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Portola Neighbors Tell Us About Their Neighborhood

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The People's Guide is Curbed SF's tour o' the nabes, lead by our most loyal readers, favorite bloggers, and other luminaries of our choosing. Have a piece to say? We'll be happy to hand over the megaphone. This time around we reached out to the Portola Planet, a blog chronicling the happenings around the Portola neighborhood. Instead of having a single person answer all the questions, neighbors Lisa Campbell and Simon Thorpe took to the Q&A as a team.

[Photo courtesy of Brett LaSota]

Neighborhood: Portola (pronounced Por-Da-Lah!)

Tell us something we don't know about Portola: It's sunny here, the houses are affordable (well, compared to the San Francisco average) and it's one of the highest owner-occupied residence areas of the city. Once upon a time this area was all commercial greenhouses, providing cut flowers to the city. Unlike the Excelsior, which was developed all at once, the Portola was developed piecemeal, with homes from the 1920s to the 2000s. Did we mention the sun yet? It is sunny. A lot of the time.

Local customs of note: Portola Neighborhood Garden Tour in Sept! Neighborhood hooligans have been known to block off some side streets with cones, so gangs of 15-20 kids, aged 10 and under can ride bikes and scooters. A local Realtor sweeps a large part of Silver Avenue sidewalks with a broom, every day.

Hidden gems in Portola: A walk will reveal the most surprising mix of homes. A double-lot cottage on Gambier that looks like it was moved wholesale from a midwestern farm. A very 1980s postmodern remodel on Felton and many other interesting buildings. Hillside Elementary school has a secret garden with a frog fountain. And the city's second largest park, MacLaren Park, has ponds and waterways which when the rain starts up, are the perfect places to float tiny homemade (biodegradable) toy boats. There are also "earthquake cottages" sprinkled throughout the area, shacks that went up in MacLaren Park to provide shelter after the 1906 quake and were sometimes moved to lots and expanded into houses. Look closely and you can see their original small frames.

Are your neighbors "Rotten Neighbor" worthy? If so, dish. If not... well, why not? There are some amazing folks who have bought neglected homes (often from the original owners, now elderly) and turned them into well-loved dream cottages. But we have our fair share of ugly neighbors. Like the guy who left a home boarded up without a roof for 31 years (yeah, the City Attorney is onto that now, finally).

Inflate the bubble or burst it: What's not-so-swell about your "perfect" neighborhood? For those of us hoping for gentrification, or at least doing away with the eyesore houses, progress is maddeningly slow, but getting better. Trash on the streets is also a problem that we are trying to solve.

The final word on the Portola: You've never heard of it, and many might not want you to. But it's a lovely place to live and the sunshine we get... fog? what fog?

Thanks Lisa and Simon!