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This paper builds on a dialogue between barrio planners and municipal planners on spatial and economic changes in San Francisco’s Mission District. The Mission is a predominantly Latino neighborhood with vibrant streets that have reflected and been transformed by the investments and displacement of recent decades. Though the Mission has seen tremendous upheaval with the influx of new capital and communities, this paper contends that efforts of community members shaped the development of the neighborhood with street-level planning expertise. We find that an attempt by community members to define their own development proposals and engage in land use decisions– rather than waiting to react to developer-designed proposals– created new possibilities for cultural and economic resiliency. Through skillful navigation of the economic crisis, convergence of multiple voices, and a sustainable grassroots planning process, community-led urban planning carved out public space for non-expert voices to be heard. Situated at the convergence of multiple processes, the People’s Plan and Pueblote are examples of the transformations of plans and regulations to address community needs.


Originally published in Justice Spatiale/Spatial Justice, Issue 5, Dec. 2013