1 Burrows Street Pocket Park

A former dumping ground for trash and gathering spot for “vandals and illicit activity” along the Portola neighborhood’s commercial corridor, the cul-de-sac at the beginning of Burrows Street has been transformed into a pocket park.

While the ribbon was cut for the first phase of the Burrows Street Pocket Park project last year, at which point the site was cleared and landscaped, new benches and lighting along Burrows Street have just been installed, along with a new gate, and the park’s mural has been completed.

1 Burrows Street Pocket Park Benches

Tomorrow afternoon, the ribbon to celebrate the pocket park’s completion will be cut at 4:30.

If deemed a success, there are four other dead-end blocks along the Portola district’s corridor which could be transformed as well.  And ultimately, the project, which was partially funded by The Lincoln Motor Company in collaboration with Architectural Digest and Architecture for Humanity, could set “a precedent for future public space improvement projects for underutilized spaces throughout the City of San Francisco.”

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Hope springs eternal

    Two months max. Then tags, trash, human excrement etc. Sorry folks, I was born and raised in the city and have lived in west SOMA a decade and that, my friends, is the new reality of what will happen. I would love a report back in 60 days and please prove me wrong.

    [Editor’s Note: As reported above, the initial ribbon cutting was last year, over twelve months ago, in fact.]

  2. Posted by fred

    The new branch of Four Barrel coffee is located here so they will probably look after it.

    • Posted by Jackie

      The park is being taken care of by neighborhood volunteers. My husband and I are two of them.

  3. Posted by SFrentier

    ^ exactomundo. These projects need a hipster cafe nearby to thrive.

    See, hipsters are good for something!

    Plus, when they bring back Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I’ll have a fave brunch spot again followed by a nice reading session in said hipster parklet. Sweet!

  4. Posted by Alex740

    We recently “discovered” San Bruno Ave and this pocket park seems to be another step in the right direction for this street, Aside from the interesting mix of ethnic bakeries and restaurants, there is a new Four Barrel, the owner of Live Sushi in the Mission is renovating and reopening Breakfast at Tiffany’s and according to signs on a storefront there is a Microbrewery going in next to the abandoned Avenue Theater. Given the proximity to Bernal and transportation, I wouldn’t be surprised if Portola and San Bruno Ave continue to gain in popularity.

    • Posted by SFrentier

      Oh really, it’s the live sushi dude? I like live sushi. But I hope he keeps BAT the same. It’s an old school place, and doesn’t need to be “smartened up” with trendy brunch crap!

      Portola’s a decent lil hood, but it’s a bit isolated, and public transport kinda blows. It’s more visitation valley or Crocker amazon than bayview, city-connected-wise (but no projects nearby.) I guess it’s a good place to buy in/plop down roots, but I don’t know if it’ll transform like bayview can. My 2c.

      • Posted by Alex740

        Yep, same dude. I think the plan is to keep the old favorites on the menu and then expand with an organic dinner menu. From what I’ve heard they know the old restaurant has a loyal fan base that they don’t want to alienate.

        It will be interesting to see what happens with all the south neighborhoods in the coming years, I can understand your point about Portola feeling isolated now but that’s also something that I think could easily change as the city continues it’s push down the southern waterfront and job growth continues to boom south of downtown and south of the city. Vis Valley seems pretty out of the way now but with transformational developments happening like Candlestick and the Schlage Lock factory, it’s position next to a Caltrain station and the 3rd street T might help it transform as well. I also think Bayview is going to take off in the coming years with all the development planned and especially if they build the Oakdale Caltrain station that is currently in planning. To your point though, I never heard of Portola until about a year ago myself but already I can see the appeal given it’s location near the highways, sunnier weather, views of downtown, the development on San Bruno, lack of projects and giant McLaren Park in it’s backyard. All this aside, If the Bayview takes off, I think Portola will follow due to it’s location between Bernal and Bayview, it’s very close to both and it’s connection could be easily enhanced with some pedestrian, bike & transit connections. My 2cents as well, we will see what happens.

        • Posted by Zig

          When you say “transform” you mean what? Both neighborhoods are full of people

          • Posted by Alex740

            By transform I mean both physically with the Candlestick, Shipyards and Schlage Lock developments and gentrification, I think the Bayview will be much like the Mission in 10 years or so for a number of reasons. It’s a straight and flat shot down Third into Mission Bay and Soma, easy access to the south bay and some of the sunniest weather in the city and like the Mission it still will have crime and an edgy vibe that will attract younger people. It’s going to be a slow turn over with rent control and high home ownership but the turnover is already starting in the Bayview, Portola and other neighborhoods as long time residents are cashing out on the highest property values ever and new residents from other parts of the city are seeing relatively cheap housing. We were house shopping in the Bayview for several months and the influx of new residents was very apparent already, buyers we met at open houses were either investors or renters/condo owners from more expensive areas of the city and you could already spot fixed up properties and new businesses on Third.

          • Posted by zig

            Alex

            Could be with the Bayview/HP/Vis Valley but the they can never be the Mission because of the housing stock being mostly single family and the large percentage of projects and other low income housing

            Mission was always different

          • Posted by Alex740

            I agree Zig, there are fundamental differences in building that will inevitably create a different feel for each of these neighborhoods from the Mission but I think the Bayview especially will experience a lot of rebuilding of denser units as light industrial is cleared out much like the Dogpatch. My comment about the Misson is more about character in that it will be a formerly notorious neighbor that will be gentrified but retain some of it’s gritty character which seems to attract hipsters and younger crowds.

  5. Posted by Willow

    What’s the freeway noise like there? If it’s similar to the dog park in south beach it’s gonna be very noisy. No thanks…

    • Posted by SFrentier

      Nah, not so bad. San Bruno is close to 101 but other streets are set back.

      Alex740- so did you buy a home in Portola, or are you thinking about it? Also, RU into the excelsior? It’s a bit similar, but weather isn’t as good. But mission street there is kinda fun. I like excelsior, but haven’t found an enticing investment deal there (yet.)

      • Posted by Alex740

        Yeah, Freeway noise is surprisingly low at this spot and along San Bruno where there is a wall of buildings between the street and the highway, that was a main concern for me when we first checked out this hood.

        SFrentier – Yes, we bought a house in Portola 3 months ago, we moved from an apartment at 15th & Church. We also looked at the Excelsior and I think it has a lot of potential as well, the weather isn’t as sunny but I agree that Mission is a cool street with character and potential, access to Muni and Bart is great and it’s walking distance to GlenPark & Bernal too. I’ve heard the area closest to Portola is called “Excelsior Heights” and the views here are amazing and McLaren Park is your backyard, if they planted more trees I think it would have a Bernal feel, this is where we would have bought. In the end we went back and forth between Bayview, Excelsior & Portola when making our decision, they all have big pluses and some minuses but in the end I think all three will prove to be a smart investment.

        • Posted by SFrentier

          Given the competition and challenge in buying a place (any place), were you open to buying in all three of those nabes, and you ended up buying in portola because it was a good deal/you liked the house/etc? Or did you rule out excelsior and bayview? It sounds like you were open to all three. Also, how did you feel about various parts of bayview? Did you prefer norther/southern ends of 3rd street, and/or the east vs. west side of 3rd?

          • Posted by Alex740

            The competition is insane, we ended up competing against 14 other bidders for our place and when all was said and done we paid almost 30% over asking but the house was intentionally priced low to create that situation and in the end we paid far less than other comps in the neighborhood. We’ve been told that the insanity of spring is dissipating but that prices in these hoods are still going up strong, especially Bayview.

            We started our search with the Bayview and then our Realtor opened us up to Excelsior & Portola which we knew nothing about, The lack of projects, much lower crime, strong neighborhood involvement, views of downtown, Mclaren Park and a pretty well maintained housing stock attracted us to Excelsior and Portola as a more stable investment and immediate quality of life. Although I believe strongly in Bayview the step up that Portola and Excelsior offered in our price range was too good to pass up and while I believe strongly in Bayview it will be another 10 years before the changes are really obvious and even then it will still have it’s issues much like the Mission. We were looking at the North end of Bayview, just off third a couple blocks in either direction to stay close to the T, there are some great streets and homes in this area. We also looked at Silver Terrace as we liked the houses on Bridgeview drive but anything else began to get too far away from the train and I didn’t want to make that walk late at night. The ultimate deciding factor between Excelsior and Portola was the house, we knew the type that we wanted and we really wanted to have a view of downtown and that combination is pretty rare at our price. We loved the proximity to Bart and Mission street that Excelsior offered and we also loved the sunnier weather, high community involvement and San Bruno ave in Portola so it was a toss up. In the end I think both neighborhoods are on the rise and the success of the one will contribute to the other.

          • Posted by SFrentier

            Alex740- congrats on finding a home. I know it’s hard out there. Did you see 1574 Innes? That was the height of crazy! The market has slowed down somewhat, but prices have gone up. I think there was a backlog from the recession, and therefore spring was nuts. I wonder what fall will be like. Inventory is still super low, especially in D10!

          • Posted by Alex740

            Thanks SFrentier! As you can tell from my comments, we are pretty excited about our new home and neighborhood. I definitely think the craziness has calmed a bit for the summer but the city isn’t becoming any less popular, more jobs are coming, building here still moves at a snails pace and there isn’t anyway for the city or the Peninsula to expand so I don’t think prices are going to fall anytime soon. Our Realtor is very excited about these neighborhoods and says prices continue to grow as more people turn their attention south so we will see. Do you live in the neighborhood, you seem to know a lot about the area?

          • Posted by SFrentier

            I’m actually in the mission, but recently began investing in D10 (I own a triplex in bayview.) d10 was pretty hot last go around 03-07, but then took a significant nose dive during the Great Recession. During that run up I thought it was crazy over priced and that the gentrification process was actually quite far off. But now I think it’s totally different. People who purchased in the mission 10 years ago are the same type that buy now in d10. And are the same people who brought in Noe 15-20 years ago. It’s the same people and similar process, but different neighborhood and different timeframe. It’s great to see so many people excited about getting into new neighborhoods. I think the new arrivals have a lot to offer (but of course it’s a balancing act to mix well with the established population as well.) very San Francisco :)

          • Posted by Alex740

            Your prospective about the growth of D-10 is really interesting to me, it’s echoes a lot of what I’ve been hearing from other long time residents. My aunt and uncle bought in the Mission in the 90s and they see the same potential with where we bought and the rest of d-10 too. The people that we met at open houses were very interesting as well, a lot of young families and couples renting or owning smaller places in more expensive parts of the city, everyone that we spoke to could see what we saw about these areas and seemed really excited about what the neighborhoods had already and what they could be. We have also met a lot of other gay couples like ourselves since moving in and apparently there has been a sizable movement of the community into the Bayview, Silver Terrace, Portola and Excelsior as places like Bernal Castro have gone up in price and as my realtor back in Chicago said, the second rule of realestate is “go where the gays go” which I always found funny but accurate. :). Most importantly though, we have met a lot of involved neighbors here that are really excited about where these neighborhoods are heading and they are working hard to propel that growth.

            I’m curious, why do you think gentrification is going to happen faster than in ’07 for D-10? And which areas and why really have your eye as an investor?

          • Posted by SFrentier

            Alex- there are several reasons why 07 is different from today. 1- the whole shipyard project was still on paper then. 2- there were more neighborhoods in central SF (mission, bernal Hayes valley, etc.) in the process of gentrification, and hence got more attention. But now those neighborhoods have jumped the shark price wise, and D10 (along with outer Richmond and sunset) is more like the last frontiers in SF.

            Personally I’m betting on bayview. Although there are serious issues with projects, and especially their isolation, the dismantling and integration back into BV should be a win-win for everyone. Plus they will be better managed, so the crime and destructive element will not be able to stay in the new developments. I hope that collectively as a society we have learned from the failures of HUD redevelopments, and the new mixed incomes and use projects will be better. I can tell you that the new(er) lower income housing in the mission (Cesear Chavez and the old Valencia gardens) are an improvement over the old projects. But it’s going to take years, and any new recession will stall things. But even if we stall in a year or two, these places will not go back to where they were 10 years ago. It’s basically on a one track upwards. The only unknown is how high and how fast.

            Anecdotally, yes I’ve also heard the same thing wrt gays and gentrifying communities. Glad you guys can be a bell weather for change :) And as for younger people/techies/hipster’s proclivity for edgy neighborhoods, I also have a theory about that: the controlled, sanitized and frequently coddled white youth of suburbia wishes to ingratiate itself with a grittier and urban “real life” existence. I guess it completes them :)

          • Posted by Alex740

            SFrentier _ thanks for that, I agree with everything that you are saying and that’s why we bought in D-10. Sure Bayview has it’s issues but we spent a lot of time walking around, speaking to residents and business owners in the area and we ended up feeling like the reputation even now was worse than the reality. I really think those betting on Bavyview are going to see a big payoff and that’s one of the reason we picked Portola over Excelsior, we are so close that we can jump on our bikes and pedal over to 3rd even now for coffee at that new bike shop or Flora Grub and in some years I look forward to walking over to third for dinner or drinks.

            Overall I think buyers are getting past the mental blocks of being on the other side of 280 and the reputation of Bayview and pockets are slowly starting to gentrify (I see tasteful & cool fixed up houses popping up all over D-10) and ultimately the success of Bayview or any of these interconnected D-10 communities is going to help the rest of D-10 as growth continues to spread.

  6. Posted by SFrentier

    Oh, I hope they keep those low rise bar stools at BAT. They were so comfy :)

  7. Posted by Penny

    The Portola is a pretty awesome neighborhood. We bought there 3+ years ago and it was really the last affordable, decent neighborhood in the city where you could still get a great house with a garage and a giant backyard. It’s not Noe Valley so there aren’t a ton of services right outside your door but I really think it has a lot of potential. Transit really isn’t bad at all and it’s got great access to 101 and 280. All that aside, I’m still a little shocked that Four Barrel is making a go of it. it really doesn’t seem like there’s the market for $4 coffee (yet?). Check out the Portola Garden Tour at the end of September. It’s a great way to get a flavor for the area and see some amazing urban gardens.

    • Posted by zig

      relatively sunny for SF too

      I couldn’t imagine my wife taking Muni downtown from there though. It is still kinda of sketchy

      • Posted by Alex740

        Penny – I agree, we think it’s one of SF’s best kept secrets, I’d also add low crime to the list (knock on wood), it’s still the city but there is far less crime than where we were living in the Castro which was surprising to us.

        Zig – I take the 8AX daily from San Bruno, it gets right on the highway and doesn’t stop until SOMA, it’s sketchier than the train I use to take down market but as far as buses go, I’d say it’s one of the better ones but I can understand your hesitation.

    • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

      Yeah, I like this neighborhood (pronounced PORT-uh-luh, by the way, for newbies, not por-TOW-luh). I’m settled in, but if I were 25 and looking to buy in SF, I’d strongly think about this area. Five years ago I was touting the Western Addition, but it has now been gentrified and is getting pricey. Portola is one of the next in line, I think,

      • Posted by zig

        All the Southern areas have their potential for some but they can never be the next Western Addition or Mission by virtue of having very little multifamily housing and being more spatially dispersed. These areas were built to house families. Many of these houses have been turned into boarding houses for immigrants but this will not replace the type of housing stock you find in other parts of the city where a young person could move to without a car and find a studio or a roommate.

        If I were 25 today I would greatly prefer Uptown or Oldtown Oakland to Portola which is like living in SSF and Daly City frankly. Not that there is anything wrong with that. In fact I often wonder why more people are not interested in some of the oldish houses around Grand Ave in SSF. Some are pretty nice and Grand is kind of weird.

        • Posted by SFrentier

          I beg to differ. Bayview and excelsior offer similar amenities that the mission offers- culture, ethnic shops, and decent transport options. BV and Ex also have multi family, though less than the mish. But still, young peeps share SFH’s just as easily as flats. No biggie.

          Portola, visitation valley, Crocker amazon, I agree, are more family than young-and-single oriented.

          • Posted by zig

            The Mission is packed with flats and apartments and is downtown adjacent. Spatially and culturally it will always be different. Sadly we can’t make hoods like this anymore because a lot of people like and need them.

            I’ll agree the Excelsior and Bayview HP are closer and obviously the T is on 3rd now

        • Posted by Alex740

          I agree that Portola is more of a family oriented area with many single family homes but so is much of Bernal and that’s a pretty desirable area to be for all ages, houses are often shared and split up with inlaw units. Excelsior and Bayview have more apartments, and edgy vibe that 20 somethings want and they have easy access to areas like the Dogpatch, SOMA, Mission Bay and the Mission. Oakland is experiencing a renaissance but as a 32 yo myself who just moved from Church and Market to the Portola, I can say that Oakland is a world away when most of your social network is in the city and that’s why we bought a little farther out in SF than in the East Bay. I also don’t agree that living in Portola is anything like living in Daly City, SSF or even Crocker Amazon, door to door it takes me 30 mins on bike or by bus to get to my office in Union Square and just 10 to 15 by car, I couldn’t ride my bike from either of those areas. Plus I can walk to Cortland street in Bernal and take a very short busride or drive and be in the Mission. To each their own opinion but I have to respectfully disagree on that.

  8. Posted by Ellen Greenberg

    Portola is a great place to live. I bought here about 10 years ago, when I found that I couldn’t afford Bernal. It’s not a hipster haven, for sure, but there’s a lot of community spirit, McLaren park is a jewel, and it’s very convenient via auto or public transportation. I regularly take the 9, 9L, and 8X lines to get to the Mission or downtown, and feel relatively safe coming home via bus up until around 11 at night. Asian stores and restaurants predominate on San Bruno, and it will be great to have a bit more variety with new businesses like Four Barrel and the forthcoming brewery.

  9. Posted by Conifer

    The gentrification of SF, including neighborhoods formerly thought less desirable like Portola, is similar to the gentrification of much bigger and more important cities. Who would have thought the “Meat Packing District” in NY, or Clerkenwell in London, or the 9e arrondissement in Paris would ever be good neighborhoods. They are now very beautiful, desirable and expensive.

    Several years ago we went to visit an English friend in his remodeled 150 square meter apartment in the 9e, and took along an older French friend, a lady whose surname is now a noun in every language. She was not being arrogant when she said that “this neighborhood is known for its theaters” by which she discretely reminded us that Pigalle was close, whose most famous resident was Irma La Douce. The 9e is now one of the most sophisticated neighborhoods in Paris.

  10. Posted by Schazbot

    I am a new resident of the Excelsior (but not new to the city) and made a trek through McLaren to check out the Four Barrel. It’s great and the walk is nice if you have the time! The toast was amazing. I think the fact that San Bruno Ave is not 4 lanes helps the feel of the area tremendously compared to Mission St. in the Ex which is loud and not very pedestrian-oriented. I will definitely be back as a leisurely weekend thing. I like the Excelsior though. What can you tell me about this brewery?

    • Posted by Alex740

      So this is what I’ve heard, not totally sure how accurate the details are but they have a signed lease and are in permitting for a liquor license. It’s a “Nanobrewery” and it’s going into the storefront at 2636 San Bruno next to the Avenue Theater, they have a permit request sign in the window now. The place will be called “Ferment Drink Repeat”, they will have a tasting room for small batches and provide spaces for people to create their own brews. I think it will be a fantastic addition to the neighborhood, my BF and I are REALLY excited about this.

      Here is their FB page:
      https://www.facebook.com/fermentdrinkrepeat

  11. Posted by Schazbot

    Schazbot is also very excited! Thanks for the info.

  12. Posted by Rangermom

    Zig, I ride the 44, 54, 29, 9, 8X in the Portola and beyond and have never had an issue other than overcrowding and late or non-existent buses. My husband and I bought a house here 12 years ago and really enjoy having a large yard, a garden and a friendly, involved community.

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