By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR IN CHIEF
A gymnasium in Little Tokyo took an important step on Tuesday as the Information Technology and Government Affairs Committee gave unanimous approval for the City of Los Angeles to negotiate a ground lease with the Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation to construct and operate the proposed facility.
“This is a wonderful juncture we find ourselves at,” said Councilmember Jan Perry, who represents Little Tokyo and sits on the committee with Councilmembers Tony Cardenas and Dennis Zine. “To all of you, we can commence the capital campaign finally.”
The Budokan of Los Angeles, a four-basketball court facility, is budgeted at $16.5 million and would include a rooftop garden, jogging track and meeting spaces. As part of the agreement, LTSC CDC will also construct an approximately 150-space parking structure, budgeted at $4.5 million. Budokan will be built on city-owned property at 237-249 S. Los Angeles St.
Cardenas, who chairs the committee, emphasized the benefits that the city will receive from the Budokan, estimated at $27 million in capital improvements, tax revenue and services over the duration of the lease. The full City Council will vote on the report submitted by the Department of General Services on May 17 to enter into a 25-year, no-cost lease, with a clause to renew for an additional 25 years.
“The benefits of the building will remain with the land, which is owned by the City of Los Angeles, and the people of L.A. I want people to understand, they (LTSC CDC) are not getting a free lease,” Cardenas said.
A crowd of more than 30 gathered for the meeting held in City Hall, including Little Tokyo senior residents and representatives from Skid Row. When the committee voted, many stood and cheered the decision.
“This Budokan project is very important, it is the one single project that will bridge the gap between the Little Tokyo community and the Skid Row community,” said General Jeff, resident director of Central City East/Skid Row.
Bill Watanabe, LTSC CDC executive director, said that the Budokan would be open to the entire downtown community, as well as martial arts tournaments.
“We want it to be a neighborhood facility,” Watanabe said.
LTSC has been working on the project since 1993 and entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the city in 2008 to develop the Los Angeles Street property. LTSC will officially begin fundraising, following approval by the City Council.