• Local Expert 53 points
  • Review 1
  • Questions 0
  • Answers 0
  • Discussions 0


5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Pest Free 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 3/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 4/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 3/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 4/5
Just now

"Cool Little Up-and-Coming Neighborhood With A Strong Community"

What we like:
We bought here about 3 years ago, moved from the Mission, and have grown to love this funky little neighborhood. It's no "sNOEwy Valley" and we are totally cool with that. Instead, It's a unique working class "old San Francisco" community that's getting nicer without getting exclusive. You will know your neighbors here - if you make the effort, it will be returned. Our neighbors close our garage door if we leave it open and collect our FedEx packages if we are not home. There is a strong and active community of neighbors committed to making the neighborhood a good place to live and in the short time we have been here, it looks to be making a difference. Murals by local artist have been popping up and once neglected and overgrown areas are being turned into gardens slowly. While the neighborhood is not as green as we would like to see it, the massive McLaren Park more than makes up for our need for nature. It's vast and lush and a walk through the eucalyptus or redwood groves recharges us when the pressure of the city becomes too much. It also helps that this neighborhood is sunny (and very windy at times) so when the rest of SF in fogged in, we pretty much see the sun in Portola every day of the year-if only for an hour.

A strong neighborhood association is attracting interesting new businesses to San Bruno Ave. (the neighborhood's main street). A new mircobrewery opened up last year and while it's not inexpensive, it has become a gathering spot for all walks of life in the community with it's award winning beers. The neighborhood brunch spot, Breakfast At Tiffany's, was recently renovated and has become very popular with large servings of tasty high quality meals that attracts a diverse crowd. There is also several places to get coffee with Four Barrel being a hidden away gen for the neighborhood. A cool little park and free library that community volunteers maintain is next to the coffee shop, providing a great place to meet neighbors or relax. The majority of San Bruno Ave businesses are Asian and Mexican restaurants, markets and herbalists. Some are good and others aren't but they all help to create a bustling street atmosphere during the day that reminds me of 24th street in the Mission years ago.

A new grocery store opened this year, Grocery Outlet. While we didn't think much of it before it opened, we are total converts now. The Portola store is new, clean and well stocked with a lot of organic and specialty items. We still supplement with other stores like Rainbow or TJ's but this place is great for everyday basics and it's constantly changing. It's also walk able and the parking lot is nice. Owned and run by a Portola resident and feels well run.

Residential Area & Crime:
The residential part of the neighborhood could use more trees (community groups working on that too) but the houses have huge back yards and are generally well built. Not many typical SF Victorians but a lot of variation including charming Mediterranean style bungalows, a lot of art deco and mid-century homes waiting to be appreciated. Some neighbors feel the crime is high due to fear mongering on (where everyone goes to complain) but we don't feel unsafe here. It's still the city and we treat it as such when walking around at night or remembering to lock the front door. .

Since the city is growing out, many of the once single family homes are being rented to multiple roommates or large multi-generational families. This means that while most houses have garages, there are a lot more cars and parking is becoming tight if you don't have a garage. Still better than most other neighborhoods though. The upside is that the added population density and influx of 20-somethings is slowly changing the vibe for the better IMO.

Location & Transit:
If you want one toe in the city and one toe out, this is a good place for you. We are in our 30s now and while we want access to all our old haunts, we also want space, some peace and a yard. All with the density of a walkable urban community. From the Portola, all of our favorite areas of the city for culture and food (Castro, Mission, Hayes, Downtown, SOMA, etc) are only a 10 minute Lyft/Uber ride away. Public transit to downtown is easy on the 8x or 9 buses which run very often and can be crowded. Depending on which side of the neighborhood you are on, Glen Park Bart or Muni T line are fairly close by depending if you mind walking or taking a 5 minute bus ride. Bike access to downtown is flat through the Mission and along 3rd and car access can't be beat. The proximity to 101 and 280 mean that most areas of the Bay Area are easy to get to including SFO, silicon valley and Oakland. I work in downtown SF and my partner is in Palo Alto so this is the perfect location to get in and out of the city easily.

We never expected to find such a large and active community here. Portola and Bayview appear to be a new destination for couples and families that have been priced out of, or are a bit tired of, the Castro & Bernal. The neighborhood association now holds a Drag Queen Bingo fundraiser every year that is hosted by a Portola Drag Queen (who knew?). This year was also the first "Portola Pride" event at the Brewery to kick off pride month for the neighborhood. There is even now a prominent rainbow painted house perched up on the hill overlooking the neighborhood.

Changes We Would Like:
More beautification and greenery in the neighborhood to sum up in one sentence. As another review called it, "a diamond in the rough." This neighborhood has the potential to be very charming with wide streets, classic California architecture and plenty of nice light. Since we have lived here, the trash on the streets has gotten better, more houses are being painted and little bits of greenery are popping up. San Bruno Ave. could use monthly powerwashings too but we will take gritty over vanilla any day.
  • Strong Community Spirit
  • Getting Nicer
  • Cool businesses Starting to Open
  • Affordable Houses
  • Relatively Safe
  • Great Parks
  • some restaurants
  • Okay Restuarants
  • Lack of trees
  • Close to Crime
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • LGBT+
  • Hipsters
  • Students

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