Lion dance street performances spark disagreement in SF Chinatown

Lion dance street performances spark disagreement in SF ChinatownLion dance street performances spark disagreement in SF Chinatown
via Tong Su on Unsplash
The San Francisco Board of Appeals reached a temporary solution after a four-hour hearing regarding a conflict between lion dancers and disturbed local residents in Chinatown.
Key points:
  • The LionDanceME (for “music” and “entertainment”), a renowned troupe of about 100 full-time student dancers, faced opposition from local merchants who complained about noise and street closures. 
  • Both sides emphasize their love for Chinatown but differ in perspective on the impact of the lion dancers on the community.
The details:
  • Since 2020, the group has been closing a block of Grant Avenue in Chinatown every weekend for rehearsals and a 4 p.m. show, initially as part of a COVID-era effort to revitalize the neighborhood.
  • They had official permission from both the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the Entertainment Commission for these performances, with no prior community opposition. Originally, the permit allowed performances on three blocks on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. until March 30, 2025. 
  • However, merchants appealed the renewal of their entertainment permit, noting how the street closures affected foot traffic. A contentious debate ensued, resulting in petitions both in support of and against the lion dancers.
  • The temporary solution was passed with a 4-1 vote on Thursday. The motion will continue to allow lion dance performances but only on Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. on one block of Grant Avenue until June 30.  
  • Tony Mo, a dancer and coach with LionDanceME, stressed the importance of street closures for rehearsals, but he also empathized with the businesses’ concerns. Despite the tough situation, he emphasized unity within the Chinese community.
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