In old Alvarado there was an area known as Chinatown. It was situated starting at the Alvarado post office and ran east to the Dragon House restaurant. The area was a collection of small, ramshackle buildings that housed Chinese businesses and residents. The buildings were inexpensively constructed and rent was cheap, making it a haven for recently immigrated Chinese. There is no record of exactly when Chinatown was built, but the buildings were probably built around 1870.
Chinatown was known for gambling and prostitution. The 1880 census lists one small building as occupied by four women; one listed as "keeping a house of ill repute" and the other three listed plainly and clearly as prostitutes. Other occupations listed by residents of Chinatown in 1880 are: keeper of gambling house, clerk in Chinese store, merchant, keeper of restaurant, dish washer, cook, and laborer.
The Chinese population in Alvarado peaked in the 1880's and by 1900 was much smaller. Other immigrants filled the buildings of Chinatown. On 1919, Chinatown was described in a newspaper article as:
"The foreign quarter was originally known as Chinatown. Later it was occupied principally by the Japanese and now by the Cuban Mexicans. Those involved are of the latter nationality."
During prohibition, Chinatown was a place to get alcohol and possibly other illegal substances. More and more, the police were looking into Chinatown, making occasional raids, including one in 1919 by the State Pharmacy Board, looking for illegal narcotics. In 1921, a raid was made looking for bordellos and a number of working ladies were arrested.
About 1921, the name was changing from Chinatown to Little Tijuana, since the newer residents were Mexicans, and where the area was still known as "the scene of numerous fights, shootings, and stabbing affrays."
In 1923, District Attorney Ezra Decoto filed suits to close the bordellos in Chinatown under an abatement law. A newspaper article described opening of the suits in court:
Trial of two abatement proceedings against Alvarado’s “Little Tiajuana” opened today in Judge James G. Quinn’s court today with spectators benches crowded with women, public welfare workers and neighbors of the district subpoenaed to testify concerning the general reputation of the boardwalk establishments where gambling, drinking and sale of contraband liquor and narcotics are alleged to have been a constant source of revenue.
Twenty owners of the rickety pool rooms and dance halls, and Edward L. Farley, owner of the land on which they are built, are defendants in the two suits. Since the passing of the narcotics abatement law at the last legislative session, this is the first instance of prosecution asking abatement for that cause in Alameda County and in the State.
The two suits designated as “The United States versus Edward Farley and others” and “The People versus Edward Farley and others,” result from a raid of “Little Tiajuana” last March, when twenty-six wooden houses, connected by alleys, runways and underground tunnels, were entered by federal and county officials and wholesale arrests made.
By 1927, the abatement proceedings had worked and all residents were moved out of Chinatown and the doors were padlocked. In July, 1927, a fire stared in one of the buildings and consumed all of Chinatown as described by a newspaper report at the time:
[Chinatown] was destroyed in one of the most spectacular blazes in this part of California, with five Fire Departments fighting the flames. Only by prompt and efficient efforts, did fireman prevent the fire from spreading to an adjoining lumberyard, and for a time the entire Alvarado community was threatened.