Coalition, Landowner at Odds Over Tuna Canyon Plaque

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The Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition released the following statement on Monday.

Tuna Canyon Detention Station was officially designated a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument on June 24 as the result of a unanimous vote of the Los Angeles City Council.

This World War II Department of Justice camp housed more than 2,000 Japanese, Germans, Italians, Japanese Peruvians, and others from Dec. 16, 1941 to Oct. 1, 1943. It is located in Tujunga, just 14 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles. The City Council designated a grove of mature sycamore and oak trees as the nexus for the city, nation, and world to reflect on this location’s history.

A Working Group consisting of representatives of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition (a group of people concerned about the history of this camp), the City of Los Angeles Planning Department, and Councilman Felipe Fuentes as well as representatives of the owner, Snowball West Investments, met four times within eight weeks to work on the memorialization of the historic site.

The final result of these meetings was a proposal by Snowball West that was depicted in a drawing of the grove showing a permanent memorial, and was included in the Planning Department’s final report.

However, it now seems that the owner is unable to keep his word on these mutually accepted plans that were drawn by his own architect and presented by his architect and attorney at the Working Group’s last meeting.

Recently the coalition requested permission from Snowball West to install a plaque in the location Snowball West’s own architect designated. The owner of Snowball West Investments denied this request and notified the coalition that “until that designation is removed or at least modified, the owner is reluctant to agree to any permanent installation or public accessibility.”

Marc Stirdivant, chairman of the board of V.O.I.C.E. (Glendale-Crescenta Volunteers Organized in Conserving the Environment), says, “It seems clear to me that a small plaque under the oaks in a place that currently provides public access is a very small and innocent thing for the owner to approve. The fact that he is unwilling to do so now speaks volumes about his credibility in future dealings the city and the coalition may have with him.”

“This is a moral issue,” says Nancy Oda, president of the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center. “The designation of Tuna Canyon as a Historical Cultural Monument is an example of America’s ability to preserve history and restore faith in civil rights.”

After seeing Snowball’s comment, the Los Angeles City Planning Department, which coordinated the Working Group meetings, stated that “the historic designation should not impede the proposed project or limit the location of the memorial. Since the owner had acknowledged that the oak grove would not be developed, there is an opportunity to advance a more immediate memorialization of the property, as we all discussed during the Working Group meetings.

“We would therefore hope that the owner might choose to drop the litigation and work cooperatively to implement a memorial plan along the lines of the consensus that we’d begun to establish by our final Working Group meeting.”

Back of photo stamped: M H Scott Officer in Charge, received May 26, 1942 U.S. Imgr'n & Nat. Ser. tuna Canyon Detention Station Tujunga Calif'. This image was scanned from a Xerox copy of a photograph provided by David Scott to the Little Landers Historical Society. David Scott is the grandson of M.H. Scott, Officer in Charge of the Tuna Camp.

Back of photo stamped: “M H Scott Officer in Charge, received May 26, 1942, U.S. Imgr’n & Nat. Ser. Tuna Canyon Detention Station, Tujunga Calif'”. This image was scanned from a Xerox copy of a photograph provided by David Scott to the Little Landers Historical Society. David Scott is the grandson of M.H. Scott, officer in charge of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station.

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