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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Rowland Heights, Los Angeles County's Little Taipei

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 28, 2010 08:30pm | Post a Comment
ROWLAND HEIGHTS


A view of lower Rowland Heights from the hills

Little Taipei is a nickname for Rowland Heights, a city in the San Gabriel Valley. To vote for more Los Angeles County communities to be the subject of a future entry, click here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, click here. Rowland Heights is a community neighbored by City of Industry to the north, Diamond Bar to the northeast, Chino Hills to the east, unincorporated Orange County to the south, La Habra Heights to the southwest, and Hacienda Heights to the west.


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Rowland Heights -- made without aesthetic consideration for my eyes only




World Journal, International Daily News, Sing Tao, the Epoch Times, the China Press or the Zhong Guo Daily at a bus stop

THE RANCHO PERIOD

Rowland Heights' location in the southeastern corner of the SGV was earlier part of the Mexican Rancho La Puente. In 1842, shortly before the Mexican-American War, the land was sold to John Rowland and William Workman. In 1868, they divided it and established the Workman Temple Homestead near what's now the corner of Gale and Nogales. Much of what became Rowland Heights was covered with hog lots and later orange groves until nearly a century later, when postwar prosperity, the extension of the 60 Freeway and a greater trend toward suburbanization led Angelenos eastward into the area.


A BRIEF HISTORY OF TAIWAN IMMIGRATION TO THE US

In 1949, after the defeat of the Nationalist Kuomintang army by the Communist Party of China, approximately two million mainland Chinese refugees (waishengren or 49ers) moved to Taiwan, joining the population of indigenous Austronesians (a group which also includes the Malagasy of Madagascar, Filipinos, Indonesians and Polynesians), who'd lived there from some four to eight thousand years as well as Mainland Chinese descendants who'd lived there for centuries. Following Mao Zedong's death in 1979, a power struggle erupted between the Gang of Four, Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping. The political uncertainty that ensued over the next four years provided the impetus for some relatively wealthy residents in Taiwan and Hong Kong to pack their bags and move to the San Gabriel Valley, especially in Monterey Park, which was advertised in China as "The Asian Beverly Hills."

Soon, Monterey Park acquired to new nicknames, "Mandarin Park" and "Little Taipei." Those appellations were soon dropped after many ethnically Chinese (Hoa) left Vietnam after experiencing anti-Chinese persecution there. After a moratorium against development of new shopping centers in Monterey Park went into effect, Chinese-Americans began to move to neighboring Alhambra.  Meanwhile, given the growing wealth of mainland Chinese and Monterey Park's reputation abroad, many mainlanders began to move to the San Gabriel Valley as well. In 1990, Monterey Park became the first Asian majority city in the US, albeit one where Vietnamese and Cantonese were by then heard as often as Mandarin.


BEYOND MANDARIN PARK

A few years earlier, as Monterey Park and Alhambra had begun to grow increasingly crowded, wealthier, established Taiwanese-Americans began to eye other nearby cities like San Gabriel, Rosemead, Arcadia, Temple City, Artesia, Irvine, Cerritos, Hacienda Heights and Rowland Heights. Although Monterey Park was marketed as "The Asian Beverly Hills," if anything that nickname seems more appropriate for Hacienda Heights and Rowland Heights (or Arcasia or Chan Marino... fine!). If anyone wants to film a reality show in the vein of MTV's The Hills and BET's Baldwin Hills, I highly recommend that someone pitch The Heights to the good folks at LA-18. The city is characterized by green, rolling hills with sprawling (if not especially attractive) hillside McMansions in the south, and the Asian-American shopping district along Colima in the north.


RELOCATING LITTLE TAIPEI

Up until the mid-1980s, Rowland Heights had been predominantly Anglo and Latino. Now they make up the minorities, with Latinos making up 27% and whites making up 17%. Although Taiwanese make up the largest ethnic group in the neighborhood, monied Korean-Americans, mainland Chinese, Hong Kongers and Hoa have followed the Taiwnese-American wave, creating something of a wealthy, pan-East Asian fusion suburb where Koreans and Mainland Chinese often serve Japanese or Taiwanese food and Hoa run foot massage parlors, hair and nail salons. There are also quite a few spas, come to think of it.


NEW GOLDEN TOFU SEAFOOD PHO NOODLE HOUSE GARDEN CHINA KING PALACE

Rowland Heights' main draw is its many restaurants. Every April, Pathfinder Park hosts the Taste of the Heights festival. Thankfully, chains are mostly eschewed. Not long ago a Taco Bell became a pho restaurant. On the day Tim and I were exploring, we popped into New Garden, a Mandarin Restaurant. I was first intrigued by the blue roof tiles, which I associate with Koreans. Inside the TVs were tuned to KBS. They started us off with onions, jjajang sauce and kim chi. The customers and employees engaged one another in Korean. It was slightly unexpected but, more importantly, it was delicious!

The most represented cuisine in Rowland Heights is Taiwanese, but as this not even comprehensive list hopefully shows, there are many Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Mexican joints too... not to mention an above average number of yogurt places, tea bars, bakeries and even two Cajun restaurants. The first time I ate in Rowland Heights was a chilly winter night at a Macaroni Grill. Behold the variety!

#1 Pho, #1 Sun, 5 Minute Bowl/VNS Chicken, A Taco Pub 2, Abarca's Taco Pub, Ajisen, Aoyama, Apo Apo, BCD Tofu House, Baimon, Banana Bay, Banana Cafe, Banana Split Garden, Beef Noodle King, Beer Station, Berri Yogurt, Bin Bin Konjac, Boston Kitchen, Cake House Richmond, Cannan, Capital Seafood, Casa Alvarez, Casa Blanca, Cham Sut Gol, Chef's China Kitchen, China Gate, Chu Ga, Class 302, Coconut Bay, Coconut Station, Country Bistro, Country Chicken, Diamond Bakery, Ding's Garden, Dolphin Bay, Eastern Express, FFY Noodle House, Feedable BBQ Buffet, Flavor of Beijing, Food to Go, Four Seasons Steak House, Ga Ju Soon, Gaju Soft Tofu Restaurant, Genie's Donuts, Genki Living, Go Hyang, Golden China Restaurant, Golden Noodle & Grill, Good Morning Bakery, Good Time Cafe, Graziano's, Green Tea Terrace, Gungjung Sulruntang, Hainan Tasty Chicken, Hanashima Noodle House, Hang Out Tea House, Happy Dolphin Bay, Happy Harbor, Happy Sheep, Happy Veggie Garden, Hong Kong Fishball House, Hong Kong Palace, Howondang, Hsin Hsin Shao Mei, Hsin Hsin Shau Mei, Hunan, Ichi Ichi Fusion Shabu & Tempura, JJ Bakery, JMP, Jang Gun, Jang Mo Jip, Java Cafe, Java Spice, Jin Mae, Joe's Crab Shack, Jungle Teabar, Kanpai, Kee Wah, Kiki Baker, King's Bakery, King's Palace, Kingswood Teppan Steak House, Korea House, Korean Garden, Lee's, Leung Kee, Little Bean, Lollicup, Long Choa Shou, Lucky Panda, MJ Cafe, Manie's, Maxim Cafe, Michael's Cajun Seafood, Miga, Misong Sushi, Momo, Mountain, New Capital Seafood, New Garden, New Golden City, Newport Seafood, Niko Niko, Nini Bakery, No 1 Noodle House, Nodaji, Noodle House, Ong Ga Nae, Ong Go Jib, Ono, Pan Kitchen, Pho 2007, Pho Ha, Pho Mani, Pho Noodle House, Pho Rowland, Phoenix Food Bootique, Pizza & Chicken Love Letter, Plaza Deli, President Thai, Q Noodle House, Qoo Tea Stand, Red Ant Caft, Rockstar Noodle House & Tea Bar, Rolling Wok, Rowland Garden, Royal Spring, Ruby Palace, Sam Han, Sapporo Ya, Sato, Sea Harbour Seafood, Seafood Village Rowland Heights, Seo Ho Don Katsu, Shufeng, Simbala, Splash Corner, Supreme Dragon, Taipei Golden Garden Pork Chop Noodle and Rice, Tanbi, Taoyuan Small Eatery, Tea Station, Ten Ren, The Boiling Crab, The Brochette, The Hot Pots, The Noodle Island, The Shack, Three Family Village, Tianjin Goubuli, To Ten Ko, Tofu King, Tofu Village, Toku, Tokyo Shabu Shabu, Tous Les Jours, Tutti Frutti Yogurt, Vanille De Patissierie, Vietnam Restaurant, Vip China, Wonderful Japanese Cuisine, Yang-Pyun Shin Nae, Yei San Jib, Yogurtland, Yu Chun, Yuki Sushi and Yummy House.

If you're a chef, there are also several large markets targeted toward Asian-Americans: 99 Ranch Market, Shun Fat Supermarket (which replaced a Vons), Do Re Mi Market (formerly known as Han Gook Market), Greenland Market, Galleria Market, T S Emporium and HK2 Food District. Tim pointed out what he thought was a supermarket just selling varieties of mushroom. On inspection I surmised that these "mushrooms" were dried sea cucumbers.


STUFF TO DO FOR UNDERAGERS

Being thoroughly suburban means most of the things to do are typically suburban. There are many shopping plazas to hang out in.


Diamond Plaza on a slow night

The center of nightlife in the city is Diamond Plaza. On weekends, the plaza and the businesses are descended upon by young, mostly Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese and Vietnamese, who cruise the parking lot, hang out, play cards, etc.




Hong Kong Plaza is another popular destination, albeit tending to draw a somewhat older crowd.





Yes Plaza is home of Cue Studio, a popular photo/sticker joint and some of the buildings have fake, multi-story facades with shimmering lights behind them at night that give it a kind of Disney simulacrum effect. In fact, Plazas are so popular that at least two restaurants, Life Plaza and Dynasty Plaza are named after... plazas. Other plazas include Colima Plaza, Kumar Plaza, Eagle Plaza, Rowland Heights Plaza, Pacific Plaza, Golden Square and the alleys between plazas.


Colima Plaza

Rowland Heights Plaza

Golden Square

Pacific Plaza


NIGHTLIFE

There are few bars (not counting Tea Bars) - 9PM, Stubby's, Lucky 101, Beer Station and Whitney's, a hostess bar. JJ Music Studio is a popular noraebang (song room) where you can sing karaoke with a private audience. There's a pool halls - Man-Wha Billiard. There are some top notch arcades as well: Arcade Infinity, Tilt and MVP Shooters Club.


MOVIES & MUSIC & GAMES

I couldn't find any movies that were filmed in Rowland Heights other than a couple of shorts, The Reclamation of David Simms and Escape. I'm sure there are some budding musicians, too. Rowland Heights, not surprisingly, has several piano stores. Amoeba has a very healthy Asian Cinema section, although one that tends to favor artier fare. There are a few really good DVD/VCD/VHS/Video Games/Music stores with a wide array of more popular stuff. Video 94 rents films and video games. Amax has a variety of music, movies and knick-knacks from China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan as well as English-singing acts favored by Asians such as Air Supply and The Carpenters. Jade focuses mostly on Chinese music and movies. Sunrize Video mostly specializes in rental of K-Dramas. There's also KJ Video.



Amax Music House
Jade Entertainment


Sunrize Video

*****

Special thanks to filmmaker and musician Tiffany Huang, who, as a former Hacienda Heights resident had helpful tips about Rowland Heights, where her doctor's office was, and where she studied for her SATs.

*****

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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring the City of Walnut

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 20, 2009 04:40pm | Post a Comment

This Los Angeles County community blog is about the City of Walnut, a wealthy, woodsy Los Angeles suburb located in the southeastern portion of the San Gabriel Valley.

 

Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Maps of the San Gabriel Valley and Walnut

To vote for other LA County communities, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, vote here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.


William R. Rowland Adobe Redwood Ranch House
Before it took on its current Asian persuasion, Walnut was mostly Caucasian. Before that, of course, it was inhabited by the Tongva people, whose village in the area was called Pemookangna. After the Spaniards arrived it was mostly used as a ranch which grew walnuts, wheat, grapes, fruit trees and as pasture for cattle. By the 1840s, the Spaniards called the area Rancho de Nogales, which means Walnut Ranch. Many of those walnuts were pickled. In 1868, John Rowland and William Workman divided the land into La Puente to the west and Walnut to the east. The city was incorporated in 1959. In 1975, the William R. Rowland Adobe Redwood Ranch House was designated an Historical Landmark. 



A few years back, a number of well-heeled Taiwanese business people moved to Walnut. Ten years ago, Asians, non-Latino whites and Latinos still made up roughly equal populations of the city and CNN hailed Walnut as a model of diversity. Since then, large numbers of Cantonese, mainland Chinese and especially Filipinos have moved to the area and numbers of white and Latino residents have diminished. The city’s changing character is reflected in the variety of popular restaurants including Heartland's Market and Kitchen, Apo Apo Deli Café, UCC Cafe, Colima Burgers, Coffee Break, Sate House, El Taco Nazo, Ninja Sushi, Mikasa, Kalahi Bakery, the New York Pizzeria, Osuna's, Bangkok BBQ, Charlie's Sandwhich Shoppe, Upper House Boba Tea Shop and Donut Tree. Donut Tree, open 24 hours a day, serves as a sort of de facto community center. When my roommate Tim and I went there, it was packed with retirees speculating about Oprah's reasons for announcing her retirement. The retirees came and went during our visit, all seeming to know one another, and almost invariably arriving and departing in nice cars.
Hockneyesque collage panorama of Walnut's downtown
Walnut is a decidedly tranquil, some would say, sleepy suburb. Money named it the 70th best place to live in 2009, thus placing it above all other California cities, although there doesn't seem to be a lot to do. Its "downtown" is a cluster of shopping centers known as "The Village" and is dominated by chains like Applebee's, Panda Express, Kohl's, Staple's, Starbucks and Millie's, albeit quaintly rendered in a craftsman style. As with many suburbs, most of the businesses are spread out along the main thoroughfares, clustered in shopping centers with names like Flag Automotive Center, Lemon Creek Village and Walnut Tech Business Center. As we know from films like Poltergeist, Blue Velvet and Paranormal Activity, sleepy towns usually have their share of ghosts, and Walnut is no exception according to this website.

Wildin' out at the Walnut Family Festival

In the autumn, Walnut hosts a parade and fair held in Suzanne Park which is known as the Walnut Family Festival


                                      Wolfgang Delgado                                                                Darius McCrary

There aren't that many famous Walnut natives. Former Amoebite Wolfgang Delgado used to live there, as did Darius McCrary (Family Matters' Eddie Winslow). The self-described Latin Elvis and Latin Frank Sinatra, Gerardo "la Pelota" Meija, moved there from Ecuador and became the world's first Latino Rap Superstar with his megahit, "Rico Suave." It’s also the birthplace of drummer Ricky Lawson.
A few films have been shot in Walnut, in part or in whole, including Awaken the Dead, Background(ed), Freudian Eyebrow, Hangman, The Call, Zodiac and Lakeview Terrace

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring San Marino

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 29, 2008 03:00pm | Post a Comment
This entry in a series about Los Angeles County communities is about San Marino. To vote for more communities, click here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

San Marino is located in the San Gabriel Valley and is neighbored by Pasadena and San Pasqual to the north, East Pasadena and East San Gabriel to the east, Alhambra and San Gabriel to the south, and South Pasadena to the east.

 
                             Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Maps of San Marino

San Marino (aka Chan Marino - thanks to Ngoc for that tidbit) is a tiny, affluent city nestled in the San Gabriel Valley which comes in at number 48 on the list of America's least-affordable places to live.  Its homes were mostly built in the second quarter of the 20th century and are in a fairly wide variety of styles-- some are actually pretty low key. Monterey Park may've been envisioned as the "Beverly Hills of East L.A." by its planners, but surely San Marino has more right to the comparison than other Easterly cities and neighborhoods. It has often, on TV and film, subbed as the West Side, East Coast or just a nice, anonymous neighborhood in such timeless, Hollywood classics as Mr & Mrs. Smith,  Monster-In-Law,  One Hour Photo, American Wedding, Men In Black II,  and television episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the Office, The West Wing and Alias. Despite the fact that in films and TV it is used to portray genteel, white neighborhoods, in reality most of the population is Chinese-American, which is why people jokingly refer to it as Chan Marino. The population is currently 47% Asian (mostly Taiwanese and Chinese), 44% white (mostly English) and 5% Latino.

Continue reading...

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Rosemead, Today's Small Town America

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 1, 2008 06:35pm | Post a Comment

This installment of Eric's Blog takes us to Rosemead. To vote for another Los Angeles neighborhood, vote here. To vote for a Los Angeles County Community, vote here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

 
Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Rosemead


EARLY HISTORY

First, a bit of background on the City of Rosemead. As is proving to be true of everywhere I go in Southern California, the area which now makes up Rosemead was formerly inhabited by the Tongva for thousands of years before the
Spanish came. I'm considering just saying in regards to my posts about Southern California, "Unless I say otherwise, this area was inhabited by the Tongva for thousands of years before the Spanish came." Anyway, the Spanish did come and built a mission there in what's now Whittier Narrows. Due to flooding, they relocated the mission to its current home over in San Gabriel in 1775.

Continue reading...

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Alhambra, the Gateway to the San Gabriel Valley

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 5, 2007 05:00pm | Post a Comment

I had to go to
Alhambra to see a man about a horse at the bidding of the original San Gabriel Valley Girl, the always radiant Ngoc Nguyen. To vote for another Los Angeles neighborhood, vote here. To vote for a Los Angeles County Community, vote here. To vote for more Orange County communites, click here


Pendersleigh & SonsOfficial Map of the San Gabriel Valley


ALHAMBRA'S LOCATION

Alhambra is on the western edge of the San Gabriel Valley between posh
San Marino, trendy South Pasadena, old San Gabriel, blue collar Rosemead, and the most Chinese city in the US, Monterey Park.


Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Alhambra

The center of Alhambra is the intersection of Garfield and Main, which has functioned as the hub of town at least since 1895.


                          Garfield and Main, 1890                            Garfield and Main, 2007 improved with an Applebees


My favorite historical site, however, isn't really too historical. There's a great shopping center, New Valley Shopping Center, built in 1964. Its main anchor is replaced the 168 Market -- a subsidiary of Ranch 99 Market. It's one of those many, amazing LA simulacra that make what would normally be a boring stripp mall feel like a visit to Disneyland. This shopping center is, much more successfully than the Cerritos Auto Mile, going for a New Orleans French Quarter vibe with a gazebo, faux wrought-iron street lamps and balconies, and a cupola with a liberty bell. And in this beautiful setting, things get pretty third world, just in the Big Easy. 


New Valley Shopping Center


ALHAMBRA DEMOGRAPHICS

By the 1950s, Garfield and Main was the hippest place in the San Gabriel Valley and was predominantly populated mostly by Italian-Americans. The following decade saw an influx of Latinos from surrounding areas and Anglos moving to other suburbs. In the late 1960s Alhambra was a hotbed of anti-Vietnam War protests and Brown Beret activity. By the mid 1970s tensions rose between the predominantly Anglo "surfers" and cholos. Many
Taiwanese began to move to the neighborhood, followed by Chinese from the mainland, Vietnamese, Cambodians and other Asians
. Today the population is roughly 47% Asian (mostly Chinese and Vietnamese), 36% Latino (Mostly Mexicans of any race), and 14% white.


ALHAMBRA EATS

The San Gabriel Valley is widely recognized for having the best collection of restaurants in Los Angeles County. Being the gateway to the SGV, entering Alhambra on bike I was always hit with a blast of delicious fragrances emanating from kitchens and restaurants. Even though they make up a very small percentage of Los Angeles's Asian-American population, Los Angeles being the great city of the
Pacific Rim it should be no surprise that the highest population of Indonesians is in Los Angeles County. The highest concentration within Los Angeles County is in Alhambra. I mention this first because Indonesian cuisine is one of the world's greatest and Alhambra boasts a few places to get it. Borneo Kalimantan CuisineIndo Kitchen, and Wong Java House. One can also get Indonesian and/or Indonesian-inspired dishes at Garden Café, Savoy Kitchen, and maybe Noodle World. That being said, there's no place in Alhambra that I've eaten more than Yazmin Malaysian Restaurant -- representing the cuisine of Indonesia's neighbor to the north -- Malaysia, of course. I'm also a fan of Banh Mi Che Cali, the Alhambra Lee’s Sandwiches (don’t hate!), Thai Purple, and at least the fried zucchini at Rick’s

In addition to the aforementioned cuisines and restaurants, Alhambra boasts a number of American, Cajun, Chinese, Dim Sum, Hawaiian, Hu, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Taiwanese, Thai, Vietnamese restaurants including the following:

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