Located approximately eight miles from the Downtown Los Angeles Civic Center, Alhambra is an independent municipality celebrated as the “Gateway to the San Gabriel Valley.” The Southern California suburb boasts of good schools, single-family bungalows, and low crime rates. Main Street has maintained its position as the historic and municipal heart of the city, while Valley Boulevard is a contrasting image with mostly Asian immigrant owned businesses stretching east.
Today, over 85,000 people call the ethnically diverse City of Alhambra home. When Alhambra became an incorporated city in the early 1900s, it had been a predominantly Caucasian suburb. However, a massive Asian influx into the area that began nearly three decades ago transformed the neighborhood into an immigrant community. During the 1990s, this residential area witnessed a 23.5% surge in the number of Asian residents, a 69.3% drop in the number of Anglo residents, and a slight growth of 4% in the number of Latinos. According to the 2010 census, Asians, mostly ethnic Chinese, constitute 53% of the neighborhood’s current population, followed by Latinos (34%) and Anglos (10%).
A half-century ago, growing up in Alhambra meant ham sandwiches at the counter at Leiberg’s Department Store, treats from the soda jerk at Fosselman’s Ice Cream Company, and lining the streets for the annual “Hi Neighbor” parade. Today, Alhambra youth are more likely to be found at late-night boba tea sessions, watching a lion dance down Valley Boulvard for Lunar New Year, or working on dance moves with a pan-ethnic hip-hop crew at JayVee Dance Studio. Fosselman’s still exists, but now taro or lychee ice cream is scooped along with vanilla. The transformation of Alhambra represents and reflects the changes to come in many more suburban neighborhoods across the country.