San Francisco

San Francisco's Chinatown Businesses Hit With Awning Fines

NBC Universal, Inc.

Dozens of small businesses in San Francisco's Chinatown were recently hit with citations for their awnings, among other violations.

Lily Lo, founder of BeChinatown said she received more than 20 notice of violations or "NOVs" from San Francisco's Department of Building Inspection.

“Everybody’s really scared and am I the next one who’s going to get one?” she said.

In addition to maintaining the history, Lo also serves as an advocate for the small businesses around.

On the same block of Waverly, Lo said that she can count many shops that got the citations for not having permits for gates that some store owners told NBC Bay Area they inherited, but mostly for awnings.

Laura Li has been operating a print shop for more than three decades without any violations about their awning, the corrective action spelled out along with a nine times box checked on most notices.

Li said that it’s also creating confusion among the Cantonese and Mandarin-speaking neighborhood.

“What did we do wrong?” she said. “What is this nine times about? What’s sign codes, you know, we haven’t moved out on 30 plus years, which a lot of local businesses in Chinatown is the same way.”

Another place hit with a violation is a florist and aquarium shop, one that community members told NBC Bay Area has been closed for 20 years.

Awnings have been part of San Francisco’s Chinatown for generations. So why now?

A DBI spokesperson told NBC Bay Area that they’re legally bound to investigate anonymous complaints. In the past three months, they got 187 anonymous ones about awnings.

“Our inspectors aren’t out trolling the streets looking for awnings that violate the building code. If a violation is found, an NOV is issued regardless of how long the non-compliant condition has existed,” officials said in a statement.

The complaints were focused in four neighborhoods, which were Chinatown, Richmond, Haight and Tenderloin.

The DBI said 62 have been doled out but couldn’t specify the locations Thursday night.

A spokesperson added that most awning permits are issued over the counter and issued in less than two days and can could cost up to $3,000.

Contact Us