Cultural District FAQ

What is a Cultural District?

A Cultural District is a specific area within San Francisco that “embodies a unique cultural heritage because it contains a concentration of cultural and historic assets and culturally significant enterprise, arts, services, or businesses, and because a significant portion of its residents or people who spend time in the area or location are members of a specific cultural or ethnic group that historically has been discriminated against, displaced. and oppressed.”

This definition and all quotes throughout this document come from an ordinance, Process for Establishment of Cultural Districts, passed in May 2018. Previously, there was no set definition for what a cultural district would mean or the process to establish one.

Why create a Cultural District?

The Cultural District provides a framework for identifying both the problems and opportunities within specific districts and establishes a comprehensive plan for the city and local communities to work together on ensuring we have a voice in the future of our neighborhood.

More details from the Process for Establishment of Cultural Districts ordinance: “San Francisco’s Cultural Districts program seeks to formalize a collaborative partnership between the City and communities and bring resources in order to stabilize vulnerable communities facing or at risk of displacement or gentrification, and to preserve, strengthen and promote our cultural assets and diverse communities, so that individuals, families, businesses that serve and employ them, nonprofit organizations, community arts, and educational institutions are able to live, work and prosper within the City.”

What are the goals of Cultural Districts?

Each Cultural District can set its own goals and plans for meeting them, but the designation broadly includes things like preserving the unique culture, history, and communities of a particular area by supporting local businesses, artists, and nonprofits; resisting gentrification by promoting affordable housing; and promoting collaboration between City Hall and residents under threat of erasure or displacement.

The Process for Establishment of Cultural Districts ordinance lays out 12 specific goals:

  • Preserving cultural and historic assets,
  • Preserving and promoting significant assets such as buildings, business, organizations,  traditions, practices, events,
  • Stopping the displacement of vulnerable populations and promoting affordable housing,
  • Attracting and supporting artists and businesses that embody the character of existing neighborhoods,
  • Promoting tourism,
  • Celebrating the district’s unique culture,
  • Protecting businesses and industries that advance the culture and history of the district,
  • Providing economic opportunities for district residents,
  • Creating a more inclusive history of San Francisco’s diverse communities,
  • Slowing down gentrification, and
  • Building a stronger collaboration between the City and communities to maximize cultural competency and pursue social equity within some of the City’s most vulnerable communities.

What benefits does the Cultural District designation provide?

The creation of a Cultural District will help the city identify the unique and important aspects of the area, and (eventually) provide resources and tools to maintain and improve those aspects. Once the district is approved, the Mayor’s office will conduct a Cultural History, Housing, and Economic Sustainability Strategy (CHHESS) Report. The report will require city agencies to assess “relevant assets and needs, recommendations on programs, policies, and funding sources that could benefit the Cultural District and other recommendations that could serve the Cultural District to advance its goals.”

Castro LGBTQ Cultural District

Why create a Castro LGBTQ Cultural District?

We want to highlight the importance of LGBTQ people to the Castro’s history, and ensure we have a place in its future. The Cultural District is a tool that will help to identify the problems LGBTQ people, communities, and allies face, and establish collaboration with city hall to create effective solutions.

How will the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District be supported? Will the city be providing funds?

The new Cultural District ordinance creates a bucket into which money for these district can eventually be placed, including funds from the Hotel Tax passed by voters in 2018 as Prop E. Once money starts to arrive, it will be divided among the existing Cultural Districts. Other Cultural Districts have already been able to negotiate with developers to receive funding for cultural history and improvement projects. A recent article in the Chronicle gives a bit more background, and some of the ways other Cultural Districts have been able to use the designation to their advantage.

What are the proposed boundaries of the district?

A map of the district is available here, and the resolution includes some non contiguous areas, such as Openhouse and the LGBT Center. These boundaries may change before the final ordinance is passed, and can be adjusted later through additional legislation if needed.

What is happening now with the district?

The group working on this district had hoped to have a resolution adopted by the Board of Supervisors by now, in order to be approved before the new, slightly more complicated process for creating a Cultural District was adopted. Unfortunately, the new legislation passed more quickly than expected, so we are currently working on revising the proposal to comply with these new requirements.

What are the next steps?

  • Getting feedback from neighborhood associations and creating lasting partnerships.
  • Revising the draft resolution and creating an ordinance in collaboration with staff from District 8.
  • Presenting the ordinance to the Board of Supervisors.
  • Formalizing the district with the creation of an advisory board or other governing body to monitor projects and advise on the distribution of funds.

How can I get involved?

Follow us on Facebook for meeting announcements and updates from the committee: https://www.facebook.com/CastroLGBTQ. If you would like to join a committee or participating in the planning process, email contact@castrolgbtq.org.