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Save Our Chinatown Committee
Preserving Chinese American Heritage in Riverside, California
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Jingyi Li

Meet Jingyi Li, SOCC’s 2015 George Wong Fellow!

Hello, my name is Jingyi Li and I am currently a first year graduate business student at UC Riverside with concentrations in Marketing and Operations. I am honored to serve as SOCC's 2015 George Wong Fellow and look forward to working with you!

I grew up in Shenzhen, a large urban center in southern China. In my hometown, historic and modern architecture coexist harmoniously. Entire ancient villages are valued and have been preserved and maintained.

Not long after arriving in Riverside, I found out that early Chinese immigrants to Riverside played an important role in the City’s development. For these homesick Chinese pioneers, Chinatown was a refuge. It was also a place where Chinese culture was shared and celebrated. Although Riverside Chinatown has changed over time, it continues to be an important place in our community. Riverside’s Chinatown Heritage Park can continue to be a place where culture is shared and celebrated in our City. Young people will especially benefit.

Let’s make it happen! We can do it!
Ràng wǒ mén yì qǐ jiàn zhèng qí jì


Riverside is a step closer to having a park that will tell the story of Chinese contributions to the City while protecting the significant archaeological site thanks to a solution found through the efforts of the Save Our Chinatown Committee (SOCC), developers, and the City. On December 9, 2014, Riverside’s City Council voted unanimously to sell land at Olivewood Avenue off the 91 freeway and south of 14th Street in Downtown Riverside to developers of a medical office building that was previously planned for Riverside Chinatown. Several council members, who spoke before the vote, expressed their support for a signature park at the historic site.  
For over six years, we have worked to find a way to conserve Riverside Chinatown, a historic archaeological site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to increasing awareness of the site’s significance, we brought a successful lawsuit to stop inappropriate development at the site. Earlier this year it was discovered that developers intended to modify that project and bring it back to the City Council for review. In recent months, talks with developers were initiated with the hope of finding a solution to conserve the site while finding another location for the needed medical office building. Talks resulted in identifying an alternative site for the medical office building project, located five blocks east of Chinatown at Olivewood Avenue. The site was partly owned by the City and the Successor Agency to the City’s Redevelopment Agency. A major hurdle has been cleared away and a new level of support from government representatives has emerged. We look forward to continue working with the City, County, and other public and private partners to obtain the resources needed to acquire the historic site from the Riverside County Board of Education for park development. 

A big thank you to all who have supported and contributed to our efforts throughout the years -- together, we have come this far!

CSUSB students help to preserve Riverside’s Chinatown

Students enrolled in a history class at Cal State San Bernardino are seeking individuals to interview who have first-hand memories of Riverside’s Chinatown.

In 1968, the Riverside County Historical Commission approved Riverside’s Chinatown as County Historical Landmark #8. Pictured here is George Wong, who unveiled the 10 ft marker and gave a brief speech at Chinatown on July 24, 1968. This spring, Cal State San Bernardino students will help us gather stories about George Wong and Chinatown. Do you have stories to share, or know someone who does? Email Rosalind Sagara, for more info. Photo: Save Riverside Chinatown Facebook page.In an effort to prevent the destruction of the archaeological site and preserve the historical landmark, the students in an oral history class, taught by CSUSB history professor Cherstin Lyon, are collaborating with Riverside’s “Save Our Chinatown” committee to record residents’ memories of Riverside’s Chinatown.

“This is a perfect way for our students to learn how to record oral history,” said Lyon. “They want to interview those who have knowledge of Chinatown’s past and record it in a way that’s meaningful.

“By telling the residents’ stories, ‘Memories of Chinatown’ is one way to engage the public and raise awareness of the committee’s project,” Lyon said.

The students are especially seeking individuals who have first-hand memories of its last resident, George Wong. Declared as Riverside’s Chinatown by the Riverside County Historical Commission in 1968, Wong was present to unveil the historical landmark.

Miranda Olivas and Moriah Schnose are two of the CSUSB students currently documenting the interviews for this project. Both had previously taken another history course with Lyon, whose passion for oral history inspired them to help with the “Save Our Chinatown” project.

“Partnering with Riverside’s project is a great opportunity to incorporate what we learned last quarter into helping our community,” said Schnose, a junior history major.

Schnose said that preserving the archaeological site is important to the Chinese immigrants who initially settled in Riverside.

“It is an integral part of the historical evidence impacted by U.S. immigration laws, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882,” she said.

Olivas, a senior history major, said, “I grew up in Riverside and appreciate the city’s unique community, history and the enriching educational opportunities the city promotes.”

“If we can interview people who have wonderful memories of Riverside’s Chinatown, we have more power in saving the historic landmark,” said Olivas.

Despite the Riverside Chinatown designation as a city and state landmark, its standing as a county point of historical interest, and being listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the site remains threatened.

The city of Riverside and the Riverside County Board of Education, which owns the site, have been negotiating plans to allow a private developer to build a medical office building on the site.

Pictured are proprietors of Pow Hing & Company at Riverside Chinatown. Case file 1889/17-5, RG85. Photo courtesy of National Archives at San Francisco, via the Save Riverside Chinatown Facebook page.After Wong’s death in 1974, the last standing structures of Chinatown were demolished by the city of Riverside.  But the basements of the historic structures remain buried, along with rich archaeological treasures.

Sample excavations conducted in 1984-1985 drew national and international attention to Riverside’s Chinatown, revealing thousands of artifacts that contributed significantly to scholars’ understanding of Chinese American communities.

If you are interested in telling your story through a recorded interview, contact professor Cherstin Lyon at (909) 537-3836 or e-mail

For more information on the effort to preserve the history of Riverside’s Chinatown, visit the Save Riverside Chinatown Facebook page.

   Above text from:  CSUSB students help to preserve Riverside’s Chinatown April 15, 2014


Margie Akin, English language

Michael Lee, Chinese language

Links to News Items:

City hopes to study Chinese contributions to the area April 16, 2015

CULTURA: Comunidad celebra difuntos chinos con el tradicinal Ching Ming en Riverside [In Spanish] April 15, 2015

Chinatown park moves one step closer March 20, 2015

2014-2015 George Wong Fellowship Announced September 6, 2014

CSUSB students help to preserve Riverside’s Chinatown April 15, 2014

RIVERSIDE: Chinese ancestors honored at grave ceremony April 13, 2013

RIVERSIDE: 5th Annual Ching Ming at Olivewood Memorial Park [photo gallery] April 14, 2013 (?)

Ceremony to honor Chinese pioneers April 12, 2013

Women in Preservation: M. Rosalind Sagara and the California Riverside Chinatown Community March 25th, 2013

Save Our Chinatown Committee in Riverside, Calif.: An Interview with Judy Lee, University of California, Riverside Librarian Jan 9, 2013

USC architecture student fights to save Chinatown December 10, 2012

Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2012: Judy Yung In Riverside Fall 2012 see page 5

Riverside: Cool Historical Items Auctioned to Save Chinatown  January 28, 2013

Asian Pacific Librarians Association Interview January 9, 2013

RIVERSIDE: Traditional Chinese ceremony observed Press Enterprise April 1, 2012

Remembering the unknown 'heroes' China Daily April 4, 2012

RIVERSIDE: Grave ceremony to honor city’s Chinese ancestors Press Enterprise March 30, 2012

4th Annual Ching Ming Ceremony Honors Riverside’s Chinese Pioneers [ Press Release: ] March 28, 2012

RIVERSIDE: Ruling throws out approval of Chinatown building. Press Enterprise March 27, 2012

RIVERSIDE: Chinatown appeal ruling is a reversal Press Enteprise October 27, 2011

Steps Toward Victory for Campaign to Preserve Riverside’s historic Chinatown [ Press Release ] October 27, 2011

From Gold Mountain to Orange Farm: How the Chinese Shaped California's Citrus Industry July 13, 2011

Buried History of Riverside's Chinese Immigrants Threatened by Development July 15,2011

The Last Resident August 5, 2011

Article: Activists fight to preserve Riverside's Chinatown site. Los Angeles Times.  6/26/2011

Press Release:  Riverside’s Historic Chinatown Chosen as Top 100 in National Challenge: Public online vote to decide winner 5/31/2011

"Save Riverside Chinatown" News and Notes December 2010, Chinese Historical Society of Southern California.  See p. 4.

"When do 'Model Minorities' stand up and fight?  The battle for Riverside's Chinatown continues" by Judy Lee.  Riverside JACL Newsletter December, 2010

A look back: Working to save Chinatown By NITA HILTNER Press Enterprise October 2, 2010

"Today's Mystery, Tomorrow's History"
News and Notes [Chinese Historical Society of Southern California Newsletter] June 2010

"Group gathering at cemetery to honor Riverside's Chinese pioneers" by David Olsen Press Enterprise April 4, 2010

“Throwdown in Chinatown,” by Erin Tobin, Inland Empire Magazine, December 2009.  (Reprinted with permission.)

"Chinese Americans fight for preservation of historic Riverside Chinatown site" Xinhua News September 24, 2009

"Apology to Chinese, though some expect more efforts to follow", The Press-Enterprise, Monday, September 14, 2009

“Sides debate effect of ruling on Chinatown site in Riverside,” by Alicia Robinson, The Press-Enterprise, Saturday, September 5, 2009.

Old Riverside Foundation, President’s message about the struggle to save Chinatown. ORF Newsletter, Spring 2009.

“California’s apology for past discrimination: Saying ’sorry’ says something: The state’s regret for the way past generations treated Chinese immigrants may help heal hurts that have festered for decades.” Los Angeles Times Editorial July 25, 2009

“California Apologizes to Chinese Americans”
TIME, July 22, 2009 On July 17, the California legislature approved a landmark bill to apologize to the state’s Chinese American community for racist laws enacted as far back as the mid–19th century. The legislation was co-sponsored by State Assembly members Paul Fong and Kevin de Leon.

Judge’s tentative Chinatown findings leave both sides with questions The Riverside Press-Enterprise   Thursday, July 9, 2009

“Riverside Chinatown Rescue Efforts Continue,”
by Margie Akin, Japanese American Citizens League, Riverside, Newsletter, June 2009.  (Reprinted with permission.)

Work at former Chinatown site in Riverside will remain halted, court rules The Press-Enterprise May 19, 2009

“Artifact of Disposal: The Historic Riverside Chinatown Archaeological Site is Under Assault,” by Scott L. Fedick, Chinese American Forum, Vol. XXIV, no. 4, April 2009. (Reprinted with permission.)

"Fight to Save Riverside's Chinatown is a Pan-Asian Effort"  Pacific Citizen March 29, 2009

Construction delayed on historic Riverside site The Riverside Press-Enterprise  March 20, 2009

Tale of Two Sinkholes DAN BERNSTEIN The Riverside Press-Enterprise - March 13, 2009

Judge Orders Work Halted for Project at Riverside’s Second Chinatown The Riverside Press-Enterprise - February 25 ,2009

Riverside, CA Judge Issues Temporary Restraining Order to Developer - Angry Citizens Fight to Save Riverside, CA Historic Chinatown Site Various dates

Reckless Digging: Stop Defiling Riverside’s Historic Chinatown site, an Opinion Editorial by Dr. Scott Fedick The Riverside Press-Enterprise  - February 24, 2009

Work halts for now at Riverside’s former second Chinatown The Riverside Press-Enterprise  - February 18, 2009

Crews cited over noise at controversial Chinatown site in Riverside The Riverside Press-Enterprise - February 17, 2009

Breaking Out Of the Beltway DAN BERNSTEIN The Riverside Press-Enterprise - February 17, 2009

Opponents of Chinatown site development seek restraining order The Riverside Press-Enterprise  - February 17, 2009

Chinatown Dig Plan Wins Approval The Riverside Press-Enterprise  - February 10, 2009

Lawsuit targets Riverside council’s OK of building over old Chinatown The Riverside Press-Enterprise  - November 8, 2008

Hidden Heritage: Riverside lot is center of dispute over old Chinatown, new building The Riverside Press-Enterprise  -  October 6, 2008

Links to SOCC press releases:

Chinese New Year Celebration part of Local Revival February 6, 2010

Chinese New Year Banquet to Start with a Bang January 26, 2010

Resolution from the Los Angeles Lodge of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, in support of a Riverside Chinatown Historical Park August 2009

Riverside Chinatown Trial Thursday July 6, 2009



Chinatown Injunction Hearing Friday March 19, 2009

Temporary Restraining Order Granted For Riverside’s Historic Chinatown February 24, 2009


City to Vote on Controversial Discard Policy for Riverside’s Historic Chinatown Archaeological Site February 5, 2009

Gala Chinese New Year Banquet Sold Out January 23, 2009

Ticket Deadline for Chinese New Year Banquet Approaches January 16, 2009

Major Damage Sparks Legal Action  February 2009

Lawsuit Filed Against Planned Building on Riverside Chinatown Site November 6, 2008


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