Population in Chinatown Shrinks - NBC Southern California

Population in Chinatown Shrinks

The Los Angeles metropolitan area is home to the nation's largest Asian-American population, but now more and more Asian-Americans are leaving the traditional Chinatown area to move to the suburbs.



    Population in Chinatown Shrinks

    "Chinatown is the historic center of the Chinese-American community. This is where it all started," according to David Wayne Louie, El Pueblo Commissioner.

    More than a century after the first Chinese Americans established a community where Union Station now stands, time and economic conditions are whittling away Chinatown.

    "I was born and raised here in Chinatown," says Al Soo-Hoo, Chinese-American Museum of LA President.

    But over the last 30 to 40 years, those born and raised there have opted to leave.

    Of LA County's 400,000-plus Chinese Americans, only 15,000 live in Chinatown.

    Multiple factors such as the economy and upward mobility are sighted as reasons for this local and national trend..

    "Some of the businesses are moving out because the economy is not really good," according to Chinatown merchant, Angie Tieu.

    "We ended up with two kids which we're happy to have, and we just really outgrew our space," says Museum Curator, Steven Wong.

    The suburbs, especially the San Gabriel Valley, have become the new Chinatowns.

    Census data shows Chinese-American growth is up nine-percent the past decade.

    Part of the lure is the opportunities.

    "Because lots of stuff is growing up there. Restaurants, markets. It's more busier up there than here," says Chinatown merchant, Angie Tieu.

    Despite the drain, the Chinatown business improvement district is trying to give people reasons to come and stay.

    An exhibit opened Thursday night which celebrated Chinese architects who've shaped LA.

    And some of those who've moved out and on say they plan to return, once their children are grown.

    "We're just counting the years," says Wong, "until we're back in Chinatown."