The proposed American Indian Cultural District in the Mission.

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. 

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12 Comments

  1. There are quite a few innacuracies in this article. (1) Potential approval of the American Indian Cultural District will most likely be in the beginning of 2020, not 2021. (2) the CHHESS Report is required, developed and published after the District is approved, not before. It serves as a road map and strategic plan for the District and is written by both the City and the Community. (3) the African American Arts and Cultural District is by far the largest Cultural District- not the potential Expansion of the Mission’s Latino District. (4) You left out the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District.

    Please, reach out and verify your facts before printing. It’s the press’s responsibility to share accurate information to the public. Thank you

    1. Julia — 

      We’ll look into this. Thanks for reaching out. I’m sure you realize that it’s difficult to verify every last detail of every last story.

      Best,

      JE

  2. Once again you guys do another inaccurate story. Come on guys get your facts straight, you know people actually read this right? The MIssion won’t be the biggest cultural district, it will most likely be the Bayview as the biggest cultural district, nor will it start in 2021, it will be sooner than that. Hopefully next year. And It’s not just for only for California Native people, its a cultural district recognizing all Native American people in our community. And, it’s not symbolic, it actually an important designation to be a cultural district. Just do your due diligence, that’s all MIssion Local, seriously.

    1. Roberto — 

      We’ll correct whatever is wrong and appreciate your reaching out. Your condescending tone is not necessary nor helpful.

      Best,

      JE

  3. I actually feel it was very well written.
    But back to the story, what a waste of time and resources. We need to strengthen the latino cultural district. Maybe build like a wall and charge non locals or non la raza a fee to come in. Kinda like the bridge system.

    1. Hey great idea. You could start charging a fee for “non La Reza” people to come to the mission. The Bayview could charge a fee for non African-Americans to get in; the Marina could charge a fee for non-Caucasians to get in. It would be great… just like the old days, right? Jesus Christo.

  4. There’s not a doubt in my mind that this is entirely designed to further holding up or block the housing project planned for the 16th street BART station and the few others the immediate area. This is actually a pretty shameless misuse of the program and a misguided sense of cultural protectionism.

    Also, for a long-time Mission resident, am I the only one that does not in a any way see an Indigenous Peoples population that needs anchored projection here? I know Hillary (and cohorts) is attempting to anchor it by the two orgs that provide services but that seems extremely flimsy.

    1. I agree. While there maybe a couple of Native American oriented things in this district, overall there is absolutely nothing distinctively Native American about it. No one walking through the area today, would notice that there is any Native American culture or heritage there. So one has to think there is some sort of ulterior motive behind this.

  5. Will the city allow the remnants of our indigenous population within the “American Indian Cultural District” to put up a Casino?
    Seems only fair to let them get some of their stolen wealth back.

    1. Ah Carlos! I think you may have something there! Could this be Ronen pulling a page from the old Willie Brown playbook and setting up a gateway for a lucrative casino deal down the road? The plot thickens…

  6. Good Grief! — Yet another another Cultural District to employ strong-arm/extortion techniques in order thwart new housing creation and the establishment of businesses that don’t comport with whatever ethnic litmus test they contrive.

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