While John Mintz's article on Chinatown {Metro, Jan. 3} covered a range of issues -- from the developers' hopes to architectural concerns -- one major problem was left largely unaddressed: What about the current residents of Chinatown?

Almost 10 years after the pathetic building I used to live in (at 1008 I St.) was torn down to make way for the D.C. Convention Center, Chinatown remains a mess, the victim of ignorance and neglect. The streets themselves are still in terrible shape. Local merchants have been operating out of the equivalent of miniature armed camps, with bars on their windows obscuring their products; alarm systems that are costly to maintain; and, in some cases, video monitoring devices to stem shoplifting and robbery -- these in what are essentially "mom and pop" operations. Clearly, any change that could bring attention to -- and, one hopes, improve -- these circumstances would be welcome.

But I'm afraid the problem runs deeper than Mintz's simple description of Chinatown as "distinctly down-at-the-heels." Developers intent on bringing profits into the area rather than real change for the good are missing the concerns of the community. What the area needs first are solutions to its immediate problems. A stronger police presence, for example, would be greatly appreciated.

The District government's approach has been backhanded, at best. What good is an archway in the center of a defined region? If they wanted to do any good at all, the planners should have moved the archway two blocks east, to attract the attention of people attending events at the D.C. Convention Center. As it stands now, the archway is a symbol for a Chinatown divided between residents and developers.

The question is not, as Mintz put it, "how much Chinatown will look like Chinatown when it's all done." The question is how much of Chinatown will be left when it's all done. -- James A. Wu