San Francisco, CA
West PortalWelcome to Planet Eisenhower
Visitors to hilly West Portal may notice something odd: Mixed in with the modern stock brokerages, coffee stores and home-furnishings boutiques are an odd sampling of businesses that would fit nicely into a museum display about the Eisenhower administration: bars with those '50s rec-room fireplaces and diners with Korean War-era Formica countertops.
This time-warp effect stems from the neighborhood's geographic isolation from San Francisco's hipper precincts, in spite of a Muni tunnel that connects West Portal with downtown. Another factor is that West Portal residents tend to be solidly middle class -- primarily firefighters, teachers, health-care workers and small-business owners, according to 1990 census data. A third element is the neighborhood's phobia about chain businesses, only a very few of which have gained a foothold.
West Portal's heart is the retail strip along West Portal Avenue from the Muni tunnel to 15th Avenue, which is surrounded by densely residential mini-neighborhoods tucked up in the surrounding hills.