SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — A community effort is underway Wednesday night to replace the iconic red lanterns in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Many of them were damaged and destroyed during the recent series of storms.
But hanging new ones comes with a hefty price tag.
Check out these Chinatown lanterns, the storms tore through them, leaving gaping holes. Three blocks of lanterns need to be replaced, costing a total of $90,000.
But for business owners in Chinatown, it’s worth every penny.
“And the wind, it was insane we had to call someone to take down the 800 blocks lanterns,” said Jenny Chan who works for the Chinatown Merchants Association.
The Chinatown Merchants Association is the organization that independently paid for and installed the red lanterns 10 years ago. After the relentless storms tore them apart, the association is working to raise enough money to replace lanterns on three blocks.
“It costs $30,000 to replace each block.”
To the Chinese community, the red lanterns are more than light fixtures.
“They symbolize prosperity, energy and life. They aren’t just lanterns in our culture but really symbols of hope and prosperity,” said Chamber of Commerce President Rodney Fong.
And they attract tourists to Chinatown, helping shop owners like Neville Kwa.
“With Instagram, everyone is there to get a photo, grab dinner, grab a drink so these lanterns are really sentimental.”
He owns Jen’s Gems. He hopes enough money can be raised to replace the lanterns.
“Attract more tourists. It’s about time to bring back business to Chinatown, it’s been hurting since the pandemic right? COVID-19,” Kwa said.
Fong agrees it has been a hard three years for city businesses, but he says things are looking up.
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“San Francisco is starting to see a rise in business despite what some of the national media might tell us,” Fong said. “We are starting to see tourism come back strong in SF. Downtown is getting busier and busier, I’m sure you’ve seen it in the traffic.”
Chan says the community seems to always rally during tough times, so she’s confident enough money will be raised.
“It’s just so touching to me that we get so many messages from people in the community, even people who have visited. I’m so grateful everyone is willing to chip in,” Chan said.
So far, $60,000 has been raised, between a $50,000 donation from the Robert Joseph Louie Fund and the GoFundMe page. That’s enough to replace lanterns in two blocks.
Now, the Chinatown Merchants Association plans to apply for grants.