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Park for free underneath ‘Chinatown’s living room’ to celebrate Chinese New Year

A bustling Chinatown street with a "Welcome" arch, adorned with lanterns, shops, pedestrians, and vehicles.
To encourage more visitors to come and celebrate Chinese New Year, a major garage in Chinatown is waiving fees for some drivers. | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

A city-run parking garage located beneath the “living room” of San Francisco’s Chinatown will offer certain drivers free parking during the entire month of February to encourage more visitors to celebrate the Chinese New Year in the historic neighborhood.

Portsmouth Square Garage, a major parking facility in Chinatown operated as a nonprofit by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, will not charge fees if visitors come and go within two hours.

Fees will apply if the parking time exceeds that limit.

“The two-hour free parking can bring people back to Chinatown,” said Jaynry Mak, chair of the garage’s board. “Chinatown has not yet recovered from the pandemic.”

Supervisor Connie Chan, who chairs the Board of Supervisors’ budget committee, has proposed using funds from a relief program to pay for the free parking. The board has not yet approved the funds, but Portsmouth Square Garage went ahead and started offering free parking on Feb. 1 anyway. If approved, the funding could be retroactive.

Details of the proposal are still being worked out ahead of the next budget hearing on Wednesday.

Even without board approval yet, Mak is confident the city will allocate funds for the Portsmouth Square Garage free parking program and Feb. 24 free Muni service, when the parade will take place in Chinatown featuring Hollywood actress Awkwafina.

The Chinese New Year starts on Feb. 10.

Han Li can be reached at