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San Francisco may pay businesses hurt by APEC $2M

A large black fence on a city street corner.
A new bill would create a $2 million relief fund for businesses in SoMa negatively impacted by security preparations for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November. | Source: Justin Katigbak/The Standard

Despite the expected massive deficit, San Francisco city officials are hoping to scrounge up more funding to support local businesses.

A new bill, introduced by Supervisor Connie Chan, would create a $2 million relief fund for small businesses in SoMa that were negatively impacted by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November.

An additional $250,000 would be used to provide free public transit and parking to encourage more people to visit Chinatown during the Chinese New Year.

“We spent $40 million, both private and public money on APEC,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who represents Chinatown and is a co-sponsor of the proposal. “It seems like this is the least we could do.”

RELATED: San Francisco Businesses Say They Were ‘Sacrificial Lambs’ for APEC Summit

APEC Relief Fund

The relief money would be managed by the city’s Office of Workforce and Economic Development, which will determine how to distribute the funds. The bill is subject to approval by the full board and Mayor London Breed.

Several bars and restaurants close to the Moscone Center geared up to serve APEC attendees but ended up experiencing a wave of cancellations and a major decline in business during the event. Fencing, checkpoints and parking restrictions put in place to protect world leaders and conferencegoers limited mobility and access in the security zone for customers.

Dozens of small business owners, residents and community organizers spoke out about APEC’s negative financial impact during a Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee in December.

Manuel Ramirez, owner of the Metreon location of the Korean fried chicken chain Bonchon, said many restaurants were swayed by officials to stay open that week with the promise of an increase in business to help make San Francisco “look like a vibrant city.”

“They saw us as acceptable collateral damage, the sacrificial lambs for putting San Francisco on the world stage,” he said during the meeting.

Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who is also co-sponsoring the bill, said some of the businesses stayed open through the conference in an effort to make it a success, but “for various unforeseen circumstances, paid a heavy price for doing so.

“APEC was a financially successful endeavor for the city, but a number of small businesses suffered undue hardships that I think we have a moral obligation to mitigate,” Dorsey said in a statement to The Standard about the bill. 

Nate Haas, who owns Barbary Coast, a cannabis dispensary and smoke lounge in SoMa, said the relief fund proposal is perhaps a bit late for those who suffered the negative business impacts from APEC but welcome news nonetheless.

“The fact that the city is willing to do anything really; I’ll take it,” Haas said. “Of course, knowing how to navigate the city agencies and figure out how to get that money is somewhat of a different story.”

Free Muni and Parking for Chinese New Year

To encourage people to visit Chinatown for Lunar New Year, Chan’s bill would provide free citywide Muni service on Feb. 24, the day of the Chinese New Year parade. The funding would also pay for free two-hour parking in Portsmouth Square Garage and St. Mary’s Square Garage in Chinatown for the whole month of February.

Lunar new year lion dance
Supervisors have also proposed setting aside funds to provide free transit for this year's Chinese New Year parade. | Source: Camille Cohen for The Standard

Chan told The Standard that the funding is supplemental from the general budget, and as the only Chinese American supervisor on the board, she’s proud to lead this effort to support the community during this important cultural festivity.

Chinese-language media Sing Tao Daily and KTSF first reported Chan’s proposal. Chan told them that easier parking will attract more business opportunities for Chinatown.

In 2022, San Francisco offered a similar free Muni and parking program during Chinese New Year. The program was halted last year because of a funding shortage.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director Jeff Tumlin told The Standard that $250,000 wouldn’t be enough to cover the cost of the proposed services in the bill. Tumlin said the agency is interested in working with Chan to develop a plan that fits her budget.

“We are happy to offer discounts on parking and Muni, but our costs would need to be covered by a sponsor,” he said.

Chan’s office said they could amend the bill if the funds are not sufficient.

Han Li can be reached at
Kevin Truong can be reached at