Japan Town Gets Organized


root - Posted on 17 September 2000

Japan Town Community organizes to control their own development process.

by Liana Fabiani

It was one of those unusually hot days in San Francisco. It's rush hour and in addition, parking is absolutely terrible -(seems to be the universal gripe all around the city)-- but miraculously I get a spot right in front of the Community Center where a meeting of the Japan Town Task Force is set to start soon as I see people young and old stroll into the building. I sign my name on the sign up sheet and as I put the pen down I am given a HELLO MY NAME IS tag with a smile by a welcoming handsome middle aged Asian American man.

As I pass through the open auditorium-like doors and observe that the room has almost met it's maximum occupancy and most of the crowd consists of middle aged and senior citizens with the exception of a few of my zealous college peers. The environment is calm and comfortable as people take their seats and fix their eyes on the MC of the evening, a woman who represents the community organized and operated Japantown planning, preservation and development task force. She begins to speak informing us of the sessions introduction. Plans are then explained to us through a series of slides while representatives, hired by the JT taskforce, from BMS Design Group and Poret consulting narrate.

Through my observations during the meeting and interviews after the meeting I gathered that --The JT Taskforce, formed by a community of concerned and affected volunteers, has succeeded in launching their own idea of their communities redevelopment plan. The city has had plans to redevelop Japantown since the 1950's and the current redevelopment "leases" (I am not sure what they actually are) are close to their end. Japantown, very conscious and well organized, has rightfully stepped into the redevelopment process of their community. With the support from the mayors office and funding from SF's own redevelopment agency, the Taskforce has done their research and through their ideas and efforts of designing their own redevelopment plan, consulting support has been sought and contributed from Asian Neighborhood design, Chinatown community development center, BMS Design Group and Poret Consulting. They are now in phase 2 of their plan and funding for phase 3 is already in the works. Mrs. Mori, one of the tasks force coordinators informed me that while it was hard to find people of color in the consulting and design industry she feels like the companies that they have chosen to help design the taskforces' redevelopment plan are sensitive and understanding towards the issues of the community in Japantown. Can Japantown's answer to redevelopment work for other districts and communities in the Bay Area?

For more information contact:Japantown planning, preservation and development task force 415-346-1239
fax# 415-346-6703
email:jtowntaskforce@juno.com

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