8Books Review: “Trespassers?: Asian Americans and the Battle for Suburbia”

Because I had grown up in neighboring Newark and then lived in Fremont California for many years before moving to San Jose, I was intensely curious to read what Trespassers? Asian Americans and the Battle for Suburbia by Willow S. Lung-Amam had to say about Asian Americans life in suburban Fremont.  Would it present anything that I didn’t know already? After reading the book, I was surprised at how much was new to me – primarily the amount of resistance Fremont’s Asian American community encountered when it starting asserting itself in areas ranging from education to shopping centers to housing.

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White Flight from Asian Neighborhoods and Schools

1280px-johns_creek_high_schoolWhile many white liberals declare themselves strong advocates of diversity, in her essay “Ghosts of White People Past: Witnessing White Flight From an Asian Ethnoburb,” Anjali Enjeti says that for many of them, that advocacy ends when a certain percentage of those diverse people live by them.   We have written about Asian ethnoburbs and about white flight from them, but what really surprised me is that the ethnoburb that she talks about wasn’t in Cupertino, Irvine, or the San Gabriel Valley but is in the suburbs of Atlanta Georgia.   While I think that Enjeti misses a number of points, she makes many pointedly accurate observations about white fragility and the limits of racial progress in the United States.

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Struggles in Oakland Chinatown


The only Chinatown I remember growing up was Oakland Chinatown. 

When my family first came to the Bay Area, we lived in the East Bay, and Oakland Chinatown was the nearest place my parents could get Filipino vegetables and other Asian groceries.  For a long time, the nearest dim sum restaurant was in Oakland Chinatown, and when I was a grad student at Berkeley, I did volunteer work there – just a quick BART ride away.  With that background, I was saddened to read that like other Chinatowns in the US, Oakland Chinatown is struggling.

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San Francisco’s Tech Boom Squeezing Out Chinese American Small Businesses

InnerRichmondClementWhile we’ve written about how Filipinos have been affected by the San Francisco Tech boom, this story from Boom (summarized here by New America Media), talks about the effects of the boom on small Chinese American businesses like these on Clement street.  I liked how in addition to talking about broad trends, it talks about individuals like Big Sister, who despite crowds eating at her restaurant, is closing her Geary Street restaurant and moving to Daly City.  “Too expensive, losing too much money,” she says.

The Boom story also talks about how years ago, some San Franciscans worry about their city being transformed into a Chinese city as large ethnic Chinese areas emerged in areas like the Richmond and the Sunset.  Ironically, as buyers from China purchase real estate, Chinese Americans are being squeezed out.  For more stories like Big Sister’s, look at the Boom Article (it’s more detailed than the New America Media summary).

(Photo Credit unclelam, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

As Tech Transforms San Francisco, Elderly Filipino Man fights Eviction

v_zavidea_santiago_500x279Much as been written about how the recent tech boom is transforming San Francisco and the resulting backlash.  We hear about protests of Google buses and artists leaving for Oakland (and perhaps pushing out other artists), but this New American Media story talks about less publicized people who are pushed out – the ethnic elderly.   Benito Santiago is being evicted out of the San Francisco apartment where he has lived for 37 years, but he’s fighting back.

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Real Estate Prices May Threaten Future Of San Francisco’s Chinatown

8A-2013-12-23-KPIX-ChinatownScreenshotIf you’ve been living in the San Francisco Bay Area, you probably know that the economy is probably the strongest in the U.S. and the economy, at least in the tech sector, is booming. There is no greater example of that than in San Francisco, where IPO’s like Twitter are moving what has been traditionally considered Silicon Valley in the mid-peninsula to the city itself. And according to a recent census report, San Francisco is now more expensive than New York City. And that is obviously affecting Chinatown in San Francisco – the oldest and largest Chinatown in the United States. The local CBS affiliate does a story about how this is affecting Chinatown and its residents. Unfortunately a lot of long-term residents, especially the elderly, are being pushed out.

Chinese Buyers Purchasing “Bargain” Million Dollar Bay Area Homes

saleclipartWhen this article about Asian buyers making cash offers on million plus dollar Bay Area homes circulated on the internal 8asians mailing list, one of our writers lamented that  Chinese investors making cash offers were frustrating her home purchase efforts, even at lower price ranges.  Another said that the same phenomenon was also happening in Southern California.  I showed this article to my Brother-In-Law (BIL), a Bay Area real estate agent in a firm that caters to Asians and Asians Americans. He merely sighed and said that this was old news, adding that the situation was changing in some ways.

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Joseph Eichler: Asian American Activist


If you live in California, you’re probably familiar with the flat top homes known as Eichlers. They are homes built by developer Joseph Eichler in the 1950s and 1960s. What you may not know, is that these homes were also built during one of the most racially charged times in U.S. history. Until the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was passed, it was common for developers in the U.S. to segregate their housing offerings and incorporate the rules for segregation into their CC&Rs (Codes, Covenants, & Restrictions), that purchasers of their new homes would have to sign upon purchasing the home. The typical language in a CC&R would have “race restrictions”, that would state “…no person of African, Japanese, Chinese, or Mongolian descent, shall use or occupy any such property, or any part thereof, unless such persons are employed as servants by a Caucasian occupant of some portion of such property.”[1] These restrictions were of course, invalidated by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, but the language remains in the CC&Rs of many homes in California today. During the 1950s when this discriminatory language was in popular use in California, Eichler emerged as one of the few, and possibly only home builder in the SF Bay Area and LA area that did not include discriminatory language in his CC&Rs, and was the one builder who stood up for the rights of minorities, at least in the arena of fair housing practices.

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Report: Asian-American Subgroups Among Nation’s Poorest


A new report out from the University of California, Los Angeles is reporting that some sub groups of Asian Americans are among the nation’s poorest populations, based on income sources, home foreclosures and housing burden. While at first glance this may seem contrary to the stereotype about successful Asian Americans, this shouldn’t be a surprise given 8Asians has already reported on higher poverty rates in the Asian American community in 2011, Asian Americans being more adversely affected by the housing downturn, Asian Americans being affected most by long term unemployment , and Asian American seniors being hit harder by the recession.

Southeast Asians seem to be among the hardest hit, even after four decades of living in the United States. Researchers found that language barriers remained persistent as did access to new labor markets.

The UCLA report examined home ownership, income sources and other assets of Asian-Americans in eight states. In the eight states examined, including California and Mississippi (with the largest and one of the smallest Asian American populations), foreign-born Asian Americans accounted for at least 64 percent of the group, a rate higher that of foreign-born Latinos.

Southeast Asians, including Hmong and Cambodian Americans were more likely to receive cash public assistance compared with Asian Americans as a whole or the Caucasian population.

The rate of home ownership among Asian Americans as a whole declined 1.5 times faster than that among Caucasians during the recession. The subgroups hit hardest lost as much as 20 percent of their home value. In some areas of the country, Cambodians, Filipinos and Koreans lost their homes to foreclosure at rates twice that of Whites.

The new report points out once again, that it’s necessary to break out Asian Americans into the sub-groups, because we’re not all the same, and some of us could use a hand, and those that could use a hand may also be the ones least likely to go looking for a hand out. My own parents lived close to the poverty line when they first moved to the United States, but refused to go in search of a hand out, always making sure we lived on what my dad made and brought home. I wrote in a previous 8Asians piece about how my parents helped stretch my dad’s income by fishing for snappers and making rou-song from the snappers. I also heard on NPR this morning that those who are in need and living in the suburbs are the hardest to see, because they try to blend in and don’t necessarily want to be helped, like my parents.

Photo Credit: Lee Wag

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh On His Las Vegas ‘Downtown Project’

The last time I blogged about Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, he was on The Colbert Report discussing his recently published book. This time around, Hsieh is profiled in the New York Times regarding his efforts to revive downtown Las Vegas as a community for startups, officially called The Downtown Project:

“Nevertheless, the Downtown Project is hoping to draw 10,000 “upwardly mobile, innovative professionals” to the area in the next five years. And according to Hsieh, he and his team receive requests for seed money from dozens of people every week. In return, the Downtown Project asks not just for a stake in the companies but also for these entrepreneurs to live and work in downtown Las Vegas. (They’re also expected to give back to the community and hand over contacts for future recruits.) In expectation of all these newcomers, the project has already set up at least 30 real estate companies, bought more than 15 buildings and broken ground on 16 construction projects. “

It’s exciting to see Hsieh emerge as a leader in a Bloomberg-esque way, laying out a community AND cooperative business environment. Personally, I am not sure if I could live and work in Las Vegas given the extreme summer heat. I’ve only been to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronic Show held annually every January. But given the low cost of living and favorable tax environment, maybe I’ll change my mind one day. Hsieh’s efforts certainly sound ambitious, but hopefully will be successful for not only entrepreneurs but also the Las Vegas community at large.

[Image courtesy of The New York Times.]

The “Asianization” Of Southern California’s San Marino

I was a weird kid. When I was deciding whether or not I wanted to transfer schools from a private prep to San Marino High School, one of the best public high schools in the state of California, the biggest factor in my decision was the thought that it’d be good to go to school with more “different” types of people. In other words, I thought a public high school would imply more diversity.

I was wrong. Very wrong.

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Asians in America: A Focus on Filipino Americans

Because some call Filipinos Americans “the invisible minority,” you might think that there are not many of us in the US. We are, in fact, the second largest Asian American ethnic group.  That statistic and others are reported in A Community of Contrasts (from the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice) which managed to gather statistics about individual Asian ethnic groups in the US.  In the fourth of this series about Asians in America, I highlight key statistics on Filipino Americans, such as how many are unemployed, underemployed, and undocumented.

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