American Planning Association Designates San Francisco’s Chinatown a Top 10 Great Neighborhood for 2013

Neighborhood Noted for Culture, Architecture, Community Activism


SAN FRANCISCO –The American Planning Association (APA) today announced the designation of San Francisco’s Chinatown as one of 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2013. Each year during National Community Planning Month, APA’s Great Places in America program names 30 exemplary neighborhoods, streets and public spaces to highlight the role planning and planners play in adding value to communities, including fostering economic growth and jobs.

APA singled out Chinatown for its historic role as a cultural capital, storied “Oriental” architecture, community activism, rebuilding after San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake, and planning efforts protecting the neighborhood’s character and identity.

“Our city’s historic, culturally diverse and economically thriving neighborhoods like Chinatown make San Francisco a world-class destination to live, work and visit,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “And, through San Francisco’s ‘Invest In Neighborhoods Initiative,’ we will continue to ensure this neighborhood and our commercial corridors citywide continue to succeed through dedicated and customized services for our city’s residents and visitors alike,” he said.

“I am honored,” Mayor Lee continued, “that the American Planning Association has recognized San Francisco’s Chinatown, the largest and oldest Chinatown in our nation, as one of 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2013.”

“Chinatown is an authentic, ethnic community that has successfully maintained its cultural heritage and tourist appeal despite natural disasters, prejudice, and incompatible development proposals,” said APA Chief Executive Officer Paul Farmer, FAICP. “Residents’ understanding and appreciation of how a neighborhood and its special qualities enhance community aesthetics and individual lifestyles has led Chinatown to evolve into a remarkable community that is unique not only in the U.S., but also the world,” he added.

The most populated neighborhood west of New York City and oldest Chinese community in the U.S., Chinatown is known for its bustling sidewalks, housing affordability, sustainable character, and colorful and ornate architecture. Residents strategically and quickly rebuilt in an oriental style after the 1906 earthquake and fire to draw tourists and thwart a proposal to move the leveled neighborhood elsewhere. Contributing to Chinatown’s sustainability is its housing, 40 percent is single-room occupancy, and low percentage of households owning a car -- less than 20 percent.

“We are grateful to APA for recognizing one of our great neighborhoods, and the value of good planning to make great places. We are committed to preserving the cultural heritage of Chinatown while improving the neighborhood’s physical character to best serve its 15,000 residents and the millions of tourists that visit annually,” said John Rahaim, Planning Director for the City and County of San Francisco.

APA’s Great Neighborhoods, Great Streets and Great Public Spaces feature unique and authentic characteristics that have evolved from years of thoughtful and deliberate planning by residents, community leaders and planners. The 2013 Great Places have many things Americans say are important to their “ideal community” including locally owned businesses, transit, neighborhood parks, and sidewalks. They illustrate how the foresight of planning fosters communities of lasting value.

The nine other APA 2013 Great Neighborhoods are: Downtown Norwich, CT; Downtown Decatur, Decatur, GA; Central Street Neighborhood, Evanston, IL; Downtown Mason City, Mason City, IA; Historic Licking Riverside Neighborhood, Covington, KY; Kenwood, Minneapolis, MN; Beaufort Historic District, Beaufort, SC; West Freemason, Norfolk, VA; and Williamson-Marquette Neighborhood, Madison, WI.

For more information about these neighborhoods, as well as APA’s top 10 Great Streets and top 10 Great Public Spaces for 2013 and previous years, visit For more about National Community Planning Month taking place throughout October visit

The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning -- physical, economic and social -- so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. Members of APA help create communities of lasting value and encourage civic leaders, business interests and citizens to play a meaningful role in creating communities that enrich people's lives. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, Ill. For more information, visit


SF Planning Media Contact: Joanna Linsangan
415.575.9119 |

APA Media Contact: Denny Johnson
202.349.1006 | 

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