San Francisco creates US’ first Pacific Islander cultural district

  • San Francisco approved a resolution on Tuesday that will create the U.S.’ first Pacific Islander cultural district.

  • The cultural district will be established in Visitacion Valley, a neighborhood that has been home to Pacific Islanders since the early 1900s.

  • Increased cost of living and other socioeconomic factors have reportedly forced community members out of the neighborhood and into other parts of California.

  • Today, San Francisco’s Pacific Islander population has fallen below 1 percent.

  • The creation of the cultural district, which will begin with a three-year strategic plan, is expected to draw community members back and boost their sense of identity and belonging.

America’s first Pacific Islander cultural district is set to take shape in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley, a neighborhood that has been home to the community for more than a century.

The city’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the creation of the district on Tuesday. Its development will begin with a three-year strategic plan, according to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

The proposal was years in the making. Today, Visitacion Valley is home to less than 7,000 Pacific Islander Americans, but the numbers were much larger just a few decades ago.

Between the 1970s and 1980s, an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 Pacific Islanders lived in San Francisco. Many of them reportedly came from Samoa and Tonga to work at Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard, which eventually closed in 1974.

The closure, as well as the increasing cost of living and other socioeconomic factors, reportedly forced community members to move to other parts of California. Since then, their population in San Francisco has declined, falling below 1 percent in recent estimates.

Proponents of the cultural district hope it will attract community members back into Visitacion Valley, which has been home to Pacific Islanders since the early 1900s. A coalition of San Francisco-based Pacific Islander advocates and organizations called SALT led the effort, according to AsAm News.

“People will be able to go somewhere they belong, somewhere people understand them, somewhere where they have all the same access to resources as every other community,” Gaynor Siataga, director of the Pacific Islander Community Hub, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “This will give them a sense of identity and belonging here in this wonderful city.”

The Pacific Islander cultural district will be San Francisco’s 10th, similar to those in Japantown, the Mission and the Castro, according to KGO.

“It is important that everyone has a voice, everyone is heard, and everyone is connected to the resources that this city has,” Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton said.


Featured Image (cropped) via Tim Adams (CC BY 3.0)

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