocery Outlet is a Bay Area company with its headquarters in Berkeley and it’s roots in San Francisco.

Our first G.O. meal, baled organic Portobello Mushrooms, stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese, sauteed red onions and spicy salami. It was delicious.

Our first G.O. meal, baked organic Portobello Mushrooms, stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese, sautéed red onions and spicy salami. It was delicious.

Back to the food. For those of you looking for good prices AND healthy food, you might be pleasantly surprised with this location and company. So far we have found a winder than expected selection of organic produce and foods. Ranging from sprouts to Enchiladas from well-known brands such as Amy’s.  We were also very pleased to see a nice selection of popular gourmet local brands such as Three Twins Ice Cream (and at a great price). There is an entire aisle of seasonal and household items as well as personal care products.  Again, we were happy to find high quality brands like Tom’s toothpaste in the mix and at a much cheaper price than regular retail. This being a discount market though, the products are often changing. They will always have ketchup, for example, but which brand and type changes. If you enjoy a bargain and trying new things, this is kind of like the Nordstrom Rack of food.

Good beer selection, many local and California brands such as Lost Coast and Speakeasy.

Good beer selection, many local and California brands such as Lost Coast and Speakeasy.

Just as exciting as the food, is the HUGE wine and craft beer selection. Grocery Outlet has a bit of a following when it comes to their wines. It’s a treasure hunt to discover which are the really good ones but at $3-$6 for most bottles, you can do a little experimentation. We had to learn our G.O. wines through trial and error and tips from other shoppers in the wine aisle. A great starting point is one of the independent blogs where G.O. customers and aficionados rate the wines. This seems to be the best that I could find: The Magical World Of Wines From Grocery Outlet


Where to even start?

Where to even start?

Finally, it’s worth sharing that Grocery Outlet has already given back to the community. At their public meeting last year, G.O. representatives didn’t bat an eye at the suggestion of a mural on their store. G.O. teamed up with the Portola Neighborhood Association and held a competition with local artists for an installation on the Silver Ave. facade. The winning entry was by local artist Arthur Koch for his work that represents the rich and diverse history and culture of the neighborhood. The mural was painted by Arthur as well as a team of volunteers, many of whom were untrained passersby who wanted to help. One neighbor, Becky Luong, was so touched by the experience, she left this comment on the Artist’s Facebook page:


Arthur, thank you so much for your patience and letting me be part of your great work, it was a nice memory and experience to work with you and Paul, enjoy seeing it when I walk my dog everyday. Thank you for putting the great mural in our neighborhood, so proud of you.


A great representation of the power of art to connect a very diverse community. If you check the lower right hand side of the mural, you will see the names of all the local volunteers who added their hand to the work. And because I felt bad excluding any volunteers, here is a plethora of pictures of our neighbors helping out.


Volunteer Lisa, photo by Arthur Koch.

Volunteer Lisa, photo by Arthur Koch.

Volunteer Ashley, photo by Arthur Koch

Volunteer Ashley, photo by Arthur Koch

Volunteer Megan, photo by Arthur Koch

Volunteer Megan, photo by Arthur Koch

Volunteer Becky, photo by Arthur Koch

Volunteer Becky, photo by Arthur Koch

Volunteer Lesley, photo by Arthur Koch

Volunteer Lesley, photo by Arthur Koch

Volunteer Mindy, photo by Arthur Koch.

Volunteer Mindy, photo by Arthur Koch.

Volunteer Keith, photo by Arthur Koch

Volunteer Keith, photo by Arthur Koch

Volunteer Jayli, photo by Arthur Koch

Volunteer Jayli, photo by Arthur Koch

Volunteer Matt, Photo by Arthur Koch.

Volunteer Matt, Photo by Arthur Koch.

Volunteer Karen, Photo by Arthur Koch

Volunteer Karen, Photo by Arthur Koch

Volunteer Paul, photo by Arthur Koch

Volunteer Paul, photo by Arthur Koch

Artist Corey Farris, who designed the Garden Snake mural down at Alemany, returned to paint it in this rendition.

Artist Corey Farris, who designed the Garden Snake mural down at Alemany, returned to paint it in this rendition.  Photo by Arthur Koch

The Artist, Arthur Koch, photo by... you guessed it.

The Artist, Arthur Koch, photo by… you guessed it.

Finally, here is the Artist’s description of the final work that explains every element. Enjoy and see you at the Gross Out (said with love now)!



The mural represents the diverse Portola district of San Francisco as seen through the past and present. The first panel begins with a painted freeway support pillar located on the northeast entrance to the the Portola at San Bruno Ave and Alemany with the native green garter snake in the grass, gardenias, and butterflies. There used to be a street car that served the neighborhood, some trademark businesses from the past including The Avenue Theater, Etalo’s Italian Market, Johnson’s BBQ, and Lido Bakery. The Lido Bakery was recently renovated after serving the Portola for almost a century. In spite of the PNA’s request to preserve the sign for it’s historic value, it ended up lost in the junkyard, so at least it will be remembered in the mural. Jean Harrell, longtime owner of Ruth’s Children’s Shoppe is featured putting on a Martin Luther King Jr school uniform on Alfredo Gomez Jr. Who’s father grew up in the neighborhood as well.

The middle panel begins with one of the first Jewish Synagogues in San Francisco and my Tai teacher the late Hubert Lui practicing his secret Yang style symbolizing the growing Chinese population. One can find various groups of people practicing Tai Chi early in the morning at Palega Playground and McLaren Park. The greenhouses, gardens, chickens, and goats represent, the area’s rich history and the recent declaration as San Francisco’s “Garden District”. Palega Playground in the center is dedicated to Samoan Sululagi M Palega Jr., the “Gentle Giant” an athlete and sportsman dedicated to non-violence and compassion. The fish shaped windmill was recent’y removed for structural problems so this may be it’s brief place in history. In the distance are the neighborhoods characteristic houses on the hill and McLaren Park. In the foreground are flowers that used to be produced here and later replaced by victory gardens after WW2 which initially supplied the Alemany Farmer’s Market, San Francisco’s first. The rainbow colored rows of flowers suggest diversity and the flower power movement. They also echo the multi colored houses on the hill symbolizing the growing LGBT community.

On the far right panel are Maltese dancers representing their large presence here, (the largest population outside the Mediterranean island). Behind them is the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater that hosts “Jerry Day” on his birthday every year near where he grew up. In the distance is a trademark windmill and the blue water tower that marks the southwest corner of the Portola. The silhouette is of of Gaspar de Portola, the Spanish colonial discoverer of the Bay Area on a hill overlooking the Ohlone Indians paddling down Islais Creek which bordered the northern end of the Portola District along Alemany Blvd. The Ohlone lived on the San Francisco Peninsula for thousands of years. Below them on the far right are some kids sitting in front of a truck of the Garibaldi owned University Mound Nursery. The district housed as many as 19 family run nurseries and many of the streets in the Portola are named after eastern Universities. The round red symbol is Chinese for Good luck and gives focus to their growing community. All this is framed by the familiar skyline of McLaren Park, the houses perched on the hill and the raised freeway where 101 meets 280 on the left.


Portola's second mural this year, sponsored by Grocery Outlet.

Portola’s second mural this year, sponsored by Grocery Outlet.

Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2016/12/grocery-outlet-open-came-mural/

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