At a City Hall meeting in San Francisco, an interpreter helps a resident make a public comment.

As Bay Area Cities Adopt Real-Time AI Translation for Public Meetings, SF Abstains

Cities in Northern California are increasingly adopting artificial intelligence-powered translation tools in an effort to make public meetings more accessible to residents who are not proficient in English. The technology could address obstacles to access in San Francisco, where people can struggle to obtain city-provided interpreters.

Should San Francisco consider following San Jose, Modesto and others in adopting AI translation? City officials say no, and some community groups are wary but open to the possibility.

An interpreter speaks Cantonese into a device that transmits to listeners, with headsets, during a public meeting held in English.

Inadequate Language Services Leave Immigrants in the Dark at SF Public Meetings

For immigrants and other San Francisco residents who speak little English, accessible and robust interpretation services are essential in order to understand what’s said at public meetings and communicate with officials.

The city claims to have the strongest language-access policies in the nation, and a new proposal is on the way to strengthen them further. But, in practice, those policies leave a communication gap between lawmakers and those affected by their laws, community groups say.

People standing in line at a public meeting at San Francisco City Hall.

Cannabis Dispensary and Lounge to Open in SF Bayview, Despite Residents’ Objections

The dispensary will be on one of the Bayview’s less developed streets, near low-income and senior housing. Over a dozen cannabis facilities already operate in the neighborhood, nearly all of which are used only to grow the plant.

Many residents, especially Chinese Americans, have opposed the new facility, which will sell cannabis products, out of fear that it will encourage drug use and make the area less safe. Despite their objections, the city’s Planning Commission approved the project Thursday because it did not violate city laws.

In SF’s Chinatown, Conflict Over Outdoor Events Resolved — for Now 

A dispute among Chinatown businesses appears to be temporarily quelled, following a decision by San Francisco’s Board of Appeals to limit amplified sound at outdoor events along a major tourist artery for the next two months. 

Merchants had objected after a local dance company obtained the amplified-sound permit. It was the latest point of friction resulting from a gradual uptick in events, which have disrupted some businesses in the neighborhood.

Chinatown Merchants Frustrated as Outdoor Events Disrupt Business

Since the start of the pandemic, Chinatown groups have closed pockets of the neighborhood to vehicle traffic, making space for events that might draw people. As the closures increased over time, local merchants began to bristle. Those frustrations have boiled over in response to the latest attempt, by a dance company, to potentially expand events.

Voting booths at San Francisco City Hall

Despite Controversy, Candidates’ Chinese Names Unlikely to Sway S.F. Voters

For months leading up to Tuesday’s primary election in San Francisco, debate has swirled around new rules allowing many, but not all, candidates to use authentic-looking Chinese names on the ballot. In the past, candidates have chosen names to communicate concepts, including political values and ethnic identity, to appeal to Chinese voters.

But how much will the names actually affect voters’ decisions?

Probably not much, some experts say.

“Just having a Chinese name on the ballot, that’s not going to do it for you,” said Jim Ross, a San Francisco-based political strategist and consultant who leads focus groups studying local Chinese voters. “You’re not going to win or lose because of that.”

A large decorative yellow parade dragon head with multicolored accents appears with an open mouth featuring a pink and red paper mache tongue and large white teeth with fangs.

New Parade Dragon Carries on Local Legacy Dating Back Nearly 175 Years

There will be a brand new dragon in this year’s Chinese New Year Parade finale, celebrating the Year of the Dragon.

The Chinese New Year Parade, the festival’s pinnacle event, is scheduled this Saturday. Until then, the new dragon is on display at Three Embarcadero Center.

The parade’s organizer, the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce, has announced the roster of floats and entertainers who will participate, including a 289-feet golden dragon that debuted in public on Lunar New Year’s Day, Feb. 10, for a Taoist “awakening” ceremony.

Proposition G — Offering Algebra 1 to Eighth Graders

Proposition G is a non-binding policy statement urging the San Francisco Unified School District to offer Algebra 1 courses to middle school students by the eighth grade and develop a coherent math curriculum for all grade levels, especially in elementary and middle school.

A woman with dark shoulder length hair, and wearing a purple pullover and glasses, sits at a small table reviewing a small stack of documents.

Volunteers Race to Preserve Culturally Significant Records in Chinatown

A volunteer group led by community historian David Lei and University of California, Berkeley lecturer Anna Eng is working on a week-long project to scan boxes of documents — memos, letters, photos and other archived items.

The scanning project is a collaborative effort between historians striving to increase access to alternative historical sources and community organizations wanting the history to be restored and told.