SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Community leaders and longtime residents in the Mission District celebrated Friday as the Casa Sanchez building on 24th Street moved closer to becoming a historical landmark. It would become one of the first Latino-owned properties in the city to receive that designation.
San Francisco supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance on Tuesday that would give the Mission District building landmark status.
"My mom would send me here to buy tortillas, freshly made, tortilla chips and the fresh, delicious salsa," said Roberto Hernandez, a board member of the Mission Merchants Association. He also serves on the board of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District. He says the move to make the building a landmark could not come at more crucial time. "The Mission District has been ground zero for gentrification here in San Francisco."
Casa Sanchez SF makes chips, tortillas and salsa with products available in multiple grocery store chains. Its origins in the Mission District date back to the 1920s. While it no longer operates out of the building on 2778 24th Street, its logo and sign remain there. The company has seen impressive growth decades later but not all Latino families and businesses have enjoyed the same outcome.
"We're not going anywhere and we're trying really hard so others can stay and flourish in this amazing neighborhood that's so colorful and vibrant and creative," said Martha Sanchez, who works for the business as a third-generation member of the founding family.
City leaders say the issue of gentrification dates back to the 1990s with multiple waves impacting the neighborhood since the influx of tech workers. Preserving land like the Casa Sanchez building as well as buying property and turning it into affordable housing is one way Supervisor Hillary Ronen hopes the Mission District will not lose its cultural identity.
"The Mission is only going to remain the Mission as we know it -- the centerpiece of Latino history, culture, music, vibe -- if Latino people can still live in the neighborhood," Ronen said. She represents the 9th district which includes the neighborhood.
Dr. Bernardo Gonzalez is a dentist with a practice on the same street just blocks away from the Casa Sanchez building. His family has been in the neighborhood for decades. He has noticed a change over the years as residents have been trending Whiter and younger in demographics. He appreciates seeing families who have lived here for generations.
"That's the makeup of this neighborhood, that's the character of this neighborhood," he said. "So we want to preserve that as much as possible."
Painter Anthony Holdsworth has lived in the Mission District for decades as well. He spent Friday afternoon working on his latest piece at an intersection on 24th Street. He has noticed the changes happening here and hopes city leaders do more to reverse the gentrification underway.
"It's a real community not just a bedroom community where people have to commute miles to work," he said.
Historic designation of the building still requires another vote from the board of supervisors on Tuesday and the signature of the mayor. Supervisor Ronen expects the landmark will become official by next month.
While a number of stores here remain closed, Hernandez says there is an opportunity to work with the city and Latino families to bring in more businesses to retail locations. He says similar efforts in Los Angeles and Miami have preserved the flavor of Latino culture there and the same can be done in San Francisco to keep what makes the Mission District special.
"I have a lot of hope today that we are able to preserve the neighborhood," he said.
for more features.