Are there tunnels under San Francisco’s Chinatown? | KALW

Are there tunnels under San Francisco’s Chinatown?

Feb 12, 2019

San Francisco's Chinatown is the oldest in North America, myths and stories have always surround it. Among those is the story of an underground network of tunnels under Chinatown. But is there evidence the tunnels exist? Listener Tristan Brotherton wanted to know what might be underneath San Francisco.

The Cameron House, is a community center and the rumored site of a tunnel in Chinatown. Associate Director Cody Friesenborg-Lee points at a crawl space
 
“There's about 10 feet in either direction and then there's a brick wall, but we don't know if those brick walls were always there or if they originally had been open to something else.”
 
Donaldina Cameron, the center’s namesake, worked there in the early 1900s. She used that crawl space, to hide Chinese young women rescued from indentured servitude and human trafficking. But Cody tells me, they do not believe their basement was connected to the rumored tunnels.
 
Darin Ow-Wing’s on the board of the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco. He says, there are stories that the tunnels used to connect spaces where people could use opium.
 
“There were basements and people would find places to do these things, and so people got the idea that there was these dark tunnels”
 
But, Darin says, they were just basements. There is no evidence that the tunnels exist. Darin, is concerned the rumor fuels old stereotypes about Chinatown and Chinese people
 
“This idea that we're like these sneaky people were hiding stuff and even though we could make millions of dollars by bringing people down to a tunnel, it's our secret and we just don't want you to know about it”
 
So if you’re looking to go underneath Chinatown, your best bet is waiting for the new muni line to open.