Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Real Estate & Development
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Published on February 22, 2024
San Francisco's Chinatown Poised for Growth with New 15-Story Affordable Housing and Banquet Hall ProjectSource: Google Street View

In the heart of Chinatown, a longstanding project is making strides toward revitalizing the historic neighborhood with a new affordable housing proposal. After years of stalling, the effort to erect a 15-story tower on the site of the New Asia restaurant at 772 Pacific Avenue has gained fresh momentum, with plans to bring 175 affordable units and a traditional Chinese banquet hall to the district. This week's Lunar New Year parade underscored the economic viability of banquet halls, a factor that Chinatown advocates argue is essential for the community's prosperity. According to SFist, the city, which purchased the property for $5 million, is working with the Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC) to breathe new life into these plans.

The ambitious project not only seeks to tackle the neighborhood's housing shortage but also aims to revive the cultural pulse of Chinatown by reintegrating the banquet hall where countless community events and celebrations have historically occurred. Speaking exclusively with the San Francisco Chronicle, Malcolm Yeung, executive director of CCDC, highlighted the significance of the banquet hall's return, saying, "Because of the lack of banquet space in Chinatown, there are so many banquets that have moved down to the Peninsula, and that’s bad for our economy." The recovery from the transformation of New Asia during the pandemic, having operated as a grocery store back into a banquet hall, appears to be a key element in CCDC's strategy for the neighborhood.

Initial plans for the site had focused on a smaller scale development, ranging between 50 and 80 units. However, CCDC has elevated its goals, choosing to use the prime location by proposing a 15-story building. Notably, the plan requires the consolidation of 758 Pacific Avenue, currently Yummy Yummy dim sum restaurant, into the development. However, hurdles remain, with a need for zoning changes to accommodate the significant height increase from a one-story structure to a proposed 15-story complex. Additionally, the upcoming Prop A affordable housing bond vote is anticipated to play a crucial role in securing the necessary funding for the project.

The project's historical context adds a layer to its complexity. With a deep heritage embedded in the area, any construction plans face the scrutiny of the National Historic Preservation Act. As part of the Federal Section 106 review, as described by SF YIMBY, both buildings slated for demolition hold significance, with 772 and 758-760 Pacific Avenue dating back to 1919 and 1926, respectively. The latter is even identified as a potential historic resource. For a neighborhood that serves as North America's oldest Chinatown, balancing modern development needs with preserving historical integrity is a challenge that the city and developers must navigate cautiously.

San Francisco's community stakeholders have long awaited the realization of updated housing opportunities in Chinatown. This venture has taken on an almost symbolic legacy of the late community advocate Rose Pak. After her passing, efforts continued in her spirit, striving to fulfill the vision she championed, to provide the local residents with much-needed affordable housing options. As construction is projected to begin in April and conclude in 2026, eager eyes will be watching whether Chinatown's skyline will welcome this new monument to community resilience and heritage.