The San Luis Obispo Chinatown historic district was established in 1987. Chinatown is located on Palm Street, extending from approximately Chorro Street to Morro Street.

Most of the historic Chinatown buildings were built over with the Palm Street Parking Structure (1987) and commercial buildings. The last three remaining structures from The San Luis Obispo Chinatown are the Ah Louis storeMee Heng Lo, and Chong's Restaurant/Candy Store (1926). 

Early History

The San Luis Obispo newspapers referenced the area as Chinatown as early as 1872.1 The newspaper also recorded that the site of Chinatown was formerly a place where indigenous people connected with the mission lived, before cholera decimated the community in 1852.Chinatown developed as a space that supported the needs of the Chinese community of San Luis Obispo, where they could find necessities like housing and employment, but also a place to find Chinese temples, a school, Chinese goods, and a place for celebrations and gatherings.

Census records record the population of Chinese residents in the county in 1870 at 59, and 2,000 living in the county between 1884-1894 during the construction of the railroad, and between 700-800 living in the county in 1900.3

By the 1940s, many of the buildings in Chinatown were demolished, with parking lots covering some of the spaces.

In 1995 the city of San Luis Obispo declared the area along the 700 and 800 blocks of Palm Street as the "Chinatown Historic District." There was an archaeological dig in 1987 at the site of the Palm Street Parking Structure.

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1. "A Row in China-Town," San Luis Obispo Tribune, 12 October 1872. 

2. "How San Luis Obispo had the Cholera and Buried the Victims." Morning Tribune, August 31, 1892.

3. Ochs, Patricia. A History of Chinese Labor in San Luis Obispo County, 1966.