By YUKIO KAWARATANI
MEMBER OF THE LITTLE TOKYO COMMUNITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE
(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on Feb. 20, 2010)
Little Tokyo was created because the Japanese were not accepted by mainstream America.
During World War II, Little Tokyo ceased to exist because all people of Japanese ancestry were sent to concentration camps.
In 1946, a smaller Little Tokyo was re-established, but six years later, the City demolished one quarter of Little Tokyo for the construction of Parker Center.
In 1963, the city started to acquire properties and was planning to demolish another one quarter of Little Tokyo.
The Little Tokyo community protested, as the very survival of Little Tokyo was at stake. They organized and prepared their own master plan for Little Tokyo. Fortunately, the city council was sympathetic and accepted their master plan.
The Little Tokyo Redevelopment Plan adopted in 1970, demolished many of the old buildings that had small family businesses, residential hotels, and cultural activities. Many people in the community protested. As a result, low-income senior housing, preservation of some older buildings, a cultural/community center and a Japanese American National Museum were constructed.
Now the Regional Connector is an excellent idea. But the second build option is unacceptable to the Japanese American community because it permanently damage Little Tokyo. We are protesting again.
To avoid significant impact on downtown developments, Metro has rightfully proposed a primarily all subway connection from Fifth and Flower street. But disregarding the impacts on Little Tokyo, the trains will just burst to the surface there.
First Street and Alameda Street are Little Tokyo’s primary connections to the freeways, but Metro will just drop Alameda Street under First Street. There will be six sets of tracks curving through First street. They will present a very hazardous condition for pedestrians to cross. East of Alameda Street has many new apartment buildings and is Little Tokyo’s direction of development expansion.
For the past year, the Metro staff has said that they had analyzed and discarded 33 different build options, and this was the only feasible one. They assured that mitigation measures would be taken. The Little Tokyo community has consistently said that this build option does too much damage to Little Tokyo and, they would strongly oppose it with local, state and national support.
In recent months, the Metro staff has come forward with an all subway build alternative that would not surface until after Alameda street. This third build alternative is highly acceptable and will be supported by the Little Tokyo and Japanese American communities. We encourage you, the MTA Board of Directors, to support this win-win build solution.
I thank you.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.