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The African American Arts and Cultural District (the “District”) within the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood is a robust, economically vital area that adds to the rich cultural tapestry of San Francisco. In establishing the District, the City acknowledges the importance of recognizing the neighborhood’s history and preserving the legacy and traditions uniquely born in the Bayview Hunters Point. The District will recognize and memorialize the unheralded African American experience in San Francisco, and will help to preserve and increase the depth and impact of the African American legacy in the City.
Bayview Hunters Point, more than any other neighborhood in San Francisco, reflects the transformational journey of southern Blacks and their contributions to the City. In 1940, San Francisco’s Black population was less than 1%. Seeking opportunity in the early years of World War II, African Americans moved to San Francisco in record numbers, filling key jobs at the shipyards.
Many found their first employment opportunities at the bustling Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. By the end of the war, San Francisco’s African American population had increased by 660%, and by 1950, African Americans made up about 25% of the population in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. This neighborhood was one of the City’s earliest socially and ethnically integrated neighborhoods after the Jim Crow era, 1877-1965, and served as the launch pad for the integration of other neighborhoods in the City. The influence of African Americans from this neighborhood helped San Francisco move beyond a legacy of ethnic isolation and social barriers.
After the war, African Americans faced significant unemployment and discrimination from white residents and businesses, and local government agencies. By the 1960s, over half of Bayview Hunters Point residents were African American; this transformation was met with many challenges and resistance. The San Francisco Housing Authority assumed responsibility for the homes constructed by the Navy in Bayview Hunters Point. Shortly thereafter, this area experienced a downward spiral in living conditions and economic opportunity through lack of investment. Political, social, and economic stressors pressured the neighborhood in subsequent years and threatened to unravel the neighborhood’s fabric. These conditions did not break the spirit of the residents. It strengthened the resolve of these residents as they fought and succeeded in battles for access, representation, and accountability.
By the 1970s, after the closing of the Shipyard, the poverty rate in Bayview Hunters Point was 20%, and the systemic mishandling of public housing made bad situations worse. Despite worsening conditions, in the 1980's, African Americans still comprised nearly 80% of the population of Bayview Hunters Point, and the neighborhood retained one of the City’s highest rates of homeownership. A cohort of African American leaders formed over time and demanded change, better housing and living conditions, quality schools, open spaces, and access to jobs. Those community leaders continue to shape the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood to this day.
The ongoing out-migration of African Americans who once lived in San Francisco has shrunk the City’s African American population from its highest point of 13.4% in 1970, to 6.1% in 2010, and an estimated 4% in 2018. In spite of this decline, African American culture remains a distinct gem in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. The neighborhood is socioeconomically diverse and inclusive. With African American residents making up 28% of the neighborhood, it still boasts the highest concentration of African Americans within San Francisco. There is still a strong presence of African American culture as is evidenced by business owners, religious congregations, public arts, and native musicians.
This culture reflects a long history. The neighborhood’s cultural and artistic traditions began to take root well before the neighborhood shifted demographically. The southern migrants came with traditions, history, and aspirations handed down from one generation to the next. Over time, businesses along 3rd Street began to slowly change and become a reflection of the neighborhood. Community-based organizations formed to address specific unmet needs and demand investments that benefited the neighborhood. The result was an incredible blend of southern Black traditions with a distinctive West Coast vibe, with community locales such as the Bayview Community Center, Sam Jordan’s Bar, the Jazz Room, and the Bayview Opera House, that are now historic institutions. Today, the influence of African Americans can be found throughout the neighborhood. Community buildings, streets, parks and open space, and art honor African American leaders and the African American experience.
The legacy of African Americans in Bayview Hunters Point is now in jeopardy. As the African American population decreases, approaching pre-World War II levels, community institutions and the neighborhood culture are threatened. The establishment of the District aims to help retain Bayview Hunters Point institutional memory for this and future generations, and to ensure that the legacy and transformative contributions of African Americans is not forgotten or overwritten.
The story of the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood continues to unfold and this story of transformation must be preserved while looking to the future. As the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard is transformed into a dynamic new neighborhood, San Francisco must not overlook the contributions of those who transformed the neighborhood in the past. To that end, the District will serve to (1) acknowledge the importance of the neighborhood’s history, (2) preserve the legacy, cultural assets, arts, and traditions uniquely born in Bayview Hunters Point, (3) create a community-led and transparent initiative, driven by Bayview Hunters Point stakeholders, (4) incubate homegrown entrepreneurship and artistic expressions, and (5) create an environment susceptible to sustainable businesses and economic vitality to improve quality of life for all residents.
(a) Department Reports to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development. By no later than July 31, 2019, the departments listed in this subsection (a) shall submit to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development reports containing an assessment of relevant assets and needs in the District, recommendations on programs, policies, and funding sources that could benefit the District, and other recommendations that could serve the District to advance the goals of this Chapter 107A. Each department shall seek the input of the African American Arts and Cultural District Community Advisory Committee established in Chapter 5, Article XXX of the Administrative Code, during that committee’s existence, as well as residents, businesses, and organizations in the District, when compiling the information relevant for the reports and when deciding on recommendations.
(1) The Historic Preservation Commission’s report shall describe and evaluate historic resources in the District and make recommendations regarding how the City may preserve those resources.
(2) The Office of Economic and Workforce Development’s report shall (A) describe existing businesses and nonprofit organizations that contribute to the culture of the District, and make recommendations regarding how the City may serve those businesses and organizations; and (B) describe tourist activity in the District, and make recommendations regarding how the City can sustain and increase that activity.
(3) The Arts Commission’s report shall describe the artistic and cultural assets in the District, including fine arts, performing arts, and regular cultural events like festivals, and make recommendations about how the City may preserve and support those assets.
(4) The Department of Public Works’ report shall (A) describe potential improvements to public amenities and infrastructure in the District that could better reflect the culture of the District; and (B) evaluate available opportunities for adding to the public amenities and infrastructure that reflect and enhance the culture of the District, and make recommendations for potential funding sources to support those additions.
(5) The Planning Department’s report shall make recommendations regarding potential amendments to the Planning Code that could contribute to the preservation of the character of the District.
(6) The Human Rights Commission’s report shall evaluate and describe the cultural competency of City services in the District, and propose policy changes to address deficits in those areas.
(b) Culture, History, Housing, and Economic Sustainability Strategy Report. By no later than July 31, 2020, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development shall prepare and submit to the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor a Culture, History, Housing, and Economic Sustainability Strategy Report (“CHHESS Report”) for the District.
The CHHESS Report shall include a demographic and economic profile of the District, including past, current, and future trends; analyze and record the tangible and intangible elements of the District’s cultural heritage; identify areas of concern that could inhibit the preservation of the District’s unique culture; and propose legislative, economic, and other solutions and strategies to support the District. The CHHESS Report shall discuss or incorporate the findings and recommendations of departments in the reports required by subsection (a) of this Section 107A.2. In preparing the CHHESS Report, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development shall solicit recommendations and feedback from the African American Arts and Cultural District Community Advisory Committee, and spearhead a community engagement process with residents, businesses, and workers in the District, in order to develop the strategies and plans that will preserve and enhance the culture of the District.
(c) Timeline Extensions. The Board of Supervisors may extend any of the deadlines in subsections (a) or (b) of this Section 107A.2 by resolution. Prior to requesting that the Board extend a deadline, any department requesting such an extension shall notify the African American Arts and Cultural District Community Advisory Committee in writing.
(d) Board of Supervisors Consideration. Following receipt of the CHHESS Report from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, the Board of Supervisors may take any action that the Board deems appropriate, including, by resolution, approving the report, modifying the report, rejecting the report, or requesting additional information or analysis from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development or any other City department or agency.
(e) Progress Reports. The Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development shall provide a progress report on the strategies outlined in the CHHESS Report at least once every three years following the Board of Supervisors’ enactment of a resolution approving or modifying the CHHESS Report.