How SF Chinatown plans to combat 'doom loop' narratives, attract tourism ahead of APEC

BySuzanne Phan KGO logo
Monday, November 6, 2023
How SF Chinatown plans to combat 'doom loop' narratives during APEC
With the APEC global trade summit just days away, San Francisco's Chinatown is gearing up for a list of community events starting this week.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The APEC global trade summit is just days away and the city of San Francisco is juggling security concerns, traffic lane closures, and efforts to improve its image, given "doom loop" headlines.

As many as 30,000 people could be in town for APEC.

Some neighborhoods like Chinatown are worried that the detours and the headlines may keep visitors away.

So local businesses have launched a series of events to "activate" their community.

For one week, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit will bring dozens of heads of state, foreign dignitaries, and business leaders to San Francisco. And with that, comes ultra-tight security.

RELATED: How APEC summit will make your SF commute harder for an entire week

APEC summit will require major security restrictions and traffic closures in San Francisco. Here's how that will impact your commute.

Reclaiming the narrative

San Francisco's homelessness, drug addiction crisis, and shuttered business have made headlines around the world. But many communities are fighting back against any Doom Loop narrative.

"We're basically trying to change the myth we're trying to tell people, don't believe everything you hear. Come down and visit us and see what we're doing," said Steven Lee.

Lee owns three businesses in Chinatown, including Sam Wo Restaurant which has been around for 100 years, Lion's Den Bar and Lounge, and Bluestream Gallery and Wines.

He and others are like Jenny Leung, Executive Director of the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, want to celebrate their community with APEC visitors.

"Chinatown is one of the oldest Chinatowns in America. It has such a rich history. It remains extremely vibrant. We just want to showcase that to everyone," said Leung.

In Chinatown, a mural of a large Buddha went up on Clay and Grant, just in time for APEC.

The beloved 200-foot-long Golden Dragon on display at 667 Grant Avenue waits to be unveiled to big APEC crowds. It's the same one that winds it way through San Francisco for the Chinese New Year Parade.

Chinatown transportation during APEC

While there are concerns that bus and central subway detours from APEC would limit tourism to the area, community advocates remind visitors of other ways to get there.

"We are working with SFMTA to make sure that people can come to Chinatown. There will be a shuttle," said Leung.

A Muni Metro shuttle train will operate every five minutes between Chinatown-Rose Pak Station and Union Square-Market Street Station to main access to Chinatown and areas north of Downtown.

Here's what's going on

Local leaders in Chinatown are stepping up and welcoming APEC visitors starting this week.

"The Night Market is going to open for two days on Friday the 10 and Saturday the 11," said Lee.

MORE: SF small businesses in SoMa district concerned about losing customers during APEC Summit

Sponsored by non-profit BeChinatown, the night market in the 500 and 600 blocks of Grant Avenue will run from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and feature two dozen small businesses and their specialty food and drinks.

On Saturday, Nov. 11, there is a Korean Wine and Art Social for APEC Attendees at Bluestream Gallery and Wines. It runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Then on Wednesday, Nov. 15, Lee says there will be a media tour for APEC attendees.

It will feature legacy and new restaurants in Chinatown.

"We'll end up going to around 15 of their legacy restaurants Chinatown and we'll end up at the Far East Café which is one of our oldest restaurants in Chinatown," said Lee.

Other events include the Chinatown after party for APEC 2023 on Thursday, November 16th at Lion's Den. There's also a Chinatown After Dark walking tour of local historic bars and lounges, another media walking tour for APEC attendees. That runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

On Friday, November 17th at 800 Grant Avenue, there's "Disco YES! Chinatown Art Block Party" featuring dance performances and entertainment, a local DJ, and locally based artists Bijun Liang and Hou Youmei, Grant Avenue Follies, and LionDanceMe. The event is a collaboration between Chinese Culture Center SF and Edge on the Square and runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

"With the spotlight on San Francisco, this is an opportunity to show the world Chinatown's art and vibrancy," said Leung.

Also on Friday, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Dear Community hosts a Neon Walking Tour and Dinner.

As San Francisco gears up for APEC and the global spotlight, local leaders are committed to Chinatown and reclaiming the narrative.

"We are going to show through APEC what Chinatown is going to be. And what it's going to be in the future," said Lee.

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