THREE DECADES OF CHINESE REAL ESTATE OWNERSHIP
In the 1960s and into 1970s few Chinese families ventured outside their long-established San Francisco neighborhoods burgeoning enclave hemmed in between North Beach and the Financial District.
Today, the Chinese community can be found living in virtually every neighborhood in San Francisco. Their presence throughout the City offers visible testimony to the profound impact the Chinese community has had on real estate in San Francisco. Those families should thank the Chinese real Estate Association of America (CREAA), which has served its community and members for over 45 years! The association's prominence has extended well beyond real estate. Initially founded as fraternal organization, the association has broadened its vision to become an influential, policy-making body.
Now, Chinese real estate activists and the Chinese community in general have become a vital force in The City's civic and political fabric.
Life wasn't always as sanguine. Many Chinese remember an earlier period with pained nostalgia...a time that is unfamiliar to today's youthful dot-com generation, but should be. The eyes of Charlie Lum have seen a lot since he was a fledgling real estate agent in 1971. That was a time when he found racism as tough as making a sale. Lum worked for a non-Chinese real estate firm and one of his rookie duties was to answer the office telephone when potential clients called. Far too often, white callers would hang up as soon as he uttered his name.
Another obstacle often confronted Lum, who is now semi-retired but maintains his real estate license. Asian families were reluctant to search for housing outside of Chinatown because of racial discrimination... many whites refused to sell to Asians. That slowly started to change in the 1970s, however, thanks to stricter application of civil rights laws and as Asian buyers began using sympathetic whites to make purchases for them. In 1977, the Chinese real estate community felt it was time to organize. At the time, there were several hundred Asian real estate agents, and Chinese Americans owned about one-fifth of the real estate in the City. The organizers gathered at a real estate office in the Richmond District. Lum was present. So were Edward Poon, Chee Yee, Johnny Szeto, Sophie Lau, Hebert Wong, and John Y. Wong, who would become the group's first president.
It was an exciting time in San Francisco history. The first wave of post World War II immigrants, who left China to escape poverty and hard times, were rapidly transforming the Richmond and Sunset districts into mini-Chinatowns. Newly arrived "Boat People" from war-torn Southeast Asia were settling in the Bayview, the Tenderloin, and the Mission Districts predominantly Spanish neighborhood, where you can nonetheless see Chinese language signs over many restaurants.
The Globalization continues today. A new wave of 20-something and 30-something adults is immigrating...not of desperation who often worked 10 to 15 years or longer to achieve home ownership, members of this well-educated dot-com generation are buying first homes. More than 65,000 immigrants, most of them Asians, immigrated to San Francisco during the 1990's. Chinese Americans have over the years, sometimes by choice, have little voice or influence in the political process. However, as the number of Chinese Americans swelled, the laissez faire attitude changed, and in the second half of the 1990's, the power and prominence of Chinese American voters emerged.
As CREAA continues to grow, it is involved in educating its members, serving the community, promoting homeownership opportunities, networking with other real estate organizations, protecting property rights, and acting as a voice for the Chinese property owners in the political process. All in all, it has been a momentous four decades of change for Chinese Americans and the Chinese Real Estate Association!
If you are interested in our organization, please join us as a member or come to one of our events to get to know us!