Neighborhood Place-Making Essentials: Community Institutions - Part 3

(An open-ended series of posts …)

Once upon a time in SOMA, Canon Kip Community House was the heart of the south of market... and Gene Coleman was the heart of Canon Kip.

An Appreciation

Canon Kip Roof Garden

Canon Kip Roof Garden

Eugene Coleman’s Canon Kip was the penultimate realization of “social capital.” It was a place of many positive purposes, a network of many caring individuals and organizations. It was an inspiration for many spirits of all ages - it was the glue that held a community together. It was the Heart of our SOMA of that generation. Bishop Swing never grasped or valued this. And we have never been able to fully replace it.

All-purpose community centers like Canon Kip have nearly disappeared around the nation. Abandonment of dependable general operating funding by cities and foundations and the United Way in favor of specialized programs and competitive grant cycles has broken community facilities up into scattered bits and pieces targeting specific populations. The accompanying political vulnerability of uncertain funding has discouraged community advocacy.  The professional quality of the services has greatly improved in many ways. But the price of this balkanization is the loss of a shared community consciousness and everyday human networks that cut across lines of age and race, cultures and organizations. We have all become specialists. But Gene Coleman was a community-ist.

Times change and neighborhoods change with them. Residents and workers must come and go. Leaders pass on. Central city life has grown much harsher for many in the last 35 years, and in today’s world realistic hope is precious. If any community is to survive for generations it needs to become embodied — physically in places we build, socially in organizations we maintain, and spiritually in the histories we pass on. Gene Coleman’s history and spirit must endure if South of Market is to retain its soul.

Today’s SOMA Community Centers

Thankfully a new generation of community-caring groups have pulled together in the last 20 years and filled some of the void left by Canon Kip’s demise. Three stand out:

  • Bayanihan Community Center – Located on the ground floor of TODCO’s Bayanihan House renovated residential hotel low-income housing at the corner of Sixth and Mission Streets since 2007. “The term bayanihan itself literally means ‘being in a bayan,’ which refers to the spirit of communal unity, work and cooperation to achieve a particular goal” The Bayanihan Center focuses on serving the Central City’s Filipino-American immigrant community, especially its many elders. For full details visit Bayanihan Community Center's website.
  • United Playaz - Founded in 1996 and now in their own small remolded-warehouse Howard Street Clubhouse home since 2005. UP addresses the real life challenges facing the multi-ethnic youth and young adults of SOMA. For full details, visit United Playaz's website.
  • Oasis for Girls – Founded in 1999 and now located on the ground floor of TODCO’s renovated Hotel Isabel at the corner of Seventh and Mission Streets since 2009. The Oasis addresses the real life challenges facing the girls and teens of SOMA. For full details, visit Oasis for Girls' website.