West Portal Neighborhood

Signs of Life Reappear on West Portal
Bookshop West Portal ready for pick-ups
Bookshop West Portal owner, Anna Bullard is open for passers-by and pick-up orders.

"Non-essential" businesses are curbside ready — no entry for now

People are beginning to return to West Portal's small businesses—and other Westside businesses are ready to make sales.

West Portal Antiques
West Portal Antiques instituted a "one customer at a time" protocol, and was open only from 1-4 pm
people on Ulloa St.
On Ulloa Street, several people were seen browsing from time to time

While restaurants, coffeehouses, and grocers that have been deemed "essential" have been operating on this curbside plan for months, the other businesses have been waiting out the corona virus.

"We are thrilled that the Mayor had decided that it is now safe to open for curbside pick up. We will be following all guidelines and look forward to welcoming our customers back." Anna Bullard, owner of Bookshop West Portal said.

A generic square placeholder image with rounded corners in a figure.
A sunny day brought out mask-clad shoppers, and competition for parking appeared brisk

Many stores and businesses have maintained an online presence during the pandemic, and offered ordering and shipping to customers, but most have been anxious to start street sales again.

The Health Department released guidelines on May 14th for retail stores not already open the public to be instituted beginning today, May 18th. Curbside pickup, DPH said, would be allowed if the location:
• Has clear access to a sidewalk, street, parking lot, or alley to use for pickup • Has no more than 10 employees on site at once, to handle curbside pickup • Is not in an enclosed shopping center, unless the business has its own exterior door • Implements a Health and Safety Plan for curbside businesses (fillable MS Word) DPH estimated that this would include more than 90% of retailers in San Francisco.

Businesses may also request a free temporary loading zone for their business from SFMTA.

Businesses are also allowed, temporarily to use part of the sidewalk for curbside pickup without a permit according to the Department of Public Works.

Photos: Kathy Howard

May 2020

San Francisco, NOT the country’s greenest city

Stephen Martin-Pinto, Supervisor Norman Yee
Stephen Martin-Pinto with Supervisor Norman Yee at neighborhood clean-up.

San Francisco is at the forefront of the environmental movement. We have banned plastic bags, plastic straws, made efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and pioneered the use of separate bins for compost and recycling. We have made pledges to reduce waste to zero by 2021. We started a program, Clean Power SF, in which at least 40% of our power will come from renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind power. When cities across the US think of a prime example of a green city, surely San Francisco is the shining example, right?

Wrong.

Take a look at our streets. Litter, human waste, and needles pollute our sidewalks. Streets choked with vehicles at a standstill, emitting carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxides, all of which have adverse health effects. We have a second rate transit system that is slow, unreliable, sometimes unsafe, and nowhere near as extensive as it needs to be.

The city’s stance has long been to discourage car use by eliminating parking and traffic lanes. The board of supervisors recently signed legislation to eliminate parking minimums for new construction4. But what transportation alternative have they given us? None. So, ride-sharing becomes more popular. But this creates even more traffic, which uses more fossil fuels and creates more pollutants. Furthermore, ride-sharing services lure people away from public transit, especially if their public transit system is clunky, like let’s say, oh…MUNI and BART.5 This added congestion slows down vehicles and any MUNI line which uses surface routes. Congratulations SFMTA, through poor planning, you’ve made traffic even worse, which has a negative effect on the environment.

If we truly want to be green, we need to focus on the basics. Clean streets, clean waterways, clean beaches, and clean parks. We do this by enforcing the law. We must have zero tolerance for litter, for open air drug use and discarded needles. Zero tolerance for human waste on the sidewalks. Enforce the law unequivocally and absolutely every time. Think that’s too tough? Being permissive invites more litter blowing the ocean. All this simply because there’s no moral fortitude to deal with it.

We need to expand our MUNI. Fast efficient people-movers are the best way to get people out of cars and onto public transportation. And wouldn’t that make for a greener city?

Yet nobody is talking about this. They are overlooking the basics such as litter pickup and enforcing anti-dumping laws which would have a more noticeable, immediate, and real positive effect on the environment. They are not thinking long-term, but rather are being extremely short-sighted when reducing parking minimums, which will only drive people into ride-sharing which has a worse negative effect on the environment. They are not making realistic assumptions about people’s behaviors, thinking if they make driving torturous, then that will get people out of cars, not realizing that traffic slows down MUNI buses also, and that some people actually NEED to drive, because that is essential for their job, and that traffic that flows is traffic that pollutes less.

If our city were truly green, it would make those hard choices for the future. It would take real steps to change what it can and accept what it cannot. It would plan for a future city that minimizes impacts on the environment. Is our city up to the task? I hope so.

Stephen Martin-Pinto, President of Sunnyside Neighborhood Assn. and Commissioner, SF Veteran’s Affairs Commission

MAY 2019

Michael Walton Gonzalez

Family and friends gathered on February 7 at The Olympic club - Lakeside near Lake Merced, to celebrate the life and grieve the loss of Michael Walton Gonzalez, who died suddenly at age 40.

Readers of the Westside Observer will remember him as the chef/entrepreneur who took over the Manor Cafe Diner on West Portal Ave back in 2016.

Gonzalez breathed new life into the establishment with passion and dedication. He was a native San Franciscan who grew up in the neighborhood attending local schools, Stuart Hall and Saint Ignatius College preparatory high school, graduating in 1997. After earning his bachelors in English at the University of California Davis in 2001, he had the opportunity to go off to Paris to begin the adventure of a lifetime.

He attended the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu, graduating the first in his class. This led him to a job at the Restaurant Taillevent at Rue Lamennais in Paris, before returning home to San Francisco.

Before his venture as chef and new owner of the Manor Cafe, he spent over 11 years traveling and cooking as a private chef. While his ownership of the Manor Cafe was brief, he was honored to have had the opportunity.

He sold the Manor Cafe last year, taking a much needed sabbatical. He was engaged to be married to fiancé Sarah Friedkin, and they were eagerly making plans for a life together with more adventures and opportunities. All who knew him said, “Michael left us too soon.”

Those who spoke at his memorial service were Bob Skinner, Jim Murphy, Shahab Fatouhi, and Maria Murray-Chavez.

Gonzalez leaves behind his mother Karen, fiancé Sarah, godmother Arlene Cohen, and many family members and friends.

March 2019

West Portal Business Outlook Calm—for Now

vacant store

While Hayes Valley, parts of Divisadero, and Valencia Street have become hot destinations for new businesses regardless of rent increases, West Portal remains an undiscovered gem. Many businesses along the three-block shopping strip have seen a loyal customer base for decades. Residents have also seen other businesses come and go. Though few storefronts remain empty, a transportation innovation threatens to disrupt the entire solemn, familial corridor.

"We are thrilled with the recently opened businesses that are not only new, but are appreciated by a cross-section of the neighborhood" says West Portal Merchants Association President Deidre Von Rock-Ricci.

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… the possibility of the M streetcar going underground is still getting into gear. While the end result would benefit street traffic and commuters, disrupting noises, fumes and dust during construction would hurt businesses.”

Recent openings include Noe Valley Bakery (28 West Portal), Lemonade (16 West Portal), Pilates Story (183 West Portal), the Coder School (231 West Portal) and Tutu School (239 West Portal). vacant store

Mary Gassen of Noe Valley Bakery says West Portal is a neighborhood where she has spent a lot of time and loves the "vibe."

"It feels like a genuine San Francisco original neighborhood and the people here are friendly and welcoming," says Gassen, adding that many of Noe Valley Bakery's West Portal neighbors have patronized the original Noe Valley Bakery on 24th Street.

While West Portal has been successful at filling vacancies, some storefronts have been vacant for years. The former Radio Shack at 123 West Portal, a 2400 square-foot space, has been vacant since 2015. According to Frosch's Yelp page, the travel company formerly occupying 314 West Portal, is "very much in business, but their West Portal office has closed and the empty space is up for lease."

Recently, fragrance boutique Scent Pack covered its windows before clearing all merchandise and fixtures from 201 West Portal Ave. The interior is under construction.

construction

In the window of the former AT&T Authorized Retailer at 244West Portal, a Duffin Construction sign hangs next to a Notice of Nonresponsibility dated June 14, 2017. Fashion boutique The Art of Style at 260 West Portal has closed as well.

But empty retail spaces aren't the only opportunities for construction.

"The bigger concern has been the Twin Peaks Tunnel project, which SFMTA starts and stops in fits," says Von Rock-Ricci.

As reported in our June issue, the possibility of the M streetcar going underground is still getting into gear. While the end result would benefit street traffic and commuters, disrupting noises, fumes and dust during construction could hurt businesses. Reduced and detoured street traffic could present hardships for merchants. And with the possibility of eliminated stops post-construction, slower foot traffic wouldcreate a fiscal decrease in revenue for business.

"This project would literally stop the trains for at least two weeks at a time, in multiple intervals, over the course of a year," Von Rock-Ricci continues. "We just learned that this project is now going to be delayed yet another year. I can't imagine an underground M actually being accomplished anytime soon."

She says West Portal would welcome a hip new coffee shop, retail boutique, or artisanal cocktail bar. Those businesses would be part of a long established corridor focused on providing a warm, welcoming atmosphere for all.

"West Portal won't be gentrified," she adds, "it will just continue to evolve with our community."

Tony Taylor is a San Francisco Journalist

July/August 2017

meeting pic
Supervisor Norman Yee's community safety forum included District Attorney George Gascón, Chief William Scott, Captain Denise Flaherty and other inforcement officers

Exasperated Residents Impatient with Crime Spree

San Francisco is #1—in property crime, according to recent FBI data. We are the top of the crop when it comes to per-capita property crimes among the country's biggest 50 cities. If anyone doubts that safety is foremost on the minds of local residents, they would be surprised that Supervisor Norman Yee's community/police meeting filled the classic Art Deco auditorium at West Portal Elementary school, where they were still setting up more seats at 6 pm as the meeting began.

Even though Chief Scott was detained by a meeting in the Mission, Supervisor Yee proceeded with the caveat that the Chief would join the group soon.

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…who do you call when you see something suspicious? 553-0123? You get an answering machine. Or do we call 911? Many felt that their attempts to reach police were futile.”

"I think with the recent attempted kidnapping of a thirteen year-old girl on Taraval Street, and the bravery of the young lady in defending herself, as well as the good Samaritans who came to her rescue, and the police officers who made the arrest, this was an example of when the community and the Police Department come together. It is important for the community to meet with law enforcement to find better ways that we can work together to create safer neighborhoods together," Yee told the well behaved crowd.

people at the meeting

Less appreciated were the remarks from District Attorney George Gascón, who spent a lot of time defending Prop 47, which "doesn't control felonies like burglaries." Less clear, or at least less popular, if groaning and shaking heads are interpreted correctly, was the explanation about why individual crimes were not prosecuted, in favor of "bundling" because the chances of getting a conviction were greater. "If we don't bunch these felonies together, we know they will not result in significant convictions," the DA explained. And it is the "10% of people who commit 80% of the crimes," at which the DA's office is aiming. Law enforcement "can't be the solution to the homeless problem," he added.

town hall crowd

Captain Denise Flaherty was more appreciated by the anxious crowd. "As Captain, I deploy my officers by looking at how the district is impacted by the crime trends, and the feedback I get from you, the community. The Taraval is the biggest district in the City. It takes up about 28.2% of the city's map. That's a lot of residents and they pretty much want the same thing. They want us to stop home burglaries, they want us to stop auto break-ins. Every single neighborhood wants high visibility from officers. They also want us to address traffic concerns, which is a high priority for the City along with quality of life and homeless issues. Every day when I come into the office I review the data from the day before, to determine what will be my mission for the day and how to deploy the forces across the board. We are down this year to date about 13% in burglaries, about 21% for auto burglaries, but we are up for robberies."

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Captain Joe McFadden from the Ingleside district, who encouraged everyone to call the police whenever they see anything suspicious. "Even the smallest detail, a broken antenna or taillight," he said, "could be just the detail we are looking for.”

Sitting in for Chief Scott, was Commander Ann Mannix, who set the theme for the day, "get to know your neighbors is the take-away message from this meeting."

George GasconThe introductory round, before the community questions began, ended with Captain Joe McFadden from the Ingleside district, who encouraged everyone to call the police whenever they see anything suspicious. "Even the smallest detail, a broken antenna or taillight," he said, "could be just the detail we are looking for." About half the cases here are thefts from vehicles, smash-and-grabs.

When Chief Scott arrived, he stressed the need to concentrate on violent and property crimes and the need to avoid flooding our jails. Quality of life crimes, especially those involving the homeless, require cooperation among the police, DA, DPW (homeless services) and DPH (mental health issues). He has established a unit at SFPD with the sole responsibility to address homeless issues, and to coordinate the services available, with a view to long range solutions.

"District 7 is a heavy property crime area," Chief Scott said, "so more resources are committed to that than any other."

When public question time came up, the first question out of the gate was submitted on several cards: "who do you call when you see something suspicious? 553-0123? You get an answering machine. Or do we call 911? Many felt that their attempts to reach police were futile."

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District Attorney Gascón suggested that anyone who has a security camera protection system should register it with the DA's office so that enforcement can establish a network of cameras around the city to track down criminals.”

Chief Scott replied, "We recognize that it is a problem—but the volume of calls is huge, and we need to give priority to victims of crimes." But he acknowledged that the department needs to do better to follow with reports and tips from the community. He stressed that 911 should be reserved for crimes in progress, and non-emergency calls go to 553-0123, while things like garbage dumped on the street should go to 311. And the Taraval District Tip line is 242-9753.

Another question was "How do we keep people off the street when they get released right after they are arrested?"

The panel members stressed that Prop 47 does not control felonies like burglaries. "We ask for community victims to appear at sentencing and court procedures to impress on the courts the serious nature of the crimes." Another panelist suggested that "convictions for non-violent crime are often for 90 days, which in real terms means 45 days, and if the time served is already 30 days—yes, they will be out again in a few days."

District Attorney Gascón reiterated that we need to "bunch felonies together in order for there to be significant convictions because 10% of the people commit 80% of the crimes."

"There aren't enough officers to keep us all safe," Chief Scott said, "we are still operation with the same 1,971 officers we have been for years, even though our population has grown."

Another questioner wanted to know it there could be a beat cop on Ocean Avenue, to which Captain Flaherty replied that, "we are nine officers short at the Taraval station." She mentioned the challenges of finding the right person to walk the beat with a short staff, especially when Irving, West Portal and Ocean Avenue all want beat cops. "I want a beat officer who wants to do it, that always works best."

"Can they be bilingual in Chinese," another attendee asked? "Our Ocean Avenue beat cop, Ricky Guerrero, is bilingual in Spanish, but he can always get a Chinese speaking resource in a short time."

Another questioner asked about the recent sophisticated burglaries that do not involve broken windows or doors, "we had 8 last week" that showed no signs of entry.

Captain Flaherty said that some recent thieves have shown significant technological knowledge. "Don't leave your keys near your front of your house — savvy thieves can access the chip in your keys." She suggested that they should be left in the bedroom, preferably in your purse or a drawer where the chip is less accessible.

Another panelist suggested that residents use "the Club" on their steering wheels. While it may not stop professionals, most criminals know that someone who uses "the Club" has probably already been hit, and knows better than to leave valuables in the car.

If your car alarm goes off, make sure that you don't turn it off and go back to bed, thieves often will hide and come back when the alarm is off.

Dogs are one of the best deterrents, another suggested, and even a recording of a dog that barks when the doorbell rings would work.

District Attorney Gascón suggested that anyone who has a security camera protection system should register it with the DA's office so that enforcement can establish a network of cameras around the city to track down criminals.

As Supervisor closed the meeting, many people still had questions, and were encouraged to meet with the panelists after the meeting.

May 2017

Bock’s Jewelers Calls It Quits

Though they probably don’t know it, Ernest and Susanne Bock’s West Portal jewelry boutique has great reviews on Yelp.

“This guy has talent,” Brian P. said in his five-star review. “I don’t normally write reviews, but this company is definitely worth it.

“As I do with all my watches, I take them to the nearest mall and have the battery replaced,” Brian P. continued in his review. “The last repairer damaged the watch case making it nearly impossible to fix. Mr. Bock said he could fix anything [and he] replaced my battery in 15 minutes.”

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There is no website for the boutique and chances are they haven’t used Yelp. But, they don’t need Yelp. 49 years of customer loyalty is enough. March 31 will be the Bock’s last day in business before a new jeweler takes over.”

In an age when craftsmen are being replaced with machines and skilled artisans are retiring without anyone to carry the legacy, Bock’s Jewelers is a rarity. And, unfortunately, within a few weeks, the talented duo will pack up their watchmaker tools. It’s time to retire.

This particular Thursday afternoon in West Portal is sunny with a gentle bay breeze. To the west, over rooftops, the ocean is visible from Junipero Serra Boulevard. An outbound two-car M train rumbles through the confusing 12-way intersection that connects West Portal to St. Francis Wood, Ingleside and Sloat Boulevard.

The subtle hum of traffic sounds distant behind the quiet neighborhood. A block of multi-level single-family homes line West Portal Avenue before an enclave of shops begin at 15th Street. West Portal Antiques, a trove of collectables from bygone eras, is across the street from Manor Coffee Shop, a dining destination since 1967.

A shiny electric teal BMW is parked nearby the post office as a parking meter maid slowly drives behind the cars parked perpendicular to the sidewalks. A woman inserts coins to the newsstand then pulls out a newspaper. Business turnovers aside, the neighborhood’s visual landscape is mostly unchanged in the past few decades.

One of the larger boutiques on the block is SF Gold Buyers, an accessory pawn and loan shop. Across the street, two customers pick through kiwis and yellow apples outside of West Portal Produce Market. And immediately next door, under the bright blue awning of 226 West Portal Avenue, Bock’s Jewelers has bedazzled the community since 1968.

Through the window, pendulums swing on wooden cuckoo clocks that hang on the walls. The window displays white jewelry fixtures that prop up delicate gold necklaces, jade rings and diamond earrings. The iron security gate is propped open and inside, a few customers move about the intimate, carpeted space.

“Susanne, can you get out some pearls for me?” Ellen Fishman says, eyeing a byzantium beaded necklace secured inside a glass jewelry case. Mrs. Fishman has been a loyal Bocks customer for “close to 15 years” and has lived in the neighborhood for 22 years.

Mrs. Bock unlocks the case for Mrs. Fishman and a girlfriend to browse while their patient husbands linger near the front door. The phone rings as two more customers enter the boutique for a brief walk around. It is a busy afternoon for the jewelers.

Under a fluorescent light strip behind the counter, Mr. Bock squints one eye into a magnifying loupe while working on an intricate jewelry piece.

Photos of a smiling young girl and Kobenhaven postcards stick to the wall next to the antique, wooden cash register. Next to the register, Mrs. Bock is on the phone with a customer.

“Are you still interested in the rubies? We have two left,” she says softly into the phone, making a note onto paper. She knows her products and customers well. Over the faint sound of jazz music, some chiming clocks strike noon while others read 10:15 and 3:45.

Mrs. Bock moves quickly, ending the phone call to ring up a male customer for a watch repair.

“It’s $15,” Mr. Bock tells his wife from behind his work desk.

After a few deliberate strikes on the antique register keys and a pause for mental math, the bell jingles as the wooden cash drawer slides open. The man collects his change from Mrs. Bock and slides a small white envelope into his jacket pocket before maneuvering through the small crowd of customers to exit.

Mrs. Fishman takes this opportunity to bid adieu as well. She and her friend have decided against the pearls, but promise the Bocks they will return soon.

“Mr. Bock has always done excellent repair work,” says Mrs. Fishman outside of the boutique. “They have fair pricing and there’s no hard selling. They’re an old fashioned type of jeweler.”

“It’s sad that there’s another family business leaving West Portal,” Mr. Fishman adds. “It’s the last real jewelry shop here.”

In 1968, the Bocks lived in Daly City. The then-shop owner of 226 West Portal was also a jeweler, and like the Bocks, was from Denmark. They were connected through a mutual friend who knew the shop was for sale.

“Ernest was a watchmaker who learned to repair jewelry,” Mrs. Bock says of her husband of over 50 years. “It’s what he had to do to take care of the customers.”

In the 49 years they have been in business, Mrs. Bock says West Portal seems to be the same and they still have the same customers. “We never imagined owning this business and it has been very gratifying,” she says.

Their rent was $135 per month when they took over the shop and she declined to share the current rate. When asked what is their secret to so many years in business, Mrs. Bock says they didn’t give up, “though the beginning was hard.”

A customer enters the boutique, slow moving with the aid of a walking cane. Louise Tschudi, a friend of the Bocks, has been living in San Francisco for almost 60 years and used to own a restaurant for 27 years in the neighborhood. Today she needs a necklace fixed and the Bocks do not charge her for the quick repair.

“It’s sad to see them leave,” Mrs. Tschudi says, “but in life you have to know when to call it quits.”

The Bocks now live in Burlingame. After closing the shop, Mr. Bock says they will visit Copenhagen with their daughter and grandchildren.

“We want to close [the shop] while we can do it ourselves,” says Mrs. Bock. “We want to enjoy some good years together.” Mr. Bock turned 82 at the end of February and Mrs. Bock says, “it’s time.”

Mrs. Bock admits with the advancement of technology they have had to keep up. “We go on the computer for inventory and taxes and we have an accountant,” she says. And though they have braved the world of Facebook, they don’t have a profile picture.

“We don’t even know how to use it,” she says with a laugh. There is no website for the boutique and chances are they haven’t used Yelp. But, they don’t need Yelp. 49 years of customer loyalty is enough.

March 31 will be the Bock’s last day in business before a new jeweler takes over.

Tony Taylor is a local reporter. Photos: Tony Taylor

March 2017

A Taste of What’s Possible

Taste Logo

Last month’s first-ever event “ A Taste of West Portal” drew residents and visitors to West Portal Avenue for food and entertainment, and to the West Portal Playground for canine contests.

a tightrope walker

“Our goal was accomplished,” said Tammi Scott-Wigens, an organizer of the event and owner of West Portal’s S. Marco Fine Leather. The goal was to triple foot traffic along the avenue.

“People were having a lot of fun,” she said. Anyone walking along the avenue would probably agree. Along with food, sponsors brought out the brass band and the circus.

St. Gabriel’s Celestial Brass Band played a variety of tunes, stopping at various locations, and circus performers walked a tight wire in front of 345 West Portal Avenue, a property owned by Mary Ravetti. Earlier, in front of the library, a man juggled to a captive crowd.

“This is so wonderful,” Ravetti said of the event. “It’s a long time coming.” Besides bringing visitors to the neighborhood, Ravetti said it’s a great way for merchants to meet and get galvanized. Merchants won’t stop talking about ways to bring more business to the commercial district and make little-known West Portal a destination. Ravetti says visitors can experience all of San Francisco on the West Portal corridor.

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Merchants won’t stop talking about ways to bring more business to the commercial district and make little-known West Portal
a destination.

a band on West Portal

“We call it [West Portal] the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

The canine events drew about 50 people, about half of which live in other neighborhoods. Dogs and their owners participated in contests for cutest dog, best costume and best trick. Alan Berezin’s 10-year-old Chow Chow won the cutest dog contest. The Chow Chow’s purple tongue held sway over one judge’s opinion.

Judges included District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu and District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee. Chu is a former District 4 supervisor.

booksales

“Hopefully it [the Taste] will be bigger next year,” said Cynthia Pereira, who’s 11-year-old Samoyed, named Miss Zuree, walked the red carpet in the cutest dog contest. Pereira grew up in West Portal, and currently has family in the neighborhood.

balloonSculptor

On the avenue before the canine contests, Jose Calvo-Perez was serving visitors samples of nouveau Peruvian cuisine outside Fresca, his restaurant at 24 West Portal Avenue. “It’s good,” the chef and owner said of the Taste of West Portal. “Not bad for the first time.” Calvo-Perez thinks the event will have its intended effect of improving business on the corridor.

“I couldn’t ask for more,” said Maryo Mogannam, president, West Portal Merchants Association, the event’s main sponsor. The avenue was as busy as he’s ever seen. The weather cooperated. “It’s the buzz and the vibe you see,” he said, reflecting on the feelings people seemed to be sharing during the day.

Keith Burbank is a local journalist.

July/August 2014

Take A Taste of West Portal June 14–15th

West Portal's Merchants Association is bringing what organizers say is the first street fair in decades to the neighborhood. The fair, called the Taste of West Portal, will take place Saturday, June 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., along West Portal Avenue from Ulloa to 15th Avenue. Activities will take place at the West Portal Playground on Lenox Way too.

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It's probably the biggest thing the Avenue has had in decades," said Tammy Scott-Wigens, owner of S. Marco Fine Leather, 201 West Portal Avenue. Scott-Wigens has been taking the lead organizing the event. The goal of the event is to triple foot traffic along the avenue.”

It's "probably the biggest thing the Avenue has had in decades," said Tammy Scott-Wigens, owner of S. Marco Fine Leather, 201 West Portal Avenue. Scott-Wigens has been taking the lead organizing the event. The goal of the event is to triple foot traffic along the avenue.

logo and map

Participating restaurants will be offering visitors free samples throughout the day, a fixed-price menu and their regular menu. This year visitors will dine inside, but in following years organizers hope to get restaurants to set up booths outside.

Participating merchants will be selling items at a special sale price, and merchants selling services will be offering coupons to visitors. Some may offer free services.

Activities include music along each block, circus performers, dog contests, lectures, caricatures, photographs and free treats and giveaways. West Portal Avenue, from 14th to 15th Avenue, will be dedicated as a family and kids block.

Residents interested in entering their canine in a dog contest can sign up on the Taste of West Portal's website, www.tasteofwestportal.com. District 7's Supervisor Norman Yee will be one of the judges.

Kids can participate in arts and crafts, see demonstrations, check out San Francisco Fire Department trucks, have their face painted and see magicians perform, among other activities. Organizers are hoping offer rides on vintage MUNI trains or cable cars.

"It's meant to be a fun, interactive day," Scott-Wigens said.

The City's Invest in Neighborhoods program is providing money for the event through a grant to the merchant's association. The grant is a one-time amount of $10,000, which is meant to help the neighborhood establish funding for the event next year. Organizers hope to establish the Taste of West Portal as an annual event.

"Mayor Lee's Invest in Neighborhoods initiative is thrilled to support projects like "Taste of West Portal" that promote, beautify, and activate neighborhoods across our city," said Joaquín Torres, deputy director, Office of Economic and Workforce Development. "It's just one great example of the partnerships we are building to revitalize our commercial districts and ensure that neighborhoods, such as West Portal, continue to thrive for years to come."

Organizers are encouraging visitors to take MUNI to the event. This year, West Portal Avenue will be open to cars and MUNI trains. In the future, the street may close.

"It's designed to be a fun Saturday outing where people can engage with local merchants and neighbors," Scott-Wigens said. "It is … an opportunity for people attending to experience the flavor or essence of our special neighborhood."

Keith Burbank is a local journalist.

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