We at the Excelsior Action Group (EAG) were pleased to see the article in the Wall Street Journal shedding some attention on this underserved district of San Francisco. The issues of blight and lack of safety and cleanliness described in the article are what necessitate groups like EAG and the work we do here. As the article described, the terrible economic climate has hit the Excelsior very hard, making EAG’s efforts to revitalize the Excelsior’s commercial corridor more difficult, but also much more needed.
Of the $393,400 of city funding cited in the article, only $184,000 has gone directly to capital improvement projects, while the rest has helped to keep our organization’s doors open for almost a decade now. Beyond the ad-hoc cleanings referred to in the article, EAG also engages in campaigns year after year for safety, beautification, business attraction, and community engagement. Last year alone, over 350 community members dedicated over 1200 volunteer hours to work with EAG on community improvement projects, such as painting 10 murals along the corridor, planting greenery, and cleaning the corridor monthly. EAG also organizes the Annual Excelsior Art and Music Festival, which draws over 3,000 participants from around the Bay Area to experience the culture and local flavor of our corridor.
We are hopeful that the most recent $50,000 investment the city has made in the Excelsior will help to make a visible and inspiring impact on the commercial corridor through our façade improvement program, Excelsior Extreme Makeover. To this end, we have garnered a significant amount of volunteer support to supplement these funds and stretch the impact of this program beyond just $50,000.
Buy-in from local merchants is essential to the success of this program and the work that we do in general. As an example, Paulo Acosta Cabezas, owner of Mama Art Café, has been integral in our effort to construct a parklet in front of his business as part of this program. Established in 2004, Mama Art Café is a strong and active advocate for youth development and the arts in the Excelsior. Ultimately, partnerships with businesses like this one are what will move our neighborhood forward.
As Amy Cohen, the city’s Director of Neighborhood Business Development, reflected, the goal of this facade improvement program is to make a visible impact that inspires Excelsior businesses and individuals to take further action. We think Zhong Luo, owner of the Dragon House in the Excelsior, exemplifies the success of this philosophy in saying, “When I see people stopping by my front door and picking up garbage, it motivates me to pick up my garbage too.”
Nicole Agbayani, Excelsior Action Group Corridor Manager