In San Francisco’s bustling Chinatown neighborhood, parking spots are at a premium. To make the search easier, we’ve created this comprehensive parking guide.
In it you’ll find the best options to park depending on your situation, and what you need to know to park there. There’s also information on: residential parking rules, tow zones and restrictions, the best tips and links sourced from around the web, and other facts for parking in San Francisco that applies to Chinatown.
Make this your first read on parking in Chinatown, San Francisco, and enjoy your trip!
In this Guide
Keep reading, or use the links below to jump to each section:
- Things to Know Before You Go
- Best Place to Park in Chinatown
- Chinatown Parking Lots and Garages
- Street Parking in Chinatown
- Chinatown Parking Resources
- Chinatown Attractions
Things to Know Before You Go
Street parking in Chinatown is notoriously tough to come by. For visitors, we recommend nabbing an off-street parking spot for your visit to Chinatown. If you decide to make a go at street parking, make sure you keep these important aspects in mind:
Street Parking in San Francisco
- Residential Restrictions: Most of Chinatown is within Residential Parking Zone C. Unless you have a permit, you can only park for two hours at a time. Residential zone signs are not prevalent, so check the map below in advance to ensure you don’t accidentally park in a restricted zone.
- Curb Colors: San Francisco uses painted curbs to restrict parking at certain times. White means 5-minute, vehicle occupied parking for customer drop-off and pickup. Yellow means loading, no parking.
- Free Night Parking: Metered spots are free after 6 p.m. and before 9 a.m. Monday through Saturday. But watch out for residential restrictions.
- Free Parking on Sundays: Metered spots are free all day on Sundays in Chinatown (according to the SFMTA), but competition for these free spots can be intense.
- Don’t Overpay: If you are paying more than $3 per hour at a parking meter, you’re better off parking in a garage.
- For more on the nuances of San Francisco street parking, including more on curb colors, “feeding the meter” restrictions, and the city-wide maximum parking time (72 hours), visit the SFMTA site or visit our parking basics page.
Off-Street Parking in Chinatown (Our Recommendation)
- Get Validated: If you’re visiting a Chinatown merchant, ask if they validate for your garage.
- Don’t Get Shut Out: Verify the operating hours of the garage. Some Chinatown garages, especially those on the east side bordering the Financial District, close early.
- Reserve in Advance: Saturdays are Chinatown’s busiest day, so it’s wise to reserve parking in advance.
- Consider Parking outside of Chinatown: If you don’t mind taking a shuttle, the Golden Gateway Garage at 250 Clay St. in the Financial District offers $3 weekend parking. The shuttle around Chinatown is free with a purchase at participating merchants. Learn more about the shuttle program.
Best Places to Park in Chinatown
Best Parking Spot: Portsmouth Square Garage at 733 Kearny St stands out as the best parking option in Chinatown due to its convenient location, reasonable price ($3 per hour), clean private restroom, and diligent on-site staff.
Beat the Street: Where You Can Find the Lowest Parking Rate in Chinatown
Use the chart below to find the lowest parking rates in Chinatown.
|Day||Time Period||Parking Type||Best Rate||Where to Park|
|Mon-Sat||0-5mins||Street Parking||Free||White, green, or unpainted curb|
|Mon-Sat||5-<30mins||Street Parking||$0.25-$6||Green or unpainted curb|
|Mon-Sat||30mins-<2 Hours||Street Parking||$1-$12||Unpainted Curb|
|Mon-Sat||2-<8 Hours||Garage||$3 per hour||Portsmouth Square Garage|
|Mon-Sat||+8 Hours||Lot||$25.00||Tam’s Parking Lot|
|Sun||Anytime||Street Parking||Free||Any Barring Other Restrictions|
Chinatown Parking Lots and Garages
There are four public parking garages and one open lot within Chinatown. They are:
Street Parking in Chinatown
According to Parknav, which provides drivers real-time parking information, the best places to look for street parking are:
- California Street between Stockton and Grant – this is a two-way street with ample street parking on both sides. Warning: extreme hill parking skills needed, and you’ll likely have a trolley full of spectators looking on.
- Bush Street between Powell and Stockton – this is a one-way road heading east. Check the first five spots on the north side of Bush Street. Because this street is in Residential Parking Permit Zone C, there is only a 2-hour limit and a 2-hour tow away period between 7am-9am.
- Pacific Avenue – there are parking options on this one-way street heading west, and your best chances are on the blocks on either side of Chinatown. Start your search at Stockton Street and you may find a spot before you hit Mason Street, one block outside of Chinatown to the west.
Metered street parking is available in Chinatown. Restrictions follow the city-wide colored curb system, where painted curb colors align with restrictions during certain times. See the parking basics page for details.
Chinatown Metered Parking Pricing Area Zones
Chinatown has four pricing zones for metered street parking shown in the map below. See metered pricing zones for all San Francisco on the city’s website.
|Map Color||Metered Period||Rate|
|Blue||Blue: 7a/9a-6p Mon-Sat||$0.25-$6|
|White||8a/9a-6p Mon-Sat||Free (or no parking)|
Paying for Street Parking in Chinatown
Like all parking meters in San Francisco, parking meters in Chinatown accept coins, credit cards, PaybyPhone, and pre-paid SFMTA Parking Cards. Read more about the street meter payment options.
SFMTA cards are available at the following merchants in Chinatown:
|Photo Focus||1100 Stockton Street||No Phone Number|
|Hop Hing Ginseng Co.||1027 Stockton Street||(415) 986-7899|
|Wang Chung Company||838 Washington Street||(415) 788-2212|
|Louie Brothers Book Store||754 Washington Street||(415) 391-8866|
Smart Pricing Street Parking in Chinatown
San Francisco’s Smart Pricing Street Parking program can result in fluctuating meter rates. During periods of high demand, rates are increased to encourage parkers to park for shorter times. The southwest corner of Chinatown has Smart Pricing, so be prepared for inconsistent meter rates in this area.
Chinatown Residential Street Parking
The northwest part of Chinatown is in Residential Permit Parking Zone C. Parkers without this permit are permitted to park for the posted time limit (typically 2-hours) unless other restrictions apply. You can view the full San Francisco residential permit map here.
Chinatown Parking Resources
- Parknav – Helps parkers find the best street parking with real-time predictive data.
- ParkMe – Helps parkers find off- and on-street parking using full-time researchers and a predictive algorithm.
- SFPark.org – City website with live parking availability and pricing.
- SpotHero – Find and reserve parking in advance with this free on-demand parking app.
- Parkopedia – Browse street and off-street parking rates with an interactive map.
Top Chinatown Attractions
- Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory (56 Ross Alley/Jackson) – where Chinatown has been making fortune cookies to be sold around the world since 1962.
- Where to Park: find street parking a couple blocks north on Pacific avenue, otherwise your best bet is to duck into Portsmouth Square Garage.
- Waverly Place – this two-block street epitomizes Chinatown and makes for a great photo opportunity.
- Where to Park: street parking can open up one block west on Grant St., otherwise the Portsmouth Square Garage 1 1/2 blocks away is a great option.
- Chinese Historical Society of America (965 Clay Street) – an organization devoted to Chinese American documentation, dissemination, and study.
- Where to Park: Look for free street parking just west of Chinatown on Clay St.
- Dragon’s Gate (Bush St and Grant Ave) – the landmark gateway entrance on the south end of Chinatown.