At first glance, the laypeople, particularly tourists do not see beyond the facades of the Chinatown neighborhood; what’s beneath the oriental motifs, pagoda rooftops, and other “Chinese” architectural style that decorates Chinatown into a tourist attraction is a close-knit place, home to more than 20,000 people. For this huge residential population and as well for the urbanites who come in and out of Chinatown every day, a well-established, resourceful neighborhood with everything including affordable SRO housing, department stores that stock basic necessities, restaurants, churches, and family associations is at their convenience and service. It is the accessibility to these resources and the availability of facilities such as its own post office, police station, and fire department that makes Chinatown a self-sustaining neighborhood. This is what makes San Francisco’s Chinatown so special. How it developed its uniqueness in this way emanated from its decades of struggle against racism and discrimination in the country; the Chinese were confined within the borders of Chinatown for protection and thus led to its independent nature. With this history of struggle for civil rights, a level of social activism ensued within the Chinatown community that is still evident today. We as part of the cohort of Urban Institute are evidence to this truth; but not only are the youth active participants in the Chinatown community whether it’s in advocating for local or citywide issues or just vocalizing their perspectives, the elderly senior population, which comprise the majority of Chinatown, are also well involved and up to date with current events.
It is these facets that make Chinatown a community that distinguish itself from other communities in the world and there is no other place that is quite like it.