Chinatown has a high violent crime rate and a high property crime rate for San Francisco.
Dragon’s Gate marks the grand entrance to Chinatown at Grant Avenue and Bush Street, a perfect symbolic doorway to the neighborhood. This neighborhood was completely destroyed in the 1906 fire that devastated San Francisco and during rebuilding many city officials and real-estate agents hoped to relocate the Chinese residents to a less lucrative part of the city. However, politicians afraid that this move would affect the oriental trade opted instead to rebuild it in a “Chinese-style”.
Although no Chinese people were consulted in the architectural choices, bright colors, scalloped roofs, and streetlights sculpted to resemble dragons were imposed to make it popular among tourists wanting to “experience” China. And it worked -- today it is not only home to the largest Chinese population outside of Asia, but it claims more annual foot traffic than the Golden Gate Bridge.
Chinatown is in an amazing location sandwiched between Nob Hill, Union Square, North Beach, and the Financial District and is extremely dense and bustling with both tourists and residents. Common sights are bakeries with trays of egg custards and sesame balls, tiny shops with shameless tourist wares, replicas of temples and jade animals, dim sum restaurants and stacks of produce, especially during the busy Saturday markets.
The streets are narrow and crowded, and not very car or stroller friendly. Cantonese and Mandarin can be heard at least as often as English, and street noise can be very loud, with trucks unloading and people yelling orders starting as early as 4:00am.
While many of Chinatown’s residents and families have lived in the area for generations, and the neighborhood is two-thirds Chinese, a diverse population of immigrants still flock to this neighborhood. Much of the housing consists of older, walk-up apartment buildings. Few Victorians or single family homes are found in this area.
The neighborhood doesn't have much of a nightlife, but a few dive bars dot its landscape. With its rich (and not altogether happy) history, curious architecture, and tiny alleys, it can feel like stepping into another world -- if not one that too closely resembles the real China. Chinatown is an incredible place to visit, but may be too overwhelming to live in for those who are less adventurous or uninterested in adopting its very specific Chinese-American hybrid culture. But if you are, you’ll find it a welcoming and exciting home.
A tiny fortune cookie factory that still folds all its cookies by hand. Stop in to watch them work, taste some samples, and get a cheap bag of fresh cookies.
A darkly lit dive bar with a diverse crowd.
Photo Credits: Thanks to @shalinivadhera, @juliegeb, @vegetarianapelomundo, @joshtology, @geriswiss, @paige__orton, @eat.me.healthier, @paolorgonzales, @blindchiefphotography, @cheongtracy, @shantelbreanna, @lu4istiypomidor, @plume2geekette, @ahphotos, @consunavarro, @rslslc, @thevegetarianblog, @ttl.aesthetics, @drew_bird_photo, @doublenaebow for your great photos of this neighborhood!
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