What is the Japantown Cultural Heritage and Economic Sustainability Strategy (JCHESS)?

Vision, Goals, and Objectives

It is one of the only three remaining Japantowns in the United States. It has excellent access to city and regional public transportation and offers a good variety of commercial streets that provide access to daily needs. It continuesto be one of the major San Francisco tourist attractions.

The Japantown Cultural Heritage and Economic Sustainability Strategy (JCHESS) is the first document in San Francisco to focus specifically on how to preserve and promote a neighborhood's cultural heritage. The vision of the JCHESS is that Japantown Japantown will thrive as a culturally rich, authentic, and economically vibrant neighborhood, which will serve as the cultural heart of the Japanese and Japanese American communities for generations to come. Specifically it will:

  • Secure Japantown’s future as the historical and cultural heart of Japanese and Japanese American Community.

  • Secure Japantown’s future as a thriving commercial and retail district.
  • Secure Japantown’s future as a home to residents and community-based institutions.

  • Secure Japantown’s future as a physically attractive and vibrant environment.

Areas of Concern

The JCHESS includes an assessment of the existing conditions in Japantown, and identifies particular "areas of concern" with regard to cultural heritage and economic sustainability, as follows:

Areas of Concern related to Japantown's land

  • Utilization of developable parcels

    Areas of Concern related to Japantown's buildings

  • Compatibility of architectural style
  • Lack of pedestrian scale
  • Preservation of historic buildings and structures

  • Areas of Concern related to Japantown's organizations and institutions

  • Capacity challenges for community-serving organizations and institutions
  • Lack of permanent space for existing organization
  • Areas of Concern related to Japantown's businesses

  • Business viability
  • Business ownership transitions
  • Finding culturally appropriate businesses
  • Attractiveness of the shopping district
  • Potential business displacement
  • The future of the Japan Center
  • The future of the Japan Center Parking Garage
  • Areas of Concern related to Japantown's cultural activities and events

  • Limited space for community activities
  • Costs of Acquiring permits for festivals
  • Areas of Concern related to Japantown's public realm

  • Peace Plaza design
  • Buchanan Mall design
  • Streetscape maintenance o Landscaping
  • Lighting
  • Street furnishings
  • Wayfinding signage
  • Recommendations

    To address these areas of concern, the JCHESS includes a series of recommendations that are considered by the City and community as having the best potential to fulfill the vision of the JCHESS. Given the range of concerns, there is no single tool that could fulfill this vision. It is more likely that a series of recommendations will need to be implemented in a complementary and coordinated manner to ensure maximum benefit to Japantown, including a combination of existing tools and proposed strategies.

    Existing Tools

  • Utilize Tools for Preservation of Historic Buildings and Structures
  • Leverage the Japantown Special Use District to Cultivate and Attract New Businesses Appropriate to Japantown
  • Utilize the City's Design Guidelines
  • Implement Streetscape and Pedestrian Improvements per the Better Streets Plan
  • Implement Proposed Transportation Improvements
  • Market the Neighborhood through SFTravel
  • Proposed Strategies

  • Create a Community Development Corporation
  • Create a Community Land Trust
  • Implement Invest in Neighborhoods
  • Negotiate Community Benefits Agreements with Major New Developments
  • Create a Community Benefits District
  • Implement a Mello-Roos Community Facilities District
  • Utilize Funds from the San Francisco Grants for the Arts
  • Utilize Japan Center Garages' Capital Improvement Funds
  • Create a Japantown Neighborhood Commercial District
  • Create Japantown-Specific Design Guidelines
  • Implement Improvements to Peace Plaza
  • Implement Improvements to Buchanan Mall
  • Develop a Strategic Plan for the Japan Center Malls
  • To view or save the full JCHESS document, Download it here.

    To get more in-depth information on the JCHESS, visit the Japantown SF Planning Website here.

    If you have any comments regarding the JCHESS, please call Steve Wertheim at the SF Planning Department at 415.558.6625 or send an e-mail to

    We need each and every person who lives in, works in, shops in or cares about Japantown to get involved in the process. Please keep watching this site for more information about how to get involved. In the meantime, please make sure we have your mailing address and email address so we can keep you informed. Contact us by phone at 415.346.1239 or email to join the mailing list.

    Proposed JCHESS Area:

    To download a full sized copy of the proposed project area, click here.