SFFCC in SoMa Pilipinas


The San Francisco Filipino Cultural Center (SFFCC) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization established as part of a strategic plan in 2001 through a joint effort by the SoMa Filipino community to retain and re-institutionalize its presence in the area that is South of Market of San Francisco (SoMa). Its mission is to celebrate, through arts and culturally sensitive programming, the Filipino community’s past, present and future contributions to the City of San Francisco.

Map of SOMA Pilipinas, the Filipino Cultural Heritage District in San Francisco created by Al S. Perez (click image to embiggen)

Essential to the stabilization of the SoMa, SFFCC’s prominent location will serve as a beacon to the newly established Filipino Cultural Heritage District, which is in the heart of the SoMa, a beacon that will guide many of its displaced residents back to the SoMa, including the thousands of Filipinos and their families, families that were mostly renters living in the streets and alleyways of the SoMa, and helped make it a viable community.

As a result of the significant real estate development in the area, the SoMa Filipino community is one of the groups heavily affected by gentrification. The results of gentrification have meant loss of affordable housing leading to the displacement of Filipino families.

The SFFCC fits into the globally conceived and developed Arts District in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, a multi-disciplinary contemporary arts center, which includes the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), the Children’s Museum, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD), and the Mexican Museum. Just a crosswalk away is the Moscone Center, the largest convention and exhibition complex in San Francisco which showcases many tech conventions of Silicon Valley companies.

It is well established by and through the San Francisco Arts Commission that there is cultural disparity and inequity in the funding and presentation of arts and culture programs in San Francisco and communities of color do not have cultural equity. The now-dissolved San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and its successor, the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, envisioned as part of Yerba Buena the creation of an ethnically sensitive and focused arts and cultural facilities. Through the process, literally millions of dollars were devoted to the Contemporary Jewish Museum, MOAD and the Mexican Museum. Unfortunately, no monies whatsoever were devoted to the Filipino Cultural Center in spite the fact that the Filipino Community made up the largest ethnic minority group in the SoMa neighborhood.

This glaring oversight left a huge gap in creating cultural equity for the Filipino Community.

Exterior rendering of the SFFCC as part of the Westfield Redevelopment Project from July 2010

Dedicating financial resources at this juncture to SFFCC would be a step in the right direction towards helping to close the disparity in financial resources to the Filipino community for arts and culturally sensitive programing for this sector of San Francisco ethnic communities.

The SFFCC will help bridge a glaring gap in arts and cultural programming for the local SoMa community for decades to come.

Originally slated to be housed in the renovated Emporium Department Store, a major employer of Filipinos in the SoMA and now the Westfield Centre/SF, the SFFCC’s objective is to preserve, engage, and promote the Filipino American community by creating a space for Filipino arts and culture and the facilitation of exhibits, performances, special events, and community-oriented programs and services. After much negotiations and discussions, the SFFCC secured a lease of the mezzanine level at 814 Mission Street, which is a property owned by Westfield, Inc. The mezzanine level’s conversion into the SFFCC commenced in August 2012; Swinerton Builders served as general contractor for the project. The new SFFCC occupies the entirety of the mezzanine floor and is accessible from Mission Street. With this space, SFFCC will host exhibitions, special events, and activities that celebrate Filipino culture and Filipino-American achievements and contributions to the City of San Francisco.

The 814 Mission Street location is the permanent address of the SFFCC. It represents one of three attempts at three different locations that SFFCC tried to develop. Located off the corner of Fourth Street and Mission Street, within the SoMA’s Filipino Social Heritage District, the SFFCC is within walking distance of the SFMOMA, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and the MOAD, placing it within a nexus of cultural events and activity in San Francisco. It is located between the San Francisco Center, Westfield Centre/SF and the Metreon cinema and retail complex, which are all, co-owned and operated by Westfield, Inc., and which has successfully established the area as the shopping and entertainment corner destination in the Bay Area. The SFFCC is well-served by public transportation, with Muni and SamTrans lines running in front of the center and the Powell Street BART and Muni Metro station a short distance away.

A showcase of the new SFFCC space is the main hall, which can be rented by community-based organizations for events that can range from conferences, social gatherings to seminars and training sessions. It may also be used as exhibit space for private occasions such as meet and greet receptions for groups. This intended use will serve to generate earned revenue for SFFCC. The need for the SFFCC space is recognized and supported broadly by many Filipino-American organizations across San Francisco and the Bay Area, this project has also garnered support from private and public agencies in the South of Market and in San Francisco. The project had initial support by former Speaker of the House, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi who sponsored the federal appropriations bill that allocated funds for the project, administered through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and instrumental in launching the first attempt of the SFFCC’s buildout.

SFFCC interior concept rendering from 2006

SFFCC is a constituent member of the Four Filipino Centers (4FC), a collaborative of four CBOs with intimate ties to the San Francisco’s Filipino community, which include: The SF Filipino Cultural Center, Filipino-American Development Foundation (FADF), Manilatown Heritage Foundation, and Bindlestiff Studios. SFFCC, FADF, MHF and Bindlestiff Studios all have their roots in the South of Market and remain closely associated with the anti-displacement and community development initiatives of the Filipino community, and instrumental with the initial push for the establishment of the cultural center.

The aim of showcasing the Filipino and Filipino-American culture—of which the SFFCC is a vehicle—relates to community preservation; to make the Filipino Social Heritage District not just a reality but also a destination for members of the Filipino community, both within the South of Market itself and across San Francisco and the Bay Area. The 4FC wish to demonstrate that the South of Market Filipino community remains vibrant and continues to thrive in the face of the adverse effects of gentrification and that the Filipino community can adapt and find its own niche in the face of constant change.

The SFFCC's build-out at 814 Mission Street was overseen by Don Marcos, the center's former Executive Director. Mr. Marcos was involved with the SFFCC project since its inception in 2001 and has been instrumental in pushing the development forward through negotiating a viable lease with Westfield, Inc. for the 814 Mission space as well as fundraising for the build-out.