San Francisco’s Inner Richmond district is transforming. In a significant shift from culinary delight to community uplift, a former landmark dim sum restaurant has transformed into a residential care facility for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) seniors. The project spearheaded by Self-Help for the Elderly, a prominent nonprofit organization, signifies a thoughtful repurposing of urban space to address the pressing needs of the city’s aging population.

The building previously housed the famous Tong Palace and had been a cornerstone of the local dining scene for years. However, since its closure before the pandemic, the structure at 933 Clement Street stood vacant, awaiting a new purpose. That purpose is now to address the city’s critical shortage of affordable senior housing.

“These smaller size (residential care facilities for the elderly) provide safe havens for seniors to age in place, but the rapid decline of these homes causes major concerns among our elected officials and providers of elder care services,” said Anni Chung, CEO of Self-Help for the Elderly. “This initiative is not just about providing shelter; it’s about creating a nurturing environment for our seniors to thrive.”

Self-Help for the Elderly’s project is ambitious, with plans to house at least 15 low-income seniors. The facility will offer specialized care, including 24-hour supervision for seniors with dementia, at a cost significantly lower than traditional care facilities. This initiative comes at a crucial time, as San Francisco’s Department of Disability and Aging Services reports that nearly 30% of the city’s residents will be 60 or older by 2030, with a large proportion being immigrants.

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AAPI seniors, in particular, often contend with language barriers, cultural isolation, and financial constraints in accessing affordable care. Now, a facility like this, deeply rooted in the community’s cultural fabric, promises a roof over their heads and a sense of belonging and dignity in their twilight years.  It underlines the profound impact of the project, far beyond the bricks and mortar of the old Tong Palace. The area is already home to various merchants, Chinese grocers, and community service providers, making it an ideal setting for a senior care facility.

Funding for this transformative project stems from the Asian and Pacific Islander Equity Fund, established through legislation led by Supervisor Connie Chan. The fund aims to support local nonprofits catering to approximately 250,000 low-income AAPI residents. “Our goal is to foster long-term investment in our community, ensuring that nonprofits like Self-Help for the Elderly stay and invest in the community long term,” Chan said.

The fund, bolstered by a significant allocation from the city’s budget, facilitated the acquisition of the Clement Street building. Supervisor Aaron Peskin, former Supervisor Gordon Mar, and Mayor London Breed played pivotal roles in securing the necessary funding.

As San Francisco continues to evolve, projects like the conversion of the old Tong Palace into a senior care facility represent a thoughtful approach to urban development. It’s a testament to the city’s commitment to its diverse communities and a shining example of how revitalizing unused spaces serves the greater good. This project is a beacon of hope and progress in a city that values its history and future, ensuring that its senior residents are housed, honored, and cared for.