May 18

Portola’s Kids Approve Of The McLaren Park Horses

The pilot program for the McLaren Park horseback riding comes to a close after this weekend. While this program had some controversy among some adult (what doesn’t in S.F.?), there is absolutely no question that the horses have been a big hit with the kids of the Portola (of all ages we’d say). We spoke to Emily, a Portola Mom whose daughter cannot get enough of the horses.  She let us know that the operators of the program have welcomed her daughter and any other interested Portola kids to volunteer at the stables. Learning how to safely interact with and care for the large animals, these young volunteers did everything from grooming to mucking out the stable.  She feels that It’s been a true learning experience for these kids growing up in the city, a long way from the nearest farm..  They are gaining an appreciation for nature that most children in urban areas never get the opportunity to experience.

Pot A Gold, the operators for the program, took note of all the interest that the horses have received from neighborhood kids.  They also realized that in S/E San Francisco, not all families can afford the rides.   So, in a very generous move, they asked Chuck Farrugia at Help McLaren Park to extend an invitation for free horseback rides to Portola’s kids programs. Last Wednesday, a group of children from Pelaga Park’s after school program, were given the exciting opportunity to ride around the duck pond for most of the afternoon.  We’ve been told, that this was the first time on a horse for all of these kids.  Chuck shared the pictures from the event with us and their excitement and wonder with the large docile creatures is obvious.   Jim, the site operator and probably  Portola’s first genuine cowboy in a long time, would have liked to have given longer rides through the park but the interest was much higher than anticipated.  Given the popularity, perhaps this is something the Rec & Parks Department could sponsor next time around so more San Francisco kid’s get this unique opportunity?  Either way, the pictures pretty much speak for themselves, Portola’s kid’s love the horses.

Check out our original story on the ride here. Please also visit the SFRPD official site HERE and scroll down to “feedback” section to let the powers that be know how you feel about the program and if it should come back.

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May 11

Spotlight on the Portola’s Renel Brooks-Moon

Giants Annoucer, Radio Host and Portola resident Renel Brooks Moon

Usually it’s the players at AT&T park who are highlighted and imitated, but this time it was Portola resident and San Francisco Giants announcer Renel Brooks-Moon who was in the spotlight. When Arizona Diamondbacks players were asked about their favorite ballparks to visit, Archie Bradley didn’t hesitate to name AT&T Park, but for an unexpected reason: he loves to hear Renel (Giants fans affectionately use her first name, as if we all know her personally) announce the games.

We in the Portola love Renel, too, and it’s great getting to see her face on camera, and not just her fantastic voice! Check out the video below to see Archie Bradley’s funny impression of Renel announcing Brand Belt and her adorable reaction. And go Giants!  Click here if you have any problems with the video below.


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May 08

Renew The Avenue! Theater Facade To Be Restored & More!

Artist’s rendering of the restored marquee and neon colors.

Historic Facade To Be Restored

We had a little fun attempting to create some “breaking news” drama in our last Avenue Theater post by creating an air of mystery around this exciting project.  Something big is indeed happening at the long abandoned Theater but it’s not much of a secret for Portolans that have been attending community meetings over the past year.  So without further ado, the Portola Neighborhood Association has partnered with the city of San Francisco to take on an ambitious project that will result in the full restoration of the theater’s facade.  Before anyone gets too excited, we must note that at this time, there are no plans to renovate the interior of the theater.  We do have word though, that the interiors are mostly intact, complete with seats, stage and architectural details.

The scaffolding is up and the old gal is getting a facelift. The next time we see the spanish revival facade, it will be as good as new!

The Avenue Marquee, A Beacon For San Bruno Ave. & The Portola

So why only the facade you ask?  For starters, the city and the P.N.A. see this investment into the Avenue Theater as a catalyst for economic growth and vitality for the entire San Bruno Ave. corridor.  The large decaying facade has been looming over the street for decades now and in some ways, it has become a symbol for the street’s decline.   Around the time of the early 1970’s, crime began to rise on the street (as it did all over the city) and long time businesses began closing their doors, a trend that continued into the early 2000’s.  Recently though, San Bruno Ave. has been experiencing the beginnings of what the city and the P.N.A. hope is a renaissance. The corridor has become a vibrant multicultural market place of small locally owned businesses.  Breakfast At Tiffany’s has been  revived with brunch crowds waiting to get a seat, some Asian eateries such as Fancy Wheat Field Bakery and the Banh Mi House are bringing a more upmarket feel to their establishments and hip drink spots are beginning to arrive.

These improvements are just a start and the city and the P.N.A want to help support existing businesses while also encouraging more investment in the corridor. Activating the theater which physically and symbolically sits at the heart of the corridor is seen as a good way to keep the momentum going. Beginning with illuminating the prominent but long dark neon of the theater’s marquee to create a beacon for the street and the neighborhood. The hope is that the glow will help enliven the street atmosphere at night.  Attracting neighbors back to the corridor as well as luring in visitors passing by on 101 & 280 where the sign is highly visible, bringing in more business for existing establishments. Additionally, the project’s other goal, is that by activating the facade, it will help to attract investment opportunities to the long dormant Theater.  The city is loosing many of it’s arts spaces and perhaps the Avenue Theater can start a new chapter as a cultural destination for Southeast San Francisco.  As some may not know, the Theater is not just a movie house but rather a full performance theater with dressing rooms, a stage and flyspace for scenery in live productions, so the potential is there.

Does this all sound a little pie-in-the-sky?  Consider that it’s exactly the same approach Oakland took with the Fox Theater when it sat in disrepair for so many years.  Perhaps by reusing that same recipe for revitalization, there can be hope for the Avenue as well.

Color rendering of the new historically accurate paint scheme.

The Deal, Johnson’s BBQ Space Leased To The Neighborhood

We reached out to Luke Spray, the corridor manager for San Bruno Ave., to get more details on the project and how we got to this exciting milestone.  The project idea came from a group of concerned Portola residents who approached Jack Tse (former San Bruno Ave. corridor manger) to find a way to preserve the deteriorating landmark theater.  After formulating a plan based on the Fox Theater restoration, Jack approached then supervisor Campos and his aide Hillary Ronen (now Supervisor) with the idea.  Seeing the value in the concept, they immediately took it on and presented it to Mayor Ed Lee.   Several years of negotiations and planning with the city and the building’s owner began with the intention to reach an agreement on how the project might work.

Concurrently, while the contractual nuts and bolts were being worked out, planning for the pretty stuff was taking place.  Community members worked with historic renovation experts to get the new look right for the building’s age and architecture.  No clear color photos of the original Theater existed so “Dr. Color”, an historic architectural color expert, was brought onto the project.  He created a scheme for the building based on a palette of colors found on similar theaters of this vintage.  Dr. Color, who is also known for his work on the Bayview Opera House, presented his colors to the city for final approval.

All of these moving pieces of contract negotiation, city red tape and color selections finally came together in the 11 hour.  Luke said that he had little sleep the final week trying to get the project planning over the finish line.  Just 3 weeks ago when the city signed off on the colors and a contract was signed with the building’s owner, the project officially began work. Scaffolding prep started the very next day.

So what does the building owner give back for all this work to his building?  In exchange for the upgrades received to the Theater, the owner has agreed to lease the old Johnson’s Barbeque space to the P.N.A. at a highly discounted rate for 5 years.  The P.N.A. also received subletting rights to the space and is currently looking for a restaurant or other food service retailers to occupy the space.  During public comments, the P.N.A. heard from many residents that there is a need for a restaurant that will serve into the evening on San Bruno Ave.  Something that will help enliven the corridor during the day and into the evening while also bringing more families from the neighborhood out.  If you know someone who may be interested in this space, feel free to reach out to the P.N.A. with your suggestions.  CONTACT HERE

Say “goodbye” to this tired monochromatic look.

Here is the story directly from the horse’s mouth, the P.N.A.’s official announcement newsletter:

The Avenue Theater project is finally underway!
The Avenue Theater has been the heart of the Portola since it opened in 1927. Neighbors have fond memories of spending Sunday afternoons watching movies and sharing candy from the sweets shop next door. The Avenue also happens to sit in the middle of San Bruno Avenue, our neighborhood’s commercial corridor, and is the tallest and most recognizable building around.

It’s been more than 30 years since the last movie was shown at the Avenue Theater, there have been virtually no signs of life in the building since Johnson’s BBQ closed up shop in 2011.

In more recent years, the PNA has had many conversations with the building’s owner about potential uses for the space. Seeing that the theater is so large, finding a tenant has been a challenge. As the conversation evolved, we turned our discussion toward’s the building’s beautiful decaying neon sign. There was clearly a strong desire within the community to see the neon restored.

In 2015 former PNA Corridor Manager Jack Tse helped the PNA come to an agreement with the building’s owner: We’d help turn the neon back on, and in return he’d give us the keys to the Johnson’s BBQ space at a heavily discounted rate. From there, we set out to work with District Supervisor David Campos, his aide (and current Supervisor) Hillary Ronen, and the City’s Office of Economic & Workforce Development to find potential grant funding. In early 2016 we applied for a grant and won funding for the project.

We’ve spent the last year finding all of the right contractors, hammering out contracts and figuring out the countless details that go into a project like this.

This is a BIG project for the City and for the Portola. This is the first project of it’s kind in neighborhood, and one of the largest facade improvement project that the City has ever done. While this project is only improving the facade and not the interior of the theater, it’s important to note that the much beloved Fox Theater in Oakland went through a very similar process. Our hope is to follow in the Fox’s footsteps, activating the facade first and using that momentum to find someone who can utilize the theater for the benefit of the entire neighborhood.

 So now the time has come, it’s finally time to Renew the Avenue!  

We will continue to report on he project as it progresses here at the Planet but you can also keep in touch by signing up fo the PNA’s newsletter by clicking HERE and by following the “Renew The Avenue” facebook page here:  Renew The Avenue

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May 05

Cinco De Mayo Celebration & Mother’s Day Jewelry Party

Two fun neighborhood events happening this weekend in the Portola!

Cinco De Mayo Celebration At The Brewery:

Tonight there is a Cinco De Mayo party at FDR with a live band (no cover) and a food pop up by Sugarfoot. The details from FDR:

  • Ferment.Drink.Repeat, 2636 San Bruno Ave.

We will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo at FDR. Featuring Music by Miguel y Los Buenos and Nacho Plates being served up by Sugarfoot!! Also, we’ll be tapping our newest addition to the beer list. “El Gringo” … a cream ale that you would swear is a Mexican Lager!!


Jewelry Party This Saturday:

Looking for something unique for Mom this year?  Local artist, Lisa Magruder, has put together a Jewelry sale featuring works by six local artists.  Each piece is unique and the proceeds go to support artist in the community.  See the flyer above for all the details.

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May 04

May Thursday Night Music Lineup: Never A Cover, Always A Great Band!

Portola artist, Lisa Magruder, takes her sketch pad to FDR most Thursdays and lets the music inspire her. Last month she sketched the New Orleans style Jazz Band “Parts & Labor” at FDR and gifted the drawing to the musicians after the show.  It was the first time an audience member had done that for them.

Did you know that Live Music Thursdays at FDR is free? While I’m sure the bands would appreciate a tip and the brewery would like you to enjoy a beer, kombucha or soda, there is never a cover. Tonight marks the start of the May 2017 musical lineup, so consider heading down there anytime from 7pm to 10pm tonight or any other Thursday!  Here is the May lineup:

Ferment Drink Repeat, 2636 San Bruno Ave.



Thursday May 4th:  Alvie & Philip from Alvie & the Breakfast Pigs

  • Ferment.Drink.Repeat – FDR Brewery

May the 4th be with you! This duo is made up of two of our favorite people at FDR! Alvie and Philip from Alvie & the Breakfast Pigs is pairing it down to a duo for our space, but they’ll be tearing it up for your listening pleasure!


Thursday May 11th:  Sunny Balopole

  • Ferment.Drink.Repeat – FDR Brewery

Sunny is a Singer & Songwriter inspired by folk, jazz, and soul music with sultry vocals and acoustic guitar.


Thursday May 18th:  Jae Stix Band

  • Ferment.Drink.Repeat – FDR Brewery

Jae Stix has always been fascinated with instruments and the amazing way performing can touch each and every person. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, she started her gift at a very young age. She grew up playing in a gospel church, and got her first break playing in the choir at the age of five years old. Jae Stix became a professional drummer with a unique sound performing for packed audiences in the San Francisco area and beyond.

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Apr 21

Earth Day Celebration Saturday: Plant Sale, Portola Green Planning & Ice Cream!

This Saturday, April 22nd, is Earth Day and to celebrate there will be a celebration at Burrows Pocket Park tomorrow (San Bruno Ave & Burrows Street). The event is being co-sponsored by community volunteers from the Portola Neighborhood Association Portola Urban Greening and Goettingen Neighbors Group.

Stop by the event to share your ideas for the expansion of Burrows Pocket Park

This will be a great opportunity to learn more and share your thoughts about the greening efforts in the neighborhood.  Some of which include urban agriculture opportunities, F.U.F. tree plantings and the planned expansion of Burrows Pocket Park.  If you haven’t heard, P.U.G. & the P.N.A. have secured the use of the land bordering the highway and adjacent to the existing Burrows Park.  They need the community’s input on what the new park should be and how it should be used.  Ideas discussed have ranged from a scuplture park & dog run to a community horseshoe court.  Check out the space and give your 2 cents at the event tomorrow

Stay for the ice cream, tacos & live music!

In addition to all the Portola green planning there will a plant sale fundraiser to benefit the neighborhood groups.  For fun and refreshments, there will also be an icecream pop-up from Churn Urban Creamery, tacos from La Placita, a live Jazz band, activities for kids and Portola t-shirt sales.  Happy Earth Day Portola!

All The Details:

This Saturday, April 22nd from 10 am2 pm.

Burrows Pocket Park located at 2 Burrows Street, SF, 94134.

An Earth Day block party celebrating the incredible Portola community and its dedicated greening efforts! We are still glowing from the Garden District Unveiling and can’t wait to gather again. This time, on Earth Day, we look forward to hearing and documenting your aspirations while enjoying ice cream, tacos, live music, and fun activities for the whole family.

Share your vision for the Garden District. Join your neighbors to learn more about upcoming opportunities, share feedback about the activities and experiences you want from future greening projects (including the potential revitalization of an urban farm), and grab some plants for your backyard before it is too late in the Spring!

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Apr 19

Saddle Up Portola: Horseback Riding Comes to McLaren Park For A Limited Time

If you haven’t heard or seen for yourself already, horseback riding has returned to McLaren Park for a limited time. The San Francisco Rec & Parks. Department is trying out an exciting two month pilot program to gauge public interest and support for the idea. Currently there are 10 horses stabled at the once abandoned San Francisco Police horse stable located at the Woolsey St. entrance to the park. Here are the details:


TRIAL PERIOD – Weather permitting, the rescheduled trial period will begin on Sunday, April 2, 2017 and end on Saturday May 20, 2017.


McLaren Park @ Louis Sutter Police Stables (entrance at University & Woolsey)

  • 10 horses available at the Police Horse Stables for trail rides in McLaren Park (by Louis Sutter playground). All rides are guided by professional wranglers.

Golden Gate Park @ Bercut Equitation Field (Chain of Lakes Drive E, near JFK)

  • 15 horses will be available at the Bercut Equitation Field for trail rides in Golden Gate Park (see map below). All rides are guided by professional wranglers.


7 Days a week and hours of operations 8 am to 7 pm, weather permitting. Please call the toll free number 1-(844) 967-4653 for current availability


Golden Gate Park

·         30 minutes:$40

·         60 minutes $60

·         90 minutes $80

McLaren Park

·         30 minutes: $35

·         60 minutes $55

·         90 minutes $75

(25% discount for SF Residents- Must show valid I.D.)

After years of neglect, the old San Francisco Police stables are finally being put back to good use.

Early reviews of the experience appear to be positive with the exception of a hot horse poop debate on Nextdoor.  According to some neighbors, a cleanup plan may require attention from the program’s creators if they haven’t already developed one. That said, we have been hearing from the vendor supplying the horses, that rides have been selling out with a steady stream of interest.  At the Planet we have also been hearing anecdotally from neighbors that the rides are well run, safe and “a really fun time.”  The interest in the program appears to be coming from all over the city with folks from as far away as the other side of 280, sending notes to the people at Help McLaren Park, voicing their support for the program:


I’m a Bernal Heights homeowner, and mom of 2 kids. & a dog.  I wanted to weigh in on the horse rides pilot at McLaren. My 12y daughter adores horses, and was thrilled to ride today. While she rode, I hiked with the dog over to the reservoir and back, seeing parts of the park I’d never noticed before. This is a great addition to our side of town. Please continue it!         -Amanda K.


Riders enjoying the scenery of San Francisco’s 2nd largest park.


Since this is only a pilot program, if it is to continue, the parks department needs to hear from those who want it to remain for it to continue.  You can voice your love, opinions and suggestions for the program by taking a survey below.

Survey:  On the official page for the project, scroll down to the section marked “feedback” and leave your thoughts:  CLICK HERE


Kids of all ages enjoying a ride in the park.


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Apr 18

What’s Happening At The Abandoned Avenue Theater?

If you follow the Portona Neighborhood Association on Twitter or Facebook, you may have seen a very cryptic but tantalizing post this morning.  Apparently something very interesting is happening with the long abandoned but much-loved Avenue Theater.  See the screenshot below for exhibit A:

Screenshot of the P.N.A’s post this morning showing a building permit sign in the window of the Avenue Theater. Notice that the neighborhood association is listed as the contractor.

Just as curious, if you happen to pass by the theater itself today, there is some more unusual activity happening around the building.  As I write, there are reportedly construction crews on boom lifts inspecting the facade of the abandoned theater.  I placed a call to Luke Spray, the P.N.A. corridor manager, to find out more about what’s going on.   He was tight-lipped pending some final details, but said that the project has been several years in the making and that they finally received all the signed contracts yesterday needed to start the work.  He added that there will be an official announcement in tomorrow’s P.N.A. newsletter about the project and he is confident that the neighborhood will be very pleased by the news.  So until then, we wait.  In the meantime, you can sign up for that newsletter here to be one of the first to know.   And of course, we will keep posting here on the Planet.

What’s happening here?

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