From the 1940s until the 1960s, San Francisco’s Chinatown was home to a thriving Chinese American nightclub scene. The clubs had names like Forbidden City, the Chinese Skyroom, and the Shanghai Low. They had showgirls, ballroom duos, comedians, jazz singers, and magic acts -- all featuring Asian-American entertainers. These clubs had wide appeal: celebrities like Bing Crosby, Duke Ellington, and Lauren Bacall were all spotted over the years, along with tourists, businessmen and locals.
Oliver Jacobson started playing violin when he was six years old. At 18, he enrolled at Berklee College of Music, one of the top music schools in the country. Back then, he wanted to be a star. But he had a sense he might be able to use his talent for something more.
“I was in the practice rooms for four hours a day,” he says, “trying to be the best jazz violinist I could be, and just feeling kind of hollow in that.”
Tenants are facing a tough time in San Francisco. The city has some of the nation’s highest rents and laws like the Ellis Act have made evictions front page news. But there are pockets of affordability, like in Chinatown, where the average rent is one third as much as in other neighborhoods.
But the neighborhood is also one of the country’s most overcrowded and tenants claim that landlords violate health and safety codes.