San Francisco's Chinatown struggles to maintain its roots, history amid technology jobs boom

LIFESTYLEAssociated Press

For a century and a half, San Francisco's Chinatown, the nation's oldest, has sheltered waves of immigrants seeking a new life.

It's the birthplace of Chinese America, and to some extent, the broader Asian America that descended from immigration over the Pacific Ocean throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

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Now, Chinatown faces economic and demographic challenges that could upend its identity as the city undergoes an unprecedented growth in jobs.

Rising rent elsewhere has entrepreneurs eyeing Chinatown for space. At the same time, longtime leaders want ways to attract younger people. And depending on who is talking, a $1.6 billion subway set to open in 2019 could help or hurt the district's transformation.

Chinatown leaders want the district to be a gateway for immigrants and destination for tourists. But some wonder if the birthplace of Chinese America can maintain its heart amid the race for space.