A 2017 idea to build a large affordable housing complex on top of New Asia restaurant in Chinatown has just been rebooted, and the plan would convert New Asia back into the banquet hall it used to be.  

Before her death in 2016, one of the last crusades for Chinatown power broker Rose Pak was to get the city to buy the building that housed Chinatown’s New Asia restaurant and banquet hall, and let some housing developer build affordable units on top. About seven months after Pak’s death, the city did exactly that and bought the building for $5 million, according to a 2017 Bay City News article.

But the project seemingly crapped out. Then COVID hit, and the New Asia transformed from a banquet hall into a grocery store, as the banquet hall model was no longer economically viable. New Asia still remains a grocery store today, with the curious sight of chandeliers and karaoke stages amongst the racks of produce and food.

Image: William B. via Yelp

Well, as this weekend's Lunar New Year parade and festivities will show, banquet halls are economically viable again. And the Chronicle reports that the affordable housing plan is back on, and in an even bigger form than what was proposed in 2017.

While the city still owns the building, the developer stepping in to build is the Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC). The current New Asia building is only one story, whereas the CCDC plans to build a 15-story tower there. The 2017 proposal called for 50-60 units, while the new plans boasts it may have as many as 175 units, which would be for seniors.  

The plan also calls for taking over the adjacent Yummy Yummy dim sum restaurant at 758 Pacific Avenue. But it would reopen New Asia as a traditional banquet hall

“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,” CCDC executive director Malcolm Yeung told the Chronicle. “That’s also bad for Chinatown residents who aren’t able to find the transportation to get down to the Peninsula to celebrate cultural events.”

The 15-story (150-foot) height of the proposed project would probably require some rezoning, and changing anything one-story to 15 stories is probably going to stir up some opposition in this town. Moreover, formal plans for the development have not been submitted. And CCDC’s funding seems contingent on the passage of next month’s Prop A affordable housing bond, so that measure’s failure could throw a wrench into these plans.

Related: After Pushback From Chinatown Residents, Breed Cancels Plan For Sober Living Facility at Hotel North Beach [SFist]

Image: William B. via Yelp