Chinatown, Los Angeles
|Neighborhood of Los Angeles|
Entrance to Los Angeles' Chinatown
Chinatown has two meanings in Los Angeles, California. It is known as a commercial center for Chinese and other Asian businesses, including restaurants, shops and art galleries. It is also a residential neighborhood in Central Los Angeles, with a low-income, aging population of about 10,000 residents.
The original Chinatown developed in the late 19th century, but it was demolished to make room for Union Station, now the city's major ground-transportation center. A separate commercial center, known as "New Chinatown," was finished in 1938.
There are two schools and a branch library in Chinatown, as well as a city and a state park and a medical center/hospital. Several motion pictures have been filmed in the area.
- 1 Geography
- 2 Adjacent neighborhoods
- 3 Population
- 4 History
- 5 Education
- 6 Businesses
- 7 Recreation and parks
- 8 Nomenclature
- 9 Events
- 10 Buildings and structures
- 11 Filming
- 12 Notable people
- 13 See also
- 14 References
- 15 Sources
- 16 External links
In the wider meaning of Chinatown beyond the concentrated business center, the neighborhood is flanked by the Elysian Park to the north, Lincoln Heights to the east, Downtown to the south and southwest and Echo Park to the west and northwest.
||Echo Park||Elysian Park, Dodger Stadium & Solano Canyon||Cypress Park|
|Echo Park||Lincoln Heights|
|Bunker Hill||Olvera Street, Union Station & Little Tokyo||East Los Angeles|
According to the 2000 census, Chinatown was the Los Angeles neighborhood with the highest number of residents who were born outside the United States—72.4%. Koreatown and Westlake were next. In Chinatown, China (55.3%) and Mexico (12.4%) were the most common places of foreign birth.
The 2000 U.S. census counted 9,610 residents in the 0.91-square-mile Chinatown neighborhood, excluding the population of the Los Angeles County Jail complex. That made an average of 10,568 people per square mile, which included the empty Cornfield area, and was about average for the city. The median age for residents was 37, considered old when compared to the rest of the city. The percentage of residents aged 65 and older was among the highest for Los Angeles County.
The median household income in 2008 dollars was $22,754, considered low for Los Angeles. The percentage of households earning $20,000 or less (53.6%) was the third-largest in Los Angeles County, preceded by Downtown (57.4%) and University Park (56.6%). The average household size of 2.8 people was just about the city norm. Renters occupied 91% of the housing units, and home- or apartment owners the rest.
The percentages of widowed people were among the county's highest. There were 220 families headed by single parents, or 9.6%, a low figure for Los Angeles.
In 1871, nineteen Chinese men and boys were killed by a mob of about five hundred white men in one of the most serious incidents of racial violence that has ever occurred in America's West. This incident became known as "Massacre of 1871".
Reaching its heyday from 1890 to 1910, Chinatown grew to approximately fifteen streets and alleys containing some two hundred buildings. It boasted a Chinese Opera theater, three temples, a newspaper and a telephone exchange. But laws prohibiting most Chinese from citizenship and property ownership, as well as legislation curtailing immigration, inhibited future growth.
From the early 1910s Chinatown began to decline. Symptoms of a corrupt Los Angeles discolored the public's view of Chinatown; 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 of their buildings. Eventually, the entire area was sold and then resold, as entrepreneurs and developers fought the area. After thirty years of decay, a Supreme Court ruling approved condemnation of the area to allow for construction of a major rail terminal, Union Station.
Seven years passed before an acceptable relocation proposal was put into place, situating a new Chinatown in its present location. Old Chinatown was gradually demolished, leaving many businesses without a place to do business and forcing some to close. Nonetheless, a remnant of Old Chinatown persisted into the early 1950s, situated between Union Station and the Old Plaza. Several businesses and a Buddhist temple lined Ferguson Alley, a narrow one-block street running between the Plaza and Alameda.:244
As late as 1951, structures remained on the east side of the Plaza, including the Lugo House, built in 1838 by the Lugos, a prominent Californio family. In later years it was used by St. Vincent's College, which became Loyola Marymount University. Later still, the Lugo House was rented to Chinese-American tenants who operated shops on the ground floor and a lodging house upstairs. Christine Sterling, who had worked tirelessly to bring about the conversion of Olvera alley into the Mexican-themed Olvera Street, was less enamored of the Chinese-American contributions to the city's history.:242 She considered the remaining buildings of Old Chinatown to be an eyesore, and she wanted the Plaza to stand exclusively as a monument to the city's Mexican heritage. She therefore advocated the razing of all the remaining structures between the Plaza and Union Station.:244
"The original Chinatown's only remaining edifice is the two-story Garnier Building, once a residence and meeting place for immigrant Chinese," according to Angels Walk – Union Station/El Pueblo/Little Tokyo/Civic Center guide book. The Chinese American Museum is now situated in Garnier Building.
The area that today encompasses New Chinatown was at one time a part of Los Angeles' Little Italy. In the early 20th century, Italian immigrants settled in the area north of the Old Plaza. Many built businesses, including wineries (San Antonio Winery is the only one of these still in existence).
In the 1930s, under the efforts of Chinese-American community leader Peter Soo Hoo Sr., the design and operational concepts for a New Chinatown evolved through a collective community process, resulting in a blend of 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, containing names such as Bamboo Lane, Gin Ling Way and Chung King Road (named after the city of Chongqing in mainland China). Chinatown was designed by Hollywood film set designers, and a "Chinese" movie prop was subsequently donated by film director Cecil B. DeMille to give Chinatown an exotic atmosphere.
The Hop Sing Tong Society is situated in Central Plaza, as are several other Chinatown lodges and guilds.
New Chinatown is served by the Gold Line of the city's Metro Rail; parts of Old Chinatown were uncovered during excavation for another portion 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.
In 1996, an Academy Award-winning (for the Killing Fields in 1985) Cambodian refugee, physician and actor, Haing S. Ngor, was killed in the Chinatown residential area in a bungled robbery attempt by members of an Asian gang. It had been speculated that he was assassinated for his activism against the Khmer Rouge government of Cambodia, but this idea was later proved unfounded.
Near Broadway, Central Plaza contains a statue honoring Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the Chinese revolutionary leader who is considered the "founder of modern China". It was erected in the 1960s by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association.
During the 1980s, many buildings were constructed for new shopping centers and mini-malls, especially along Broadway. Metro Plaza Hotel was opened in the southwest corner of Chinatown in the early 1990s. A large Chinese gateway is found at the intersection of Broadway and Cesar Chavez Avenue, funded by the local Teochew-speaking population.
On June 28, 2008, a celebration of the 1938 founding of New Chinatown was held with the L.A. Chinatown 70th Anniversary Party. "Though lacking the hustle and bustle of San Francisco's Chinatown, Los Angeles' version has charms of its own." A 7-foot tall Bruce Lee statue was unveiled at Central Plaza on June 15, 2013. It was made in Guangzhou, China.
Just 8.3% of Chinatown residents aged 25 and older possessed a four-year degree in 2000, considered to be a low figure.
There are three schools operating within Chinatown. They are:
- Endeavor College Preparatory Charter School, middle, 126 Bloom Street
- Castelar Street Elementary School, LAUSD, 840 Yale Street
- Cathedral High School, Private Catholic Boy's School, just down the hill from Dodger Stadium, is located on the north side of Chinatown. The mission of Cathedral High School is to provide a human, religious, and academic education to young men, especially those form economically poor families. 
- Evans Community Adult School - largest stand-alone ESL adult school in the nation
Los Angeles Public Library operates the Chinatown Branch.
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There are numerous small, specialized grocery stores in Chinatown. The Chinese Vietnamese own many bazaars. The stores sell products such as soap, toys, clothes, music CDs at low prices. 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. Few boba cafes have opened in Chinatown, but a large number are to be found in the "suburban Chinatowns" of the San Gabriel Valley.
TS Emporium and Tin Bo are stores selling ginseng and herbs as well as other household merchandises are operated within the confinement of this particular Chinatown.
Dynasty Center, Saigon Plaza, and the Chinatown Phuoc Loc Tho Center feature many Vietnamese-style bazaars with people engaged in bargain shopping for items such as clothing, toys, Chinese-language CDs, pets, household items, funerary products, and so on. Its entrepreneurs are ethnic Chinese from Vietnam.
There are over 20 art galleries to see, mostly featuring non-Chinese modern art, with works from up and coming artists in all types of media. Popular galleries include Acuna-Hansen Gallery, Black Dragon Society, China Art Objects, and The Gallery at General Lee's. Spaces such as Telic Art Exchange, Betalevel and The Mountain Bar often have readings, performances and lectures.
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Chinatown offers the usual barbecue delicatessens - with glass displays of roast duck and suckling pig - and Cantonese seafood restaurants with dim sum. Owing to its large Vietnamese influence, there are many eateries in Chinatown offering Vietnamese pho noodle soup and submarine sandwiches called banh mi as well.
Plum Tree Inn is a restaurant serving Americanized Chinese cuisine. Similarly, Yang Chow Restaurant serves very Americanized Mandarin and Szechuan cuisine and is famous for its "slippery shrimp". Lucky Deli is among the more historic and popular Chinese food delicatessens, offering Chinese food at bargain prices.
Los Angeles Chinatown is home to the first restaurant of the venerable barbecue restaurant chain Sam Woo BBQ Restaurant, serving up Cantonese cuisine. Mein Nghia, a small local chain serving Teochew noodles which also operates in the new Chinatowns of San Gabriel Valley, started out in Chinatown as well. There are also a number of bakeries operating in Chinatown, such as Queen's Bakery and the much older Phoenix Bakery.
Some Chinatown restaurants that have attained good reviews include CBS Seafood Restaurant, Hop Woo Restaurant, Ocean Seafood Restaurant, and Empress Pavilion. CBS Seafood Restaurant and Empress Pavilion, two of the larger restaurants in Chinatown, are especially known for their dim sum. (Empress Pavilion closed in 2013 after some years of declining business, attributed in part to the disrepair of the surrounding shopping mall.) Hop Woo, while touristy in atmosphere with Chinese lanterns and with waitresses dressed in cheongsam attire, offers both authentic and Americanized Chinese dishes. Ocean Seafood Restaurant has been Zagat Rated for six consecutive years, and it is widely known for its dim sum.
Two of Chinatown's best-known restaurants do not serve Chinese food.
- Phillipe's has been located on the corner of Alameda Street, at the edge of Chinatown, in the Historical District of Los Angeles since 1951, and is known as one of the creators of the French Dip sandwich.
- Little Joe's Italian American Restaurant, now demolished in January 2014, had long stood at the corner of Broadway and College Street. Little Joe's began in 1897 as the Italian-American Grocery Co. by Charley Viotto, an Italian immigrant. When Italy sided against the U.S. in World War II the Italian-American Grocery Company became Little Joe's. It was a popular place for the lunch crowd from the Civic Center and Dodger Stadium (including Tommy Lasorda). The business passed down to the founder's great-grandson, who said it was the oldest family owned business in the city. It closed in December 1998 due to the expense of retrofitting the building to meet earthquake standards. The interior was left unchanged and it has been used as a filming location. 15 Minutes, which starred Robert De Niro, was filmed there.
Recreation and parks
- Los Angeles State Historic Park, also known as the Cornfield, consists of a long open space between Spring Street and the tracks of the Metro Gold Line.
- Alpine Recreation Center, at 817 Yale Street, has a combined and multipurpose room with a capacity of 250. Two indoor gymnasiums have capacities of 450 each. There are also basketball courts (lighted/indoor/outdoor), a children's play area and volleyball courts (lighted).
The word Chinatown is written and pronounced as follows as (traditional Chinese: 洛杉磯唐人街; simplified Chinese: 洛杉矶唐人街; pinyin: Luòshānjī Tángrénjiē; Cantonese Yale: Loksāamgēi Tòhngyàhngāai) in Cantonese, (traditional Chinese: 洛杉磯中國城; simplified Chinese: 洛杉矶中国城; pinyin: Luòshānjī Zhōngguóchéng; Cantonese Yale: Loksāamgēi Jūnggwoksìhng) in Mandarin Chinese or officially known as (simplified Chinese: 洛杉矶华埠; traditional Chinese: 洛杉磯華埠; pinyin: Luòshānjī Huáfù; Cantonese Yale: Loksāamgēi Wàhfauh).
Events that have been held or are planned in Los Angeles's Chinatown include a Chinese New Year Parade, a lantern festival at the Chinese American Museum, a firecracker run and fun walk, a mid-autumn Moon Festival and a Miss Los Angeles Chinatown Pageant. A midnight firecracker display occurs every Chinese New Year's Eve at Thien Hau Temple and Xuan Wu San Buddhist Association.
Buildings and structures
- The French Hospital at 531 North College Street, now known as the Pacific Alliance Medical Center, is the oldest hospital in Los Angeles, founded in 1860 by French residents of Los Angeles. It features a statue of Joan of Arc on the lawn in front of the main building.
- The Twin Towers Correctional Facility is a complex at 450 Bauchet Street. Operated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, it consists of two towers, a medical-services building and the Los Angeles County Medical Center Jail Ward. It is the world's "largest known jail facility."
The conclusion of the film Chinatown was filmed on Spring Street. The movie Rush Hour was filmed on location in Chinatown. It is said that a stroll down Old Chinatown Plaza has many rewards, including recognizing many other locations that are used in filmmaking and television production.
- Feature films
- Cayetano Apablasa (1847–1889), 19th Century property owner
- You Chung Hong (1898–1977), attorney, community leader
- Bruce Lee (Chinese: 李小龍) (1940 – 1973), actor, whose statue is located at Central Plaza
- Haing S. Ngor (Chinese: 吳漢) (1940–1996), actor
- Lisa See, author
- Otto G. Weyse (ca. 1858–1893), liquor and wine dealer, member of the Los Angeles Common Council
- List of Chinatowns
- History of the Chinese Americans in Los Angeles
- Chinese American Museum
- Chinese Historical Society of Southern California
- Southern California Chinatowns
- List of districts and neighborhoods in Los Angeles
Largest Asian populations
- Angels Walk–Union Station/El Pueblo/Little Tokyo/Center, published by Angels Walk LA, 2000
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- [dead link]
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- My-Thuan Tran, Revisiting Haing Ngor's murder: 'Killing Fields' theory won't die, Los Angeles Times, January 21, 2010
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- "Bio". Lisa See. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
- "A Young Thief," Los Angeles Times, September 28, 1887, page 1
-  Location of the Weyse residence on Mapping L.A.
- "Asian", Mapping L.A., Los Angeles Times
- American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, Bonnie Tsui, 2009 ISBN 978-1-4165-5723-4 Official website
- Ki Longfellow, China Blues, Eio Books 2012, ISBN 0-9759255-7-1
Contains detailed history of Chinese immigration to California and other historical information relating to Chinatown. Also, how the Chinese were treated in California.
- Los Angeles Chinese American Museum
- Los Angeles Chinatown Firecracker Run
- Chinese Historical Society of Southern California (Los Angeles Chinatown)
- Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles
- Los Angeles Chinatown Business Council Official Website
- KCET Departures interview with Munson Kwok Chinatown community leader
-  Chinatown crime map and statistics