Say there’s a part of a neighborhood that has a strong cultural identity and wants to preserve it – how do they go about becoming a recognized cultural district?
The Mission’s Calle 24 has already forged its own pathway to being recognized formally as a cultural asset, but now Supervisor Hillary Ronen has introduced legislation that would codify a specific process for creating cultural districts and laying out a plan for how the city should support them.
“Up until this point, the response to gentrification has been to say ‘no’ – communities have been trying to stop new businesses and residents from moving in. But it hasn’t been all that successful,” Ronen said at the Board as she introduced the legislation Tuesday.
Her measure, she said, “says ‘yes’ to protecting cultures, arts and residents.”
The proposal lays out a specific procedure for creating a cultural district – any supervisor, the mayor, or city department can propose an ordinance creating a cultural district. Previously, the process started with a resolution.
Hearings at three Commissions would come next: Planning, Historic Preservation, and Small Business. The Board of Supervisors would approve the ordinance.
After that, several other government bodies would weigh in on the proposal in the form of reports detailing what kinds of arts the cultural district is known for and should be promoted, what kind of public infrastructure and signage might help it thrive, what kind of demographic changes have been happening in the district and whether and how those could be addressed, and so on.
Up until now, said Ronen’s aide Carolina Morales, “we would kind of have to start from scratch” if a neighborhood group came to legislators wanting to establish a cultural district.
Of course any kind of preservation efforts take resources, and the legislation aims to formalize financing for cultural districts by establishing a fund for each district. Money could be allocated to those by the city, but they could also accept donations from private entities.
For those concerned about oversight, there’s also an element in the proposal to allow for the establishment of a five-member advisory committee for each district, which would help direct funds and be a venue for public input.
“What’s great about the advisory committee is that the public can come to those meetings and be able to weigh in,” Morales said.
The legislation will next go to a yet-to-be-determined committee of the Board.