Chinese Cultural District

Sunset Named Chinese Cultural District

By Jonathan Farrell

The official launch of the Sunset Chinese Cultural District took place on Sunday May 22, in connection with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Heritage month. 

On Sunday, May 12, a community celebration was held to mark the new designation for the Sunset District as a Chinese Cultural District in San Francisco. Spectators enjoyed traditional Chinese dance performances, including the popular lion dance in which performers in elaborate lion costumes mimic the animal’s movements to bring good luck and fortune to the community. The celebration was held at the weekly Outer Sunset Farmers Market and Mercantile on 37th Avenue between Ortega and Quintara streets. Photos by Michael Durand.

The Outer Sunset Farmers Market and Mercantile, along with People of the Parkside/Sunset (POPS), the Wah Mei School and other groups participated. Activities filled 37th Avenue between Ortega and Quintara streets on a beautiful blue-sky Sunday. Other participating organizations and businesses included Great Wall Hardware, North East Medical Services (NEMS) and  SF Heritage.

Created by the Board of Supervisors and then-acting mayor London Breed in 2018, the Cultural Districts Program was initiated to preserve, strengthen and promote cultural communities. Funded in part by the passage of Prop E, the goal is to support legacy businesses, nonprofits, community arts and traditions. 

As the legislation states, neighborhood-based community groups and their cultural values lead each district’s efforts. The program’s aim is to support specific cultural communities or ethnic groups that historically have been discriminated against, displaced and oppressed.

Julia Sabory is a native of San Francisco who serves as manager for the Cultural Districts Program.

“Each cultural district maintains a community-based advisory board, staffing and ongoing community and city partnerships,” Sabory said. With training in public policy and more than 20 years of experience with city government, she is responsible for the launch and management of nine cultural districts. Sabory oversees funding, policy planning, links to city departments and cross-sector communications to leverage resources for each of the cultural communities within a specific cultural district. 

Three of the primary activities of each cultural district are:

1. Sharing resources and information as well as leveraging programming to stabilize their community;

2. Connecting a community with city programs and efforts to increase outreach and efficacy, and;

3. Working to foster cultural safety, pride and improve the quality of life for its community members.

City departments, such as the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD), Planning Department and Arts Commission are collaborating in a streamlined effort to make the cultural district program a success. 

According to SF Travel, last year 14.8 million visitors came to the City. Statistics show the number of visitors is up 25% from 2020, but down 44% from a record high of 26.2 million visitors in 2019.

Neighborhoods and distinctive districts, like the Sunset, are a destination for tourists. Even if visitors from out of town or out of state don’t know the area, Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach are attractions that pull them to the west side. At its peak three years ago, tourist spending in SF was $10.3 billion. 

City officials point out the reason for the formation of culture districts is to correct San Francisco’s history of inequitable practices that led to gentrification. 

Each of the cultural districts’ steering committees will work directly with the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) on neighborhood-specific policies that benefit each district’s residents.

Sabory sees the program as healing and positive. MOHCD manages the seed funding for the cultural districts, which comes from Prop. E, a 2018 ballot measure that shifted a portion of hotel tax revenue to arts and cultural services. 

The legislation’s baseline funding for cultural districts is $3 million. While the percentage of financing for each cultural district will likely fluctuate annually, the program funding is capped at 10% of hotel tax revenue. The cap guarantees a minimum amount for the program. 

“The legislation was smartly written,” Sabory told the San Francisco Standard. “Although COVID has almost nearly wiped out tourism and hotel usage in 2020, it has saved the cultural district program, and this percentage cap will ensure that they are always funded.” 

“POPS is excited to participate in the official launch of the Sunset Chinese Cultural District,” said Albert Chow, POPS president. 

“It’s the first cultural district dedicated to place-making and place-keeping for San Francisco’s Chinese community and the only cultural district on San Francisco’s west side.”

To learn more about San Francisco’s Cultural District Program, go to

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