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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

August 2, 2007

Written by C.N.

Controversy Over Development in San Francisco’s Chinatown

As a follow up to my recent post on the Future of Chinatowns, Inside Higher Education reports that in contrast to the predominant pattern that I mentioned in my earlier article, one development project in San Francisco’s Chinatown actually has broad support among the Chinese American residents there — it’s actually a “rival” corporation that is trying to stop this particular Chinatown development:

The proposed 16-story building [a permanent home for the City College of San Francisco’s Chinatown campus] would include 18 classrooms, 24 laboratories, a multi-purpose room, student center, culinary program space, administration and faculty offices, and library. It would stretch to a height of 244.5 feet at its maximum. . . .

“[Community support] is virtually unanimous,” said Ling-chi Wang, a professor emeritus in Asian American studies at the University of California at Berkeley and an active member of Friends of Educational Opportunities in Chinatown. . . . “We’ve circulated a petition, we now have about 20,000 people who have signed it. That’s almost the entire Chinese community in the area. The last time that the Chinese-American community was united on anything at all was when Japan invaded China in 1937.”

But [representatives of the Hilton Hotel across the street from the proposed site] have concerns that the proposed building would exact a negative toll not only on the views from the Hilton (which bills itself as “soaring 27 stories over the ‘City by the Bay’”), but also on the surrounding historic districts. “The community college has had trouble in the past attempting to put a new campus in because they don’t understand how to really work with community groups on how to best achieve their goals,” [a Hilton representative] says.

The article goes on to note that the Hilton has proposed that instead of building one tall structure, the new campus should be built using two, lower-rise buildings and that representatives from the City College of San Francisco are still weighing all possible options for the building(s).

I find this particular episode interesting because it represents a situation in which Chinatown residents are actually in favor of new construction in their neighborhood, particularly a high-rise project that does not include affordable housing for neighborhood residents, although in this case, it would provide a more convenient way to access educational opportunities for its residents.

The other interesting aspect of this is that the opposition to the project comes from the Hilton Hotel that would be located directly across the street and how they’re upset that the proposed high rise would block the city views for their guests. I suppose I really shouldn’t be that surprised, since the Hilton is a capitalist entity whose main goal is to maximize its profits and in this case, guests may be less likely to stay at their hotel if their precious city views are blocked.

So there you have it — capitalism versus community concensus. Judging from the outcome of such battles throughout history, who do you think will ultimately win this skirmish?


Update: As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, in December 2008, the City College of San Francisco settled two lawsuits filed by residents and businesses opposed to the expansion plans and is now clear to proceed with its construction.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Controversy Over Development in San Francisco’s Chinatown" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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