California Arts Council Designates Balboa Park a California Cultural District — Metro San Diego CDC Letter of Support


Newly launched program celebrates the state’s diverse and abundant cultural treasures

SACRAMENTO, CA – The California Arts Council has announced the 14 districts that will serve as California’s inaugural state-designated Cultural Districts, highlighting thriving cultural diversity and unique artistic identities within local communities across California.

A Cultural District, as outlined by the program, is a well-defined geographic area with a high concentration of cultural resources and activities. Each of the 14 districts will receive the designation for a period of five years, per state legislation. Designation, under this pilot launch of the program, includes benefits such as technical assistance, peer-to-peer exchanges, and branding materials and promotional strategy. The Council has partnered with Visit California and Caltrans for strategic statewide marketing and resource support.

Originating with the adoption of Assembly Bill 189 in 2015, authored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, the California Cultural Districts program aims to leverage the state’s artistic and cultural assets. Aligning with the mission and values of the California Arts Council, the districts will celebrate the diversity of California while unifying under an umbrella of shared values-helping to grow and sustain authentic grassroots arts and cultural opportunities, increasing the visibility of local artists and community participation in local arts and culture, and promoting socioeconomic and ethnic diversity. Districts will also play a conscious role in tackling issues of artist displacement.

Pilot cohort districts will offer feedback to the Council to ensure the subsequent launch of the full program in 2019 will be supportive, accessible and appropriate for all types of cultural centers.

The 14 districts that comprise the program’s first cohort were selected with variety in mind, intended to help tailor the program to meet the complex needs of a state kaleidoscopic in nature. Districts range developmentally from emerging to established; include an emphasis on cultural consumption, cultural production, and cultural heritage; and are located in urban, suburban and rural areas.

“State-level designation of Cultural Districts, with California’s diverse geography and regional variety, allowed for an entirely new and comprehensive look at our deeply valued cultural assets,” said Donn K. Harris, California Arts Council Chair. “Each community’s personal and generational commitment to these assets speaks of a state deeply invested in the places and people that celebrate local traditions and creativity. Our goal with the pilot launch of this new program was to support a group of districts that met high but broad standards of coherence, vision, and purpose – ones that could set an example for districts that will follow as the program develops and grows.”

“These Cultural Districts showcase California’s cultural diversity and vibrant experiences,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California. “The districts are one more way to highlight the one-of-a-kind places throughout our state that inspire residents and visitors alike.”

Selection for the California Cultural Districts was conducted through a multistep process, including an open call for initial letters of intent, a peer panel review, site visits for semi-finalists, and an invited finalist application. The program was highly competitive and received interest and submissions from dozens of communities across the state.

Harris added, “We know there are many gems waiting to be polished, and the California Arts Council is committed to providing support and ongoing service so that all deserving districts have the opportunity to be recognized. We will continue to encourage local efforts that address the social and economic challenges and opportunities that may arise as these districts evolve.”

Additional new districts will be eligible to apply for state designation in 2019 through a finalized certification process.

Learn more about the California Cultural Districts program at
The mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. The Council is committed to building public will and resources for the arts; fostering accessible arts initiatives that reflect contributions from all of California’s diverse populations; serving as a thought leader and champion for the arts; and providing effective and relevant programs and services.

Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Donn K. Harris, Vice Chair Nashormeh Lindo, Larry Baza, Phoebe Beasley, Christopher Coppola, Juan Devis, Kathleen Gallegos, Jaime Galli, Louise McGuinness, Steven Oliver, and Rosalind Wyman. Learn more at



536 Maple Street, #103

San Diego, California 92103

(619) 822-5103

March 28, 2017


Dear California Arts Council:

Please consider this letter from the Metro San Diego Community Development Corporation (“Metro San Diego CDC”) in support of Balboa Park being designated as a California Cultural District.

Balboa Park is widely recognized by residents and stakeholders in San Diego as one of the city’s most cherished public places.  It attracts over 10 million visitors each year, who flock to the many cultural institutions and gathering places within the Park to experience what is commonly acknowledged to the “Jewel of San Diego”

The Metro San Diego CDC is a non-profit organization representing over 20 full blocks of property and business owners on west side of Balboa Park in the communities of Park West, Bankers Hill and Middletown. Both the Bankers Hill Business Group and Five Points/Middletown Group are members of the Metro San Diego CDC, as well as several local community associations.  These west side communities have a long history of involvement in Balboa Park, and consider its proximity a major attribute of their quality of life.

The Metro San Diego CDC believes that Balboa Park receiving a state Cultural District designation will help grow its visibility, prestige and build credibility, not only for the park itself, but also for communities adjacent to Balboa Park.

The Metro San Diego CDC has been a close partner in the efforts of Balboa Park stakeholders to improve Balboa Park through the years, with a recent strong example being a partner in the Balboa Park United initiative. Balboa Park United is an alliance of regional park cultural institutions and dedicated support organizations, including, in addition to the Metro San Diego CDC, the San Diego Foundation, Legler Benbough Foundation, Balboa Park Conservancy, Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, Balboa Park Online Collaborative, and the Friends of Balboa Park.

The major initiative advocated by Balboa Park United has been transforming the Park’s Plaza de Panama into a premier public space with increased parkland, gardens, pedestrian-friendly plazas, and additional parking options. It aims to reclaim the Park’s core for pedestrian traffic, adding open and gathering spaces. We are proud to be a part of this important work to update and improve the Park for San Diego’s residents.  It is the most innovative initiative that has taken place in Balboa Park since 1935.

The cultural institutions in Balboa Park have a history of teaching our children and families about the arts, history, and more. The open space gives us an opportunity to access our region’s natural beauty. And the countless events—from December Nights to Maker Faire to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion Concerts—offer one-of-a-kind experiences and create fond memories with family and friends.

The Metro San Diego CDC strongly supports designating Balboa Park as a California Cultural District, and will partner with the Balboa Park institutions and stakeholders to further the goal of preserving and enhancing Balboa Park.


Sincerely yours,

 Leo Wilson


Metro San Diego CDC