How Freeway Siting Has Impacted Stockton’s Asian American Communities

Research Team: Chhandara Pech (lead), Paul Ong, and Jacob Wasserman

UC Campus(es): UCLA

Problem Statement: California has a long, tragic history of racial discrimination, including in land use and transportation. Attacks on Asians in the state—from the 1871 Chinatown Massacre in Los Angeles (one of the largest lynching of people of color) to the repeated displacement of and threats to Asian enclaves by massive infrastructure projects—are among the most egregious examples of American racism. California was also in the forefront of enacting some of the most racially motivated laws in America. Discriminatory immigration laws separated Asian families by the insurmountable width of the Pacific Ocean, prevented Asians from owning land, and incarcerated a whole population during World War II merely because of their ancestry. Indeed, the origins of zoning are rooted in desires to isolate and segregate Asians. It is impossible to fully understand past systemic racism in California and the United States without including the Asian American experience.

Project Description: This project will employ a mixed-method approach to investigate the impact of the crosstown freeway development of State Route 4 in Stockton, California. This freeway devastated one of the largest Filipino American communities in the country, Little Manila. Anecdotal information indicates that the freeway also displaced a large number of Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans. Two methods will be used to study the consequences of freeway construction on these minority groups. The first is a quantitative review of the spatial-temporal patterns generated by the freeway development. We will draw on geospatial panel data on freeway construction (1950s to present) and corresponding decennial census and American Community Survey (ACS) census tract-level data on neighborhood racial-ethnic composition, socioeconomic status, and housing. The second part of the project will utilize qualitative methods to construct a documentary and oral history of the Little Manila community. The first qualitative component is a review of historical documents and articles archived at major libraries and at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). The second qualitative component consists of interviews with community stakeholders, both those who directly and contemporaneously experienced the impacts of freeway construction and individuals who are currently experiencing its negative legacies. The research team will consult Asian American scholars to get additional input on our methodology, including researchers affiliated with the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, hosted by the UC Davis Asian American Studies Department.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $45,070

Project Partner(s): Caltrans Division of Research, Innovation, and System Information