PORTOLA DISTRICT A UNIQUE NEIGHBORHOOD
Most of us who care to read our California history know about Gaspar de Portola. He was one of the first Spanish adventures to visit California. We must always remember that the Ohlone - the First People of San Francisco were here for thousands of years. Their prints can be found all over the Portola District.
Most folks who travel around San Francisco know about San Bruno Avenue. It is a street that always has had some good places to eat and perhaps the most famous breakfast place - Tiffany's. For years people loved to go to Lido's to buy some choice cookies and cakes. We also have La Placita's and many good Chinese restaurants.
In years gone by many went to Armanino's for a good sandwich - no more. Then people also remember San Bruno Pizza - no more. One could go to Zuppo's for some good carpets - no more. Leonard's and San Bruno Market - went belly down. The Ayoob family had some choice business places - but for some strange reason they all went way but the family still owns the properties and buildings.
Now we have Walgreen's and Radio Shack. Folks remember the old automobile store O'Leary and one could find all the parts and more for those old cars. No more now - we have the latest automobile stores. We have the Bank of America no more Bank of Italy and other modern banks without the service of the old banks.
Many went to Portola High School now it is called Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School - you have E.R. Taylor and many Day Care centers.
Once you could get fish at Pacific Fish - it is there but you just cannot walk in - only whole sale distribution. We have one of kind places that repair motorcycles and one of kind places that make percussion instruments. If you look carefully you can sense some one of kind homes. You have some homes that cater to foster children. Others to those that have mental problems. Still others to those that like to better their health - one such facility is perched high on a side of a hill.
If you look carefully you will see the old 5 and 7 miles houses. It was at these places that the stagecoaches made their stops. Behind one house you can still see the stumps where the horses were tied. Once the cable cars ran right center on San Bruno Avenue. Today the 9 San San Bruno runs mostly filled with hard working people. For those that remember we had the 25 San Bruno when the fare was just 25 cents and before that a dime.
We have the University Mound and all of the clean drinking water is stored here for the Financial District and beyond. We have close by a home for Elderly Folks and further up once there was a home for those girls that were pregnant - out of wedlock. There was once a Convent on Cambridge Street that now is a private school - the majority of students Chinese.
In the early 30s and 40s most of the land around Portola was farmland. The first farmers were the early Spanish. As I say from time to time - the Ohlone lived every where and their Sacred Burial grounds are found in our area. Not very far was the real Islais Creek - for a long time many came to fetch water - and some even sold water for a dollar a bucket.
Mostly Italians and Maltese farmed a lot for years. But you also had a fair share of French folks; Spanish, German, and people from all nationalities came to Portola in the late 50s. Today the Chinese are taking over the district and the others look at one another and remember the old days. No one can stop the change but it is happen so fast. San Bruno Avenue is becoming China Town and Dim Sum and other delicacies are available readily. People remember the Boys and Girls Clubs. Thousands of youth passed by this institution and I still meet many that have grown up that remember Gary, John, big Jerome. Those were good old days. We could step in and play basketball - Ping-Pong; billiards - or just shill out and watch the youth.
The Police Academy was on Silver and there was Pelton, called Phillip Burton and now Thurgood Marshall. On Mansell Widrow Wilson is now called Phillip and Sala Burton. Of course I mentioned the old Portola High School. Cannot fathom why one would change the names of schools? What happens to reunions?
We have many churches - the Lutheran Church but perhaps the most famous with the best facilities the Catholic - Saint Elizabeth's. The Portola Playground has changed its name to Palega and the Silver Terrace playground is still well used. There is talk to build a brand new library and playground where now stands the parking lot - next to Martin Luther Middle school.
We have our share of doctors but I think the most famous in our dentist Parodi. My wife has visited him and says he is good. We now have many produce places but I can imagine in the late 40s and 50s getting the best produce. The old folks told me a lot - there were the best green houses in the Portola Districts - which produced flowers and vegetables. Then there were cows and fresh milk but also fowl and chicken and goats.
Up until a few months ago one could go up Cambridge Street and by the northern tail end of McClaren Park - see the last green houses. Now some developer is building brand new homes. I have some black and whites photographs of windmills that powered wells for clean drinking water. Homes far apart from each other with lots of open space.
There was the old Avenue Theater still stands tall but now used as a Church. I went in there to see a few movies and heard the organ being played. Towards the end of its theater days - ethnic films were shown from India and elsewhere and then one day - it was no more. There was talk at one time to tear it down and build a garage to solve the existing parking problems - but that has not come about. I walk around sometimes and mostly when the politicians want to speak to the folks on the street and the business folks - always very interesting. Once we had a Merchant Association - no more. The Asian businesses are more into making money and less into real community feeling. They will give you a small donation but they really are not into attending meetings and stuff like that. They love to keep most things - private.
In the old days there were parades on San Bruno Avenue complete with banners, marches, music and fun stuff much like the parades and fairs in other parts of San Francisco. Some years ago for two years in a row some Portola stalwarts resurrected the fair but then - no more. This year once again I heard some birdie singing - we will have a fair because we have the money to have one.
I have done my best to put our Portola District on the map. I work and have been working to keep our Portola District safe. Recently I was not pleased with all the robberies on San Bruno - we found a finger print and made some arrests. Then there was a time of many purse snatching - mostly elderly Asian women returning home after a hard day's work. The San Francisco Police under the helm of Captain Rick Bruce was quick to put a stop to the nonsense. Now we have gangs defacing our walls with tags and graffiti. We need to nip this nonsense in the bud.
Where now the Radio Shack makes money there was an institution that made custom made ice skating shoes. Some of the world best athletes came to this store - it was featured in the Chronicle.
Some of the backyards have unique gardens - in the old days I would walk around and most people knew me. When I started working for the Presidio of San Francisco - I had little time to visit the large area that is Portola. In recent years much of my time in spent advocating Quality of Life issues. It is a pity that those that are supposed to represent us do not. The Portola District cannot count on Sophie Maxwell and Tom Ammiano to help our hard working constituents. Leyland Yee who is now in Sacramento cares - more because he says relatives living in the Portola District. Kevin Shelly was known to have a soft corner for the constituents living in the Portola District. Part of Portola is now under the Queen Supervisor Tom Ammiano. He really does not care much about our area. Most people in proper Portola do not respect this man. Worse Sophie Maxwell the most inept, ignorant, and arrogant Supervisor ever to set foot in City Hall. Some stupid folks that know little will socialize with this woman - but she is not worth her salt. It is time we select and get rid of this woman that has caused so much harm to the Portola District.
Once is a while here in the Portola District we will all rally when there is a hot issue. Some time ago a wireless company wanted to place some antennas on a Church - Dwayne Jusinho, Jenny our young advocate, and a few of us spoke and won the case on appeal. The appeal took place at City Hall before the Board of Supervisors. Earlier the Planning Department ruled in favor of Cingular Wireless. It is at times like this that some of us feel proud of our unique neighborhood.
At times I am encouraged to run for a political position and knowing how many people I know - I could easily serve the folks of Portola. I think about it especially when I see the corruption that Sophie Maxwell exercises and the nonchalant manner in which our Queen Ammiano tackles issue that are critical to good hard working families.
Both are out of touch with the real folks that make Portal their home. One lives in a crime ridden, down trodden neighborhood on Jerold Street by 3rd Street and Tom Ammiano in Bernal Heights surrounded by gays - and issues that are mostly not ours in the Portola District.
We have the Silver Health Center that is under utilized. Right up Paul Avenue we use to have the Macy's warehouse that now is a Server Farm handling most of the major Internet Services. Fiber optic lines passing through the Portola District make this possible. Along San Bruno we have a brand new 115KV-transmission line. Soon all the electric poles will be taken down and most of the transmission will be underground. Some time ago there was talk about fašade improvement on San Bruno Avenue - there are those that talk the talk and others that walk the walk. I know it will happen the money it there but once again Sophie Maxwell is known as one that cannot deliver. The paradox some folks that live in the Portola District volunteer for this corrupt woman at her office in City Hall.
We have a few one of kind stores that deals with furniture. We still have a couple where you can still upholster your furniture - the old fashioned way. We have have right now two good shoe repair stores. I go to Danny's for all my needs and the man who caters to me - I consider a good man and friend. I wear a brace and many a time - the brace needs specialized stitching - he helps me a lot.
We have laundry places all making a lot of money. Produce places selling fresh fruits and vegetables. Some weeks ago the only store selling gold fish and other one of kind fish that folks love to watch in their homes - decided to say good bye.
Mr. Vassalo is perhaps the only Consul to operate in our neighborhood. He represents the people of Malta and is my good friend. I know a couple of politicians that live in our neighborhood and heads of San Francisco City Departments.
We have a lot of Open Space thanks to those that had the foresight and vision. We have Bill Carlin and Franco Mancini - good advocates and there are others too but these too are well versed with Open Space issues.
The owner of the Ling Ling Chinese Restaurant has a lot of political influence in the Chinese community and has easy access to the Chinese journals. At one time the man that worked for the Chinese newspaper World Journal and was in charge of the " dark room " lived in the Portola District. He now has it all "digital" and still visits our Portola District.
We have a couple of Hollywood Stars that were born in the Portola District - one of them Summers. Many great doctors, engineers, electricians, plumbers, investigators, policemen, firefighters, teachers, gardeners, others have made their home in the Portola District. I meet them - talk to them and wish them well.
I would be remiss if I did not talk about the local bars - one of the most famous the Avenue Bar - no more. You have others still going strong. Some years ago El Taro appeared - they have a bar, live shows and lots of dancing. I often see bands from Mexico and other places come all the way to perform at El Taro.
The Portola District is a nice place to live. Several times I made it point to seek greener pastures and move to some other location. Well, I could if I wanted to - but should I or should I not. There is something that is good about our neighborhood even with the latest changes.
I just attended a neighborhood meeting at the Lutheran Church in the Portola District. It was fun listening to the speakers and the interaction with the community. Now the Portola District has joined cyberspace and we have our own web site:
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