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To Boost Shopping in Chinatown, SF Brings Back Ban on Car Parking

In San Francisco's Chinatown, removing car parking is great for business.

Last year's week-long trial removal of parking on five blocks of Stockton Street was so popular, in fact, that Mayor Ed Lee announced today that the program would return for another two-week run. The parking removal will make more room for vendors and the influx of shoppers during the Lunar New Year shopping season. "This is a great opportunity for the local businesses and their customers in the heart of Chinatown to enjoy the celebratory Chinese New Year season," Lee said in a statement.

Like last year, the city will erect barriers along what are normally parking lanes to designate the space for vendors and pedestrians during business hours. While occupying much of the curbside space with merchandise displays doesn't necessarily do much to accommodate the pedestrian overflow from the sidewalks, merchants and community leaders say re-purposing some space from automobiles in the densest neighborhood west of the Mississippi is good for business.

"Sidewalk shopping is a long Chinese tradition to welcome the New Year," said Pius Lee, chair of the Chinatown Neighborhood Association, in a statement. "This initiative is a win for the community."

The program's success makes sense, since transit and walking, not driving, account for most travel to and within Chinatown, and the neighborhood has the city's lowest rate of car ownership. Along with customer intercept surveys and successful pedestrianization projects, the temporary parking ban on Stockton counters the misconception among merchants that in urban neighborhoods, reclaiming space devoted to cars will hurt business.

"This is a great example of how reclaiming streets for people can boost the local economy," said Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe. "We hope the city will continue to expand this excellent program to give folks more space for walking in Chinatown. So many cities in other countries have a much more vibrant street life than San Francisco -- Chinatown is the perfect place to start, to show how we can breathe more life into San Francisco's streets."

The program will run from this Saturday, January 26, until February 9.

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