A Little Blowback for the Japantown “Better” Neighborhood Plan

Here it comes from the We’re-from-the-Government-and-We’re-Here-to-Help-You people. Brace yourselves:

“The DRAFT Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan is ready for your review!”

O.K. then. But the problem is that some of the people involved in this process from the get-go now use the term “complete disaster” to describe it today. Let’s journey to Akit’s Complaint Department to get the reaction from Paul Osaki, Executive Director of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California. It’s under “SF Japantown Crisis” – check it out, if you want.

Tearing down those malls on Post Street  – is that a good idea? I don’t know. But keep in mind that these are the same people that sold you the “Great Street!” of Octavia Boulevard, which turned out to be a scar upon the land. (In mitigation, the Japantown “B”NP lacks the complicating factor have having architects designing like-nowhere-else-in-the-universe boulevards. Sorry, “Great Boulevards!”)

Anywho, check out the latest news and the meeting sked below, and check out the notes from a meeting with Mayor Gavin Newsom and Ross Mirkarimi after the jump. Things were so much happier back in 2007. 

See if you agree that this plan is simply “a road map for developers.”

To Be Continued.


The DRAFT Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan is ready for your review! 


After several years of analysis and community process, the Draft Plan phase is ready for your review. The Draft Plan will be presented to the Planning Commission for Commission endorsement at the end of June 2009. Prior to endorsement, we will hold two informational hearings at the Planning Commission, and one hearing at the Historic Preservation Commission. In the upcoming month, please review the Draft Plan, attend any or all of the hearings to provide feedback , and send us your comments.
You can review each chapter individually by
clicking on the links below:

Chapter 1: Introduction Acobat PDF 4 MBChapter 2: Community Heritage Acobat PDF 2.5 MBChapter 3: Community and Economic Development Acobat PDF 1.2 MBChapter 4: Land Use Acobat PDF 2.1 MBChapter 5: Built Form Acobat PDF 3.1 MB

Chapter 6: Public Realm Acobat PDF 9.1 MB

Chapter 7: Transportation and Circulation Acobat PDF 4 MB

Chapter 8: Japan Center Acobat PDF 2 MB

Chapter 9: Implementation Acobat PDF 1 MB


Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan Appendices

There are also a number of appendices referenced in the Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan. Click below to download them.

Appendix A: Japantown Opinion Survey Summary

Appendix B: National Heritage Areas

Appendix C: Historic Property Benefits Matrix

Appendix D: Community Benefit District Case Studies

Appendix E: Implementation Case Studies

Appendix F: Planning a Multi-Use Community Facility

Appendix G: Transportation and Circulation Analysis

Appendix H: Japan Center Proforma Analysis

If you would like to purchase a hard copy of the Draft Plan, they will be available beginning May 26th in the Japantown Planning Room during our office hours (2nd floor of the Miyako Mall) or at Japantown Task Force at 1765 Sutter Street. We will also have free CDs and free copies available that you can read on site.


We will present the Draft Plan to the Planning Commission in May and June to seek endorsement. Please attend to express your opinion of the Plan’s recommendations.

The Draft Japantown Plan is currently on the Planning Commission’s calendar for:

  • Thursday, May 28 (Information Only)
  • Thursday, June 4 (Information Only)
  • Thursday, June 25 (Anticipated Endorsement of Plan)

The hearings begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Commission Chambers – Room 400, San Francisco City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place. Check the Planning Commission calendar at sfplanning.org (under “Calendars”) as the dates get closer; calendars are subject to change.

We will also present the Japantown Historic Resource Survey Findings and the Context Statement to the Historic Preservation Commission on June 3, 2009.

Want to discuss the Draft Plan or ask questions? Visit us during Office Hours in the Japantown Planning Room:

  • Monday 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
  • Wednesday 4:00 – 6:00 pm
  • Thursday 11:00 am – 1:00 pm

If these times don’t work for you, please schedule a different time by contacting Rosie Dudley at 415-575-9068 or via email at rosemary.dudley@sfgov.org.

Send your comments to Rosie Dudley at 1650 Mission, Suite 400 San Francisco, CA 94103 or email them to rosemary.dudley@sfgov.org.

Community Meeting Notes
March 28, 2007
Meeting Summary
On March 28, over 200 people attended a community meeting at the Japanese Cultural and Community
Center of Northern California to listen to Mayor Newsom, Supervisor Mirkarimi, Public Defender Jeff
Adachi, Japantown community leaders and representatives from the Planning Department speak about the
future of Japantown.
This meeting was the kickoff to a year-long neighborhood planning process, led by the Planning
Department, aimed at securing the future of Japantown. The planning process will address new
development in Japantown, economic development, better streets and open spaces, and connections across
Geary to the Fillmore, among other topics.
The meeting’s opening remarks and public comments are summarized on the following pages. To see a full
list of all spoken and written public comments, see the Public Comment Summary document.
Opening Remarks
Comments made by Mayor Newsom:
– This is one of three Japantown’s left in the country.
– Attendants of the meeting are here because they love San Francisco, even though we all complain
about aspects of the City.
– This is a city that not only tolerates diversity, but celebrates it in tangible ways.
– People have been recently complaining that San Francisco Planning Department (DCP) was no
longer planning but rather administering permits.
– DCP is engaged in conversation with communities to listen and learn about their needs.
– DCP is now directing developers to engage with communities; developers now know that they
must be engaged with community to understand their needs before they build.
– Last year marked the 50-year anniversary with Osaka, Japan as San Francisco’s Sister City:
o City leaders traveled to Osaka to understand the connection between the two cities.
o It was the first sister city partnership in the US which came on the heals of the Treaty of
San Francisco ending WWII.
– Looking to rebuild Japantown now – one that we can be proud of for many years to come.
Comments made by Paul Osaki (Executive Director of Japanese Community and Cultural Center of
Northern California):

– Looking to reintroduce Japantown to attract businesses from Japan
– Setting new direction for our community and control zoning.
– Most problematic outcome of this process is if we don’t hear from enough people.
– Want to hear from everyone, including visitors.
Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan Community Meeting Notes
Page 2 of 5
Comments made by Bob Hamaguchi’s (Japantown Task Force):
– Revitalization is a misnomer; there has been on-going redevelopment in the neighborhood: lots of
development in neighborhood.
– Looking to encourage both preservation and economic development.
– Looking to keep community involved with City work.
– The Better Neighborhood Plan is community based: You only get out what you put in!
– All opinions will be respected even when we disagree.
– Some have expressed concern that this process is a way to legitimize developer. In fact, 3D has
partnered with Japantown Task Force to provide photos to show essence of Japantown and they
are donating storefront in mall.
Comments made by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi:
– The trip to Osaka and the 50-year anniversary of sister cities is perfect milestone for launching our
vision for Japantown.
– The new plan will make Japantown a destination.
– Looking at expiration of redevelopment areas– we know it was a problematic legacy, which makes
it more difficult to say what Japantown can be.
– One year ago, there was much anguish over sale of Japan Center property.
– In response enacted interim controls in the form of a Japantown Special Use District.
– The City and 3D Investments now have a more common trajectory.
– Japantown has lost population – we want to make sure Japanese Americans are able to live here.
Comments made by Dean Macris (City of San Francisco Planning Director):
– This process will be a partnership.
– Looking to create a general consensus –even though not everyone will agree.
– Looking to represent “Japanese” idea in project.
– At the same time, we don’t want a never ending process – The City is committed to preparing the
plan over a one-year process.
– The property owners (3D Investments) have hired the Architecture/Planning firm EDAW who are
very good at what they do.
Presentation Summary
Ken Rich of the San Francisco City Planning Department made a presentation on the Better
Neighborhoods Program and the potential issues that the Japantown Neighborhood Plan can address. To
see the full presentation, download it from the project website:
Comments made by Community Members
The following pages reflect the public comments and questions that were raised following the presentation.
Whenever responses were given to the questions, they are noted below.
Betty Landis:
– Concerned about recreation opportunities in Japantown;
– What happened to the fountain in Peace Plaza? It’s a mess and needs to be redone;
– Neighborhood needs better access to Hamilton and Kendell recreation areas.
Response: The process will be getting Rec. and Park involved.
Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan Community Meeting Notes
Page 3 of 5
Jerome Berg (Fillmore Jazz Preservation District – CBD):
– Concerned about hostility of Japantown’s blank wall that faces Geary and the Fillmore.
Response: We have heard that comment from many people; developers now understand that internal malls
are not good – will have opportunity to address this with this process.
Mirkarimi Response: Hamilton is slated to be rebuilt and will be shut down for about a year; Geary Blvd. is
like the Berlin Wall.
Melody Takata, nearby renter:
<Presented Mirkarimi with student drawings>
– Redevelopment never finished – can we use this process to finish it? Lack of locations for
community based performance space: Kabuki Theater was supposed to include performance space
for local groups;
– Be aware that ethnic communities are often marginalized.
Roger Bazeley, resident:
– My child went through Japantown youth programs – very valuable;
– Lost bowling alley, a vital local resource for people to gather;
– Japantown is unlike Little Tokyo in LA, which has Nat’l Japanese Museum;
– Japantown needs cultural anchor – a reason for people to come to visit Japantown for Cherry
Blossom festival and other events;
– Important to preserve historic sites;
– Boundary for benefit area should be California, Gough, Steiner;
– The BRT’s modifications to Geary should look to create an identity with Japantown;
– Need to create better connectivity to cultural sites.
Jan Bolaffi, Board member of Western Addition Neighborhood Association:
– Maps fail to show open space;
– Keep in mind that there will always be something important to community outside of the
boundaries (i.e. libraries).
<Inaudible Name>, resident at Sequoia:
– Can the City provide meetings for Japanese-speaking Senior citizens?
Response: Yes, if asked.
Carol Ito, Member of Japantown Taskforce:
– How can you do this project in one year? What are the commitments to staff and resources?
Response: One full time employee dedicated to this plan will be hired within the week.
Gweny Nochara, teacher at JJDP
– Safety concerns at Webster and Geary;
– Interested in how Geary barrier will be diminished;
– Know that Rosa Parks School used to be the public school for kids in Japantown.
Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan Community Meeting Notes
Page 4 of 5
James Hamilton, resident
– When they rebuilt Peace Plaza, they did a terrible job, conduits were not incorporated requiring
holiday lights to use ugly exposed cords; previous design had a stage;
– Buchanan Street needs to be spruced up.
Response: Peace Plaza is in Rec. and Park’s jurisdiction; they will be engaged in this process.
Norm Wada, homeowner
– Process should ask, what people don’t want as well as what they do want (i.e. liquor stores and all
night bars)
– How can two adjacent liquor stores be granted liquor licenses? It negatively impacts the
– Japantown used to have a movie theater – it’s now a Denny’s.
Response: Planning process can address this.
Ross Mirkarimi’s Response: Now that Redevelopment is ending, the City will have more ability to set land
use controls.
<Inaudible Name>, rider of the 22 Fillmore
– The north-south Muni routes need to be more beneficial to the riders;
– What is the role of the consultants who will be used?
Response: They will be used for more technical questions where the planners don’t have expertise (i.e.
wind studies).
Daryl Higoshi, Japantown Task Force
– How can you assure that the developer won’t go through its own process?
Response: This process will do the visioning; any new development will need to respond to the vision
created through this process.
Dean Macris’s response: Developer will be developing options for potential developments, but they will be
doing so through this process.
Commissioner Sugaya’s response: At the end of the day, the Commission will be looking whether the plan
has the backing of the people.
Denise Shocks, resident and parent of child that attends Rosa Parks School
– Listen to children in their ideas;
– There are major safety issues related to school closings;
– Don’t want the area to become super gentrified.
Ross Mirkarimi’s response: This speaks to many bad land use decisions; SFPD and SF Public Schools need to
be a part of this process; land use should not be disconnected from these
other issues.
Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan Community Meeting Notes
Page 5 of 5
Miran Ishosiki, owner of residential property
– Need for affordable housing;
– There is a concern amongst seniors about what will happen to them when their building is
Response: A major concern of all the City’s plans is how to encourage and accommodate affordable
housing. It will be a priority in this one as well.
Gregory Johnson, resident of Victoria Square, 61 years old
– Grew up in the neighborhood and has seen many changes
– Who is moving into building at Fillmore where the Goodwill moved out of?
Response: The City will look into it. If an application has been filed, it’s public knowledge.
Sylvia Eselan, resident
– How do you balance preservation and economic development?
– What does 3D want to do with their property?
– What about the height limit?
Response: Current height limits in Japantown range from 40 – 55 feet – we will be looking at heights.
Dean Macris’s response: We don’t know but mall will probably undergo major renovation. We need to
know what we want to save – we will need to hear from you – we will have
special sessions dealing with historic preservation.
Ross Mirkarimi’s response: The antithesis of balancing economic development and preservation is what
happened to the bowling alley. The Japan Center property is an amazing
Question from Bob Hamaguchi to Dean Macris: What do we say to current merchants?
Dean Macris’s response: Part of negotiating will be about commercial activity and how it can be a part of
the mall. We will be advocates to minimize displacement.
Ken Rich’s response: We understand the importance of talking to the merchants to make it part of the
Meeting Adjourned.

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