The Portola has a long history as San Francisco's "Garden Neighborhood." Starting in the 1920's, the neighborhood was home to nineteen urban greenhouses that grew flowers and produce for the city. The only greenhouse left standing is the University Mound Nursery, which went up for sale last September at a price of $12 million for 2.2 acres that are zoned for 34 single family residences. Neighborhood residents began a campaign to purchase the greenhouse and return it to operation, thus reinvigorating the Portola as a garden neighborhood. Based on resident input and with the support of Supervisor David Campos, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has now officially incorporated the property into its one of its two design alternatives for a creek daylighting project through the neighborhood but must wait until the completion of an environmental review in early 2015 to move forward with purchasing the land.
Portola residents have joined together to support plans for bringing the neighborhood back to its garden roots. In late March, the neighborhood received approval for a $45,000 city grant for funding to begin a master planning process around urban agriculture and green infrastructure. This will bring together community leaders, local schools and nonprofits to make plans for everything from a greenway to connect pocket parks to new urban agriculture projects. The Portola greening will serve four neighborhood priorities: urban agriculture, self-sufficiency, leadership and blight removal. Urban greenhouses would generate revenue through the sale of produce and flowers to local restaurants, florists and farmers' markets.
University Mound could become a cornerstone part of this plan if developers do not purchase the land before the SFPUC's environmental review is complete. The land has entered into contract once already with real estate company Urban Green Investments, but after more than two months in contract Urban Green pulled out of the deal. SFPUC has the funds available for the purchase and, if successful, would have strong neighborhood support.
The creek daylighting project will bring the long-buried Upper Yosemite Creek along McLaren Park back to the surface. The creek will serve as green infrastructure, collecting excess storm water while also adding pedestrian and cyclist accessibility along the creek and creating habitat for birds and butterflies using California native plants.
· Hidden Histories: University Mound Nursery [Curbed SF]
· Portola's University Mound Nursery Hits the Market for $12M [Curbed SF]
· The Greenhouse Project [Official Site]