SF opens up its own 'Little Saigon'

July 15, 2008 7:35:17 PM PDT
Just about everyone knows of San Francisco's Chinatown. Now, another ethnic group in the city is hoping to distinguish it's community. The neighborhood now has the same name as a controversial business district in San Jose, but it's a very different story in San Francisco.

A group of holy men and women blessed Little Saigon in San Francisco on Tuesday. Vietnamese Americans celebrated the unveiling of two marble pillars topped with lions at Larkin and Eddy Street.

"That is sort of saying we are here, we are gonna' be here, our roots, our heritage," says project manager Kim Nguyen.

The first wave of Vietnamese Americans came to San Francisco after the fall of Saigon some 30 years ago. They moved into the Tenderloin and began to slowly change the neighborhood.

The tenderloin is one of the toughest areas of the city, but now, Vietnamese businesses are everywhere from restaurants, like Mangosteen to the Mayfair Barber Shop to tax accountants, catering to 13,000 residents.

Five years ago, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution, sponsored by Chris Daly, to designate two blocks of the commercial corridor as Little Saigon.

But, the installation of the pillars and Tuesday's ceremony are considered the historic beginning.

"These pillars will attract some attention and foot traffic to Little Saigon," says Supervisor Chris Daly. San Francisco is famous for controversy, yet there was very little here compared to San Jose.

The fight there over naming a business district Little Saigon has led to a recall effort against Vietnamese-American Council Member Madison Nguyen. In San Francisco, there was consensus over the name.

"Little Saigon, for a lot of Vietnamese in the United States, represents the community in defiance of the communist regime," says Vietnamese American Steve Ngo.

Supporters hope Little Saigon will now join Japantown and Chinatown as must see destinations in San Francisco.


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