Introduction

 

Preserving and revitalizing Japantown is essential as a manifestation of Japanese American history, a celebration of current cultural expression and an inspiration to future generations about Japanese American cultural heritage.

              - Concepts for the Japantown Community Plan, November 2000

 

 

In mid-1998, faced with the imminent closure of Redevelopment Projects A-1 (2002) and A-2 (2009), 50 volunteers representing the different constituencies and factions that form the San Francisco Japantown community formed the Japantown Planning, Preservation and Development Task Force (JPPDTF).  With the support of the Mayor’s Office, the JPPDTF and its consultants engaged the community in an empowering public planning process toward the development of a proactive preservation and development plan for San Francisco’s Japantown.  Phase I included extensive community outreach and analysis of neighborhood physical conditions, resulting in the adoption of specific future goals and objectives; Phase II analyzed a range of economic programs and urban design concepts.  At each stage, conclusions were presented for community response at a series of public forums.  Phase III involves the elaboration of community development and organizing strategies, focused on religious institutions, cultural institutions, the arts, social services and children, youth and families – in short, planning for the preservation and development of our cultural heritage.

 

Through the pilot study funded by California State Senate Bill 307, authored by Senator John Vasconcellos, and signed into law in October 2001, the non-profit Japantown Task Force, Inc. (JTF), created in 2001 to institutionalize the community planning process, is engaging the San Francisco Japantown community in the process of defining cultural preservation.  Since the SB307 mandate is to promote the preservation of California’s three remaining Japantowns (Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose) through a public planning process, it falls to each community not only to consider its own definition of cultural preservation but also to identify those elements – tangible and intangible – deemed essential to the community’s culture in such a way that the State and the Nation may gain a framework for appreciating their existence and supporting the preservation of ethnically-specific communities/ neighborhoods.  The results may also serve as a model for other historic communities to maintain for themselves and future generations the cultural contributions unique to their own heritage. 

 

The report generated by the Japantown community and presented to the State of California will be developed in concert with the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and the San Francisco Planning Department to serve as a template for resource allocation for the State of California to sustain our neighborhood by identifying and prioritizing potential preservation targets in San Francisco’s Japantown.   Through harsh experience, the State’s Japantown communities have learned we must be proactive in determining our future.  Through the empowerment of sharing its culture with the greater community, the San Francisco Japantown community invites the broader population to embrace, understand, value and help preserve it.