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Coming soon to Koreatown: Little Bangladesh

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A stretch of 3rd Street within Koreatown, soon to be part of Little Bangladesh.

It's known now as a part of Koreatown, but a four-block stretch of West 3rd Street will soon be known officially as Little Bangladesh.

On Wednesday Afternoon, the Los Angeles City Council's Education and Neighborhoods Committee approved naming a strip along 3rd between New Hampshire and Alexandria avenues for the Bangladeshi immigrants who began settling in Koreatown about two decades ago.

The committee also approved formal boundaries for Koreatown, which will now consist of a roughly one-square-mile area bordered by Third Street to the north, Olympic Boulevard to the south, and Vermont and Western avenues to the east and west. Koreatown, whose community representatives had sought formal recognition for a much larger area, will also retain a commercial strip of Western Avenue from 3rd Street to Rosewood Avenue.

The decision, yet to be voted on by the City Council, comes after a year and a half of wrangling between ethnic groups in the area, prompted after the city initiated a new policy for formally naming its neighborhoods in 2006. Bangladeshi business and community leaders sought to designate a swath of Koreatown between Vermont and Western as Little Bangladesh, prompting a clash with their Korean counterparts, who proposed formalizing boundaries for that neighborhood stretching as far north as Melrose Avenue and as far south as Pico Boulevard (where, on the southern end, they ran into resistance from their Central American neighbors).

An opinion piece last April, the Los Angeles Times' Gregory Rodriguez pointed out that such wrangling is due not as much to ethnic pride as to commerce: For example, while Koreatown is crowded with Korean businesses, the majority of its residents are not Korean immigrants. The same holds true for other long-recognized ethnic neighborhoods that are now more of commercial centers than immigrant communities.

Since then, the ethnic groups involved in the Koreatown-Little Bangladesh debate have hammered out mutually agreeable boundaries. During yesterday's meeting in City Hall, committee chair and City Councilman Paul Krekorian praised the groups for working together. The many Bangladeshis who attended said they were thrilled, even if the Little Bangladesh strip will be a fraction of what they proposed initially.

"This is a melting pot, and we're just becoming part of that," said Zainul Abedin of the Bangladesh Society of Los Angeles, also the president of an environmental engineering firm. "Today, they are officially welcoming us as newcomers."

Abedin said the committee's decision would likely go before the City Council for a vote this month; after that, he said, city signage marking Little Bangladesh should begin going up on 3rd Street.