East Palo Alto Cultural Arts & Business District

“Cultural preservation and economic transformation”

 

Proposal

That the City of East Palo Alto designate a Cultural Arts & Business District for the preservation and celebration of the city’s historic African American, Indigenous, Latinx and Pacific Islander communities.

 

Vision

A “west coast New Orleans” or modern-day Fillmore District with African American, Indigenous, Latinx and Pacific Islander-owned restaurants and businesses, featuring live music, festivals, artwork, cultural celebrations, artist housing and more. 

 

Mission

To maintain a cultural zone where African American, Indigenous, Latinx and Pacific Islander lives and cultures are preserved, valued and celebrated. 

 

Legacy

The San Francisco Bay Area is a region with a long history of artistic and cultural innovation that has helped shape popular culture around the world. It is time for a renaissance in the Bay Area, highlighting the unique traditions and expressions of African American, Indigenous, Latinx and Pacific Islander populations. Now is the right time and East Palo Alto is the right place to resurrect, profile and preserve the artistic and cultural traditions of our diverse community.

 

Opportunity

East Palo Alto’s legacy as a city built on a vision of self-determination for People of Color, coupled with its proximity to Google, Facebook, Apple and more, makes it the ideal location to pilot a model for Cultural Arts & Business Districts that could be replicated regionally and nationally. The district will be a hot spot in a region that has been losing historic music venues, long-standing restaurants, hair and beauty shops, and more. It will be a destination for locals, commuters, and those seeking culture and entertainment.

 

Design Standards

There is another opportunity to create a model for both environmentally and culturally sustainable development. The district should feature green construction, with the goal of an entirely carbon-neutral site. The design aesthetic should be a contrast to the cold, modern design elements now popular in the region. It should feature some traditional designs like a Tongan Fale Fakataha (meeting house) or an Ohlone shellmound, as well as organic and reclaimed materials like plaster, tiles, wood, etc. to give a sense of greater connection to the land. The designs and construction materials should emphasize warmth, soulfulness, connectivity, sustainability and history.

 

Space Use

The district should combine local restaurants, shops and venues that emphasize live music and art with premium office space available for companies that fit within the overall cultural and economic vision, eg. a Nigerian biotech company that will train and hire locally while establishing a foothold in Silicon Valley, as opposed to Google looking for more office space.

 

Community Benefits

Premium office rent will help subsidize a range of benefits that include: affordable housing emphasizing paths to ownership, local businesses as needed, a local community college & trade school, community & urban gardening, reclaiming & sharing traditional practices, and other cultural & artistic programming.