Nov 29

Portography: Moon’s from Mansell, Shelley and Wilde

Well in just a week since Alex kicked off a new trend for the blog, Portography, we’ve had many submissions. In the first post Alex expressed his despair of seeing the same old crappy pictures of the Portola in articles about the neighborhood.

Portography was born and challenged the Portolan’s of San Francisco to step up and post in some photos to show their own love for our little slice of the city. Well, we’ve already had quite a few pictures and we’ll be posting them over the next few weeks. But first up are three awesome shots that continue the Noir theme Alex started

The Planet would like to present, Sue Weaver moons the Portola!
Sue Weaver - Full Moon Over the PortolaSue Weaver - Moon Over Mansell
Sue Weaver - Moonrise from Wilde Overlook

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Nov 25

McLaren Park’s Promenade Breaks Ground

Rendering of new & improved Manselle.

Rendering of new & improved Manselle adjusted with a bit more S.F. flare and a touch of Seurat for sophistication.

As JFK Drive is to Golden Gate Park, Mansell Street will soon be to McLaren Park.  On Monday, the city broke ground on the Mansell Corridor Improvements Project, which will transform the Parkway into a pedestrian and bike friendly promenade through the center of the park.  This fantastic but long overdue project seems to signal a shift away from years of neglect by the city as the park seems to be finally getting the love it deserves, thanks in large part to the never ending efforts of the many groups that make up the McLaren Park Collaborative.  Their tireless dedication is bringing the city’s attention to this long overlooked corner of San Francisco.

Ground breaking ceremony on Monday 11/23.  Politicians front and center, volunteers to the side.

Ground breaking ceremony on Monday 11/23. Politicians front and center, volunteers and small children off to the side.

The reimagination of Mansell St. into a greenway is the result of over four years of lobbying and community meetings by the McLaren Park Collaborative, San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department, Department of Public Works, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, San Francisco County Transportation Authority, President Obama and God.  Through multiple funding sources, the city will be investing over $7 million into this badly needed upgrade to Mansell.  On Monday November 23rd, the combined efforts of these many groups finally came to fruition in the form of a ground breaking ceremony chock full of all the pomp and circumstance that you would expect.  Construction will last one year so have your running shoes or strutting heals ready for the ribbon cutting in the fall of 2016.

Early S.F. expressway plan shows proposed street through McLaren connecting with Ocean Ave.

Early S.F. expressway plan shows proposed street through McLaren connecting with Ocean Ave.

Mansell Street’s current  design is a relic of the the never completed crosstown freeway plan. Early SF NIMBYs of the 1950’s & 60’s had the foresight to stop the further destruction of our neighborhoods by protesting against the expansion of a highway network that would have cut through most of the city’s neighborhoods.  Mansell was one of the few pieces of the proposed freeway plan to be partially constructed before the entire idea was scrapped. This is why the currently underutilized four lane parkway terminates into much narrower city streets at either end, a “road to no where” as some might say today.  This left the neighborhoods surrounding the park with a convenient -and currently pot hole filled- short cut through the park that many speeding motorist treat as the highway that never-was.  Perhaps inspired by the famous “Bullitt” car chase scene that was filmed here in 1967 – I’ll do another post on this later.   Anyway, this situation has left pedestrians with a real life 50 year long game of “Frogger” that involves jumping guard rails and dodging traffic in order to cross between the North & South sides of the park.

Frogger dash across Manselle to Louis Sutter pond.

Frogger’s dash across Manselle to Louis Sutter pond.

Once completed, the project will move West bound motorized traffic over to the South side of the existing roadway between University & Brazil.  The new roadway will be repaved with new pedestrian crosswalks and bus stops.   The North side of the roadway along this same stretch will be torn up and rebuilt as a landscaped multi use path with separated bike and walking lanes. Improvements will also be made to connect Brazil, Persia and Mansell east of University into the new pedestrian and bike path.  The end result will be a transformational project that will serve to reconnect both sides of the park and all the communities that surround it.

For more information on the project you can visit the project page here.

For more information on the McLaren Park Collaborative and the many groups that make up the collaborative, click here.


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Nov 21

Portography: San Bruno Noir

Every time I see an article or reference to the Portola on the internet, there is usually some crap photo of the neighborhood that someone took from a passing car on 280.  In response to this injustice to the community, I’m starting an internet campaign to blast images into the net and share what I think is so uniquely San Francisco and strangely attractive about this part of the city.


San Bruno in the fog.

San Bruno Noir, winter is coming.

So with this image I took of San Bruno Ave. in the fog the other night, I’m officially kicking off a recurring section called “Portography”.   If you have some great images or artwork of the neighborhood to share with the World Wide Web, please send it over to me at

PS – Thanks for the name idea Bill and big thanks for talking me out of “Portola Porn”.  That might not have gone over so well.

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Nov 08

Porticulture: Greening St. Elizabeth Church

“Porticulture”, the art of garden cultivation and management in the Portola District.

Porticulturalists planting trees on Wayland St.

Porticulturalists planting trees on Wayland St.

Portola got a little less concrete-y yesterday with a little help from a new neighbor and our newest “Porticulturalist”.  Ken Ogle relocated from Corona Heights several months ago to the great unknown of   S/E S.F. and he was immediately smitten with our little neighborhood.

I am really finding this to be an exceptional neighborhood and I want to participate in making this the most livable neighborhood in SF.


Ken put his time where his mouth is and spent the last several weeks spearheading a project to plant 12 new trees around the formerly empty sidewalks of St. Elizabeth’s Church.  The Church has wanted trees for years but lacked the funding to cover the purchase from F.U.F.  With the help of neighbors, Ken rallied financial and tree planting support from residents around the church, members of the congregation and the parents and teachers of the neighboring Alta Vista School.

Wayland St. has been transformed

Wayland St. has been transformed with a little help from our Friends of the Urban Forest.

Unhindered from the lack of overhead power lines, St. Elizabeths requested large trees with a variety of fall color.  The church’s frontages on Somerset, Wayland and Goettingen are now lined with Brisbane Box, Ginkos and Chinese Maples.  To show their appreciation, the congregation hosted  a delicious potluck for all the volunteers after the planting.

Brisbane Boxes flanking the  Church's main entrance on Somerset.

Brisbane Boxes flanking the Church’s main entrance on Somerset.

Ken and the coalition of dedicated “Porticulturalists” have plans to continue the greening of the Portola by partnering with FUF to help transform other streets with sidewalk gardens and trees.  If you would like to plant a tree in front of your house, FUF can help at the low low cost of only $75 a tree.  This includes all permitting, planting, the tree itself and 18 months of maintenance. You can learn more here.



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Nov 03

Free Super Hip Coffee Wednesday!

The local coffee house, well more like garage - Photo Credit: vwonder

A scene right out of a Seattle coffee house, here in the ‘hood.                                                                                     Photo Credit: wonder on Instagram

Portola’s best garage turned coffee shop turns two years old tomorrow (Wednesday 11/4). To celebrate, Four Barrel will be serving up free coffee all day at their Portola location at 1 Burrows St.  Unfortunately the delicious pastries won’t be free tomorrow but perhaps if you bring a candle and sing to Trevor he might cut you a deal.  That’s my plan at least.

Books pair well with Four Barrel  - Photo Credit: coffeeandbookss on instagram

Books pair well with Four Barrel.                                         Photo Credit: coffeeandbookss on Instagram

Four Barrel is open everyday from 7am-4pm for a little taste of that Mission coolness right here in the Portola!  Happy Birthday and thanks for being part of the neighborhood!

The weekend morning hangout,

Your pup is welcome too!                                                    Photo Credit: Me!

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Oct 14

Portolans Star in Local Artist’s Citywide Project

You may recognize Darlene from the neighborhood.

San Francisco’s least known ‘hood and its residents still manage to make their mark in this crowded city and its vibrant art scene.  Starting this month, a Portola artist will have his work, which features many Portolans, displayed all over SF. Keep your eyes peeled for your friends and neighbors!

Jonathan is a Portolan.

Jonathan is a Portolan.

Local artist Phillip Hua has teamed up with Muni to display his latest work entitled We Are San Francisco: Unified Portraits of a Divided San Francisco on 10 Muni buses.  He entered a Bay Area wide competition and was eventually selected by an online voting campaign along with 4 other artists for the project.  Their work will be featured inside Muni buses around the city as part of a project sponsored by SF Beautiful


Artists were tasked with creating work that represents their interpretation of “the spirit of San Francisco.”  Phillip’s response was to create a series of pieces that he hopes will help to connect citizens of this city from different social, economic and racial backgrounds.  You may have noticed Phillip’s casting calls on for neighborhood participation on the project over the last several months.  He received an impressive response from our diverse community and as a result there is a large representation of Portolans in the pieces.

MUNI panel 16b

Phillip project is reacting to the divide many are experiencing in the city with the current economic divide and spreading gentrification from the tech boom.  HIs work is influenced by his unique perspective as the son of Vietnamese immigrants and an artist who’s colleagues are being priced out the city while his husband is a tech worker.  He feels very much caught in the middle of this hot topic dominating conversations in the SF.


I want my message to be that we are all San Franciscans, and there’s no such thing as people who don’t belong here.  It’s a constant wave of change that’s happening.  It’s the cycle of an evolving city and culture.

MUNI panel 5b

Phillip saw the collaboration with Muni as an opportunity to connect with art in that is accessible by all.  Just as the transit system connects the city’s neighborhood’s, he hopes his portraits will help to connect-literally and figuratively-the diverse cultures and people of San Francisco.   The images were created by a mix of contemporary and traditional techniques that reflect the diversity of his subject matter.  The creation of each piece involves a multistep process of photography, digital imaging, paint and printing.  Phillip’s work can be viewed in Muni buses which will switch lines frequently over the next 3 months so keep your eyes peeled!

Spot the Portolan!

Spot the Portolan!

Phillip’s work can be viewed in Muni buses which will switch lines frequently over the next 3 months so keep your eyes peeled for your neighbors!  If you catch any of the work you can share it on social media with hashtag #SFMuniArt.

He’s also participating in Open Studios during the month of October. More information about Phillip and his work here.

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Oct 10

Beautiful photos of the Portola sky

Ahh the summer is closing, the nights are drawing in and Facebook is alight with the wonderful photos of our evening skylines. The Portola certainly gets its fair share of deep purple, orange and grey flamed clouds. Colin who lives right on the edge of the Portola sent in this superb shot.


Follow a few days later by Stuart sending us this fantastic picture of the sun just slamming down over the horizon and casting rich red streaks across the sky.


We love getting pictures, of the sky… your walks in the park, and anything that takes your fancy in our neighborhood. So please send us your snaps to


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Oct 10

San Bruno Ave. Brewery Update


Sounds like I’m not the only Portolan jonesing for – I mean patiently awaiting, the arrival of San Bruno Ave’s first brewery.  Over the past week we have received several emails enquiring about the status of F.D.R. on S.B.A.  After several months of little activity, a post appeared on Ferment Drink Repeat’s Facebook page like a light ashore on a dark and stormy night for Portola’s microbrew aficionados.  The bad news is that it’s taken the start up business longer than the proprietors had originally intended but the good news is that they are committed and cleared a major hurdle last week.  I reached out to the owners and immediately received this reply:

Hey Alexander – thanks for the note and for following our progress. We are very excited to have received the approval letter for our loan – a critical step we needed to get the funding in place to actually build the brewery. As for the start of construction, after 16 months of working to get building permits and our funding in place (which is about 12 months longer than we had hoped for), I’ve grown a bit hesitant about stating a specific timeline. With that said, we should now be on track to start construction before the end of the year. As for opening date, I’m not going to hazard a guess based on (1) not yet having a firm start date for construction, and (2) in spite of the best of intentions, projects seem to have a habit of falling behind schedule, so I don’t want to guess on an opening date until we have construction under way and can better gauge how well we are sticking to the build schedule. So, in a nutshell – we are still committed to getting the brewery open, we are still excited to be bringing it to the Portola neighborhood, and we now finally have the pieces in place that can make this become reality. We appreciate the community’s support and enthusiasm and can’t wait to bring FDR to life!

So there you have it, it’s still happening and we all have plenty of time to pick out our outfits and find a babysitter for the opening party, it’s going to be nuts.

Sweet deliciousness

Sweet deliciousness



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