Chinatown is a neighborhood within San Francisco's 7-mile by 7-mile city limits. It is a small area, about 2-3 blocks wide on the East-West axis and about 9 blocks long on the North-South axis. Despite its small size, it is a vibrant and lively neighborhood and reportedly has the highest residential concentration in the Western U.S. despite the relatively low height of most of the buildings. It is surrounded by several other neighborhoods, most of which are considered part of the downtown: to the East is the Financial District, to the South is the Union Square area, to the West is Nob Hill, to the Northwest is Russian Hill, and to the North is North Beach. The terrain is not flat but it is not as steep as the nearby hill neighborhoods that rise above it. Much of the building stock is historic and dates from 1906 to the mid-1920's, and during this re-building phase after the Great Earthquake there was a conscious effort to create an exoticized identity to the neighborhood in the form of Chinese-influenced architectural details. Despite being on the well-worn tourist path in the city, the neighborhood is still mostly composed of Chinese-American and Chinese residents and businesses.
Chinatown Alleyway Plaque:
This plaque is set in the pavement of one of the many narrow alleys. Although it truncates the extent of the neighborhood by a few blocks North and South (left and right as this photo is oriented) it is a good map to introduce this thread.
This block is occupied by a heavily-used urban park and can be considered Chinatown's 'town square'. It is adjacent to the Financial District's skyscrapers and sits above a parking garage. The taller buildings of Nob Hill are also easily seen on the ridge above. It is on the site of the first public square in San Francisco's Mexican predecessor, the town of Yerba Buena.
Cross Street Views:
The larger streets that run East and West through the neighborhood reveal dramatic contrasts between Chinatown and the Financial District.
This marked entrance to the neighborhood on Grant Avenue is the Southern border and is reached from the Union Square area.
The most famous street in the neighborhood runs on the North-South axis and is a one-way thoroughfare for vehicles. It is lined with shops and restaurants and is a hive of activity, although the true major business street for locals is one block West, the less scenic Stockton Street.
This two-block long wide alley features many classic Chinatown buildings.
This one is more typical of the pedestrian-only thoroughfares.
Various Architectural Details and Facades:
Dr. Sun Yat-sen:
This statue is located in St. Mary's Square, another block park above a parking garage on the edge of the Financial District and much quieter than Portmouth Square.
All photographs taken in 2011 by geomorph.