The Future of Chinatown’s Stockton Street
By Sam LaTronica
January 25, 2012
All photos by Noah Christman

How can a rich historical space welcome visitors and new community members while ensuring that it continues to work for current residents? This question is central to the future of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Stockton Street between Sacramento and Broadway boasts one of the busiest, most vibrant corridors in the city. The street is packed with a healthy mix of retail and housing and is well used by many generations of cyclists and pedestrians. But Stockton Street is quickly surpassing its maximum capacity. Buses are overcrowded, retail shop displays spill out onto the street, and truck drivers load and unload merchandise from the street at any time of day, sometimes even using their trucks as makeshift storefronts. Meanwhile, the booming area must decide how to accommodate additional growth and change in the coming years.

To address these concerns while maintaining affordable housing, transit equity, pedestrian safety and a sense of community, SPUR and the Chinatown Community Development Center are undertaking a re-envisioning process for Stockton Street. The process includes upcoming public workshops in both English and Cantonese. SPUR recently held a youth-led tour of Stockton Street.


Stockton Street’s fresh produce markets experience such fierce competition that they sometimes sell items at wholesale value. Each market is allotted two feet of sidewalk space, but they often use more. Most of the food comes from local sources.


The Ping Yuen Central building, at left, is one of four public housing buildings that comprise roughly 10 percent of Chinatown’s housing. In the past, tenants felt that the housing authority was not doing enough to protect the residents. They participated in a rent strike for improvements, winning new gates and other security measures. It is the only housing in Chinatown managed by the government (HUD).


In order to improve safety, Stockton Street instituted “scramble signals” which halt all car traffic and allow pedestrians to cross any direction, including diagonally.


Buses on Stockton Street are often crowded, which slows loading time and causes delays. The new Central Subway will augment public transit in the neighborhood and connect Chinatown to downtown and other parts of the city.


The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (headquartered in the buildling with the green tile awning) was formed in response to nineteenth century anti-Chinese sentiment. The association adjudicated neighborhood disputes and provided newly arrived immigrants with social services including job placement, housing, food and legal representation. Today the association holds an estimated 30 percent of the properties in Chinatown.


Learn more about the re-envisioning process or register for one of the public workshops:

Register for the English-language workshop on February 28 >>

Register for the Cantonese-language workshop on February 23 >>



Get Email Updates

Get SPUR news and events delivered straight to your email inbox.

Sign up now