San Francisco / Zabala / Bilbao La Vieja. Bilbao
The San Francisco neighbourhood in Bilbao was a metropolitan area of great importance and relevance in the building-up and evolution of the steelmaking city that was Bilbao. This area was where the iron ore was mined. From the 19th century onwards there was an influx of workers from the countryside, creating the need to plan the development of the accelerated growth that arises out of countryside-town flows and the housing needs of a growing mass of new workers.
San Francisco has been a place where republican and socialist ideas have taken hold in a neighbourhood with a strong working-class and plebeian component. On the fringe of the struggles to improve the conditions of the most deprived sectors of the city, San Francisco was also a neighbourhood where many of the people of Bilbao enjoyed nights out in a neighbourhood that offered dancing, gaming, live music, glamour, dynamism and modernity.
The closure of the mines and the end of the steelmaking industrial era was followed by a phase of restructuring of the area and innovation of leading trends; trans-national immigration outstripped immigration from other parts of Spain. San Francisco is the Bilbao neighbourhood with the highest percentage of immigration – three times the average for the city. It packs in large communities of Africans and Asians, and South Americans along with other ethnic minorities (gypsies). San Francisco has a multi-cultural population that mixes in with the local population.
Since 2005 a Special Restoration Plan has been under way in this neighbourhood whose main aim is to drive improvement dynamics in both urban and social infrastructures, with input from, and participation by, citizens, seeking the greatest possible consensus on the decisions that have to be adopted to solve the problems existing in those neighbourhoods.