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San Francisco’s Garden District, the Portola, has the most unique garden tour in the City with neighbors opening their homes and gardens again this year for the Portola Garden Tour on Saturday, September 30, 2023 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The cost of the tickets are $20 each with all proceeds benefitting the Portola Garden District Scholarship at City College of San Francisco.

The Portola has been celebrating the Portola’s private and public gardens since 2007. The neighborhood was officially designated as San Francisco’s Garden District in 2016. Its signature hidden gardens with large neighborhood participation highlights more than 18 gardens this year. Also included this year is a floral art show at a local art gallery featuring art work paired with floral arrangements designed by CCSF students in the college’s Floristry program. In addition, will also be garden plots by students of the Environmental Horticulture field on display. The gardens on display feature neighborhood favorites and new gardens that have been created by gardeners enjoying their outdoor space during Covid-19.

The Portola boasts of a willingness to share backyard gardens that are not visible from street view and a generous spirit. With the remnants of a true blue-collar neighborhood, it is a draw for families hoping to retain urban living in a relaxed setting. The Portola has the added wholesome charm of growing one’s own food, having a yard big enough for the kids to play or for the dog to romp while enjoying the vistas of San Francisco, McLaren Park, the Bay and the Pacific, from a mostly undiscovered angle.

The annual Portola garden tour is a great way for residents in The Portola to give back to their community as well as get to know their neighbors, and for people who live in other areas of San Francisco and beyond to discover this wonderful enclave. This years’ tour will include a stop at FrameArt Studio to showcase student design skills as well as local artists’ work. The floral arrangements will be sold to benefit another Portola Project, Steps to Wisdom, an art-tiled stairway project at Goettingen and Dwight Streets in the Portola. Also, a neighborhood institution, Portola Garden Assisted Living, is showing student garden plots as well as community garden spots at their facility. To date, the Portola Garden District Scholarship, the beneficiary of the tour’s fundraising, has awarded 25 scholarships and eight work projects in the Portola to students in the Environmental Horticulture and Floristry Department at City College of San Francisco.

Jeffrey Dillion, Executive Director of Portola Gardens Assisted Living, has been involved with the tour for four years and his facility has been a sponsor of the tour for as many years. He is active in the Portola community and commented that, “The Portola Garden Tour is a great way to introduce our facility to San Franciscans and reconnect with neighbors who know and love our historic facility. Working with the Portola Garden Tour has allowed us to bond with neighborhood organizations and projects and find ways for our residents to connect with the neighborhood.”

The gardens featured in this year’s tour have the advantage of more on-site care than in previous years given the amount of time the gardeners have had at home due to the pandemic. One has been completely revamped to provide more outdoor recreational space for children and family, another has given the gardeners an opportunity to extend their outdoor space and take advantage of city views. Many of the others have become more prolific fruit, vegetable growers and added egg production for the families that tend to them.

Once home to flower-growing enterprises and farms, The Portola is San Francisco’s Garden District. With its high level of homeownership, southern exposure, and diverse population of newcomers and old-timers, the neighborhood has redefined itself. The Portola is one of The City’s most diverse neighborhoods with a rich history. Maltese, Italian and Jewish immigrant families settled in The Portola in the late-19th century, followed by African-American shipbuilders who moved to San Francisco from the south during World War II. In the decades since, Latinos, Filipinos, Chinese, Vietnamese and others have planted roots in The Portola, a neighborhood that welcomes all.

Roughly bordered by Silver Avenue to the north, Mansell Street to the south, San Bruno Avenue to the east and McLaren Park to the west, The Portola is one of the last undiscovered, affordable sections of San Francisco. Young families, as well as long-time San Franciscans, are finding it an attractive and convenient place to live. Many of the homes have large yards — by San Francisco standards; bay and city views; and nice weather. Added to those factors is the emerging green movement, heralded by City Hall and embraced in the southeastern quadrant.

The Portola Garden Tour began in 2007 as a fund-raiser for the Portola Branch Library at Goettingen and Bacon streets. When the library opened in 2009, the community decided to continue the popular event as a fundraiser, and created The Portola Garden Scholarship at City College San Francisco for Environmental Horticulture and Floristry Department students. The first scholarship was awarded in 2010 and has grown to two or more per year and pays for work projects in The Portola that employ City College students. Donations to the Portola Garden District Scholarship can be made directly by check to Portola Garden District Scholarship: CCSF, c/o Steven Brown EF/H, 50 Frida Kahlo Way, San Francisco, CA 94112.