SFFCC – Solicitation Letter and Background of San Francisco Filipino Cultural Center

The San Francisco Filipino Cultural Center

A 501(c) (3) Non-Profit Corporation

814 Mission Street, San Francisco, Ca 94107

Dear Friend of the San Francisco Filipino Cultural Center:


We are now embarking on the Cultural Center’s next phase: To raise funds for SFFCC’s operations and sustainability — and start an “Endowment Program” that will ultimately get enough Filipino investors to buy the building it is currently located in so that the Cultural Center can outlive its 20-year lease.

Please support our Fund Campaign through cash donations, grants, sponsorships, and naming rights.

  • If you are a company operating in the US, there are tax incentives for your donations to non-profit institutions. Your partnership with SFFCC will benefit your strategic public relations, community development, and direct or indirect advertising objectives. You will also ensure the sustainability of the center that serves the Filipino community. There are many Filipino community centers throughout the US. The San Francisco Filipino Cultural Center is one of the few Filipino-focused cultural centers in the US and the only one east of the Mississippi and throughout the entire west coast of the US.
  • Making your organization visible in this busy, vibrant section of San Francisco is straightforward. You can have your organization’s name on the main marquee at the entrance together with the SFFCC’s name. We are open to negotiations regarding these “naming rights”.
  • There are locations inside the center that can be named after a sponsor ranging from the main event hall, the conference room, and various offices.
  • SFFCC also has a dedicated wall for donors behind the reception desk.

I look forward to meeting you at the dinner hosted by Ms. Yolanda Johnson and engaging with you in a fulfilling conversation about unlimited partnership opportunities with the San Francisco Filipino Cultural Center.

Salamat Po.


Richard A. Kempis, DDS

President and Chair of the Board

San Francisco Filipino Cultural Center


In 1999, a group of concerned Filipino American leaders and advocates birthed a bright idea when they toured the shuttered historic “The Emporium”, a mid-line department store founded in 1896, being readied for the wrecking ball. The Emporium employed immigrants from the Philippines, almost 70% of its staff. The closure had a devastating effect on these families, effectively changing the landscape of the South of Market (aka SoMa).

Before this iconic department store closed its doors, the Filipino community in SoMa was caught in the middle of the City’s high-rise development initiatives, which was about expanding its financial and business sectors from North of Market Street, Kearny Street, and Chinatown while demolishing the district’s low-cost rental units. Old and newly arrived Filipino immigrants thrived in their SoMa district, only to discover many years later that they were about to lose their livelihood and the roofs over their heads — once again. Manilatown, the Filipinos’ first neighborhood in San Francisco which spanned the Kearny Street to Fillmore Street corridors, had been whittled down to one block, forcing Filipinos to move to SoMa where rents were still cheap. The term used to uproot Manilatown’s residents was “urban renewal”. The “Manongs”, or the Filipino bachelors, started the Manilatown community in the 1920s and 1930s, offering affordable rentals to low-income individuals.

During these tumultuous times, the Filipinos organized to address the problem and grave threat of another urban renewal project that deeply impacted their community. Students and their professors from various schools and colleges such as San Francisco State University, City College of San Francisco, UC Berkeley, and various community-based organizations showed a united front and advocated for the rights of Filipinos and demanded action to avoid erasing the footprint and legacy of the earlier settlers and immigrants.

UPON (United Pilipino Organizing Network) resulted from these organizing efforts. The network was a coalition of Filipinos and supporters from all sectors in San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. They demanded that the City and its real estate developers start a program to repatriate the Filipinos who had been displaced due to loss of housing and jobs in the district. The Filipino community’s desire to preserve its legacy and contributions in San Francisco and the Bay Area since the early turn of the 19th century fueled the group’s call to action.

A new plan came into being from the negotiations. First, there was the planned rebuilding of Manilatown on Kearny Street as the International Hotel Manilatown Center and the adjoining International Hotel. The Bayanihan Community Center and Bindlestiff Studio, a small theater devoted to Filipino American performing arts, were next. Then, there was the blueprint for the San Francisco Filipino Cultural Center (SFFCC).

The stakeholders envisioned the San Francisco Filipino Cultural Center to become a preferred destination to visit, “a magnet” for the City’s residents, visiting Filipinos, and tourists. Foremost, the cultural center would house artifacts, books, paintings, and sculptures, serving as a showcase and depository of the best in Philippine artistry through visual and performing arts, including technology-based mixed media. It would also be a place to educate the Filipino community about their rich, diverse history. The planners, in their wisdom, saw the need of a research institution that would identify and curate the finest artworks — and highlight the art forms, culture, and history that is uniquely Filipino.

A SFFCC ad hoc committee started negotiations in 1999 to build a world class, community-friendly, and accessible cultural center Filipinos could be proud of. It took almost 18 years to make it happen. The cultural center’s leaders patiently weathered several moves of their dream cultural center from Westfield Mall to Metreon San Francisco, a restaurant-centric shopping mall, to its current location, a 9,000 square foot space at the mezzanine level of The Bulletin Building, 814 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103. The San Francisco Filipino Cultural Center acquired its 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization status in 2005.

The San Francisco Filipino Cultural Center was given a 20-year lease with favorable terms, paying less than 10% of the commercial rates for the first three years and gradually increasing to 70% by the time the lease ends in 20 years. SFFCC spent around $2.2 million in the build-out and renovation. They raised money through donations, grants from the private sector, and some funding from the Federal government. The late Mayor Ed Lee promised to appropriate some money from the City and County of San Francisco. Many community advocates believe that the current mayor, London Breed, from feelers in her initial outreach to the Filipino community, is optimistic about the restricted funding.

One of the most important developments in the history of the San Francisco Cultural Center is its location. Several decades ago, Mission Street in SoMa was suffering from urban blight. Businesses left the area while economic progress seemed doomed. Fortunately, the area became the focus of redevelopment and rebuilding that branded the Moscone Center as the new heart of San Francisco, anchoring the Yerba Buena neighborhood with its outstanding convention facilities. Alongside this development, the tech industry, together with social media companies and other start-ups, predominated the new commercial boom. The area, with its emerging and trending popularity, quickly became one of the most expensive places to live, work, and do business. Tourists, convention attendees, local and out-of-town executives regularly designated this SoMa area as the place to conduct meetings, enjoy its restaurants and entertainment facilities. This “go to” place didn’t have a problem with rent or advertising revenues. Yerba Buena in the South of Market, bordered by the new Westfield Mall, which replaced the Emporium, and Metreon San Francisco, also became the home of new 5-star hotels and luxury condominiums. The prime location of the San Francisco Cultural Center is, undoubtedly, one of the most sought after.

SFFCC enjoys the added benefits that the City and County of San Francisco gave the Filipino community: SOMA Pilipinas, aka as the Filipino Cultural Heritage District, blanketing three-quarters of the South of Market. SOMA Pilipinas came about through the efforts of the Filipino community to recognize the contributions of Filipinos that dates back to more than a century.

Quoted from SOMAPILIPINAS.org: “In April of 2016, the City’s Board of Supervisors unanimously passed legislation zoning out a massive stretch of land in San Francisco’s red hot SOMA (South of Market) area. Bounded by 2nd St. to the east, 11th St. to the west, and Brannan to the south, SOMA Pilipinas represents a diverse selection of small businesses, parks, and community service groups that have served the thriving Filipino community for decades. The legislation created a working group tasked with the responsibility to devise strategies in conjunction with the community stakeholders and city agencies to build out a master plan to develop the cultural district.”

Today, The San Francisco Filipino Cultural Center accepts the challenge to deliver to the Filipinos in the US, Filipinos visiting the US, and the community at large an outstanding premier space to house and showcase the best in Filipino arts, culture, history, culinary arts, and entertainment.

The next steps for the San Francisco Filipino Cultural Center: To flourish in its home by executing its programs and raising funds for its operations and maintenance.

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