An expanded Latino Cultural District on Mission Street is one step closer to reality, as a city outreach study found massive support for the expansion among some 200 community members, businesses, and nonprofits in the neighborhood. 

“Overwhelmingly, respondents supported the idea of expanding the Latino Cultural District because of the increased City resources and attention it would bring, and the cultural significance of the neighborhood,” the study, conducted by the Chung Hagen consulting firm, concluded. 

The study was completed in June, though it was not publicly released. Mission Local recently obtained a copy. 

The current district, created in 2014, is around 60 square blocks — bounded by Mission Street on the west, 22nd Street on the north, Potrero on the east, and Cesar Chavez on the south. Though the initial 2014 establishment of the cultural district was largely honorary, it laid the foundation for a much stronger 2017 ordinance that implemented special controls within its borders on bars, restaurants, the appearance of storefronts, and much more. 

The district could grow significantly larger under the proposed expansion, though its boundaries are still to be determined. If ultimately approved by the Board of Supervisors, it could span the entire Mission neighborhood or simply extend down the Mission Street commercial corridor north from 22nd Street. 

It also hasn’t yet been decided what designating this undetermined larger area as a cultural district would entail. Respondents said they hoped for more affordable housing, tenant protections, the use of empty storefronts as artist spaces, investment in green spaces, and the creation of more parking.

Other ideas included installing a decorative archway to mark the entrance of the Mission, documenting culturally significant places and murals, revitalizing historic theaters and providing low-cost or free spaces for teaching and practicing ancient traditions.   

Whether expanding the boundaries of the cultural district will lead to any of this is unclear. 

Julia Sabory, the cultural district manager at the Mayor’s Office Housing and Community Development, said the “legislative scope” of a cultural district ordinance passed in 2017, which made it easier for neighborhoods to establish the districts, falls into six categories: historic preservation tenant protections, arts and culture, economic and workforce development, and cultural competency. 

“It’s up to the community to define how those are actualized,” she said. “That community engagement starts high level with a lot of ideas that go through a pruning process that the community navigates themselves while staying within the scope of the legislation.”

She said the city’s seven cultural districts connect “unique independent cultural groups to these city programs and initiatives that are already happening in an intentional way.”  

Now that the study is complete, a “leadership body” has been formed that will initiate the legislative process at the Board of Supervisors, create a strategic plan, and collaborate with city departments and the existing Calle 24 Latino Cultural District leadership. It will also actively “draw in resources to achieve the cultural district’s goals.” 

Then Supervisor Hillary Ronen must introduce the legislation at the Board of Supervisors. From there, the legislation will go through a Planning Commission Hearing, a Historic Preservation Commission Hearing, a Small Business Commission Hearing, and a Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee hearing. And then it must face two votes by the full board.

The seven cultural districts so far include: the African American Arts & Culture District in the Bayview, Calle 24 Latino Cultural District in the Mission, Compton’s Transgender Cultural District in the Tenderloin, Japantown, the Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District, and the SoMa Pilipinas-Filipino Cultural District, and the Castro Cultural District. 

An American Indian Cultural District, which covers a portion of the Mission, was proposed in November.

“For me, the biggest takeaway from this report is how much support there is in the Mission for broadening the work of our thriving Latino Cultural District,” Ronen said, when asked about the report. “We’ve heard from residents and businesses how much they value the Cultural District’s impact in celebrating and preserving the Mission’s Latino heritage.”