Renaissance in the Garden District

The Portola District of San Francisco sits tucked away, somewhat isolated from the rest of the city. Back in 1922 the Girabaldi brothers built the iconic University Mound greenhouses and went on to develop many well-known varieties of roses along with snapdragons, delphiniums and dahlias – the official flower of San Francisco.

GraniteCrete Installer Permeable Pathway
Brett Stephens of San Francisco Landscapes & Construction oversees the installation

Other greenhouse businesses sprouted up and the area became known as “The Garden District.” The Portola neighborhood once had over twenty thriving, family-owned, commercial greenhouse operations and supplied most of the city with flowers for decades.


Due to this rural and agricultural history, the Portola district has one of the most diverse populations in San Francisco. The people of this area have overcome cultural and language differences by working and gathering together.

But times have changed. Many of the greenhouse business that once flourished in the area have since closed. Only one greenhouse business remains. Great swaths of the district have fallen into disrepair or been abandoned entirely.

The Greenhouse Project

A non-profit organization, The Greenhouse Project hopes to breathe new life into this historic district. They, along with the Portola Neighborhood Association, seek to honor the rich legacy of the Portola district by building public gathering places that celebrate its past. Through a Community Challenge Grant, their plan is to build sustainable, long lasting gardens, walkways and community gathering areas.

The ideal renovation will include community open spaces and pedestrian walking paths that will continue to foster community connection in this diverse community. Additionally, the public spaces should have a rustic, natural appearance that honors the rural history of the “garden district.”

A Nearly Perfect Solution – Perfected

Brett Stephens of San Francisco Landscapes & Construction jumped into the “green-up” efforts a few years ago as a contractor and an organizer of volunteer labor.  Stephens lives nearby, so the pedestrian pathway project had a special meaning for him; he sees it as an extension of his backyard.

The GraniteCrete installation is well on its way.

Since the pathway would see a lot of public use, Stephens knew they needed a paving material that would be durable, look natural, and fit the sustainable mission of the neighborhood. Ideally it would be permeable, thereby doing away with groundwater runoff issues. They wanted to avoid contributing to heat index. What’s more, the pathways had to be accessible to people in wheelchairs.

Having used GraniteCrete on past projects, Stephens knew of only one product that could solve all of these issues: GraniteCrete. He also knew GraniteCrete, better than any other product, could achieve the natural appearance they hoped to achieve. His only concern was that the installation process could be somewhat involved and a bit complicated for his all-volunteer crew.

Then he learned that GraniteCrete has recently developed a dry-installation process which was much simpler. This installation method requires fewer steps and is much less labor intensive.

(Full instructions on the new dry installation method are available on GraniteCrete’s DRY INSTALLATIONS page.)

Quality Assurance

Because GraniteCrete is committed to every installation being completed according to its high-quality standards, company personnel were on-site to oversee the installation process and assist Stephens and his crew as needed. 

For this pedestrian pathway, Stephens and his volunteers used an installation process recently developed by GraniteCrete in partnership with some of their best installers.  This new “dry” installation process saves time, effort, and labor for the installer and provides a more natural look and feel to the finished product.

Stephens found the dry installation process “much easier” than the wet process. He and his crew of volunteers quickly “got the hang of it” and finished the installation swiftly and with no issues. He noted the dry process was easier to screed, and could be compacted with just a roller and a broom!

A Beautiful Finish

GraniteCrete is proud to have been a part of this important project to develop beautiful, green areas in the Portola district and foster a sense of community throughout the neighborhood; we look forward to similar projects in the future. If you have a community project that would benefit from GraniteCrete’s unique qualities, let us know how we can help get the project started!

Standing the Test of Time and Tide

In 2005, Asilomar State Beach had a big problem. The gorgeously rugged beach had suffered the ravages of coastal erosion. This one-mile stretch stretch of coastline, home to the Asilomar Conference center, is known for its rugged natural beauty and diversity. The dunes and sandy beaches give way to rocky outcroppings and the fierce tides regularly overwhelm the pedestrian pathways. All of this  is part of the attraction to locals and tourists alike.

GraniteCrete Asilomar State Beach
An example of the erosion at Asilomar on the left; the GraniteCrete installation after completion in 2005 on the right.

But by 2005, these conditions had led to a perilous situation for the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors. The stairways leading to the beach had been severely and dangerously washed away. Asilomar State Beach is not located in a protective cove, but exposed to the open ocean. The pathways and stairs leading to the beach are regularly submerged by a  cold upwelling from nearby Monterey Canyon. When deciding how to resolve the erosion issue, the California Department of Parks and Recreation needed  to find a solution that would be both cost effective and extremely durable.

Concrete, though durable, would not blend with the natural beauty of the area. Traditional decomposed granite would only be washed away by the punishing tides. They needed something that would require little maintenance. Due to the fragile ecosystem, they needed to choose a product that would not leech dangerous or toxic materials, such as synthetic pigments and binders.

More than a decade ago, The Parks System chose GraniteCrete™.

GraniteCrete’s permeability and permanence were perfect for the project. It not only blends beautifully with the surroundings, it requires no maintenance. The organic colors, made from natural pigments, have stood the test of time, retaining their natural shade. Despite constant tidal encroachment, the steps look virtually the same today as when they were first installed.  Some of this can be credited to the porous nature of GraniteCrete, and some to the permanence provided by the proprietary admixture.

In the nearly thirteen years since GraniteCrete was installed at Asilomar State Beach, it has maintained its structural  integrity. It has not eroded, and the transition/grade between the railroad ties and the GraniteCrete is continuous, making the steps safe for public use.  The State Beach has saved thousands of dollars in maintenance over a regular decomposed granite installation, with an installation that has the durability of concrete, yet aesthetic beauty that no other product could provide.

GraniteCrete Permanent Durable Permeable Paving Asilomar State Beach
Beneath the sand from the beach, the GraniteCrete installation at Asilomar State Beach maintains its integrity in 2018.

Contact us to find out how GraniteCrete can help you combat erosion!

San Francisco’s Golden Gate

GraniteCrete is proud to be the surfacing solution to the highly trafficked walking and bicycle paths around the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. This world-famous tourist destination is traversed by hundreds of pedestrians and cyclists daily. GraniteCrete provides a lasting and attractive surfacing solution.











Sustainability paired with lasting reliability makes GraniteCrete™ the natural path. Municipalities Have many issues to resolve when considering surfacing solutions: durability, sustainability, water runoff, heat index. GraniteCrete™ addresses all of these concerns and more. To learn more about how GraniteCrete™ is the choice of the future for municipal projects, click here to contact a representative. We are happy to answer all of your questions.




GraniteCrete had the pleasure of working with Asilomar to help protect the fragile ecosystem while providing pedestrian walking paths. Asilomar needed an application that would be attractive, durable and blend in beautifully with the wild landscape. Asilomar was suffering from erosion related issues. GraniteCrete™ resolved these beautifully and has withstood the punishing high surf conditions over time.

We are happy to answer your questions regarding sustainability and erosion control.  Contact a representative