Coworking Space in San Francisco’s Chinatown Sparks Debate Among Residents


Coworking Space in San Francisco’s Chinatown Faces Penalties, Possible Move


At 950 Grant Avenue, in the heart of retail Chinatown in San Francisco, sits a building whose second story is a coworking space. 1920C has risen flags for the Chinatown Community Development Center’s staff since its inception. A female-owned business, the name represents the decade of the 1920’s, when modern women first came to prominence in regards to social change, innovation, and economic growth, according to their website; the C stands for community, and they hope that everyone who partakes in working out of their space add a bit of themselves to the community on Grant Ave.


An article in yesterday’s San Francisco Examiner detailed that the coworking space is facing a zoning issue and may have to relocate. The coworking space is under investigation as its current operation under the 1986 Chinatown Area Plan is illegally zoned. According to Chelsea Maclean, attorney for the coworking space, the violation notice from the Planning Department does not cite exceptions in reference to the definition of office use — she claims that coworking spaces should be subject to different rules and regulations that normal office spaces. On July 15, Chinatown business owners and seniors alike clamored together in defense of the coworking space. Locals were actively voicing that the coworking space was owed a different set of rules instead of the ones set by the violation, and their presence was the community support that the C in 1920C stands for.

“Instead of pushing them out, we intend to find a planning code that will allow them to stay,” claimed former owner of the building, Andrew Young. Young’s family was in possession of the building from the 1940’s until 2012. The coworking space’s lawyer, Maclean argued that only 25% of the space was used for the coworking aspect, and that it, like the art gallery, conference rooms and other amenities at the site, is fully open to the public. Initially, the code was written to ensure that the Financial District would not infringe upon Chinatown. But locals have a response to that threat: It’s the opposite. This is a revitalization of Chinatown.


The main debacle is whether or not the coworking space is the main revenue and purpose of 1920C and the building as a whole; if it is, it violates the code written by the Chinatown Area Plan which prohibits office encroachment in the area. While a ruling letter is usually distributed within 30 days after a session, Zoning Administrator Scott Sanchez said that he may deliberate a while longer on the fate of 1920C. Maclean cited five other coworking spaces, outside of Chinatown, that are located in other commercial zoning districts. Sanchez responded that those are also in violation, and that they will be documented and investigated in addition to 1920C.