Jun 08

“See Your Name Up In Lights”: Avenue Theater Crowdfunding Off To A Strong Start!

The restoration of the Avenue Theater facade is in full swing but to achieve the financial goal the Portola Neighborhood Association needs your help! The city has generously pitched in the majority of the funds to restore the facade and light the marquee but it’s not enough to make the project as flashy as it could be – literally.  The PNA wants the neon on the marquee to flash, just like the Castro Theater does now and the Avenue Theater’s neon letters did then.  Additionally, funds are needed for all the little details such as movable letters on the message boards and lights for the poster cases. Those fun bits of attention grabbing 1920’s flare will cost the project an additional $7,500 that is not currently in the budget.   The good news is that, as of today, with only one day of publicity, the community has already helped the PNA reach 80% of it’s goal…wow!  Go Portola!

Donations range from $25 to $1,000 and each level gets you a bit more recognition with opportunities to get personal messages and names up on the marquee message boards. Check out the crowdfunding page HERE and consider helping to bring the Avenue back to life!

You can read more about the project’s history and goals in our previous article HERE.

Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2017/06/see-name-lights-avenue-theater-crowdfunding-off-strong-start/

Jun 03

10th Annual World Music Concert @ Jerry Garcia Amphitheater Today

This one nearly slipped through the cracks here at the Planet with about 20 minutes to spare. The first concert of the summer season is today at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater. OminoDay 2017, a world music festival, is in its 10th year at the park. With a day long celebration of music that starts at 10 a.m. and plays through ’til 5 p.m.. The sun is starting to peak though the fog a bit so stop over for an afternoon in the park after feeding the goats and finish the night off with a beer at Pride in the Portola.

Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2017/06/10th-annual-world-music-concert-jerry-garcia-amphitheater-today/

Jun 02

The Reservoir Goats Are Back!

If you were a bit sad to see the horses leave the neighborhood last month, the goats have arrived just in time to fill the void.  The annual visit from the insatiable eaters has become a bit of an unofficial neighborhood event. Attracting the attention of kids and adults, pressing fists of grass through the chain link to lure the friendly brush clearing machines over for a closer look. .

For those who don’t know, the goats are brought in every spring to clear out the overgrown grasses around the University Mound Reservoir. As of today (Friday), they are on the southern side along Woolsey Street between University and Bowdoin St.  They will slowly be moved counterclockwise around the reservoir as they chow down on the grass. Typically they only stick around a few days and this weekend will probably be the best time to catch them.


Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2017/06/reservoir-goats-back/

Jun 01

Kick Off Pride Month With Your Neighbors This Saturday Night

June is officially LGBTQ Pride month, kick off the month long international celebration here in your own neighborhood. This Saturday night at F.D.R. Brewery there will be a party to celebrate the LQBTQ community here in the Portola. All are welcome and the message is “came as you are”.  See the flyer below for all the details and take a look at some of our past coverage of the growing community here in the Portola.

Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2017/06/kick-off-pride-month-neighbors-saturday-night/

May 31

Show Your Portola Pride With A T-Shirt

Almost every time that I’m out and about in the neighborhood with my Portola t-shirt on, a neighbor asks me how they can get their own.  There is never a clear answer as most t-shirt sales tend to be at neighborhood events which are sporadic and not everyone can attend.  To help get more Portola pride out there via t-shirt messaging, we will be profiling each design and how to get it here on The Planet.  If you can believe it, this little obscure neighborhood currently has five different designs available!  All of which support Portola community groups and were designed by local artists.

Our first t-shirt is this moody blue-gray number, being modeled by our neighbor Anthony in the photo above.  You may recognize this design from the new mural and welcome sign, commemorating Portola’s designation as San Francisco’s Garden District. Created by artist Caitlyn Galloway, the proceeds support another upcoming mural project that the Portola Urban Greening committee is currently working towards.  The more shirts that are sold, the closer we will get to another fabulous piece of art in the neighborhood.  We have been told that this new mural will be an “intersection mural” and will be near the Portola Branch Library.   No artist has been selected.yet as the project is in the early stages.

Here are the details:

How Much: $25 per T-Shirt

Sizes: S-XL

How To Get:

  1. Pay via paypal.
  2. Please send to [email protected]
  3. Mark as “friends & family” to avoid fee.
  4. Please write in the notes section, your contact information and requested size.
  5. Lucia will contact you when the shirt is ready for pick up at their office above Four Barrel Coffee

Questions:  Contact Lucia at [email protected] wich any questions.


Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2017/05/show-portola-pride-t-shirt/

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.

Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2017/05/portolas-kids-approve-mclaren-park-horses/

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 HERE.


Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2017/05/spotlight-portolas-renel-brooks-moon/

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

Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2017/05/renew-avenue-theater-facade-restored/

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