Ingleside Couple Aims to Make Front Yards More Neighborly

The couple spent years transforming their front yard to encourage more interactions with neighbors.

Mihal Emberton and Raelyn Ruppel in their front yard. Anne Marie Kristoff/Ingleside Light
The Ingleside Light is an independent news outlet. Sign up to receive our latest stories as soon as they're published.

From hosting monthly book club meetings to offering free herbs from their garden to neighbors, this Ingleside couple is on a mission to bring back the front yard as a place for community building.

Since 2012, Mihal Emberton and Raelyn Ruppel have spent countless hours renovating their front and side yards to be a community oasis in a part of the neighborhood where many yards have been paved over.

My hope would be that it would be nice to be recognized for how much this kind of investment adds to the city,” Emberton said.

A physician and co-president of the parent-teacher group at Commodore Sloat Elementary, Emberton wants to set an example.

“We want our neighbors to do this kind of thing,” she said.

Their yard is filled with multiple seating areas, an arbor, a fire pit, a fountain, fruit and cherry blossom trees and several planter boxes filled with produce such as blueberries, tomatoes, carrots, herbs like mint and sage and more. It took years to improve.

The transformation has led to a years-long battle with the city over alleged code violations due to their yard renovations. This month Emberton took the city to court over the matter with a $12 million lawsuit.

“This whole setting might be something that somebody would put in their backyard,” Ruppel said.

Ruppel, a stay-at-home mom and volunteer for Sloat Elementary, said it was important to decorate and add amenities to the front yard to be part of the neighborhood and get to know neighbors.

“People outside on the streets and in front years deter crime,” Ruppel said.

Aside from speaking to their neighbors more often, they have also held several community events in their yard like San Francisco Youth Baseball League team celebrations, outdoor movie nights, birthday parties and a free after school program for several neighborhood families.

The effort is about creating a new culture in the neighborhood.

“It's just this kind of culture where the neighbors all see each other and engage socially,” Emberton said. “When we moved back to California I wondered, ‘How are we going to bring this kind of culture, this kind of East Coast-Midwest outdoor community and neighbor culture here?’”

The answer: create a space where people hang out.

“Everything will follow from that,” Emberton said.

Support Independent News

This story you’ve just finished was funded by our readers. We want it to inspire you to either sign up to become a member or make a gift to The Ingleside Light so that we can continue publishing stories like this one that matter to our community and city.

The Ingleside Light is a reader-funded news publication that produces independent journalism to benefit the community. We were founded in 2008 to fill a void in San Francisco’s press: An outlet dedicated to the people of the greater Ingleside neighborhood. More than a decade later, The Ingleside Light is still here doing the work because it is critical to democracy and our civic life.

Your contribution today will help ensure that our critical work continues. From development to small business, to parks and transportation and much more, we are busier than ever covering stories you won’t see anywhere else. Make your gift of any amount today and join the hundreds of readers just like you standing up for the power of independent news. Thank you.


Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to The Ingleside Light.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.