Rafu Staff Report
The Venice Japanese American Memorial Marker received support from the Los Angeles Board of Public Works during a public meeting on Wednesday at City Hall.
The board members — President Kevin James, Vice President Monica Rodriguez, President Pro Tem Matt Szabo and Michael Davis — approved the following items:
“Recommending the board authorize the Office of Community Beautification to grant the Venice Japanese American Memorial Marker Committee revocable permission to encroach within the public right-of-way to install a black granite memorial obelisk at the northwest corner of Venice Boulevard and Lincoln Boulevard in Council District 11;
“Requesting city engineer to issue no-fee revocable permit and a no-fee A-permit for the work to be performed;
“Requesting Bureau of Contract Administration to provide no-fee inspection of the project.”
Paul Racs, director of the Office of Community Beautification, said his office has received letters in support of the project from City Councilmember Mike Bonin and the Venice Neighborhood Council, among others.
“The plan has been reviewed and approved by the Bureau of Engineering, Structural Engineering Division, and has also been approved through the Cultural Affairs Commission,” he added.
Phyllis Hayashibara of the VJAMM Committee told the board, “We’ve been working on this as a community since 2010, but it started as a student project … Free Venice Beachhead had asked its readers to write to then-Councilmember Bill Rosendahl to support a memorial marker because they saw in the wake of 9/11 a lot of calls for rounding up of Muslims or Middle Easterners, and the people of Venice said, ‘We did this before to the Japanese Americans in 1942, and we shouldn’t do it again.’”
The purpose of the marker, she said, is to “remind people that this happened on the northwest corner of Venice and Lincoln, remind them this happened in the context of World War II — the rounding up of 100,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, including about 1,000 from Venice, Malibu and Santa Monica. To remind them … that it should never happen again to another minority group based solely on their religion, ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation.”
Hayashibara closed by saying, “We are so close now, so thank you for your consideration.”
VJAMM Committee members presented a 3-by-2-foot poster showing all four sides of the black granite obelisk; a photo of the metal and plywood full-scale model of the VJAMM designed by Joe Belli and Eric Schmid of Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple; a flyer detailing a 1942 photo of Japanese Americans about to be shipped off to camp at the corner of Venice and Lincoln; the three paragraphs of text and four quotes that will appear on the monument; a list of major donors; a map to Manzanar National Historic Site; and a copy of Civilian Exclusion Order No. 7 for the forced removal of “all persons of Japanese ancestry, both alien and non-alien” from Venice, Santa Monica, and Malibu, dated April 20, 1942.
Emily Winters of the Venice Arts Council, which is part of the ad hoc committee, said, “We’ve been working the last five years to put this up … We have everything ready to go except for the permits.”
“We are concerned that we have some of the people that were interned are in their late 80s and 90s … and we’d like to see that monument go up while they’re still here,” Winters stressed, adding, “Councilman Rosendahl, as you know, is not doing well … He was one of our first supporters. He’s been very, very supportive and he’s really hoped to see this up while he’s still with us.”
The project has “brought together lots of organizations besides the Japanese American Memorial Marker Committee,” she said. “It’s pulled together Venice and it’s going to be a remarkable thing.”
Arnold Maeda of the VJAMM Committee and Friends of Manzanar recalled, “I was 15 years old going on 16 when I was yanked from Santa Monica High School and sent to Manzanar Relocation Center, and I spent 40 months behind barbed wires.”
Because the Nisei are “a dying breed,” he said, “I’d like to see the monument go up before I keel over.”
Maeda, 88, was among those who reported to Venice and Lincoln with his family, who lost their home and business.
Len Nguyen, senior field deputy for Bonin in Mar Vista and West L.A., also spoke in support of the marker.
The board members expressed their support as well.
“This is going to be probably one of the easiest items to recommend approval for,” said Rodriguez. “I want to thank you for your tenacity and seeing this through.”
Thanking Maeda for attending, she said, “I think we have a great debt to repay for a lot of the sacrifices that so many made during some of the darkest days in our country’s history. But I just think this is a beautiful example of the things that we need to do to preserve our history and acknowledge it … I look forward to being a part of its unveiling when you complete this project.”
“I think it’s really remarkable that you have worked together to remind us that a part of Japanese American history is very much a part of that area in Venice,” commented Davis. “So I commend you for what you have done … It has great artistic value and even more educational value. And all of those of us that are residents of Los Angeles County need to know your story.”
James thanked the speakers and said, “This will be a very important and beautiful part of the community that will last, and we are very pleased to expedite and do what we can on our end.”
Hayashibara announced that a VJAMM fundraiser will be held Thursday, April 23, at Hama Sushi Restaurant, 213 Windward Ave. in Venice, with program at 11 a.m. and lunch at 12 p.m. Bento box lunches, which will be served until 2 p.m., are $20 (takeout available) and must be ordered before April 21. All profits go to VJAMM.
Ten percent of all sales from dinner (6 to 11 p.m.) will be donated to VJAMM.
For more information on the project, visit www.venicejamm.org.