Portola: A Guide to San Francisco Neighborhoods

San Francisco NeighborhoodsThe Portola is part of the larger Excelsior district in the very southeast section of the city, between Bernal Heights and Bayview. It’s known as the “secret neighborhood” with its own public radio station, KALW (91.7 FM), local website, and a strong community feel. Housing is still relatively affordable and many residents own local businesses within the area. We polled local moms to find out what makes this neighborhood a good fit for their families. 

Want to get the scoop directly from the experts? Join our Excelsior/ Portola Neighborhood Group or reach out to a realtor at Neighborhoods.com.

Why Moms Love It 

Like the broader Excelsior district, this is a friendly neighborhood with many long-time residents who value the close-knit community they’ve built and continue to invest time and resources into improving. It’s an older neighborhood that hasn’t fully gentrified yet, which has kept housing costs lower and preserved its “old San Francisco” feel. There are a few great places to walk, but you’ll also find yourself using a car to run errands in the suburbs south of the city, which can be convenient if you’ve got kids in tow. 

Local Family Favorites 

Portola Family Connections

Works with residents to provide family support, community building, organizing, address neighborhood concerns and develop concrete solutions. 

Palega Rec Center at Portola Park

This recently renovated and thriving community center offers a wide selection of games, sports, programs, and classes, including after-school activities for kids. The large, inviting playground has climbing structures bordered by beautiful trees. Tennis courts, athletic fields, and picnic areas are also available.

Burrows Pilot Park

The Portola’s newest green, gathering space offers a new shared outdoor space with a kiosk for posting neighborhood notices and activities, an art piece and a landscaped area for sitting and playing.  

Situated in the southern part of Bernal Heights bordering Excelsior, St. Mary’s recreation center has programs for tots, youth, adults, and seniors, and includes a gymnasium, community rooms, sports courts, athletic fields, and the city’s largest playground for kids of all abilities.
Ample parking, beautiful scenic hikes, picnic tables, and off-leash dog play areas make this a popular destination for residents from all over San Francisco. The kids will love the ducks at McNab Lake and the little playground adjacent to it.

Childcare and Schools

Here’s the thing about childcare and schooling: Your personal situation will determine the right fit for you, and, while there are options in this neighborhood, your best bet is to check out Winnie.com for an interactive map and comprehensive list of daycares and preschools across the city.  

Likewise, for K-12 schools, we can’t tell you whether the schools here are “good” or not because a good school is based on so many other factors besides test scores. Check out our Tips for Moving to San Francisco with Kids for more help navigating childcare and schooling and a local mom’s take on raising a family in San Francisco.

Learn More 

To get an even better feel for what it’s like to live here, scan our list of 100+ kid-friendly restaurants in the city, find the nearest branch of the public library, and check out the area’s trick-or-treating hotspots.
Visit Neighborhoods.com for photos and more helpful details on Portola and nearby neighborhoods, including an up-to-date listing of properties for sale.

Neighborhoods.com is a full service brokerage and an easy to use online real estate resource that helps people find the perfect home as well as the ideal neighborhood. We believe that the neighborhood you live in is just as important as the home you live in. The people, places, schools and amenities that surround your home have an enormous impact on your quality of life. When you’re looking for a place to live, you aren’t just picking out a house. You are also deciding who your children will play with and who you might become friends with. So while many people search for their dream house, we believe you should look for your dream home. And your neighborhood is a huge part of that dream.

Check out the other areas featured in our San Francisco Neighborhood Guide for Families and learn more about our guide sponsor, Neighborhoods.com.