Bank of America Chinatown Branch
UPDATE: On Friday, October 28, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. the Los Angeles City Council approved the designation of the Bank of America Chinatown branch as a Historic-Cultural Monument. Thank you to everyone who has supported this nomination!
The Bank of America Chinatown branch, designed by architects Gilbert Leong and Richard Layne Tom in 1971 with an addition in 1977, is significant as the first national bank to open a branch in Chinatown reflecting the growth of the local Chinese community during the period. Chinese immigration to the United States exploded in the late 1960s after the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. The new immigration policy reversed the county’s racially motivated quota system from the 1920s that was meant to stem immigration from regions outside Western Europe. The Conservancy has nominated the property as part of our '70s Turn 50 initiative.
In 1960, L.A.’s Chinese American population was approximately 20,000 and by 1969 had grown to approximately 40,000. Many of the new Chinese immigrants ultimately settled in the San Gabriel Valley, but in the 1970s and 80s, L.A.’s Chinatown was the geographic focus of the community, making it a critically important cultural and commercial center.
Banking was an essential component of neighborhood growth, facilitating the development of new Chinese and Chinese American-owned businesses. New banks in Chinatown in the late 1960s and early 1970s aided financial investment in the community that had previously been denied loans and credit.
As the first national bank branch in Chinatown, the opening of the Chinatown branch of Bank of America solidified the increasing strength of the local Chinese American community and provided new financial opportunities. By 1974, the bank was the fastest growing branch of Bank of America in Los Angeles. Over 250 credit cards were approved, which for many of the Chinese clients was the first time they had been approved for credit.
The Chinatown branch of Bank of America is only one of two banks in Chinatown that opened post-World War II and is still in its original location.
The Chinatown branch of Bank of America is also significant for its unique architectural design combining Asian Eclectic and Late Modern styles. Designed by noted Chinese American architects Gilbert Leong and Richard Layne Tom, the bank’s design blends the Modernist horizontal orientation, minimal ornamentation, and flat roofs with “classical Chinese elements,” including a roof built from imported jade green tile over wood beams, modern Asian-beamed ceilings, and contemporary designs of Chinese characters. Leong and Tom’s designs are significant as they departed from the more common Early Modern Slab style use in other Bank of America branches designs.
On August 19, 2021 the Conservancy’s Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) nomination for the Bank of America Chinatown Branch went before the City of L.A.’s Cultural Heritage Commission and was officially taken under consideration, starting the process for its landmark designation. The Cultural Heritage Commission (CHC) voted unanimously to recommend the Bank of America Chinatown branch Historic-Cultural Monument nomination to the City Council's Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee on October 21, 2021.
The Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee recommended the Bank of America Chinatown branch be listed as a Historic-Cultural Monument on October 18, 2022. The City Council approved the HCM nomination of the Bank of America Chinatown branch on October 28, 2022.
UPDATE: On October 28, 2022, the City Council approved the designation of the Bank of America Chinatown branch as a Historic-Cultural Monument. Thank you to everyone who has supported this nomination!
We need your help to designate Bank of America Chinatown Branch a Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM)!
Here’s what you can do now:
FIRST: Speak in support of Item #5, the Bank of America Chinatown Branch nomination, at the upcoming City Council meeting on OCtober 28, 2022 at 10:00 am. Public comments for this meeting are taken at the beginning of the meeting. Members of the public who would like to offer public comment should call1-669-254-5252 and use Meeting ID No. 160 535 8466 and then press #. Press # again when prompted for participant ID. Once admitted into the meeting, press *9 to request to speak.
SECOND: Submit written comments in support of the nomination at LACouncilComment.com by Thursday, October 27, 2022. Use Council File Number is 21-1357.