SAN FRANCISCO—On Thursday, July 13, Mayor Edwin M. Lee and the California Arts Council announced that two San Francisco communities have been named part of the new California Cultural Districts program. San Francisco’s Calle 24 Latino Cultural District and South of Market (SOMA) Pilipinas joined 12 other districts statewide as part of an innovative program that highlights thriving cultural diversity and unique artistic identities within California.
The participation of the California Cultural Districts is a collaboration between the Office of the Mayor, Supervisor Hillary Ronen, Supervisor Jane Kim, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Planning Commission, San Francisco Heritage, the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, and the South of Market (SOMA) Pilipinas.
“San Francisco continues to be on the forefront of preserving and enhancing neighborhood character, identity, and diversity,” said Mayor Lee. “These important cultural assets are a testament to the work of our partners and residents who embody the values of San Francisco. These communities will shape the future of culture districts in the state and beyond.”
According to a press release from the Mayor’s Office, earlier this year, Mayor Lee authored legislation alongside Supervisor Hillary Ronen to preserve the neighborhood character of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District through a set of comprehensive zoning regulations. His proposed budget includes $150,000 to create new programs that support Filipino-owned businesses in SOMA Pilipinas.
The California Cultural District certification of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District and SOMA Pilipinas goal is to strengthen the districts by recognizing the important contributions of San Francisco’s diverse communities. A Cultural District, as outlined by the program, is a well-defined geographic area with a high concentration of cultural resources and activities. The 14 districts that are part of the program’s first cohort were selected with variety in mind, aimed to help tailor the program to meet the complex makeup of the state.
Calle 24 Latino Cultural District and SOMA Pilipinas will receive the designation for a period of 5 years, per state legislation. Designation under this pilot launch of the program includes benefits such as technical assistance, peer-to-peer exchanges, and branding materials and promotional strategy. The California Arts Council has partnered with Visit California and Caltrans for strategic statewide marketing and resource support.
The designation complements the Mayor’s commitment toward preserving the rich history, cultural identity and assets, and the diversity of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District and SOMA Pilipinas. City agencies partner with community based organizations, small businesses and residents to develop and implement strategies that provide affordable housing production, reduce the displacement of area residents and small businesses, strengthen local serving businesses, and increase pathways to employment in these regions.
“San Francisco just wouldn’t be San Francisco without its cultural districts,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen. “Driving from one neighborhood to another in our city can feel like you’re traveling across the world, and that’s something worth preserving. We’re proud of Calle 24 and are looking forward to working with the California Arts Council to expand and grow the Latino character of the neighborhood.”
“I am proud of our work in tandem with the community to create SOMA Pilipinas,” said Supervisor Jane Kim. “The California Arts Council’s recognition of our two innovative social/cultural districts underlines the critical role the arts and innovative expressions play in recognizing communities who have long contributed to the building and culture of San Francisco and California.”
The California Cultural Districts program originated with the adoption of Assembly Bill 189, authored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom in 2015. The program aims to leverage the state’s artistic and cultural assets. Aligning with the mission and values of the California Arts Council, the districts celebrate the diversity of California while unifying under an umbrella of shared values’ helping to grow and sustain authentic grassroots arts and cultural opportunities, increasing the visibility of local artists and community participation in local arts and culture, and promoting socioeconomic and ethnic diversity. Districts also play a conscious role in tackling issues of artist displacement.
“State-level designation of Cultural Districts, with California’s diverse geography and regional variety, allow for an entirely new and comprehensive look at our deeply valued cultural assets,” said Donn K. Harris, California Arts Council Chair. “Calle 24 Latino Cultural District and SOMA Pilipinas personal and generational commitment to these assets speaks of a state deeply invested in the places and people that celebrate local traditions and creativity. Our goal with the pilot launch of this new program was to support a group of districts that met high but broad standards of coherence, vision, and purpose ones that could set an example for districts that will follow as the program develops and grows.
The Calle 24 Latino Cultural District http://www.calle24sf.org, in the heart of the Mission, is anchored by the 24th Street corridor (Calle 24), a vibrant, commercial, tree-lined corridor known as “El Coraz de la Mission” or “The Heart of the Mission.” The Mission District in San Francisco is known worldwide for its bounty of colorful murals and is considered the birthplace of the regional mural movement. The 24th Street corridor, with nearly 200 small businesses, is a bustling enclave of Latino owned and operated shops, including colorful specialty stores, restaurants, taquerias, Mexican bakeries, fresh produce grocers, butchers, cafes and art galleries. Calle 24 hosts some of the largest annual festivals in San Francisco, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors to the community.
“Calle 24 Latino Cultural District is very proud to be designated as a State Cultural District,” said Erick Arguello, Calle 24 Latino Cultural District Council President.”It’s another step to best help preserve our cultural assets, businesses, and working-class and Latino communities. This acknowledgment comes from the many years of work by Calle 24 and our partners like the SF Latino Historical Society, SF Heritage, Mayors Office of Economic and Workforce Development, Supervisor Campos and Ronen and the community that created the culture and beauty that we enjoy today.”
South of Market (SOMA) Pilipinas http://www.somapilipinas.org, San Francisco’s Filipino Cultural Heritage District, and serves as the cultural, social, arts, and service hub for Filipinos throughout Northern California. Home to thousands of Filipino families and seniors, SOMA Pilipinas preserves the rich history of Filipinos in San Francisco and acts as a gateway community for newly-arrived Filipino families. The region hosts cultural institutions such as Kularts, one of the nation’s premier presenters of contemporary and tribal Filipino arts, and Bindlestiff Studio, a renowned, community-based performing arts venue dedicated to showcasing emerging Filipino American and Filipino artists. SOMA Pilipinas is committed to socio-economic equity and community empowerment.
“We are so honored to be among the first cultural districts to receive State designation,” said Raquel Redondiez, Project Manager of SOMA Pilipinas. “We look forward to working closely with our City and State partners to develop an innovative cultural district that preserves the rich history of Filipinos in San Francisco and California, and ensures greater inclusion and equity in the arts and economy.”
“Congratulations to Calle 24 and SOMA Pilipinas on being selected for this exciting statewide certification,” said Tom DeCaigny, San Francisco’s Director of Cultural Affairs. “This initiative ensures that the cultural communities that have shaped these neighborhoods in our city to the benefit of all residents and visitors are honored and protected in perpetuity.”