China Town

China Town is not merely one town. It is a designation for particular districts of several Communities throughout the World. Many of such China Town districts were developed to accommodate immigrants from China who were unwelcome to inhabit portions of the same Communities in which they worked. China Town of San Francisco, which is the oldest major China Town in America, originally accommodated immigrants from China as they transitioned from mining and railroad construction to shipping and industrial work within San Francisco.

Such institutionalized discrimination confined development of many China Town districts to regions that were undesirable to others within their respective Communities. The last China Town of Santa Cruz was located within the floodplain of the San Lorenzo River, east of Front Street, mostly between Soquel Avenue and Cooper Street. It developed as a residential neighborhood after a fire destroyed a previous China Town in 1894. For the following half century, it was slowly replaced with more industrial development, until the Christmas Flood of 1955 destroyed the last few remaining residences.

Half a century later, the Benchlands Camp, which is inhabited by many of the unhoused of our Community, developed directly to the northwest of the former China Town, on the opposite side of the same floodplain of the San Lorenzo River. It is just as vulnerable to flooding as the former China Town was, but unlike the former China Town, occupies an area within a public park that is intended to be accessible to everyone of the Community. Very understandably, the Community wants to recover their public park space.

Incidentally, the Benchlands Camp developed as a result of the evacuation of the former Ross Camp to the southwest of the Highway 1 Bridge over the San Lorenzo River. The former Ross Camp was outside of a levee that excluded flooding, on otherwise unused land that is owned by Santa Cruz and California.

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