Street sign ‘Calle 24 Latino Cultural District’ can be seen on the corner of 24th and Mission Streets in Mission District, San Francisco on Saturday Aug. 12, 2017. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong)

A coalition of Mission District nonprofits want to expand the neighborhood’s Latino Cultural District onto the Mission Street corridor, ostensibly as a means to preserve elements of one of San Francisco’s fastest-changing neighborhoods.

The existing Calle 24 Latino Cultural District is roughly 55 square blocks, bounded by 22nd Street to the north, Potrero Ave to the east, Cesar Chavez to the south, and Mission Street on the west.

The Latino Cultural District was established through a May 2014 resolution — a largely honorary designation that set the table for a much stronger 2017 ordinance that implemented special controls within its borders on bars, restaurants, the appearance of storefronts, and much more.

An expansion of the cultural district — sans the heavy controls for now — would take it past 22nd Street, according to a Thursday evening presentation by the coalition United To Save The Mission at Centro Del Pueblo on Valencia Street. The boundaries have yet to be drawn.

Erick Arguello, who spearheaded Calle 24’s efforts, told attendees that the existing cultural district allowed for streetscape improvements, the funding of events, the promotion of local hiring, and marketing for the corridor.

“It’s not just one thing — it’s a lot of different levels,” he said. “We need to make sure these things are strengthened so the community can stay here and come back here.”

“We made so much for 24th street,” said Carlos Bocanegra, an attorney with Mission Neighborhood Centers and an organizer with the coalition, who spoke in Spanish through a translator. “I believe it’s our right to demand from this city, and it’s their obligation to recognize, this culture and give us a cultural district that is just.”

The roughly 60 attendees included community members, organizers, and city staff — including Diana Ponce De Leon from the Mayor’s Office of Economic Workforce and Development and Claudia Flores of the Planning Department. Everyone seemed generally supportive of the effort.

“Do you want a cultural district?” Bocanegra asked the attendees.

After some hesitation, Bocanegra asked again and received emphatic and unanimous applause.  

The boundaries of the current Latino Cultural District. The boarders of the proposed expansion have yet to be drawn.

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Yet while Latino businesses on the Mission Street corridor from 16th to 26th Streets appear to occupy the highest percentage of spaces, the corridor has a greater mix of businesses than 24th Street, with many Chinese- and Middle Eastern-owned stores.

“Technically it will be labeled an expansion of the Latino Cultural District,” said Jesus Varela, a Mission District resident who is volunteering on the effort, following the meeting. “But the idea is to make sure all the stakeholders are at the table.”

Varela said that because Mission Street’s composition is different than that of 24th Street, the board administering the cultural district’s expansion should reflect the corridor’s diversity.

So, “Is this a Latino Cultural District?” he said. “Yes and no.”

The expansion will also allow nonprofits and cultural institutions to more easily apply for grants. “As a cultural district, particularly with Prop. E funds, now we can say, instead of this one organization needing $5,000, this entire corridor needs $30,000 and this is why,” Varela said.  

Proposition E, passed in November 2018, sets aside roughly $32 million in hotel tax revenue for a slew of city arts and culture initiatives, including $3 million for cultural districts.

Cultural Districts are becoming increasingly common in San Francisco, as the city faces a flood of outside wealth and longtime residents and institutions confront the endangerment of cultural heritage.

Already, six cultural districts have been established: Japantown, Filipino Cultural District in SoMa, Compton’s Transgender Cultural District in the Tenderloin, the Leather LGBTQ Cultural District in SoMA, the Latino Cultural District, and the African American Arts & Cultural District in Bayview-Hunters Point.

If extended, the Mission’s Latino Cultural District would be one of the biggest in terms of geography.

“It sets the table not just in the community, but in City Hall,” said Julia Sabory, a cultural district program manager with the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, explaining that it allows communities to work more fluidly with city government on its initiatives.

There are, however, quite a few hurdles for the cultural district expansion to become a reality. Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who has indicated her support, must introduce the legislation at the Board of Supervisors. Then it will go through a Planning Commission Hearing, a Historic Preservation Commission Hearing, a Small Business Commission Hearing, and onto a Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee hearing.

And then it must face two votes by the full board.

Ronen was not immediately available for comment.

But at the Thursday’s meeting, Bocanegra was confident the effort would succeed, telling the room, “Without a doubt we will do it.”

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20 Comments

  1. There is something entitled about claiming funds to establish “cultural districts,” whether they be for an ethnic group, a gender, or a political faction. The notion that “we were here first, therefore taxpayers should subsidize us so that we can stay” is flawed. Latinos were preceded in the Mission by working class Irish and Germans and, before them, indigenous people. I voted for these funds believing that they would go toward music and the performing arts, not that one ethnic group would use them to claim a portion of the city as theirs.

    1. Mr. Capitalista. And the fact that Techies get free luxury bus transportation to their jobs in Silicon Valley and the folks who are pushed out of the neighborhood do not get reciprocal transport to their jobs in the City coupled with the fact that City Policy allows the Techie Buses to pass over city streets and use Muni Bus Stops is not a city city allocation of funds to the benefit of Techie Capitalists and their employees. And given that the eviction rates of existing long term Mission residents is highest along those routes does not phase you. You Sir, are the “entitled” one. Why are you hiding behind a fake name?

      1. The private busses pay permitting fees for use of the city stations. This is in addition to the usual vehicle and gas taxes that all users of the road must pay. What more do you expect for this use of public road to be equitable? Would you like the tech busses to build subsidized housing for all your compadres?

        1. No AS, I do not want the buses to pay for subsidized housing. I think the Tech Companies that attracted workers should help to provide affordable housing for those who are pushed out thru skyrocketing rents and evictions. I find it interesting that none of you boosters for these changes are willing to use your real name. Are you hiding? Are you ashamed? Are you a “Bot”?

    1. And Sir, what is your background. The fact that Valencia Street has been transformed into a copy of the Marina is not a form of economically enforced classism? Where do you people come from? We are fighting to keep a vestige of an important community, it’s businesses and institutions. You sound like a Real Estate “Bot”. A shill for those who would destroy the Mission and all the other cultural and ethnic communities in the city in the name of making a buck.

      1. The value of preserving the vestige of an important community is incommensurate with the cost of fifteen blighted blocks on Mission St. from 14th to Caesar Chavez. These blocks have ridiculously onerous development constraints due to the Calle 24 cartel and the Mission Economic “Development” Agency. I believe that progress can be made such that all benefit, but the arbitrary conditions that “cultural preservationists” impose on those trying to improve the area mean that development is stymied and the neighborhood continues to rot.

        Unless, of course, 80 ft. tall Sketchers signs and dozens of empty storefronts polluted by the drug paraphernalia and stolen property are the cultural and ethnic artifacts you seek to preserve.

        1. “I believe that progress can be made such that all benefit,…”

          Do you have examples of the beneficial-for-everyone sort of progress you believe can be made, or proposals for initiatives that might lead to such progress? Because so far, in this era of evictions, tech busses, apartment fires, and the rest, the beneficiaries seem to be ones who already have the most.
          I’m listening …

        2. Ah my friend AS, now we get nasty. I suppose you are talking about the benefits of what has happened on Valencia Street. What I hear in the retorts of Capitalista, AS, Bari is arrogance of we are right and you are wrong. Where is your empathy? Or do you only have empathy for dollar bills? You speak of the deterritorialization of Mission Street. This is created by the fact that homeless are being pushed out of downtown and SOMA into the North Mission because of people like you who want the daily reminders of the despair of homelessness to go away. Now the homeless are being used as shock troops to make the case that the Mission needs economic development and blight removal. What are you doing to work with all members of the Mission Community to solve these problems?

      2. Apparently if one disagrees with Charles Bolton, and his nativist advocacy, then one is disparaged as a “Bot” or a “shill”.

        It becomes abundantly clear why Jane Kim lost the mayoral election when she has “policy and constituent interns” of Charles’ caliber (and biases) on her staff.

  2. This is the worse idea I have ever heard of. San Francisco should belong to all its residence, not to some who have arrived at a particular point time. Calle 24 is a intimidation, anti progress group that seeks to prevent mundane things like bike sharing for some imagined authenticity. The right move is to dissolve that organization completely, not give them more power.

    1. Bari, Are you a techie or a shill for rampant real estate interests? Do you have any historical understanding of the Mission and the struggles of the residents to create a safe and interesting neighborhood for you to take over? When did you arrive? The Mission used to belong to all of the residents, before techies arrived and property owners raised rents take advantage of the higher income techie’s and push out or evict the people who lived here. Why don’t you get involved in the Community and learn something about what it is and was. They need more power to offset the power of the economic bulldozer that is re-making the neighborhood into a “Cool Place” for people like you to consume.

      1. Paraphrasing Voltaire – history is a fantasy commonly agreed upon.

        Some of the Mission belonged (belongs?) to Norteños and some to Sureños with a spinkle of the Mara added for a little extra especia. They kinda did not get along that well resulting in regular doses of insane mayhem.

        20th street between Mission and Valencia belonged to the folks who stole your power tools. It’s where you’d go to find them.

        On the flip side – Dia de los Muertos was a real community thing with neighbors opening their doors and gates and extending a kindly invitation to visit their personal alters. A moving and emotional experience right in the middle of disputed territory where ceasefire was strictly observed.
        Now advertised on sf.funcheap.
        Commune with your departed ancestors, como los Mexicanos, as a fun and cheap event! – ugh.

  3. BARI, it depends on your definition of community. Clearly you are not in favor of free speech. You can always attend public meetings and engage in reasoned discussion to solve community problems. If you are going to make an allegation of a group blocking progress by opposing bicycle sharing, please cite the case and the particulars. 24th Street has limited parking now, putting in Bicycle racks only takes parking spaces away from businesses and residents. Arrogance is not a good way to sell people on the value of your propositions. We know what you want to do is to make the Mission over in your vision of a “cool” place, like what has been done on Valencia Street the home of the over $5.00 Latte. How do we get along in a community that has existed for 50 years as a mixed income and ethnic neighborhood. You need to listen and learn to work with all the members of the community.

    1. “If you are going to make an allegation of a group blocking progress by opposing bicycle sharing”,

      Calle 24’s opposition to bike sharing isn’t an “allegation”, it’s quite public and well-documented. Erick Arguello and his crew are _aggressively_ opposed to anyone ever having access to any means of transportation other than a car in the Mission. Case in point:
      https://hoodline.com/2017/07/citing-gentrification-latino-cultural-heritage-district-blocks-bike-sharing

      They’ve also opposed the red lanes in the Mission that make it easier for SF’s public transit riders to get around. Calle 24’s notion of who matters in the Mission doesn’t even seem to extend to many of its lower-income residents who don’t drive. Indeed, it’s not clear who that privilege extends to other than the organization’s business owners themselves.

      As a Bernal resident, I remember when Calle 24 was trying to wrap its tentacles around Precita Park too. I’m so very glad they were stymied in that effort.

  4. Then the Irish and Germans should have protected their cultural institutions. What’s that you say? They were busy moving to the sunset?

  5. Will Calle 24 do something about all the abandoned store fronts and rampant drug use? I fail to see how these things need preserving

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