What San Francisco Chinatown Tourists Won’t See

By Leticia Miranda Dec 29, 2009

Above the usual tourist-trekked main streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown are hundreds of SROs, or single room occupancies, that many Chinese families call home. The Chinese Progressive Association and the Chinatown Development Center have found that about 400 families are living in an SRO, but there are still many that haven’t been counted. Living in one of these rooms is not just uncomfortable but has lead to serious health problems for many residents. A 2005 Chinese Progressive Association report found that some tenants have suffered from severe respiratory problems from the indoor pollutants and poor ventilation; lead poisoning from peeling paint; food contamination because of rodent and bug infestations; and injuries because of the dim lighting, ceiling leaks, and poor drainage. The San Francisco Chronicle recently featured a photo gallery and short film documenting the lives of two Chinese families living in an SRO who face daily challenges in making meals and helping their elders up the stairs. Photos and film courtesy of Dawn Madura for the San Francisco Chronicle.