Community coming together to fight evictions of four Filipino families and seniors living on Natoma Street. (SoMA, 2015. Photograph courtesy of Kodakan Photo Day, Shades of San Francisco, SFPL)
Seniors from Bayanihan Equity Center (formerly known as the Veteran's Equity Center) in attendance of the Parole Festival. (Bayanihan Community Center, 2006. Photograph courtesy of Kodakan Photo Day, Shades of San Francisco, SFPL).
Following the 1906 Earthquake, the South of Market area was redeveloped primarily as an industrial neighborhood, punctuated by residential enclaves typically located along the alleyways. As described in one study of SoMa, the area’s “primary economic function has been the sheltering and maintenance of a reserve army of skilled and unskilled workers” served by a network of hotels, lodging houses, pawnshops, second-hand stores, employment agencies, pool rooms, movie theaters and barber colleges “where apprentice barbers could practice and men get free haircuts.” As an overtly working-class neighborhood, the relatively cheap rents and proximity to both downtown and the waterfront made it attractive to Filipino residents, who began moving there in the years prior to World War II. Likewise, SoMa served as a seasonal destination for both agricultural and fisheries workers.
Much as Manilatown developed adjacent to Chinatown, it appears that Filipinos were attracted to the South of Market by the presence of an existing Asian enclave. In particular, the South Park area by the 1920s had become a small but thriving Japantown, including the Higoyo Hotel, Biwako Baths, the Hotel Bo-Chow and the Omiya Hotel. These businesses benefited from their proximity to Piers 30-32, which were used by Japanese steamship companies. After debarkation, travelers and newly arrived immigrants would arrive at places such as the Eimoto Hotel at 22 South Park Street (today the Madrid Hotel), described as “a first stop in the United States for many Japanese residents.” These hotels also likely provided lodging for newly-arrived Filipino immigrants.
Today, SOMA has become a rapidly changing neighborhood with the emergence of the Convention Center and the growing number of high-rise hotels to support the anticipated influx of tourists and convention attendees. This growth and development has greatly impacted the Filipinos living in the neighborhood. Many have been displaced, but Filipinos who immigrated years ago and called SOMA home find their way back to remember their struggles as they see the new immigrants experience similar challenges.
San Francisco Filipino Heritage Addendum to the South of Market Historic Context Statement, 2013
FMHI-SF is part of the SOMA Pilipinas coalition and one of many non-profit organizations committed to the preservation of our cultural heritage and history in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood.
SOMA PILIPINAS IS A CELEBRATION OF WHERE WE COME FROM, AND WHERE WE ARE GOING. Our Cultural Heritage District is a product of its people, who are resilient, creative, and determined. We live, work, play and gather here as a community. SOMA Pilipinas is a movement that is anchored in the neighborhood, our history and our people. It is a place that connects the broader community to our narrative and stories as Filipinos in America. It is a living culture — a community that's conscious of history, yet embraces progress, working together to move forward in unity and vision.
SOMA Pilipinas Website, 2018
The Asian & Pacific Islander Mental Health Collaborative (APIMHC) is a collaborative partnership between RAMS and six community-based organizations: Samoan Community Development Center, Filipino-American Development Foundation/Bayanihan Community Center, Vietnamese Youth Development Center, Cambodian Community Development, Inc., Lao Seri Association, and Vietnamese Family Services Center.
APIMHC Project offers culturally and linguistically competent mental health prevention and early intervention activities across the lifespan through multi-component, community-driven modalities: community outreach and engagement; holistic wellness promotion activities; anti-stigma campaigns; and mental health awareness dialogues."
Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. Website, 2018