Concerned that San Francisco’s Japantown is at risk with respect to its cultural heritage and economic sustainability, the Japantown Cultural Heritage and Economic Sustainability Strategy (JCHESS) seeks to outline a set of strategies to secure Japantown’s future as “the historical and cultural heart of Japanese and Japanese American Community” and as a thriving, physically attractive and vibrant commercial and retail district.
Building upon the draft Japantown Better Neighborhoods Plan which includes streetscape, pedestrian and transportation improvements, the JCHESS proposes additional strategies for the survival of San Francisco’s Japantown including the creation of a Community Development Corporation, Benefits District and Land Trust which could pave the way for dramatic design improvements as well.
Comments and suggestions on the JCHESS will be solicited by Planning Department over the next few months with a goal of presenting a plan for endorsement by San Francisco’s Planning and Historic Preservation Commissions by June.
Draft Japantown Cultural Heritage and Economic Sustainability Strategy [sf-planning.org]
Japantown’s Better Neighborhood Plan Update: Draft Acknowledged [SocketSite]
The New Plans And Latest Recommendations For Japantown [SocketSite]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Adam

    Such lofty goals they have. Well, whatever they do, I hope they do not bulldoze this “historical and cultural heart of Japanese and Japanese American Community” – and replace it with a shopping mall.

  2. Posted by curmudgeon

    Adam lol. Reality is that it is hard to have a japantown without Japanese.

  3. Posted by BDB

    What a crazy idea an actual entry from the overpass into the mall ? I don’t have much opinion on the rest of it – but I love this..

  4. Posted by philipthemholes

    Too bad they can’t move Western Addition further south.

  5. Posted by wc1

    I hope they are doing something on the inside as well. Parts of it are downright depressing.

  6. Posted by JustSaying

    I predict the CASTRO is next. The so-called “historical and cultural heart” of the Bay Area gay community is already on life support. One trip to West Hollywood is a reminder of what a young, growing and changing community looks like.

  7. Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

    Keeping it as clean as a Japanese town would be a great start.
    And as long as the movie theater is there you can forget about JT going upscale. It just attracts the wrong crowds and turns off the type of clientele the restaurants and shops deserve. Sorry, but it has to be said.

  8. Posted by lol

    We can be nostalgic about the steady disappearance of cultural or ethnic meccas in SF, but I see it as a very positive sign: SF is way ahead of the country or even the region in terms of integration and assimilation.
    After all these “cultural centers” were de facto ghettos for Japanese, Italians, Gays, etc… Everyone’s living together now. Isn’t that the idea SF stands for?

  9. Posted by BDB

    The movie theater attracts the wrong crowds?
    What is the right crowd?

  10. Posted by anon94123

    Agreed LoL. I don’t think it is just San Francisco that is “ahead of the curve” however. New York City, London, Los Angeles etc. are all experiencing similar trends. Los Angeles has a huge Japanese community yet their Japantown is also dead, and hardly representative of America’s largest Asian community.

  11. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    Do you mean the New People cinema? It is pretty amazing for a new single screen cinema to open in San Francisco.
    http://www.newpeopleworld.com/films/

  12. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “We can be nostalgic about the steady disappearance of cultural or ethnic meccas in SF…”
    Though old X-towns have faded away, new Y-towns appear. There wasn’t an Afghan community in the bay area until fairly recently for example.

  13. Posted by curmudgeon

    Milkshake…that’s a whole ‘nother topic…Cities aren’t necessarily the gateways anymore…the Afghan community is centered in where, Fremont?

  14. Posted by emanon

    Fremont isn’t a city? The population is over 200,000.

  15. Posted by nancydrew99

    I hope you are not referring to the Sundance Kabuki attracting the wrong clientele…pray, how bad is it to have affluent people willing to pay $15+ for a movie ticket at a “green” cinema who might also want sushi beforehand, or to browse art books at the kinokinuya bookstore?
    I’m confused. I’d suggest a better idea would be to get rid of the liquor stores on Fillmore/Geary…

  16. Posted by Alai

    Wasn’t there a plan to rebuild the entire mall in a more traditional (and Japanese) style, with narrow streets cutting through it? I liked that one.
    Also, what’s the plan for that pedestrian bridge vis a vis Geary BRT?
    Past X-Towns have been defined by being pedestrian-centric (many immigrants being too poor or unable to drive) and dense (lower cost per person). Chinatown is still both these things, and prospers as a result. Japantown– well, the Japanese immigrants (or their descendants) no longer need it. So. New immigrant communities, like Afghans, can’t afford to settle here, and the methods which might have been used in previous generations to make it more affordable (ie densification, unofficial businesses, and so on) are more difficult nowadays.
    Our loss, I think.
    [Editor's Note: The 4 Design Concepts For The Future Of San Francisco’s Japantown (which the downturn in 2008 put to rest).]

  17. Posted by aahuatzi

    They should consider extending the California Cable Car line to end in Japantown, I know it was in the works, well it was probably still a idea, a couple years ago. It would benefit both Japantown and the underused Cable car line.

  18. Posted by Sabatini

    SF is way ahead of the country or even the region in terms of integration and assimilation.
    It’s not because SF “way ahead” of the rest of the country, it’s because SF isn’t attractive anymore to most immigrants (high tech engineers excepted). Check out LA or NY for vibrant immigrant communities.

  19. Posted by cbf

    “It’s not because SF “way ahead” of the rest of the country, it’s because SF isn’t attractive anymore to most immigrants (high tech engineers excepted). Check out LA or NY for vibrant immigrant communities.” -Sabatini
    Wrong. SF is 35% foreign born, and they sure as hell aren’t all high tech engineers. Immigration is one of the main reasons that SF’s population has been growing over the past few decades.

  20. Posted by anon

    Whatever you do, PLEASE do not suggest filling in the Fillmore Street underpass, as has been suggested by a number of people in the past.
    That intersection is the best, most pedestrian friendly crossing along that entire strech of Geary.
    It connects Japantown to the North with Western Addition to the South in a way that would be *impossible* if people had to cross a busy six lane street.
    It’s convenient for those who walk, those who bus, AND those who drive.
    Let’s not mess with a good thing.

  21. Posted by stucco-sux

    Um, Japan town is packed all the time. It is wildly popular. This is not something the japanese american community supports — it is a planning department trojan horse to PC it up by taking away its cultural formality and its ample parking. Mark my words.

  22. Posted by BobN

    The traffic lights at Webster/Geary are timed just like the ones at Steiner/Geary, yet at Steiner, you can now cross Geary at street level and not have to take the stupid pedestrian bridge. I see no reason that the bridge at Webster can’t be made equally useless (and both eventually removed).
    And I hate architectural renderings that have all sorts of people walking/milling about. There are NEVER that many people walking across that bridge.

  23. Posted by BobN

    I know!!!! A Target store!!!

  24. Posted by Rillion

    There is aleady a Target store going in just a few blocks away at Masonic and Geary.
    I agree thaat they could likely put a crosswalk on the east side of Webster across Geary to match the one at Steiner, then remove both of those overpasses, although I do occassionally enjoy walking over the Steiner Street overpass, something just kind of fun about crossing above the traffic and having the cars flying by under you. But it is primarly used as a place for the homeless to camp out.

  25. Posted by Brad

    I hope plans move forward to save Japantown. I think running with the plans to build a taller, more outdoor-centric mall with narrow, winding mini-roads could be interesting and more engaging (maybe a more intimate Bay Street). Mixing in some cultural and practical spaces (like the grocery store) would help to create a good blend.
    I love the idea of extending the cable car down California, but I’m dubious that it would benefit Japantown in any real way; it’s four blocks away, after all.

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