Ping Yuen: Peace Garden


PING YUEN: PEACE GARDEN chronicles the triumphs and tribulations of San Francisco Chinatown residents as they advocate for improved safety and quality living conditions in the Ping Yuen public housing complex. This public housing provides low-income families with much needed subsidized housing, but it isn't without its problems-ranging from property maintenance issues to violent crime.

Journey into the story of Ping Yuen, one of the oldest public housing developments that remain in the United States, and discover how the tenants have struggled and fought for safety and maintenance of their home, and how they continue to strive for their rights.  



Discussion Guide*

The purpose of this guide is to help engage viewers in a critical discussion about the issues surrounding public housing and tenant organizing in Chinatown.


  • Lack of affordable housing in Chinatown
  • Maintenance of public housing
  • Tenant organizing to improve housing conditions

Discussion Questions

  • Mr. Chen says that if the residents of the Ping Yuen Pubic Housing complex did not have public housing, they would live in Single Room Occupancies (SROs). What are the differences between the two types of housing?
  • As San Francisco's Chinatown is the second most densely populated neighborhood in the United States, there is a large problem with overcrowding. How can this impact health?
  • How has PYRIA helped Ping Yuen tenants? What are some of the improvements to Ping Yuen that residents are currently asking for?
  • The residents of Ping Yuen went on rent strike twice. What were the reasons for these strikes? What were the outcomes?
  • What are the options for elderly Ping Yuen residents when the elevators break down?
  • Do you know your rights as a tenant? What would you do if you were dissatisfied with you housing situation? Who would you turn to for help?
  • Reverend Fong says, "Housing is a basic human right." What does he mean by this? What makes something "home"?
  • Gentrification is an issue affecting many districts in San Francisco, where wealthier people buy housing property in less prosperous communities - in effect displacing poorer immigrant communities by increasing property value. Reflect on whether or not there are instances of gentrification in your own community. How does this make you feel? How do you think gentrification affects the idea of "community" amongst the residents?
  • As the waiting list for public housing is in the ten thousands, it takes years for families to have their application seen by the San Francisco Housing Authority. How do you think a lack of available housing affects developing a sense of community?
  • Mr. Chen states that lighting and safety are two things that you cannot separate. Based on this, why do you think the Housing Authority had the lights painted over based on complaints from neighboring Knob Hill?


Facts and Resources

A single room occupancy (more commonly SRO, sometimes called single resident occupancy) is a multiple tenant building that houses one or two people in individual rooms (sometimes two rooms, or two rooms with a bathroom or half bathroom), or to the single room dwelling itself. SRO tenants typically share bathrooms and / or kitchens, while some SRO rooms may include kitchenettes, bathrooms, or half-baths. Although many are former hotels, SROs are primarily rented as a permanent residence. Besides being subsidized by the government public housing offers amenities of a standard housing complex: Apartment Units, Duplex Units, Single Family Units, Townhome Units.

Public housing was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. Public housing comes in all sizes and types, from scattered single family houses to high rise apartments for elderly families. There are approximately 1.2 million households living in public housing units, managed by some 3,300 HAs.

Median rent in 2007:

Over the past two decades, the number of Americans who spend more than half of their income on housing or live in seriously substandard housing almost doubled, from 7.2 to 13.7 million. With so many living on the edge, nearly two million people will be homeless at some point during the year.

Population density:

Only 56 out of the 140 SRO's in Chinatown are routinely inspected two or three times a year. And only two inspectors are assigned to inspect all SRO's city wide.

All programs must meet HUD's "Housing Quality Standards (HQS), which ensures that units are habitable." Housing rights, low income housing:

In all of these cities, including San Francisco, there was concurrent demolition and conversion of many low-income apartment buildings. In San Francisco, between 1970 and 2000, almost 9,000 low-rent apartments were demolished or converted. Between 1980 and 2000 another 6,470 were converted to condominiums.

PYRIA founded in 1968

CCDC founded in 1977 by five grassroots organizations, one of which is PYRIA


Meet the Filmmakers


EUSEBIO GONZALEZE: Born and raised in San Francisco, is a graduate of cinema studies from SFSU. He plans to further his education in cinema studies and one day hopes to teach cinema production in low income neighborhoods. "Ping Yuen: Peace Garden" is Eusebio's first documentary and after experiencing the untold story of the residents of Ping Yuen, he hopes to continue documenting the past struggles and current social injustices of communities around the Bay Area.


JOSH JACOBSEN is a filmmaker and the producer of the long running comedy television program, "Eat the Fish Presents..." seen on numerious public access stations and on the internet at


CLAY NGO: As an immigrant from Vietnam, his youth was tangled in cultural conflicts, where his only refuge was in the streets gangs.  But through public institutions and social programs, ranging from public schools to public drinking fountains, he converted his life to become an upright citizen, who has garnered a passion for films and wishes to use his craft to help others make positive decisions.  In his first documentary, "Ping Yuen," it not only reflects his life, but society as a whole, upon a need for public goods and its connection to building stronger, happier communities.  He graduated from SF State, majoring in cinema and Chinese language.       


CHRIS F. POWELL: Before graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Cinema at San Francisco State University, Bay Area native Chris F. Powell earned Associates in Arts degrees in Film & Television and Social Sciences at Solano Community College. He has crewed on a number of independent short and feature length films, music videos, TV productions, and worked as videographer for Solano's performance on-camera course. Always having loved the creative arts, Powell initially explored the music industry, eventually finding his niche in film where his adoration of photography and sound recording could be fostered. Although interested in all stages of film production, he is principally focused on cinematography & lighting, and is pursuant of a successful career as director of photography for narrative, documentary, and experimental films.


BEN SAWYER-LONG: Born and raised in the Bay Area, Ben has been involved in theater, film, and social activism for many years. He sees a strong connection between the arts and efforts to improve conditions of social injustice. For this reason, Ben has been actively engaged in the arts and volunteering in the social justice field since a teenager. He sees a strong connection between the two as a way of healing and improving living conditions on both a personal and societal level. As artistic educational tools, Ben hopes to use documentary and fictional narrative forms as a ways of spreading education about social problems and ways to improve them. Ben further believes that it is essential for people to go beyond being just observers and to actually engage with efforts to improve the social injustices around them. For this reason, volunteering has played a very important role in his life. He has been actively involved in volunteering to help the marginalized people of society including orphans, street children, low-income minorities and incarcerated youth. Ben plans to continue acting, writing, and making films.


*The information on these pages is provided by the student film makers and does not represent an endorsement or verification of statements from the Health Equity Institute