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Friday, August 26, 2011

Portola Pocket Park

Burrows St. Parklet in The Portola
Last evening, after a trip to Fresh & Easy and a visit to the new Limón Rotisserie and Brown Sugar Kitchen (YUM!!!), I made my way over to the Portola to sit in on a discussion about a new pocket park to be located at 1 Burrows St where it dead-ends against US-101. In attendance were neighborhood residents, people from the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development, Supervisor Campos' office, and DPW.  

The little room we met in was packed to standing room-only.  Most people on-hand were in favor of the project, but I have to say, I felt bad for the lone voice in opposition, Mr Mirkovich, owner of a building that is located next to the new parklet.  He obviously felt like he was being ignored, even though the Portola Neighborhood Steering Committee (PNSC), the group behind the plan, has actually gone out of their way to accommodate his wants and needs.  He's just not in the mood to listen.  It's too bad, really.

Mr Mirkovich's chief complaints were about homeless people, trash, and his liability should someone fall from the parklet onto his property.  The owner of the building we were meeting in, across the street from Mr Mirkovich's place, respectfully pointed out that there already is homelessness, dumping, and other criminal activity in the location, so he was willing to give PNSC the benefit of the doubt and suggested that it really couldn't get much worse. I brought up how this project reminded me of the 1700 block of Quesada Ave.  Overseen by the Quesada Gardens Initiative, the median strip there has transformed from a drug-dealer and dumping area to a beautiful organic garden that brings the community together.  I suggested those in attendance head over the the QGI site to see what their parklet could be.

Burrows St Parklet in The Portola
PNSC board member Ruth Wallace told the crowd of all the work that PNSC does with regard to this area, including weekly clean-ups.  PNSC is also going to be installing surveillance cameras in the area to try to deter homeless encampments and help police catch bad-guys.  A Bayview SFPD officer on-hand mentioned the benefit that similar cameras on the NEMS building on San Bruno has had in bringing criminals to justice.

The parkelt has been designed by Architects for Humanity, and they presented the plan for the tiny parklet, complete with permeable sidewalks and bioswales, and even a plan to open up the building we were meeting in with windows and to add a coffee shop.  Interestingly, it seems the plan is farther along than I thought, with work beginning soon on some tear-down aspects of the project (a barricade and a fence are first to go).  The Workforce Development representative mentioned that her office actually has up to $50K to grant someone who would want to open up a coffee shop in the space we were meeting in, and can offer very low interest loans, too.  Anyone interested?

Anyway, here's hoping Mr Mirkovich doesn't have a coronary over this whole thing and realizes in the end that its a good thing for him, too, to have this project done.  

One more thing... Funny thing about the Portola, locals pronounce it PORE-toe-lah, while most outsiders prefer to pronounce it "correctly" as por-TOH-lah.  In Spanish, at least as far as my two semesters of City College Spanish have taught me, the accent always goes on the second-to-last syllable, unless otherwise marked.  Well, we don't write "Portola" with any accents, so the local's pronunciation is technically wrong (sorry, gang).  This will please my friend Carole to no end, I'm sure.  But wait!!  The Portola is named after the old Portola School (according to Wikipedia), which, in turn, was named after Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolá.  Now, his surname does have an accent, and should be pronounced pore-toe-LAH.  So, which do you prefer?  The PORE-toe-lah, the pore-TOE-lah, or the pore-toe-LAH?

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