Exploring San Francisco through the lens of city blocks, Blocker is a regular series by Charles Hodgkins. Look for it on SFist every other Wednesday, around the lunching hour.

View the map of all published Blocker episodes.

Blocker, No. 35: West Portal Ave. in West Portal

Certain San Francisco neighborhoods portray themselves as having captured a small-town feel amidst the big city bustle. But almost as often, closer inspection reveals these marketing pitches to be all arm without enough follow-through.

Laurel Heights? Sure, it’s leafy and quiet, but since when does Smallville, USA have more salons, antique home furnishing retailers, and high-end fashion boutiques as it does grocers? Bernal Heights? Potrero Hill? We’re getting warmer, but the former’s brimming progressivism and the latter’s choice perch above downtown’s high-rises don’t align with what you get in genuinely small California towns such as Chester or Bishop.

West Portal, however, boasts real follow-through – the retro Space Age streetcar station notwithstanding, of course.