by Robyn Huey
Currently studying landscape architecture at UC Davis, Robyn was born and raised in the Portola and reflects upon her connection to the district's agricultural roots.
The Portola District will always be my first home. My neighbor was Anna Restani, and I could see her greenhouses from my window.
I grew up with an intimate understanding of my neighborhood’s history as the ‘garden district’—a story many San Franciscans aren’t aware of, let alone aware that the Portola District even exists. The neighborhood is informally referred to as “the best neighborhood you’ve never heard of,” and I vouch for this reputation after countless times trying to explain where I’m from and resorting to using Google Maps to prove I live in the city and county of San Francisco. Even Yelp pages often confuse Portola businesses for residing in the Excelsior District.
It’s difficult describing my neighborhood because what I’ve known it by no longer exists. A few years after 2000, the Restani and Fatima greenhouses were replaced by million dollar homes. Even at such a young age, I felt an immense amount of grief watching bulldozers tear apart the glass structures. The feeling was comparable to being ripped away from home—or perhaps the feeling of home being ripped away from my neighborhood.
While the Restani and Fatima greenhouses no longer exist, the University Mound greenhouses owned by the Garibaldi Family still do. Keenly aware of the various challenges my neighborhood faces, I entered this senior project with an ultimate goal of positively contributing to the place I grew up in. The ability to use my education as a tool for setting a vision for my neighborhood has been the hallmark of my experience as a Landscape Architecture student.
I feel extremely fortunate and privileged to have had this opportunity to reimagine the University Mound Nursery lot and uncover the abundant potential to rejuvenate a significant part of neighborhood history. This project is an exploration of ways in which the implementation of Urban Agriculture can serve as the appropriate method of honoring the legacy of the Portola District and two-fold, developing a sense of community identity.