Community raises $30K for cherry blossom tree replacements in SF’s Japantown

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston and city leaders are now calling for the replacement of cherry blossom trees that were vandalized last week in Japantown.

The suspect, seen in this surveillance photo, destroyed the tree over a period of three days.

What’s left of the trees sit on the 1800 block of Sutter Street, right outside of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center.

The branches gone and completely ripped off both trees, which isn’t an easy task considering these trees sit anywhere from 12 to 15 feet high. 

Since the vandalism, the community has really shown up. Not just by decorating these trees but also through a GoFundMe page that’s now raised more than $30,000 for replacements.

“It just looks like it was violently vandalized and just had been deliberate. Every branch was broken off and it was just really shocking knowing we started the new year off with this negative incident,” Matt Okada said.

Matt Okada and his colleagues at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California found two of their beloved cherry blossom trees destroyed last week.

Surveillance video captured this suspect ripping the limbs off of the 12 to 15-foot trees over a period of three days, leaving nothing but two tree trunks outside the center’s office on Sutter Street in San Francisco.

Okada says the suspect destroyed a part of history, along with the trees.

“The trees were planted in 1994 to commemorate the visit the emperor and empress of Japan to the community center and they were some of the first cherry blossom trees to be planted in Japantown since Redevelopment,” Okada said.

Since the cultural center wrote about what happened on Facebook, there’s been an outpour of support from the community. 

Everything from decorations on the tree trunks to GoFundMe donations, where the center’s goal of $5,000 to replace the trees was quickly surpassed. 

“Response has been incredible. There’s been a tremendous amount of support from all across the nation,” Okada said.

Supervisor Dean Preston also rallying support from the board of supervisors.

“We want to pledge our cooperation and support to help cut through whatever red tape we need to cut through and get new trees planted there as soon as possible,” Supervisor Preston said.

He presented a resolution at Tuesday’s board meeting condemning the violence and calling on the city to work with Japantown leaders to get the trees replaced as soon as possible.

Supervisor Preston says police arrested someone earlier this week.

While there’s no timeline on when the trees will be replaced, the Cultural Center hopes to get mature trees replanted so they can watch them bloom in the spring.

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