While some in the Mission are pushing for an expansion of the Latino Cultural District to include Mission Street, the neighborhood could soon become home to a different cultural district  — one for the original people of California. 

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen introduced legislation to designate a two mile area within the Mission as the city’s first American Indian Cultural District. If approved, the new cultural designation could come next year. 

The American Indian Cultural District would be a swath stretching from Sanchez Street to as far east as Folsom Street, but centering on 16th Street. Ronen said the area has a number of Native American services, programs and organizations that need to be recognized. But it’s also rich in contemporary history.

“There are few communities that have experienced displacement as violently and as profoundly as the Native American community,” Ronen said during the Board of Supervisors meeting. 

“Establishing the American Indian Cultural District will provide a recognizable home base for the American Indian community to ensure that its history and contributions are not forgotten and overwritten — and continue to be written in the present day.”

The proposal won immediate support from Supervisors Rafael Mandelman, Gordon Mar, Vallie Brown, Sandra Lee Fewer, Matt Haney and Aaron Peskin. 

The area where the district is proposed is home to established Native American programs like the Friendship House at 56 Julian St., a nonprofit addiction recovery center that has been operating in the city since the 1960s, and the Native American Health Center at 160 Capp St., which has been operating in the city since 1972. 

But it’s also been the epicenter  of Native American activism. Historical events such as the occupation of Alcatraz, during which some seven dozen Native American protesters occupied the island for the better part of two years between 1969 and 1971, were planned and organized in this area. It was also, for a while, home to the American Indian Cultural Center. 

 The current process requires the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development to prepare a report detailing the cultural and historic events that took place in the area and analyze the economics and demographics of the neighborhood. During this process the community will be asked for input.

The report will be presented to the Board of Supervisors by Jan. 31, 2021.

Paul Monge, a legislative aide for Hillary Ronen, said that the proposal has to go before the Historic Preservation Commission, followed by the Planning Commission, which both will submit individual reports to the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee for further review before the entire board votes on it. It is then up to the mayor to sign the ordinance.

“There’s no science to the timeline but we would anticipate after the various public hearings that we could see an approval certainly by or before the summer time,” Monge said. 

Cultural districts are relatively new to the city and are being utilized as a tool against redevelopment and gentrification. Though the designation is also symbolic, it can give way to further protections like creation of special uses or restrictions. 

Six districts are currently recognized by the city: Japantown, the SoMa Filipino Cultural District, the Leather LGBTQ Community District, the Castro Cultural District, the Tenderloin Compton’s Transgender Cultural District and the Bayview-Hunter’s Point African American Arts & Cultural District. The Mission’s Calle 24 Latino Cultural District is also seeking an expansion of its own to include Mission Street, which would make it one of the biggest in the city.

The area around Mission Dolores was once home to the Ramaytush Ohlone, a community of Ohlone who lived here before the arrival of Spanish colonizers in the 1600s. A tribe actually lived in the area now occupied by Dolores Park, and many are still buried there. 

In 2018, the Board of Supervisors voted to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day every October. Many cities across the nation have followed suit.

This post was updated on Nov. 20 with further information.