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San Francisco’s Cultural Districts

This piece was originally published in our April-June 2023 edition of SF Heritage News. To view the full issue, click here.

By Karalyn Monteil, President & CEO

As San Francisco Heritage’s mission evolved to include a focus on both tangible and intangible cultural heritage, our relationships with San Francisco’s cultural districts have expanded and strengthened. Our 3-year Strategic Plan, adopted on June 21, 2022, includes key actions to support and cultivate mutually beneficial partnerships with cultural districts to fulfill our role as a convenor for cultural heritage and preservation issues.

As of last November, the City of San Francisco Board of Supervisors has established ten cultural districts located across San Francisco, with some boundaries overlapping, and each district embodying their community’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage:

  • Japantown Cultural District (est. 2013) 
  • Calle 24 (Veinticuatro) Latino Cultural District (est. 2014)
  • SOMA Pilipinas Filipino Cultural District (est. 2016)
  • Transgender Cultural District (est. 2017)
  • Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District (est. 2018)
  • African American Arts and Cultural District (est. 2018)
  • Castro LGBTQ Cultural District (est. 2019)
  • American Indian Cultural District (est. 2020)
  • Sunset Chinese Cultural District (est. 2022)
  • Pacific Islander Cultural District (est. 2022)

San Francisco’s cultural districts were formally created by the Board of Supervisors as a place-making and placekeeping program in partnership with the community, and work to safeguard cultural heritage and living traditions. The program is coordinated by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development in collaboration with the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, SF Planning, and Arts Commission. Each Cultural District works to safeguard cultural heritage and living traditions by preserving and promoting diverse communities’ cultural assets, resources, and traditions. The Cultural Districts also work to streamline and coordinate information, partnerships, and resources between the city and local communities.

Through our Heritage in the Neighborhoods program, SF Heritage has collaborated with various cultural districts to showcase and support historic landmarks and legacy businesses, help create community alliances, and support efforts to develop historic-context statements as well as Cultural History, Housing, and Economic Sustainability Strategies (CHHESS) Reports, which is a three-year strategic plan aimed at fulfilling each cultural district’s vision and goals.

Our Landmark Luncheon recognizes the role of cultural districts in preservation advocacy, and our newly launched Heritage Happy Hour (in partnership with the Legacy Business Program) gathers SF Heritage members and friends at legacy bars in different cultural districts on the second Tuesday of each month.

 For the California Preservation Foundation’s annual conference, SF Heritage partnered with the American Indian Cultural District, the Japantown Cultural District, Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District, and Presidio GO to lead a special presentation on “Cultural Districts for Place-Making and Place-Keeping.” The day-long workshop and tour included visits to Native American sites in the Presidio, the Mission Cultural District, and lunch in Japantown.

 Mark your calendars for our upcoming SF Heritage Conversation on Cultural Districts in November for Native American Heritage Month. Learn more about San Francisco’s Cultural Districts Program here.

Heritage NewsLGBTQ+World HeritageUNESCOFrancesco Bandarin

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