San Francisco is known around the world as a homeplace for sanctuary, cultural pride, and movements for justice and innovation. There are countless examples of how the City by the Bay has served as a lighthouse; a beacon of hope radiating light for those who envision a better life, not just for themselves, but for their family and their communities. The Cultural District program builds upon this San Francisco legacy by bringing Community leaders and City staff together to actualize visions and create change for a better present and future.
In May of 2018, the Cultural Districts Program was created by the Board of Supervisors and Mayor. San Francisco voters then passed Proposition E by 75%, providing funding to the Cultural Districts each year.
The Cultural Districts effort is a place-making and place-keeping program. The vision is to preserve, strengthen and promote cultural communities, and its goals are to support legacy businesses, nonprofits, community arts, and traditions. Neighborhood-based community groups and their cultural values lead each District's efforts. The program’s aim is to support specific cultural communities or ethnic groups that historically have been discriminated against, displaced, and oppressed.
Community Based Planning
The legislation of the Cultural Districts program states that community members from each District and City Departmental staff must write and then be guided by a three-year plan aimed at fulfilling each District’s vision and goals.
This Strategic Plan is called the Cultural History, Housing, and Economic Sustainability Strategies (CHHESS) Report. The CHHESS Report serves as a roadmap for stabilizing their cultural community and is updated every three years.
How the Program Works
A cultural district is formally created by the Board of Supervisors, by Ordinance, in partnership with the community. The Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) coordinates the Cultural District Program and manages the funding. Each Cultural District maintains a community-based advisory board, staffing, and ongoing community and City partnerships. Below are three of the primary activities of each Cultural District-
- Sharing resources and information and leveraging programming to stabilize their community.
- Connecting community with City programs and efforts to increase reach and efficacy.
- Working to foster cultural safety, pride, and improve the quality of life for its community members.
The following team of City Departments is working together to streamline City and community partnerships and coordinate resources:
- The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD)
- The Planning Department, and
- The Arts Commission
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Cultural Districts as of Winter 2021 Include:
Japantown Cultural District (Western Addition, est. 2013)
“Collectively envisioning and developing strategies to sustain San Francisco Japantown for generations to come”
San Francisco’s Japantown (日本町 or Nihonmachi) is one of only three remaining Japantowns in California and the United States. Japantown Task Force, Inc. continues to work on revitalizing and preserving Japantown, a community of culture, tradition, and history.
Calle 24 (Veinticuatro) Latino Cultural District (Mission District, est. 2014)
“El corazon de la Misión”
Calle 24 is the heart of the Mission District and the hub of Latino cultural expression in San Francisco. The Mission district has served as the center of Latino activism, arts, commerce, and culture in San Francisco since the 1940s.
Calle 24 Latino Cultural District Website (site under construction)
SoMa Pilipinas – Filipino Cultural District (South of Market, est. 2016)
“More Than A Cultural District: SOMA Pilipinas Is Community-In-Action And A Cultural Movement”
This cultural heritage district spans 1.5 square miles, honors 120+ years of Filipino history in San Francisco, and celebrates the community’s living legacy of making home and culture, building community, and fighting for economic and racial justice in the rapidly gentrifying South of Market neighborhood.
Transgender Cultural District (Tenderloin, est. 2017)
“We aim to create an urban environment that celebrates the transgender tipping point in the United States and the world, while educating the world of the deep profundity of transgender culture and our contributions to the liberation of humankind.”
Founded by three black trans women in 2017 as Compton’s Transgender Cultural District, The Transgender District is the first legally recognized transgender district in the world.
Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District (South of Market, est. 2018)
“United, we preserve, enhance, and advocate for the continuity and vitality of the Kinky and Queer communities of San Francisco’s Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District.”
The South of Market neighborhood has served as an LGBTQ enclave since the 1950s with a long legacy of bars, restaurants, bathhouses, and other businesses associated with Leather subculture.
African American Arts and Cultural District (SFAAACD) (Bayview Hunters Point, est. 2018)
“The objective is to preserve, strengthen and promote our cultural assets and diverse communities.”
In 2018, the San Francisco African American Arts and Cultural District program formalized a collaborative partnership between the City and communities with the purpose of bringing resources to stabilize the Bayview community.
Castro LGBTQ Cultural District (Castro, est. 2019)
“Preserving, sustaining, and promoting the queer history and culture of the Castro”
The Castro LGBTQ Cultural District supports the neighborhood’s history, fosters racial, ethnic and cultural diversity among its residents and businesses, and works to create a safe, beautiful, and inclusive space for LGBTQ and allied communities, for those who call this neighborhood home to those who visit it from around the world.
American Indian Cultural District (AICD) (Mission District, est. 2020)
“We are on unceded Ramaytush Ohlone land.”
The American Indian Cultural District (AICD) is the first established Cultural District of its size in the United States dedicated to recognizing, honoring, and celebrating the American Indian legacy, culture, people, and contributions.
Sunset Chinese Cultural District (Sunset, est. 2021)
Currently in progress of developing.