By Kari Vides
For months, community members, district supervisors and their aides, and other key stakeholders in the Sunset community have worked to establish the Sunset Chinese Cultural District.
In late May, District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar introduced legislation that proposed this new project. The legislation was passed with unanimous support from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on July 20.
Mar said the initiative is meant to uplift the community and create a sense of cultural identity among the Asian members of the neighborhood.
The project began as a framework to be used to strengthen the Asian American population in the Sunset, as well as highlight crimes committed against these communities, and to recognize their resilience.
A cultural district is described as a designated area with strong cultural significance. The established area is usually made up of residents and community constituents who have been discriminated against and marginalized due to their cultural and ethnic backgrounds, according to a press release from Mar’s office.
It is a multi-faceted effort to build more involvement among the residents of the neighborhood and inspire those affected populations to stand tall in the face of adversity. The Sunset will be the ninth of all cultural districts designated in San Francisco and the only one to be dedicated to the Chinese community.
The Sunset District is home to generations of Asian Americans and immigrants who have made a livelihood creating businesses, parks, recreational centers, gardens, community events and more.
The history of the Sunset began around the 1860s with only a few dairy ranches and inexpensive land.
According to the Western Neighborhoods Project, the early Sunset had many small businesses, including dairies, roadhouses and ranches. Over time, it gradually developed into the neighborhood characterized by oceanside houses that we know today. What was once a sparsely populated neighborhood is now one full of character due to the artists and developers that created the look of modern Sunset homes.
The Chinese Cultural District initiative began with a long list of steps meant to contribute to the greater purpose of strengthening the Asian American community. Once the mayor signs the legislation, the project will begin 30 days after it is signed.
Li Lovett, an aide in Mar’s office, said the project has received great community support.
“There haven’t been dollars allocated yet, not even from our district fund or anything,” Lovett said. “People are just giving their time, and that’s what makes this so wonderful.
“Many of these efforts connect with the issues that are affecting Asian American communities. There is a sense of urgency and readiness, and willingness to engage around these issues. There’s also a great urgency around giving the community tools for engagement and access to that. So, our goals are to provide an avenue for people to have conversations about what they want to see in the community.”
Mar has expressed his support in various press releases regarding the project. His hope for the coming months for this new legislation is to create a stronger sense of community, foster leadership and encourage resiliency among the residents to stand in solidarity with the Asian American communities in the Sunset. According to Mar, he hopes the project will bring about more affordable housing and create more opportunities for the Asian American families of the district.
Lovett outlined the next steps in the process.
“Our community-based workgroup has been operating in a volunteer capacity; however, now that the legislation has been passed by the Board the next step is for MOHCD to identify a project lead that will oversee the Cultural District organization and allocate the funds toward that new organization,” Lovett said.
Categories: Asian Community