Aug 14

Drag Queen Bingo Presents “Portola Prom” This Thursday

Drag Queen Bingo Presents The Portola Prom Fundraiser

This Thursday marks the 5th edition of this popular biannual neighborhood fundraising event. Every Drag Queen Bingo has a theme and this time it’s “Portola Prom”,  You can expect all the trappings of a high school dance but with drag queens, prizes and a bar.  No dates need for this event either but if you decide to dress to the nines, rest assured that you will be in good company. This year’s Emcee is our own neighborhood drag queen, Pollo Del Mar, who typically can be found performing at clubs in the Castro and SOMA.  Details are in the flyer above and we’ve included some photos from the February D.B.Q. event, “Portolove” to give you an idea of what to expect.

What:  Drag Queen Bingo Presents Portola Prom.  Fundraiser to support the work of the Portola Neighborhood Association

When:  Thursday August 17th, 7pm

Where: El Toro Night Club, 2470 San Bruno Ave.

Why:  Because in San Francisco we don’t do just another bake sale to fundraise

Scenes From February’s D.B.Q.

The “drag-off” audience competition was a big hit

Last year’s emcee and Portola drag queen “Severa Wang” striking a pose up front.

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Aug 14

Free Eclipse Glasses At The Portola Library While Supplies Last

The Youth Services Librarians modeling how to use the glasses the day of the eclipse.

Our fabulous Librarian Nicole wants to makes sure that we all experience the solar eclipse safely on the 21st.  San Francisco is too far south to see the full celestial event which means that the only safe way to view the partial eclipse is with a specific type of glasses. Luckily, you can pick up your free pair at the front desk of the Portola Branch Library while their supplies last.  Numbers are limited and Nicole requests that you only take one pair per household so more Portola households can experience the event.

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Aug 12

A Portola Artist Designs A Portola T-Shirt

Earlier this summer, we let you know how to show a little neighborhood pride and support a good cause with a Portola t-shirt. Today we are featuring a design created by neighborhood artist Phillip Hua.   This Portola shirt design features native birds and wind swept  grasses, no doubt from our notorious winds.  McLaren Park’s iconic blue water tower tops the letter “L” and the entire composition almost appears to be a view into our beloved park (at least, that’s what I see).  The standard shirt color is gray but Phillip will create custom prints on other colors by request.  The proceeds go to support the G.N.G. and their work transforming the Goettingen Staircase. You can grab one today at the G.N.G. Block Party (see flyer below) or you can email Phillip and set up a purchase.

How To Get

How To Get: Stop By The G.N.G. Block Party today or email

Sizes: S-2XL

Special Orders: Available in a variety of colors (sorry, no refunds on special orders)  Select options here

Cost: $25, all proceeds go to the G.N.G.


And Don’t Forget To Stop By Today:

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Aug 10

Invite Your Friends & Neighbors To WildeWhere…wait, what’s that?

One of McLaren Park’s many hidden gems is the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, a 700 seat greek style amphitheater that’s right in our backyard but secluded enough to give you the feeling that you’ve been transported outside of the City. The amphitheater has been around since the 70’s, but it wasn’t until the early 2000’s when our neighbors over in the Excelsior took interest in the amphitheater and successfully petitioned to rename it after local legend Jerry Garcia.


Since then, the amphitheater has seen shows put on by a wide variety of local producers, the most prolific of which has been Saturday in the Park, who have produced more than 30 free concerts at the amphitheater over the past five years. This year they’ve got a kids show that’s happening this Saturday, Acoustic Soulfest with Martin Luther, as well as shows that span latin, bluegrass, metal and more. When you add in performances from Shakespeare in the Park, Mime Troupe, and the annual Jerry Day celebration, and you’ve got quite the lineup!


This year all of these shows are being promoted together under the name Wildewhere, which is a creative push to raise the profile of the amphitheater and promote its community-led producers. “One of the things that we noticed was that not many people knew about all of the incredibly diverse performances that happen at the amphitheater” said PNA Corridor Manager Luke Spray, who’s been helping promote the series. “Even more impressive, almost all of these shows are produced by neighbors from the community. Where else in San Francisco can you find a beautiful 700 seat amphitheater where it’s possible for any of us to create the show of our dreams? It’s really quite fitting that Jerry’s legacy gets honored through this community stage that provides free shows that highlight all different kinds of music.”

Wildewhere has settled into San Francisco’s summer music scene rather nicely, as it take place right as the weather gets warmer in the late summer and early fall. We couldn’t agree more with SF Weekly’s recent description of the series, calling it “a smaller Stern Grove” and a “fitting counterpoint” to Outside Lands. Like those concerts, Wildewhere is looking to expand its offerings by adding local vendors into the mix. “When people from outside of the neighborhood see the amphitheater, it often sparks their curiosity about the rest of the park and the surrounding neighborhoods”, Spray explained, “there’s so much culture in the southeast part of the City; so many great local businesses and places to explore. We want Wildewhere to be a gateway to exploring everything else that this area has to offer, and one of the best ways that we can do that is by including local vendors.” So far they’ve secured local food truck Blue Iguana to provide food, and are working on adding several other vendors from the Portola, Excelsior and Bayview.


We at the Planet have been lovers of the park since arriviing in the Portola but admittedly our expereince at the amphitheater has been limited until recently. Last weekend at Jerry Day, we were pleasantly surprised by how great the acoustics were, as well as how nice it was to sit on the hill and soak in the music with a great view of the stage against the backdrop of Monterey Cypress trees. Wildewhere seems like an easy opportunity to invite our friends to the neighborhood for a fun day in the sun listening to some great local music. So the next time a friend asks, “Where is the Portola again?”, invite them to Wildewhere and use it as an excuse to explore everything that this area have to offer!

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Aug 10

SF Weekly: The Best Little Neighborhood You’ve Never Heard Of

SF Weekly sure seems to have a soft spot for the Portola.  The local publication named our neighborhood “the best gentrification proof neighborhood in SF” and has featured glowing reviews of San Bruno Ave establishments in the past.  Last week the publication pulled out all the stops on their Portola Lovefest when they dedicated the entire August 2nd issue to our relatively unknown neighborhood. We’ve posted links to the articles, each highlighting different aspects of Portola’s history, culture and growing community activism.  The latter of which, I’m told, is something the neighborhood is gaining a reputation for, a community that gets stuff done.

Thanks to SF Weekly for the community recognition and for seeing what most us already know about the neighborhood. We’ve omitted two articles that we think deserve their own posts, more to come….

Neon Revival: Portola’s Avenue Theater Returns

Another great write-up explaining the history of the Avenue Theater and chronicling the community’s efforts to save it.

Reimagining (Tiny) Vacant Lots

More on the expansion of Burrows Pocket Park and making lemonade out of freeway bound lemons.

Urban Agriculture or More Housing?

A glimpse at the next big fight to preserve Portola’s past and ensure our future as the Garden District.  Note the sneak peak at the Urban Agriculture Center proposal.

Eating Your Way Down San Bruno Ave.

A cultural profile of the Portola’s diversity through food.

McLaren Park Wants To Step Out Of Gold Gate Park’s Shadow

A brief history of the park and news of a summer long music festival called “Wildwhere.”

Portola’s Pronunciation Quandary

We all know the proper way to say the name, SF Weekly just reminds the rest of the city.  And a little shout out to the Planet and our past reporting on the subject 


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Aug 07

Join Maya’s Portola Potluck Wednesday

Here at the Planet we want to help promote any effort neighbors make to help build community here in the Portola. A neighbor by the name of Maya had the great idea to start a monthly community potluck. Because what better way is there to get to know your neighbors then by breaking bread together? The potlucks will be the 2nd Wednesday of each month and there is a sign up for dishes online so that it’s not all chips and salsa. F.D.R. has offered their space for the event so there will be beer on tap but you can also bring non-alcoholic beverages (FDR also has sodas).  Kids and even the dog are also welcome as well.

When: 6:30 p.m., Wednesday August 9th, 2nd Wednesday of the month going forward
Where: Ferment Drink Repeat, 2636 San Bruno Ave.
Sign Up For A Dish Here

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Aug 05

Solving The Avenue’s Neon Color Mystery

Rare color image of the Avenue Theater neon. screengrabbed from a YouTube video of a 1980s news report.

It’s been over 30 years since the neon on the Avenue Theater’s marquee last glowed, and when the P.N.A. took on the restoration project, the goal was to make it look just as it did in its heyday. This presented a problem for the restoration team that was tasked with bringing the iconic sign back to life. No color photos or records indicated what the full spectrum of neon colors once were. So how did the Portola Neighborhood Association finally land on the eye-catching and somewhat unusual color scheme seen in the rendering? The process wasn’t as simple as just flipping a switch–the years of neglect had taken their toll on the sign, leaving it inoperable. The P.N.A. and the team behind the restoration were left to embark on what turned out to be a year-long mission to find the Theater’s true colors.


Video from a 1983 news report found on YouTube, showing the only known color image of the facade at night.

Hearsay, A Fresh Idea & YouTube

The hunt to discover the original neon colors started well over a year ago when the P.N.A. assumed that the process would be fairly easy. Although all of the photos from the era were in black and white, with so many life long residents in the Portola, someone had to remember the colors – right? As it turned out, while most neighbors who were interviewed could recall an overall color, no two answers were ever the same. Some said it was pink, others swore it was red and a handful more recalled green. The committee began to realize that, much like the original paint color palette, the original neon colors may be lost to history.

In response to the conflicting memories, an alternative plan was created to give the Theater a fresh and distinct appearance. The committee created a list of San Francisco’s other theaters, along with their predominant neon color, and set out to select something totally unique for the Avenue. The paint scheme the committee initially developed for the building was very colorful with a total of 9 different shades on the facade and sign. The P.N.A. committee’s proposed “AVENUE” lettering on the marquee was a bold red.  So in response, they decided that the neon layered over the red lettering should be a simple, timeless white that wouldn’t compete with the facade’s colorful paint design. That was until someone discovered a short video on YouTube from a Bay Area news report done in 1983 that featured pipe organs still in use in area theaters. In all its grainy, off-colored glory, there it was: the only color image known to exist of the Avenue Theater’s facade at night, and it wasn’t a simple white! Clearly, if we wanted to be historically accurate, the team had to head back to the drawing board.



Video of the 70 year old Avenue Theater neon being shocked back to life.

A Sister Theater & A Stroke Of Good Luck

Armed with this exciting new evidence of an apparently multicolored Avenue Theater marquee, the P.N.A. committee switched gears. The YouTube video wasn’t great though–the colors were hard to identify and they wanted to get this right. Clearly there was a pinkish tone but the second color? A green or a blue? Old videotapes can distort colors, so who could be sure?

The answer showed up in two parts. The first was the realization that the Avenue Theater, when renovated in 1940 after a mysterious fire (hmmm), was given a very similar marquee as the Metro Theater on Union St.. This fact was learned through research on websites dedicated to Theater history, but small differences between the two signs created doubt that they had any neon colors in common. The relationship between the signs was confirmed recently, when the neon specialist for the renovation project struck gold. The old sign neon was all coming down to make way for the new bulbs but the letter “N” and some of the remaining trim pieces appeared to be in relatively decent shape.  These salvaged pieces were brought back to the fabricator’s workshop where he applied a direct electric charge to the 77 year old bulbs.  Miraculously, they buzzed back  to life for the first time in decades.. The neon color palette was now confirmed as…pink and green! This explains why there were so many conflicting pink and green memories of the sign and confirmed a direct connection to the Metro Theater. .

The Metro Theater is a very closet representation of he neon colors that were and will be on the new marquee

Almost Show Time!

With the neon color mystery mostly solved, the team behind the project worked to create a complete, integrated color scheme for the entire facade of the building. There were still bits of the sign such as the base and very top of the vertical “blade”, where the original neon pieces were both missing and different from the Metro’s sign, leaving no clues to the colors. At the same time, the city’s architectural review board, which had to approve all color choices for the building, mandated that the paint scheme be toned down from 9 to 5 (Dolly!) colors.  Thus changing the “AVENUE” lettering from red to white. With a less colorful paint scheme and far more colorful original neon design unearthed, the P.N.A. decided a third neon color should be added: an almost white “rose pink” was selected.  A color that is both historically accurate for the period and unique to Avenue, further differentiating it from the Metro.  The mystery was finally solved and after a year of digging by the design team and neighborhood volunteers, the final colors of aqua marine, deep pink and rose pink were finally selected.  The marquee will now look much as it did over 70 years ago and it’s in large part due to the dedicated efforts of community volunteers and Luke Spray, the San Bruno Ave corridor manager.

Through this weekend, you can get a sneak peek at the fruits of the P.N.A.’s labors. Testing of the neon on the blade portion of the marquee will be going on until Monday (day and night.). Before we get too excited though, the project is not finished yet, the lower potion of the sign still needs to be completely rebuilt. The strip tease of scaffolding coming down will start soon though, with the top half being removed this coming Monday, revealing much of the new paint job. There will be plenty more to see in the coming months, when all the details that Portola neighbors generously donated to have included, such as the flashing neon lights, are installed. There is a tentative plan to have a big public bash and lighting ceremony for the Theater in September and we will report back when there is a firm date. Keep an eye on the Facebook page Renew the Avenue for updates and photos as the theater’s progress nears completion!

Waiting to be unveiled, the all new neon on the Avenue Theater marquee is testing this week.


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Aug 04

15th Annual Jerry Day This Sunday

Those damn hippies are back in the park again (fist shake).

Check out the poster below or the official website for more details!

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