SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - The community group working to revitalize and renovate San Francisco Japantown’s Peace Plaza received additional funding to bolster their efforts and ensure the project is completed as they envisioned.
"We must see this project through to completion," said San Francisco Assembly member Phil Ting (D). "This isn’t just about modernizing a public space. It’s also about making amends to Japanese Americans who were forced out of Japantown not once, but twice. The state should be a partner in these efforts to make things right, and I was determined to fight for this funding."
Ting announced the state will provide another $6 million in state funding to keep the construction plans on track. The city of San Francisco allocated $25 million to the project from its 2020 Health and Recovery bond. But, with rising costs, organizers needed more money to bolster their resources. "This is the heart of Japantown, first Japantown in the country, the oldest Japantown," said Ting. "It’s the heart of our Japanese community."
The Peace Plaza represents more than just a meeting place for the community in Japantown, it also represents a painful history. Richard Hashimoto is committee co-chair for the Peace Plaza renovation. His family lived down the street, he grew up playing with his friends in the area, until the city forced them out in the 1960s. "I remember it was very traumatic for my parents, sleepless nights, my mom crying all the time, and it was just a hardship for us at the time," said Hashimoto.
During a mass redevelopment, the city forced many Japantown residents to relocate using eminent domain. It was another devastating blow for the Japanese community San Francisco, who just started to rebuild their lives and businesses after they were released from the mass incarcerations of World War II. "There’s so much history that is so significant to the Asian American experience in this country, and San Francisco is at the heart of it," said Jon Osaki, Peace Plaza committee co-chair.
Assemblymember Ting met with business owners in the Japan Center who hope to benefit from the additional foot traffic at the cultural and community hub once the construction is complete. "Preserve the history and make sure for generations to come, this is where people can continue to come to understand Japanese American history and celebrate Japanese American culture," said Ting.
Physically, the project includes waterproofing and paving, plants, lighting and seating. Symbolically, it is a long overdue chance to heal. "We will never completely heal, but the investments that have been made over the last couple years are really an important step to addressing that harm," said Osaki.
The committee hopes to break ground on the project by 2024—with an estimated completion a year later.