Olma O'Neill

A Resident's Reflection on South San Francisco  

Olma ONeill

Recently the City had a chance to sit down with Olma O'Neill, a resident whose family has been in South San Francisco for more than four decades! This is what she had to say about South San Francisco.

When did you move to South San Francisco?
My family bought our very first home in the Westborough area of South San Francisco in 1975! 
What brought you to South San Francisco?
We had just emigrated from the Philippines. After a couple of years residing in an apartment in San Francisco’s Mission district, while my father worked at his job at Levi’s Strauss, my parents heard about an opportunity, from co-workers and friends, to buy a three bedroom condominium in South San Francisco. By that time, they had earned enough to afford a down payment. Fast forward 40 years later… my father and brother now reside immediately across the street from our very first family home in South City!
What is one of your favorite memories of South San Francisco?
Sorry. I have many that it’s hard to limit to just one! I have very fond memories of my childhood in South City.

Back in the day, when our public schools used to have music programs and physical fitness was a key part of our education, I learned how to play flute in 4th grade with Mr. Satterlee, and participated in the awesome running program by Robert Gehl at Foxridge Elementary School. Mr. Gehl motivated me to run my one and only half marathon at the age of 11! I also have a few South City "Turkey Trot / Thanksgiving Fun Run” ribbons, to my name.

I loved spending a lot of family time at the Orange Park Swimming Pool, where my siblings and I learned how to swim. I also took guitar and tap dancing lessons with the SSF Park and Recreation Department. My brother went on to become a Tennis Instructor with the department.

Then, I was fortunate enough to be in the award-winning Westborough Junior High Marching Band under the direction of Fred Cadiente. Back then, it was really a big deal for me and my sister to be a part of the band - I don't even remember how many awards we won, but it didn't matter - we really all just had fun even though we had to suffer, at times, in full uniform in sweltering heat or pounding rain. I also had to endure fighting for first chair against my younger, more talented sister.

As a child, I used to look forward to walking home from school and visiting the 7-Eleven store near Callan and King and paying 5 cents for a Jolly Rancher green apple hard candy. Simple joy.
Oh, and I remember driving through Lilac Lane during Christmas!
What is one piece of history that I think most people don’t know about when it comes to South San Francisco?
I was surprised, myself, to find out that a duck farm used to occupy the space where El Camino High school now sits. And I think many are unaware of our Wind Harp!
What do you think is the “best kept secret” of South San Francisco?
Revealing some "best kept secrets" of South City is counter to the whole concept of keeping a secret; but I feel compelled to share some of my favorite personal discoveries!
1. Raymond's Sourdough Warehouse
It's a family-owned business and they have fresh bread around the clock. Open seven days a week. One of our annual traditions is to get fresh sourdough for our Thanksgiving crab feed (we might just eat loaves of sourdough bread with the cancellation of the Dungeness Crab season)! The texture is perfect and the flavor is perfectly tangy. They sell Raymond's at Mollie Stone's markets - save yourself some money and buy it straight from the source.

Aside from being a South City/Bay Area institution (you can see their huge neon sign from the highway), they have one specific item on their menu which I think is a well-kept secret - Golden Boy Pizza! We used to drive into San Francisco’s North Beach just to get this Sicilian style pizza. Then, Golden Boy expanded to San Mateo but that branch subsequently closed. This summer, while dining at Bertolucci's, we noticed the glorious Golden Boy pizza was on the menu (we knew it was "that" Golden Boy Pizza when we noticed they had the signature Clam and Garlic listed). We will still venture out to North Beach for the whole Golden Boy Pizza experience, but having it served up fresh in our hometown is even better (Bertolucci's owner used to own Golden Boy Pizza in the city). They sell 1/8 sheets (not slices). And if you want more than pizza, Bertolucci's has a great menu. We've tried the bruschetta, steak, penne pasta, minestrone soup and rabbit stew - they were all worthy of recommendation! As an incredible bonus, they serve fresh, warm focaccia while you wait for your meal. Yes, focaccia - that could be a meal on its own.

3. Oyster Point Harbor and Ferry Terminal. This is one thing which I really do not want to remain a secret! I can't believe I've waited this long to explore Oyster Point. We came out here to take a walk on a sunny weekend and were pleasantly surprised to see some picnic and bbq parties, and people biking, walking, running along the trail, and fishing off the pier. It's a beautiful waterfront with great views and I really do wish more people knew about it. Also, this year, I just learned about the ferry service from South City into San Francisco! Right now, it runs only on weekdays, once a day; the primary service runs between South City and the East Bay. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many commuters come in to work here in South City; and doubly surprised to see how incredibly fun the ride in to the city could be! They have plenty of power outlets, free wifi, a snack bar, and bike racks. This is also a great alternative to get in to Oakland's Jack London Square or Alameda if you want to avoid driving in traffic.
What is your favorite thing to do in South San Francisco?
We love hanging out at our neighborhood cafe, Suga Mama's Café. Couches, coffee, and paninis are a perfect combination.
Participating in community events such as Live Music in the Park, attending library events, walking our dog at Orange Park and visiting new businesses in our town! We also enjoy strolling our Oyster Point Marina!
What do you want other people to know about South San Francisco?
South City is truly a unique city. If you go up and down the peninsula, you will quickly realize how distinct it is from the way it is governed to the way its cultural diversity impacts the vibe and flavor of the city. I want people to know how accessible their local leaders, department heads and city staff are.
Also, I think everyone should know about the SSF Citizens’ Academy and CERT!