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Chinese Playground

Chinese Playground on Sacramento St. (1944)




Now the Willie “Woo Woo” Playground (formerly the Chinese Playground on Sacramento Street)

Tong wars
From the mid-1870s, Tong wars sprang up over turf battles concerning criminal enterprises. At the height of the criminal tongs during the 1880s and 1890s, roughly 20 to 30 tongs ran highly profitable gambling houses, brothels, opium dens, and slave trade enterprises in Chinatown. Overcrowding, segregation, graft, and the lack of governmental control contributed to conditions that sustained the criminal tongs from the 1870s to the early 1920s. Chinatown's isolation and compact geography intensified the criminal behavior that terrorized the community for decades despite efforts by the Six Companies and police/city officials[31] to stem the tide. When the 1906 earthquake destroyed Chinatown's wooden tenements, it also dealt a death blow to the powerful tongs. Criminal tongs continued on until the 1920s, but after the earthquake legitimate Chinese merchants and a more capable police force under Capt. Jack Manion gained the upper hand. Stiffer legislation against prostitution and drugs ended the tongs.

Bubonic plague
Main article: San Francisco plague of 1900–1904
In March 1900, a Chinese-born man who was a long-time resident of Chinatown was found dead of bubonic plague. The next morning, all of Chinatown was quarantined, with policemen stopping "Asiatics" (people of Asian heritage) from leaving or entering. The San Francisco Board of Health began looking for more cases and they started to burn personal property and sanitize buildings, streets and sewers inside Chinatown. Chinese Americans protested and the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association threatened lawsuits. The quarantine was lifted but the burning and fumigating continued. A federal lawsuit was decided against the right of public health officials to close off Chinatown without any proof that Chinese Americans were more susceptible to plague than Anglo Americans. However, the delays caused by San Francisco's political infighting probably allowed the plague germs to spread farther, giving the plague its first foothold in North America. The four-year death toll of the plague was 113 people, almost all from a ten-block area of Chinatown.

1906 to the 1960s
During the city's rebuilding process, certain city planners and real-estate developers had hatched plans to move Chinatown to the Hunters Point neighborhood at the southern edge of the city, even further south in Daly City. Their plans failed as the Chinese, particularly with the efforts of Consolidated Chinese Six companies, the Chinese government, and American commercial interests reclaimed would then be absorbed into the financial district the neighborhood and convinced the city government to relent. Part of their efforts in doing so was to plan and rebuild the neighborhood as a western friendly tourist attraction. The rebuilt area that is seen today, resembles such plans.

Many early Chinese immigrants to San Francisco and beyond were processed at Angel Island, now a state park, in the San Francisco Bay. Unlike Ellis Island in the East where prospective European immigrants might be held for up to a week, Angel Island typically detained Chinese immigrants for months while they were interrogated closely to validate their papers. The detention facility has been renovated in 2005 and 2006 under a federal grant. The repeal of the Exclusion act and the other immigration restriction laws, in conjunction passage of the War Brides Act, allowed Chinese-American veterans to bring their families outside of national quotas, led to a major population boom in the area during the 1950s.

In the 1960s, the shifting of underutilized national immigration quotas brought in another huge wave of immigrants mostly from Hong Kong, which changed San Francisco Chinatown from predominantly Say Yip Wah(Cantonese sub-dialect of Hoisan and 3 other towns)-speaking to Sam Yip Wah(major Cantonese)-speaking. The end of the Vietnam War brought a wave of Vietnamese refugees of Chinese descent, who put their own stamp on San Francisco Chinatown. There were areas where many Chinese in Northern California living outside of San Francisco Chinatown, could maintain small communities or even individual business, but except for Oakland, they did not set up any special town with shopping and restaurants. Nonetheless, the historic rights of property owners to deed or sell their property to whom was exercised in sufficient numbers to keep the Chinese community from spreading outside of its early development. However, the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional for property owners to deed their rights so that certain groups were excluded. These rulings allowed the enlargement of Chinatown and an increase of the Chinese population of the city. At the same time, the declining white population of the city as a result of White Flight combined to change the demographics of the city. Neighborhoods that were once predominately white, such as Richmond District and Sunset District and in other suburbs across the San Francisco Bay Area became centers of new Chinese immigrant communities. This included new immigrant groups such as Mandarin-speaking immigrants from Taiwan who have tended to settled in suburban Millbrae, Cupertino, Milpitas, and Mountain View – avoiding San Francisco as well as Oakland entirely. This suburbanization continues today. With these changes came a weakening of the Tongs traditional grip on Chinese life. The newer Chinese groups often came from areas outside of the Tongs' control. As a result, the influence of the Tongs and criminal groups associated with them, such as the Triads, grew weaker in Chinatown and the Chinese community in general. However, the presence of the Triads remained significant in the immigrant community, and in the summer of 1977, an ongoing rivalry between two Triads erupted in violence and bloodshed, culminating in a shooting spree at the Golden Dragon Restaurant on Washington Street (華盛頓街). Five people were killed and eleven wounded, none of whom were gang members. The incident has become infamously known as the Golden Dragon massacre. The Golden Dragon closed in January 2006 because of health violations, and later reopened as the Imperial Palace Restaurant.[40] Other notorious acts of violence have taken place in Chinatown. In May 1990, San Francisco residents who had just left the Purple Onion nightclub at the edge of Chinatown at 2 a.m., were fired upon as they entered their cars. 35-year-old Michael Bit Chen Wu was killed, and six other people were injured, one of them a pregnant woman who was critically injured. In June 1998, shots were fired at Chinese Playground, wounding six teenagers, three of them critically. A 16-year-old boy was arrested for the shooting, which was believed to be gang-related.




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