SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) announced Tuesday that the state will be providing an additional $6 million in funding for the redesign of Japantown’s Peace Plaza.
Construction on the project is expected to begin in early 2024 after design work is completed by the end of next year.
“After decades of neglect, the Peace Plaza will finally see improvements, which will also help revitalize Japantown by attracting visitors to support small businesses and fostering cultural relations,” a press release from Ting’s office stated. “The work includes waterproofing and paving, as well as beautifying the space with plants, lighting and seating so it can serve as an essential location for festivals, celebrations and historic commemorations.”
For Richard Hashimoto, the co-chair of the Peace Plaza Committee and manager of the Japan Center Garage, Tuesday’s announcement is personal. The city’s Western Addition neighborhood saw mass evictions of Japanese Americans during the World War II internment ordered by President Franklin Roosevelt, and again in the 1960s and 1970s, when so-called “urban renewal” led to the forced removal of many Black and Asian residents. It was during this era that Japantown’s Peace Plaza was first built.
“In the late 1960s, my family became victims of the mass redevelopment of Japantown,” Hashimoto stated. “The city exercised eminent domain powers to force us out. All of the families we grew up with moved to other parts of the city or left San Francisco, and Japantown would never again be the friendly, family-oriented community I grew up in.”
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Assemblyman Matt Haney (D), who also represents San Francisco in the Assembly, stated that “The Plaza’s renovation is vital to the Japanese American community” and he is grateful to his westside counterpart for securing the funding.
The Peace Pagoda at the center of the plaza was intended to be a symbol of the then-newfound affection between the United States and Japan, in much the same way as the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of the friendship between the U.S. and France.
The plaza’s redesign and renovation will “mostly be funded by San Francisco’s 2020 Health and Recovery Bond approved by voters and supplemented with state funds. Community members see this investment as restitution and a long overdue chance to heal,” the press release stated.
“We must see this project through to completion,” Ting stated. 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.”