This unassuming neighborhood toward the outskirts of San Francisco has the feel of a small village, with tidy single-family homes, mom-and-pop shops with awnings, and a popular community park with great views. The area was named after Don Gaspar de Portola, the explorer who discovered San Francisco Bay in 1769. In the early 1900s, the neighborhood was mostly agricultural, with cattle grazing on the hills and farms near what is now Highway 101. A large percentage of Portola residents own their houses and there are several schools here, making this a neighborhood where folks tend to set down roots.
John McLaren Park further strengthens the strong sense of community by serving as a gathering hub. The second largest park in San Francisco, this outdoor recreation area has a golf course, two lakes, jogging and hiking trails, a public pool, an old reservoir that is used as a dog swimming area, a playground and clubhouse, a full basketball court, a soccer pitch, and two baseball fields. The park is also home to the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, an outdoor music venue named after the famed Grateful Dead singer who grew up in the nearby Excelsior neighborhood. For everyday needs, residents head to San Bruno Avenue, a commercial strip lined with groceries, bakeries, restaurants, and other thriving businesses. The neighborhood is also bordered on the north and east by two major highways, providing convenient access to other parts of the Bay Area. © 2016 Maryann LoRusso