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March 8, 2014
Table of Contents
1 Introduction
Chinatown, Los Angeles, California


Image:newchinatown.jpg|right|thumb|325px|"New Chinatown," Los Angeles postcard, late 1940s

Chinatown in Downtown Los Angeles|Downtown Los Angeles, California, was originally located less than a mile from its current location. There are now other flourishing satellite Chinese communities that are not officially classified as "Chinatown" per se, but are well known, such as Monterey Park, California|Monterey Park, where over 60% of the population is Asian, and San Gabriel, California|San Gabriel (the Asian-origin population is almost reaching 50%).

Between 1852 (when the first People's Republic of China|Chinese immigrants were reported to be in Los Angeles, California|Los Angeles) and 1890 a distinct community of over 3,000 Chinese people flourished. This original Chinatown was located between El Pueblo Plaza and Old Arcadia Street, stretching eastward across Alameda Street.

In 1871, 19 Chinese men and boys were murdered by a mob of 500 locals in one of the most serious incidents of racial violence that has ever occurred in America's West. This incident became known as "The Chinese Massacre".

Reaching its heyday from 1890 to 1910, Chinatown grew to approximately 15 streets and alleys containing 200 buildings. It was large enough to boast a Chinese Opera theatre, three temples, its own newspaper, and a telephone exchange. But laws prohibiting most Chinese from citizenship and property ownership, and Exclusion Acts curtailing immigration, inhibited future growth for the district.

From the early 1910s Chinatown began to decline. Symptoms of a corrupt Los Angeles discolored the public's view of Chinatown; gambling|gambling houses, opium dens, and a fierce tong warfare severely reduced business in the area. As tenants and lessees rather than outright owners, the residents of Old Chinatown were threatened with impending redevelopment and as a result the owners neglected upkeep on their buildings. Eventually, the entire area was sold and resold, as entrepreneurs and town developers fought over usage of the area. After 30 years of continual decay, a Supreme Court ruling approved condemnation of the entire area to allow for the construction of the new major rail terminal, Union Station (Los Angeles)|Union Station.

Seven years passed before an acceptable relocation proposal was put into place, situating Chinatown in its present day location. During that long hiatus, the entire area of Old Chinatown was demolished, leaving many businesses without a location, and forcing some of them to close permanently.

In the late 1950s the covenants on the use and ownership of property were removed, allowing Chinese Americans to live in other neighborhoods and gain access to new types of employment.

The design and operational concepts for New Chinatown evolved through the collective community process, resulting in a blend of both Chinese and American architecture. The Los Angeles Chinatown saw major development, especially as a tourist attraction, throughout the 1930s with the development of the "Central Plaza", a Hollywoodized version of Shanghai, and have names such as Bamboo Lane, Gin Ling Way and Chung King Road (named after the city of Chongqing in mainland China). Today, this section of Chinatown is less frequented by ethnic Chinese residents and dayshoppers although it is where several benevolent associations are located. Chinatown expanded beyond the area and is now bounded by nearby Mexican-dominated Olvera Street and Dodger Stadium.

Many of the older buildings built in the 1930s and 1940s era in the northeast corner of New Chinatown (near the Pasadena Freeway) were previously abandoned. As part of gentrification movement, they are now primarily used as art galleries by Caucasian artists. It has also been turned into a center of nightlife for white people.

There is relatively little social interaction between these artists and business owners and the Chinatown Chinese-speaking residents.

New Chinatown is served by the Gold Line of L.A.'s Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority|Metro Rail; interestingly, parts of Old Chinatown where uncovered while excavating for the another part of the L.A. subway (the Red Line connection to Union Station). The Metro Rail station in Chinatown has been designed with modernized traditional Chinese architecture.

The Chinatown residential area are up on the hills northwest of Alpine Park, with a public elementary school, Chinese school, hospital, and other businesses. This area is generally tucked away from the main touristy areas.

Near Broadyway Ave., Central Plaza contains a statue honoring Dr. Sun Yat-sen, a Mainland Chinese revolutionary leader who is considered the "founder of modern China".

During the 1980s, many buildings were constructed for new shopping centers and mini-malls, especially along Broadway Avenue. In the mid-1990s, a new shopping center containing the 99 Ranch Market was built near the old Central Plaza. However, the supermarket chain failed to catch on and closed it doors a few years later in 1997 - the market remains highly successful in several Chinese communities of the San Gabriel Valley. Metro Plaza Hotel was built in the southwest corner of Chinatown in the early 1990s but it has seen very few tenants and thus, has remained mostly vacant over the years.

The large Chinese gateway is around the intersection of Broadway Avenue and Cesar E. Chavez Avenue.

The main streets running through the new Chinatown are Broadway Avenue, Spring Street and Hill Street. Chinatown is located directly north of downtown Los Angeles between Dodger Stadium and the Los Angeles Civic Center.

Chinatown is somewhat segregated between Chinese ethnic groups in some respects. College Street, running in a northwest-southeast direction, provides a rough boundary between the older (post-1930s and 1940s) and newer businesses (post-1980s). Many largely-dying businesses belonging to the Taishanese and Cantonese Chinese are in the northwest area. In the southwest, nearly 90% of businesses are owned by first-generation Southeast Asian Chinese immigrants and refugees.

New ethnic Chinese immigrants
Like most Chinatowns, Taishanese (or Toisan)–a subdialect of Cantonese Chinese–was the dominant Chinese dialect of the Los Angeles Chinatown until the 1970s. Throughout the 1980s, Cantonese and especially Teochew (Pinyin: Chaozhou, Vietnamese: Trieu Chau) Chinese became more widely spoken as Chinatown experienced a rise in Vietnamese and Cambodians of ethnic Chinese origin, as well as those from Thailand. Whereas Cantonese is still predominant and remains the lingua franca of Chinatown, the use of Taishanese has diminished in Los Angeles and its usage is more common among elderly and old-generation Chinese within the area.

With the boom of de facto suburban "Chinatowns" in the eastern part of the Los Angeles area, there has been very very little immigration of Taiwanese - especially those with high socioeconomic status - to this old Chinatown.

The arrival of new immigrants from Southeast Asia and Mainland China to Los Angeles Chinatown gave rise to new associations such as the Southern California Teo Chew Association (serving the Teochew speakers), the Cambodia Ethnic Chinese Association (catering to Chinese Cambodian residents), and the Southern California Fukienese Association and the Foo Chow Natives Benevolent Association (both serving immigrants from the Fujian province of Mainland China).

Many Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrants in the Chinatown run small curios shops and bazaars in the shopping plazas such as Saigon Plaza and Dynasty Center—both built in the 1980s—south of Broadway Avenue. Incidentally, they also own nearly 90% of Chinatown's businesses. Most old-time and dying Chinese American (those of Taishanese and Cantonese descent) businesses are located in the old Chinatown Plaza.

There are numerous small, specialized Asian supermarket|grocery stores in Chinatown. Several restaurants in Chinatown serve mainly Cantonese cuisine but there are also various Asian cuisine restaurants such as Teochew Chinese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Thai, which reflects the diverse character of Chinatown. Many Chinatown-area restaurants have been featured and reviewed extensively in the Food section of the Los Angeles Times. Interestingly, very few boba cafes have opened in Chinatown but a large number are to be found in the "suburban Chinatowns" of the San Gabriel Valley.

Plum Tree Inn is a restaurant serving Americanized Chinese cuisine mainly for non-Chinese clientele. Yang Chow Restaurant, serves Mandarin and Szechuan cuisine, is famous for its "slippery shrimp" and the restaurant has a predominantly white and Mexican clientele.

Some good restaurants include CBS Seafood Restaurant, Hop Woo Restaurant, Sam Woo Cafe.

Little Joe's
There was a now-shuttered Italian restaurant called Little Joe's Italian Restaurant in Chinatown. This is a testament of the former Italian American community that once populated the site of the current Chinatown. Actor Robert De Niro starred in the movie 15 Minutes, which was filmed at the former restaurant.

As part of the revitalization movement of Chinatown, there are plans to turn the restaurant into a retail and residential hub with a large parking structure.

Rush Hour
The movie Rush Hour (movie)|Rush Hour, starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, was filmed on location in the Los Angeles Chinatown. A local Chinese restaurant featured in the film, Foo Chow Restaurant, mentions the fact on its enthusiastic mural by labeling it the "best-selling movie" sic. The filming location was at the Central Plaza. However, there is no such elderly or any food vendor as portrayed in the movie.

A picture of Foo Chow Restaurant can be found at

There are least five touristless suburban "Chinatowns" east of the old Chinatown, and all contained within the San Gabriel Valley. While there are a prominence of Chinese-language signage, these communities do not feature the Chinese-style gateways found in Chinatown. These areas have become renowned for their seleccions of Chinese cuisine.

Monterey Park
Beginning in the 1970s, well-educated and affluent immigrants from Taiwan began settling in the west San Gabriel Valley, primarily to Monterey Park. In the 1980s, the second generation Chinese Americans generally moved out of the old Chinatown and into the San Gabriel Valley suburbs, joining the new immigrants from Taiwan and Mainland China. While there has been immigration directly to the old urban Chinatown, Monterey Park remains the top choice for Chinese immigrants. The city has been regarded as a starting point for new Chinese immigrants, rather than the old Chinatown enclave in Downtown Los Angeles. In the mid-1980s, many Taiwanese Americans began to move out of Monterey Park due to perceived overcrowding and high property values.

The first satellite Chinatown of Monterey Park is composed of Atlantic Boulevard, Garvey Avenue, and Garfield Boulevard.

During the late 1980s, after a building moratorium against new shopping centers was in effect in Monterey Park, many Chinese immigrants developers turn north to Alhambra. Its vibrant satellite Chinatown includes many restaurants and other businesses occupying a mixture of old storefronts and later-built strip malls is on Valley Boulevard.

San Gabriel and Rosemead
San Gabriel's numerous Asian shopping centers and strip malls is also on Valley Boulevard. The long sprawling thoroughfare comprises of two- to three-story mini-malls as well as some large Asian supermarkets in the region.

A newer Taiwanese commercial district is south of Huntington Drive, on Baldwin Avenue in Arcadia.

Rowland Heights
Rowland Heights satellite "Chinatown" is on Colima Road and Nogales Avenue and it is intermixed with a Korean community.

  • Chinatown LA Official Website

  •,1,2563090.story?coll=la-home-realestate "Chinatown: crouching hamlet, hidden gem," Los Angeles Times

  • Going All Out for Chinese - The Atlantic insightful article on the San Gabriel Valley's ethnic Chinese communities and restaurants

Category:Los Angeles neighborhoods

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Chinatown, Los Angeles, California".

Last Modified:   2005-02-26

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