It was a rare combination of factors that made the San Gabriel Valley THE LARGEST? THE SECOND-LARGEST? center of Chinese-Americans in the United States.

(NOT RIGHT IN THIS SPOT, BUT LATER IN STORY WE NEED TO SAY SOMETHING LIKE THIS: "SGV now has more than 300,000 Chinese-American residents, No. 2 in the nation behind SFO with 400,000." MUST KNOW TOTAL POP, HOW IT COMPARES.

The Los Angeles area, first off, had long been a magnet for Chinese immigrants because of its perch on the Pacific Rim. Plus, there's the climate. The weather is warm like Hong Kong and Taiwan, but more importantly, the L.A. business climate is one that has welcomed hard-working newcomers in a way that more tradition-bound Eastern cities have not.

"Los Angeles is the most attractive city in the U.S. to people across the Pacific Ocean," said Henry Hwang WHO IS HE, HOW HE KNOW? "It's a huge piece of land, and there's lots of business going on. Japanese have investeed heavily here and Koreans, so they set a precedent. All the big Pacific money is investing here".

L.A.'s old Chinatown near downtown took the first waves of immigrants but, hemmed in by freeways, railroad tracks and developed areas, it offered little room to grow. But just a few miles east, San Gabriel Valley cities like Alhambra and Monterey Park offered reasonably priced housing, good school systems and proximity to downtown three qualities attractive to Chinese immigrants who would bring their families to L.A. and work in the downtown industrial districts.

QUOTE TO WONDERS OF THE SAN GABE VALLEY. MUST BE SPECIFIC TO SGV.

But two other factors were critical to the emergence of the San Gabriel Valley as the LARGEST (ahead of SFO) or SECOND-LARGEST (behind SFO) center of Chinese population in the United States: the relaxation of immigration quotas and changes in the Taiwanese and Hong Kong economies in the early 1980s.

Prior to 1980, U.S. law placed a combined quota of 20,000 immigrants to the country from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong each year. But in 1980, Taiwan was split off from China and Hong Kong under U.S. immigration quotas, and given its own separate quota of 20,000 slots per year.

While the U.S. was changing its laws, Taiwan was also relaxing its own tough emigration laws. The loosening of laws in Taiwan, combined with the island's rising economy, made it easier than ever before for many Taiwanese to emigrate to other countries.

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