Transform Downtown into a leading arts, culture, and nightlife destination

February 9, 2023

Encouraging additional arts and culture, recreation, retail, nightlife and entertainment experiences in Downtown will draw a wide range of people at all hours and throughout the year.


As the economic engine of the Bay Area, Downtown has evolved into a destination for major corporations and office-oriented industries. As companies transition to more remote and hybrid work arrangements, this worker-centered area must also evolve. By leveraging San Francisco’s world-renowned culinary, cultural, and entertainment offerings, and adding new arts, leisure, and recreational experiences Downtown, the city can enhance its brand as the center of one of the most unique and culturally vibrant cities in the world. 

The City has begun to advance a series of initiatives and will launch additional programs that support this strategy:  

  • Designate an Arts, Culture and Entertainment (ACE) Zone with targeted City programs and incentives to foster new arts and culture establishments.
  • Continue supporting public space events and activations that showcase local talent, entrepreneurs and culture.
  • Permitting improvements for community events to support neighborhood festivals and street fairs.
  • Advocate for and implement state legislation to allow for outdoor alcohol consumption in Entertainment Zones in select areas.
  • Leverage the Moscone Visitor Center as a point to connect guests to local arts, culture and entertainment offerings. 



Back to top

Designated Arts, Culture and Entertainment (ACE) Zone

The pandemic changed work and shopping habits and revived a desire for in-person experiences such as live events, shows and cultural gatherings. These changes, coupled with the increased availability of Downtown commercial spaces present new opportunities for emerging culinary, arts and culture, recreation, and entertainment and nightlife establishments to open – bringing new energy and creating new points of interest for visitors.

  • To encourage new activities Downtown, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development will lead efforts to designate an ACE Zone. Staff will identify and evaluate existing arts, culture, and entertainment assets in the Downtown area to propose boundaries of an ACE Zone and work with public, private, and industry stakeholders to create a package of incentives and supporting investments that can foster new venues, event spaces and other cultural institutions, with a focus on independent local establishments, in the area that generate increased interest.

Back to top

Public space events and activations

Downtown’s large number of unique public spaces and venues can host a wide range of activities that celebrate the community and cultural offerings that are so important to San Francisco’s identity, but coordinated efforts and ongoing investments are necessary for these spaces to flourish.

  • As part of Mayor Breed’s Downtown Economic Recovery Fund, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development made a series of grants to support seasonal and reoccurring events throughout Downtown. These events - including World Cup viewing parties, Asian American & Pacific Islander Film Festivals, Let’s Glow SF holiday light projections and an expanded Litquake literary festival, along with regular street celebrations and markets generate new activity Downtown while showcasing San Francisco-based entrepreneurs, artists, performers, and bring neighborhood based and cultural activations into our Downtown.
  • In 2021, the Mayor announced SF Live, a series of live performances presented by local entertainment venues at outdoor spaces. SF live uses $2.5 million in state funding to cover production costs for these outdoor events and provide stipends to source talent and promote the performances by local venues still struggling to recover from pandemic closures.
  • The City will provide ongoing support to ensure these events grow, become established and have long-term success.
Back to top

Permitting improvements for community events

Street festivals, markets, neighborhood fairs and other special events draw people to neighborhoods citywide, including Downtown. All these experiences make our economy stronger and add cultural vibrancy to San Francisco.

  • To encourage and support these events, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development will lead efforts to implement several process improvements identified by an interdepartmental Special Events Steering Committee to streamline the permitting processes for special events to make it easier for event organizers and City staff to host events in public spaces and streets.
  • This initiative will include technical assistance and guidance to help event organizers manage event costs and navigate City requirements and explore ways to reduce the financial burden of producing neighborhood events by community-based organizations.
Back to top

Outdoor alcohol consumption in Entertainment Zones

Bars, restaurants and venues rely on foot traffic and community interest to thrive. During the pandemic, street openings and sidewalk seating allowed clients to dine and drink outdoors, offering a critical lifeline to these businesses.

  • Pending state legislation - SB 76 (Wiener) - would allow local governments to designate “Entertainment Zones,” where local restaurants and bars could sell alcoholic beverages for outdoor consumption in street closures, such as during festivals and street fairs, which is currently prohibited under state law. Currently, outdoor alcohol sales at fairs and festivals must be provided by outside vendors.
  • If the legislation passes, the City would see double benefit: brick-and-mortar businesses will get a revenue boost and the street activation will drive more visitors.
  • The City will advocate for this legislation to pass and work diligently to establish Entertainment Zones, as permitted.
Back to top

Leverage the Moscone Visitor Center 

The City can offer convention-goers and other tourists a memorable visitor experience while also directing their attention to unique, local, and independent San Francisco establishments and offerings. 

  • The City Administrator’s Office is leading efforts to explore making the Visitor Center at Moscone Center a focal point and resource for visitors to Downtown. The program may include Welcome Ambassadors and other elements to engage visitors and connect them to arts, cultural, entertainment, and nightlife experiences Downtown and throughout San Francisco.

  • The center would serve to promote events and activations produced by the city’s vibrant mix of neighborhood, arts, and community organizations. 


See other economic recovery strategies

Back to top