Fight to Save Riverside's Chinatown is a Pan-Asian Effort

"I want her to know about the many brave people who, like her mother, left home and family and came to the United States," said Akin.

The efforts to save Chinatown have created a chorus of opinions from community members. SOCC is pushing for preservation not excavation, said Deborah Wong. The committee wants a memorial park built on the site and the archaeological site sealed until the appropriate resources, including funding, trained staff and curation are organized. 

"Ideally, important sites such as this one should be protected until there is a really good reason to excavate," said Akin. "Putting in a very redundant medical office building is not sufficient reason to excavate."

The Riverside Chinese Culture Preservation Committee (RCCPC) hopes for preservation as well, but if the city and the developer cannot be stopped, "we want to be there projecting a strong voice, making sure mitigation measures be implemented to preserve the history," said Lu.

All sides are now waiting for the outcome of the lawsuit. The consensus is simple, however: once Riverside's Chinatown is lost, there is no going back.

"It's an Asian American issue and perhaps even beyond," said Lu. He eventually wants to incorporate local history in his teachings and take students to the site where Asian American history started in the city.

"These stories need to be told."

And the committees have the support of other community groups that understand the importance of cultural preservation. 

"I think it's important that history lends to education today," said Inaba, a Riverside JACL member.

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Update: San Jose Japantown

The $200 million mixed-use development plan on the roughly six-acre site bound by Sixth, Seventh, Jackson and Taylor Streets has hit a snag. The Exclusive Negotiations Agreement (ENA) has expired between developer Williams & Dame and the city of San Jose, said Tamon Norimoto, development director of Asian Americans for Community Involvement. "By allowing for the ENA to expire, the city is free to entertain conversations with other developers regarding this project while continuing conversations with Williams & Dame."

The Japantown Community Congress of San Jose (JCCsj) will hold an April 4 town hall meeting at Yu-Ai Kai to discuss priorities.

For more information: contact Tamon Norimoto at 408/373-8119 or


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