Our Stories - Xiao Ying Zhao Lin

Home, Sweet Home:
Ensuring residents have a wonderful place to call their own

Xiao Ying Zhao Lin thinks of Chinatown Community Development Center (Chinatown CDC) as family. She affectionately calls her resident services coordinators her “precious daughters,” and they in turn gave her the name most people know her by — “Grandma Precious.”

Like millions before her, Grandma Precious, 88, came to the United States looking to build a better life. In her 50s, she left Guangzhou, China, and started anew in San Francisco in 1986. Since then, she’s lived in the city’s Chinatown neighborhood.

“All of my daily activities were in Chinatown. I not only lived in Chinatown, I also worked in Chinatown until the day I retired,” she said. “It feels like I am still connected to my hometown.”

Unfortunately, that cultural connection can be hard to form for many Chinatown residents if they can’t find and keep affordable housing in the area. According to Wing Hoo Leung, president of the Community Tenants Association, an organization that often collaborates with Chinatown CDC on tenants’ rights issues, many low-income seniors and families face the ever-present threat of eviction.

“Many seniors pay relatively cheap rent compared to the current market rate,” he said. “Landlords want to evict long-term tenants because then they can bump up the rent to a much higher price. For those who get evicted, it is very difficult for them to find a new place to live.”

That’s exactly what happened to Grandma Precious in 2011.

“All of a sudden, they wanted me to move,” she said. “I was scared and worried at that time, I did not know what to do.

Then I remembered there was an organization that helps solve tenant-related issues, and that was Chinatown CDC.”

Grandma Precious learned through Chinatown CDC that she had rights as a tenant. Grandma Precious eventually had to move, but when she did it was to a property that was soon taken over and managed by Chinatown CDC — 990 Pacific. Chinatown CDC renovated the building, and even though residents had to relocate for a year, Grandma Precious said that Chinatown CDC’s staff made the temporary move easy. When she returned home, she said the building was completely transformed: gone were the burst pipes, vermin and mold-covered walls she had seen when she first moved in. The renovated units came equipped with new appliances, and a garden which residents could use to socialize and exercise.

“We have a beautiful environment to enjoy life in,” she said. “I am very fortunate to have had Chinatown CDC to help me when I most needed help. I really do not know what would have happened without Chinatown CDC’s help.”

Article by Anne Stokes. Published in What Does It Take to Save a Neighborhood?

Experience "Coming Home: The 990 Pacific Relocation Story" and stories of residents at cominghome990pacific.org.


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