SF Chinatown honored

Updated: 2013-10-08 10:26

By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily)

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 SF Chinatown honored

San Francisco's Chinatown ranked in top 10 neighborhoods in the US. Chen Jia / China Daily

The 165-year-old enclave of San Francisco Chinatown has been ranked as one of the "Top 10 Great Neighborhoods" in the United States by the American Planning Association for 2013.

"It is a great honor for the neighborhood and a testament to the work of neighborhood residents and activists who maintain Chinatown as a vibrant, bustling cultural center for San Francisco and the Bay Area," Cindy Wu, the community planning manager at Chinatown Community Development Center, told China Daily on Monday.

"We should protect Chinatown because it is the oldest and largest in the Americas, it occupies an important place physically, historical and symbolically in the Americas," said Wu, who is also vice-president of the San Francisco Planning Commission.

Despite systematic racism and intended displacement, the community has been able to remain united and sustain its importance and place, she said. "It is still the vital epicenter of Chinese American civic life in the SF Bay Area and indeed the whole country."

According to the center, local Chinese communities have made great efforts in securing funding for a new central subway station in San Francisco Chinatown and have completed a major renovation of the Chinese Recreation Center.

The new central subway station will enhance life in Chinatown and fill a critical need for visitors needing an efficient way to come into the neighborhood to shop, visit, and get services, Wu said. It will also give residents access to a regional network of transit and employment.

"The central subway, along with other infrastructure investment projects like City College campus, new Chinese Hospital, parks, and alleyways are something that the people and community organizations continue to advocate for in the quest to improve everyday life," Wu said.

"In the next five years, we have been renovating Willie Woo Woo Playground, and completing a master plan for Portsmouth Square," she said.

The planning team has secured $15.5 million for Chinatown open space improvements through the 2011 Roads Bond, 2012 Open Space Bond, and 2012 Transit Center District Plan mitigation funds, which will enable them to renovate Spofford and Ross Alleys, as well as the Willie Woo Woo Playground and Portsmouth Square.

Some media reports suggest Chinatowns in the United States are losing their original character and becoming tourist attractions as more and more Chinese Americans move out of Chinatowns.

Wu said Chinatown continues to have challenges but "we are able to work on them with initiatives driven by the community".

"As long as Chinatown maintains its residential base, it will maintain its authenticity," she said. "This is achieved through the preservation of affordable housing, while bringing that housing up to present day building codes."

The residential base is a very important component of Chinatown, so to lose that would mean to lose the customer base for all ground floor retail business, she added.

Winnie Chu, director of resource development department of Chinatown Community Development Center, told China Daily the center had started 2013 with a new strategic plan that sets forth directions and priorities for Chinatown Community Development Center for the next five years.

"We are poised more than ever to take up future challenges and opportunities," she said.

She also noted that Chinatown CDC was also selected as a Champion of Change by the White House, an honor awarded to organizations active in individual and community preparedness, highlighting "extraordinary and innovative Americans who are helping to improve the nation, one community at a time".

"Chinatown is an authentic, ethnic community that has successfully maintained its cultural heritage and tourist appeal despite natural disasters, prejudice and incompatible development proposals," American Planning Association's CEO Paul Farmer was quoted as saying.


(China Daily USA 10/08/2013 page1)