PHOTO BY KARENA street scene in Los Angeles Chinatown.
A CITY-WIDE EFFORT to put new restrictions on apartment, shops and offices in Los Angeles has been soundly defeated by a 2-1 margin, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The controversial Measure S exposed a division in LA’s Chinatown where some say new development is necessary to keep the neighborhood culturally relevant. Opponents argue such development is displacing Chinatown’s poor.
“I am poor. Yes on S,” simply wrote Chinatown resident Eang Thai Ngou.
In recent years, the community has seen an influx of new upscale restaurants that have generated both buzz and crowds. The recent story by KCET, however, shows the impact on the community may be mixed.
“It’s bringing in a new client base, a customer base into Chinatown, (but) whether or not those ([newer) businesses support the legacy businesses, I don’t get that sense,” said Sissy Trinh of the Southeast Asian Community Alliance. “I feel like they operate in an independent silo. They may talk to their neighbors, but the customers that are new, they’re not necessarily buying produce from the markets in Chinatown, or the customers that go to a Chego! or Pok Pok aren’t going to go to Kim Chuy — those types of places. It’s kind of clear who goes where.”Roy Choi’s Chego! was among the first of the new restaurants to open four years ago. While he sees the overall impact of newer developments on Chinatown as positive, he knows the story is not yet complete.
“I don’t know if their businesses have grown since Chinatown has grown from the food angle. I hope it has, I think it has,” he says. “I’ve seen a lot of the restaurants get busier. I see a lot of people walking around with bags, so that’s always good. Commerce is growing. Yeah, I think overall it’s been a positive thing.”
Perhaps what indisputable, these new businesses are not targeting existing Chinatown residents, they’re catering to those outside of Chinatown.
“For example, the seniors that have lived here for many generations, they’re less likely to be out and about partying on a Friday night as opposed to grocery shopping at 9 in the morning. It’s a different vibe, but it’s definitely created an environment where rents are rising — and rising quite fast,” said Trinh.