The $2M grant from the US Department of Transportation will develop transportation and land use concept designs to connect the Japantown and Fillmore/Western Addition neighborhoods and promote community stabilization.

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NOTE:  This press release was published by San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston (District 5). View the original press release here.

The US Department of Transportation (US DOT) yesterday announced the award of a $2 million Reconnecting Communities grant to fund a community-based planning process for re-connecting the Japantown-Fillmore/Western Addition neighborhoods in San Francisco, communities that were divided and harmed by the construction of the Geary Boulevard/Fillmore Street underpass in the 1960s.

The grant will be administered by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA), which led the application process at the request of District 5 Supervisor and Transportation Authority Board member Dean Preston, and with the support of community organizations.

“Our years-long effort in partnership with the CTA, and the Fillmore and Japantown communities, to secure these funds has come to fruition,” said Supervisor Preston. “While we continue working to address immediate issues in the community, this grant will help us address racist planning decisions of the past, connect the Fillmore and Japantown, and build stronger and more stable communities into the future.”

The objective of the Geary-Fillmore Underpass Community Planning Study is to develop transportation and land use concept designs that rethink the urban renewal-era Geary Expressway and advance a high-quality multimodal, mixed-use, transit-oriented area to connect the Japantown and Fillmore/Western Addition neighborhoods and promote community cohesion and livability.

“This $2 million in new federal funding is an important step to reunite Japantown, Fillmore and Western Addition neighborhoods, supporting a community-driven plan to reimagine the one-mile Geary Boulevard at Fillmore Street,” said Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi.

The study will engage the community through a community-led outreach process to develop goals, evaluation criteria, and concepts and by establishing a Community Council with representatives of the Black, Japanese, and Jewish communities that were displaced when the Geary Expressway was constructed, as well as with newer community members. Recommendations will include transportation network connectivity and safety improvements, long-term transit enhancements, development feasibility analyses for potential affordable housing sites, and economic development strategies, anti-displacement strategies, and concept-level urban design guidance.

The SFCTA’s agency partners will be the San Francisco Planning Department and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). Community Partners will be selected through a post-award proposal selection process to provide multiple Community-Based Organizations representing Japantown and Fillmore/Western Addition with the opportunity to contribute as part of the core project team. Over 15 Community Partners provided letters of support and expressed interest in participating in the study.

"The Japantown Task Force is particularly supportive of the US Department of Transportation’s Equity Strategic Goal to reduce inequities across transportation systems and the communities they affect," said Alice Kawahatsu, the Japantown Task Force's secretary. "The Geary Boulevard expansion during Redevelopment literally cut off San Francisco Japantown from Black neighbors in the Fillmore District/Western Addition. This planning grant is an important opportunity to reconnect these communities."

“We've felt the profound effects of urban renewal in the Fillmore and are deeply committed to mending its cultural and economic fabric,” said Majeid Crawford, Executive Director at New Community Leadership Foundation. “I am grateful that we have received this grant, and that these conversations with the community will be able to happen.”

The $2 million in federal funds will be matched by a $500,000 local contribution from the Transportation Authority’s Prop L transportation sales tax program ($350,000) and the SF Planning Department ($150,000). The study will take place over approximately 2 years and is expected to commence in Fall 2024.