Identifying Community Priority Sites in the SOMA


SOMCAN and the Bayanihan Equity Center (BEC) conducted an open house workshop and a workshop with senior members of the community to identify community priority sites in the South of Market (SoMa) in San Francisco.

This effort is part of SOMCAN’s Reclaiming Our Space (ROSE) program that is about using art, design, and community planning to empower and organize the SoMa community; social equity and visibility; strengthening community and building collective power; and reclaiming land by and for the working-class.

City planning is a process conducted by government agencies to plot out the future of a community through the geographical designation of various land uses. Examples of land use include housing, shopping centers, offices, parks, bus stops and routes, parks, and schools. Traditional city planning in San Francisco is a top-down profit-driven process led by private developers and corporate interests. Community planning challenges this top-down approach by organizing and engaging residents and community members in a bottom-up approach to planning in which they decide how and for whom the community changes and develops.

A lot of land in the SoMa is being bought up by speculative developers for luxury housing and development. This is a direct cause of the displacement of residents and communities not only in the SoMa but also in many parts of the city. The widespread explosion of tech companies that have sprouted in recent years and the droves of tech workers who have made San Francisco their home have generated a big shift in the city’s priority for growth and development—no longer catering to the long-standing working class communities but, rather, to the big corporations and its high earning workers for profit.

The focus of SOMCAN’s land use priority are community controlled land and zoning; housing that includes preserving existing housing, building new affordable housing, and getting people into new affordable housing; the preservation and use of open space; pedestrian and night safety; and jobs that include job commitments from hotels and other developers as well as job trainings as part of the workforce.

It began in the summer of 2018 with SOMCAN’s “SOMAPS” Project in collaboration with UC Berkeley students. An analysis (based on the size, location, existing building (if any) on the site, and neighborhood context) of existing soft-sites and the recommended uses (such as spaces for non-profit organizations and service providers, cultural and art spaces, affordable housing, and open spaces) for each site was done based on the existing needs and demands of the community.


The process of identifying community priority sites during the workshops consisted of having community members involved in identifying the size and positivity of each site. The sites with votes become a priority and the sites with the most votes will get developed into various spaces for the community.

Ramon Bonifacio