The Vietnamese Community

Compiled by Clifton L. Holland


Maps of the Vietnamese population in Los Angeles

The American Cities Atlas Project is a continuing public education project of Professor William Bowen of California State University Northridge. For maps on Vietnamese population distribution and density in the Los Angeles area based on 1990 Census see:

The IDEA Strategic Mapping and Information Service, directed by Clifton L. Holland, has produced a series of computer maps on ethnic and religious diversity in the Los Angeles 5-County Region, based on the 1990 Census of Population.    See the following links:   

Los Angeles County:  ../laco/vietnamese.pdf (note PDF format).      Orange County:  ../orco/d-as-viet.pdf  (note PDF format).

Little Saigon in Orange County

The oldest, largest, and most prominent Little Saigon is in Westminster and Garden Grove in Orange County, California, where Vietnamese Americans constitute 30.7% and 21.4% of the population, respectively, as of the 2000 Census. Whereas ethnic Vietnamese are predominant in this population, in many cases, the population also consists of some people of Chinese Vietnamese origin, many of whom arrived during the second refugee wave in 1980 and own a large share of businesses in Little Saigon today. Despite the title "Little Saigon," there are also many Hispanic and remaining white residents as well as some Cambodian and Laotian immigrants residing in the area.

About 50 miles north of Camp Pendleton, Westminster was once a predominantly white middle-class suburban city of Los Angeles with ample farmland, but the city later experienced a decline by the 1970s. Since 1978, the nucleus of Little Saigon has long been Bolsa Avenue, where early pioneers Danh Quach and Frank Jao established businesses. During that year, the well-known Nguoi Viet Daily News also began publishing from a home in Garden Grove. Other new Vietnamese-American arrivals soon revitalized the area by opening their own businesses in old, formerly white-owned storefronts, and investors constructed large shopping centers containing a mix of businesses. The Vietnamese community and businesses later spread into adjacent Garden Grove, Stanton, Fountain Valley, Anaheim, and Santa Ana.

In 1988, a freeway offramp sign was placed on the Garden Grove Freeway (California State Highway 22) designating the exits leading to Little Saigon.  Bolsa Avenue in Westminster's eastern neighbor, Santa Ana, has also been designated a Little Saigon, but there are fewer businesses in the area than in either Westminster or Garden Grove.  In 2003, some controversies emerged in Santa Ana over a proposed Little Saigon sign to promote its burgeoning Vietnamese commercial area with a design incorporating Vietnamese translation and a South Vietnamese flag. The sign was approved, but redesigned and placed on Euclid Avenue and First Street.

The year 1987 saw an increase in Vietnamese-American street gang activity, as Westminster police reported an increase of extortion targeting small Vietnamese immigrant businesses. However, according to the Morgan Quitno annual study on the safety of individual US cities, both Garden Grove and Westminster are both safer than most US cities.

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San Gabriel Valley

Due to the large influx and presence of relatively poor ethnic Chinese refugees from Vietnam in the 1980s (which also coincided with the arrival of immigrant elite from Taiwan and Hong Kong), the San Gabriel Valley region of Los Angeles has another important concentration of Vietnamese in Southern California. While not generally referred to as "Little Saigon", the stretch of Garvey Avenue in the working-class barrios of Rosemead, California, South El Monte, California, and El Monte, California have a relatively heavy but scattered collection of businesses owned mainly by majority ethnic Chinese Vietnamese with a growing number of ethnic Vietnamese residents and business owners as well. Many of these businesses are housed in tiny strip malls whereas others occupy freestanding, aging buildings. These Vietnamese businesses are very gradually replacing businesses owned by Hispanics.

Rosemead is the Vietnamese center of the San Gabriel Valley. One particular shopping center in Rosemead, called Diamond Square, is anchored by the Taiwanese American chain 99 Ranch Market and contains various Chinese Vietnamese small businesses and a food court catering to local Asians. It remains a major hub for working-class Vietnamese and Mainland Chinese expatriates residing in the area.

Many Vietnamese of ethnic Chinese origin also tend to own countless businesses - especially supermarkets, restaurants, beauty parlors, and auto repair shops - in the main general mixed-Chinese commercial thoroughfares of Garvey Avenue in Monterey Park, California and Valley Boulevard in Alhambra, California, San Gabriel, California, and Rosemead. There are already several pho and banh mi eateries represented along Valley Boulevard.

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Add table of Vietnamese churches


Note:  The religious Classification Codes (CLASCODES) used in this table are explained in A Classification System of Religious Groups in the Americas by Major Traditions and Family Types (created by Clifton L. Holland of IDEA-PROLADES Ministries, latest version 2007).