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.

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Nov 24

15th annual Portola holiday party


Today is Thanksgiving and from now on it feels like the year is winding down as we hit many different holidays through to the New Year. There is one wonderful event in the Portola that brings the neighborhood to the table for a dinner to celebrate this time of year. In it’s 15th year, the Portola Holiday Party, organized by Joan, Farnaz and Don, is a great way to meet your neighbors, eat some good food and this year everyone is heading down to the new local brewery, FDR, for a few pints.

Here are the details of the party.


When Friday, December 9th
Where The Italian-American Social Club, 25 Russia Ave
Timing 6:00 – 7:00: Social hour. Cash bar for adults, activities for kids
7:00 – 9:00: Buffet dinner
  • Salad and antipasti
  • Roasted Chicken Marsala
  • Sirloin Tips in Wine Sauce
  • Pesto Pasta
  • Coffee and Tea
  • Dessert
Cost $28: Adults and kids over 10
$16: Kids, 5 – 10
$0: Kids under 5!
Parking Club parking lot across the street

During the social hour Lisa Magruder of Frame Art Studio will help the children with making holiday ornaments. Other traditions that take place during the dinner are;

  • A large table full of desserts prepared by many of the attending, bring your own to share!
  • A visit from Santa with some presents for the kids
  • A sing-along of holiday songs around the piano
  • NEW for this year! Informal gathering at FDR on San Bruno

Space is limited, so please make your reservation now. Cut off is Sunday, December 4th. Call one of the following to arrange.

  • Joan: 415 816 1335
  • Farnaz: 650 704 4870
  • Don: 415 508 1390

Payment is due in advance. Arrange the drop off of cash or a check with any of the above, and you can also pay with Venmo or Square Cash apps to Farnaz @ 650 704 4870

Here are a few photos from last year’s event! Look forward to seeing you all there…

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Oct 28

Portography: Time Lapse Edition

Our theme in this installment of Portography is “time lapse”.  The first two come from Portola artist Arthur Koch who is currently working on the new mural going up along Silver Ave. The last was sent by our neighbor Aaron who found an old photo taken from what is now Goettigen Street.

30 Seconds: A long exposure of the Portola taken at sunset from Bernal Hill by local Artist Arthur Koch.  Camera set to F14 ISO 320 for the other photographers out there.

Arthur Koch's photo of the Portola taken from Bernal.

Arthur Koch’s photo of the Portola taken from Bernal.

2 Months: Multiple shots of the new Grocery Outlet Mural taking shape.  It’s going up as I type and will be ready for the soft opening on November 17th.

Grocery Outlet mural taking shape.

Grocery Outlet mural also by Arthur Koch.

96 Years: Taken from approximately what is now the intersection of Dwight & Goettigen circa 1920. I took a second image from roughly the same spot this morning.



One More Thing: If you’d like some more visual deliciousness on this rainy weekend, Open Studios has a site in the Portola.  FrameArt Studio will be open both Saturday and Sunday and will feature the work of 10 local artists.  See the flyer below for more information.  More info on Open Studios HERE:

Version 2

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Oct 26

Child’s Play At Woolsey St. Cemetery


Ghoulish paranormal activity or a neighbor with a fantastically dark sense of humor?  You decide.  Either way, some interesting items have been popping up on the 300 block of Woolsey St.


During my bleary eyed morning walk to the bus last week, a strange poster for a missing doll caught my eye.  The instructions asked, that if found, to return the questionable doll back to the “Woolsey Cemetery”.  I’d somehow missed this landmark and decided that being a little late to the office was probably worth the risk on this occasion.   Back tracking half a block, I discovered that the once charming 1890’s Victorian perched above the street has taken on a much more sinister appearance.  A menacing doll’s head has been nailed to the gate, wishing passerby a “Happy Halloween” while a truly creepy ghostly figure rests on the garden stairs in silence (It still gives me the willies every time I pass it on my home)..


Continuing on, nestled between the haunting Victorian and the neighboring bungalow to the east, I found the Woolsey Cemetery.  Intricately created by man or monster, its full of little surprises.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves but it’s complete from clever tombstones to skeletons and disembodied body parts.  Someone or something clearly put a lot of time and thought into this little spookfest for the neighborhood to fear & enjoy.


Swing by to take a look for yourselves, the cemetery is located on Woolsey Street between Brussels & Goettingen Streets.  Have a Happy Halloween Portola!



As an aside, the PNA is having a trick or treat community meeting/open house this Thursday night. There will be candy for the kids provided by Grocery Outlet which is officially opening November 17th.  Check out the flyer below:


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Oct 21

Blues Concert This Saturday At The Amp

If you haven’t made it to a concert at the Amp this year, here is your last chance in 2016.  The Friends of the Amp are again presenting this year’s Blues Show with a solid line up of performances.  Take advantage of the dry weather while it lasts, it’s looking like rain is on the the way next week (hopefully). More details below!


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Oct 11

New Multimedia Mural Receiving Lots Of Love

Portola District Mural

You may have noticed all the traffic jams occurring around San Bruno Ave lately.  Is it just another effect of the ever-increasing commuter congestion plaguing the Bay Area?  I sincerely doubt it… Most likely, these backups are art related (or at least that’s what I’d like to think).  All those curious motorist must be slowing down to  take in all the floral beauty emanating from the giant mural now blooming (had to say that at least once) over our main drag.  This must be the case as this bold new art piece is receiving a good deal of neighborhood attention and compliments according to Luke Spray, the San Bruno Corridor Manager.

Nico's concept rendering for the mural. On the right there is a plan of the Portola that morphs into flowers on the left. The student's images are placed in the center.

Nico’s concept rendering for the mural. On the right there is a plan of the Portola that morphs into flowers on the left. The student’s images are placed in the center.


The untitled piece covers the entire Thornton Street facade of Breakfast At Tiffany’s.  Its creation came about as a joint project between local artist Nico Berry and the Youth Art Exchange.  The Portola Neighborhood Association’s, Arts & Beautification Committee sponsored and managed the project.  The idea came about after receiving Nico’s proposal for a Grocery Outlet mural (more on that later).  While Nico’s submission was not selected for that project, it was so loved by the committee, that another location was secured to bring his concept to life.  And somewhat ironically, his mural was completed before the G.O. project’s.  Nico also shared with us, that while painting the mural up on a hydraulic lift, he had passerby on foot and in cars shout out complaints and encouragement.  The community support and engagement was one of the highlights of this project for him.

Youth Art Exchange Student Work of the abandoned greenhouses

Youth Art Exchange Student Work of the abandoned greenhouses

Meanwhile, during all that extremely interesting mural project coordination, the students of the Youth Art Exchange were embarking on a photographic exploration of the Portola. Led by their teacher, Mario Casillas, the high school level advanced photography students spent this past summer touring the neighborhood.  Their work captures images that describe the unique multicultural and historic character of our community.  Selected works were printed on durable stainless steel panels that were coordinated with Nico’s concept.    The pieces are placed in the center of the mural where the design morphs between a map of Portola’s urban grid and the organic floral forms of the Garden District.  There are more panels than space, so the works will be periodically switched out with new photos.

Youth Art Exchange Student Photograph of a San Bruno Ave street scene.

Youth Art Exchange Student Photograph of a San Bruno Ave street scene.

Funding on these types of projects tends to be the biggest hurdle but this project was a bit different.  In one last generous gift to the community, money from the Irene Crescio memorial fund, was donated to support the project.  Two weeks ago, at the ribbon cutting ceremony with all the artists in attendance, the mural was officially dedicated in her honor.  I imagine that she would have loved this beautiful addition to “the road”.

Portola Mural on Boylston Street, also by Artist Nico Berry

Portola Mural on Boylston Street, also by Artist Nico Berry

As an added mural bonus, we bring you Nico’s first mural in the neighborhood.  Last year, he teamed up with the San Francisco School and their students to create another Portola inspired work.   The mural is located on a retaining wall along Boylston St. A community minded neighbor gave permission for the art to be painted on their property.  Nico created the overall design and the students, parents and faculty of the school painted the flowers.

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Sep 30

Achtung Portola! Oktoberfest Comes To The Neighborhood Brewery

I imagine it will look something like this.

I imagine it will look something like this.

Calling all neighborhood Fraus & Herrs, Oktoberfest at F.D.R. starts this Saturday! The space is in the middle of its Bavarian transformation as I write.   The German Brauhaus will be complete with traditional beer hall tables among other decorations and the owners, Shae & Kevin, will be strapping on their lederhosen and Dirndl. Expect festivities such as a beer stein holding competition (around 7:30 pm both Saturdays) and bratwurst grilling ($4 each on both Saturdays).  Festival beers specially brewed for the event such as  Kölsch, Bock, and Berliner will be on tap.  All week long, until it runs out, they will be serving a flight of four Berliner Weisse with Apricot, Grapefruit, Blueberry and Cherry.  If you are heading over to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass this weekend, don’t fret, the celebration continues until next Saturday with a closing party on 10/8…  Prost Portola!

Ferment Drink Repeat: 2636 San Bruno Ave.


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Sep 23

Beautiful Weekend Ahead! Enjoy It With The Garden District Tour & Shakespeare!



There seems to be so many events happening in the neighborhood over the past several weeks that I’ve had not time to post about anything else. This weekend is packed as well, starting with the 10th Annual Portola Garden Tour happening on Saturday.  Here are the details in the words of our neighbors Bob & Mindy:

The Portola Garden Tour is next weekend! Join us and tour 20+ magical gardens in the Portola neighborhood. Learn about what plants thrive in SF, how to make even small spaces outstanding, ideas for decks and patios and fun landscaping tips — and get inspired to work on your own back yard. It’s an awesome community building experience as neighbors open their yards to scores of tour participants and everyone parties together at the host house at the close of the tour.

The tour is a fund raising event for the Portola Garden District Scholarship at City College of San Francisco (CCSF) for students in the Environmental Horticulture and Floristry department. The Portola Garden Tour has awarded 16 scholarships to CCSF students and five work projects in the Portola. The neighborhood, recently officially recognized as the Garden District, is roughly bordered by Silver Avenue to the north, Mansell Street to the south, San Bruno Avenue to the east and McLaren Park to the west.

Date:Saturday, September 24, 2016

Time:10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Place:  The private and public gardens of San Francisco’s Garden District, the Portola

Cost:  Tickets are $25 each or $40 for two

Tickets can be purchased the day of the event at Four Barrel Coffee, 2 Burrows Street. This is also the starting location to grab your map.   Tickets are also available online here

You can also check our sneak peak of last year’s tour to get an idea of what to expect.  Click here.


In addition to the Garden Tour, we also have an event at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater.  On both Saturday & Sunday The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival will present The Winter’s Tale at 2 pm.  Here is more info straight from the source:

The Winter’s Tale has been a hit with audiences and criticsall summer. Celebrate the start of Fall with our run of performances at Jerry Garcia Amphitheater. This Greek-style theater has outstanding acoustics and is one of the most spectacular performance venues in San Francisco! Shows are this Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 pm, but come early for a good spot and enjoy our 15-minute Green Show at 1:30 pm. The Shakes-Bears’ Picnic is a lively and informative introduction to the main-stage show that’s fun for all ages.

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