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SAN FRANCISCO – At the start of the pandemic, there were empty storefronts and deserted streets in San Francisco’s Chinatown. A year later, it isn’t much better. Now business leaders are brainstorming on ways to bring people back.
The lanterns hanging above Grant Avenue are dingy these days and the businesses below have suffered mightily with the one-two punch of the global pandemic and rampant xenophobia.
“Unlike Amazon, Chinatown did not fare well during this pandemic,” said Jane Chin of the Chinatown Community Development Center.
Pre-pandemic, two out of every 10 storefronts along Grant were empty and shuttered. Today that number is 6 out of 10.
“Out of 930 private businesses, only 150 were open in early 2021. Seventy percent of the restaurants closed, many will not re-open,” said Chin.
There was a call to action among the many organization and associations in Chinatown, on Tuesday.
“The goal is for post-COVID revitalization of an economy and a community. So we’re asking you to help,” said Buck Gee of the Committee of 100.
The incentive: $500 in cash for ideas that could lead to potential grant-funding to bring people back to Chinatown.
From the Chinatown Merchants Association comes one idea that could transform narrow Grant Avenue entirely — closing at least two block to traffic and cars.
“Like a European village, that kind of concept. Everyone I’ve asked and talked to about it has loved the idea,” said Betty Louie of the Chinatown Merchants Association.
Think of it as the Shared Spaces program on steroids. The proposal already has support from Supervisor Aaron Peskin and Mayor London Breed.
“Benches that look like Giant chopsticks, why don’t we make little seats for children that look like pandas, or we have stools that are made of mahjong tiles,” said Louie.
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