SAN FRANCISCO — An online petition has been launched to urge the San Francisco Unified School District not to cut bus routes that serve the Japantown area.
Created by Linda Asato — executive director of the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network, a member of the San Francisco Children and Families Commission, and former executive director of Wu Yee Children’s Services in San Francisco Chinatown — the petition can be viewed and signed here.
Titled “Help Keep S.F. Japantown Alive! Restore Busing Option for Families,” it reads as follows:
“Whereas, the SFUSD is anticipated to have deep budget cuts in fiscal year 2012-13 (if the governor’s tax initiative is not passed in November 2012 …
“The SFUSD has made plans to reduce the existing bus routes by six in an effort to save funds, and has announced which bus routes will be eliminated …
“A few of the bus routes eliminated in FY 2012-13 are those that service the Japantown/Western Addition neighborhoods (Western Addition being one of the neighborhoods that qualify as a priority neighborhood for busing), impacting at least 31 children living in 11 different zip codes across the city, and whose families have chosen to attend an after-school program in Japantown because busing was available for their children …
“San Francisco Japantown is one of three remaining historic Japantowns in the mainland United States … Japantowns are almost extinct due to community dispersal from forced relocation during World War II, and repeated dislocation as a consequence of redevelopment in the 1970s, resulting in very few remaining Japanese residents (except the elderly) …
“The continuity of Japantown as a living community is dependent on regular participation of children and families who develop a deep connection with the community (building of social capital) to ‘keep it alive’ and maintain the community’s vibrancy through economic, social, cultural, spiritual and recreational activities;
“Therefore, we the undersigned are very concerned about the elimination of busing route that will result in the anticipated loss of children attending the Nihonmachi Little Friends After-School Program, an anchor institution in the community that attracts families to Japantown;
“Further, we request that the San Francisco Unified School District and City and County of San Francisco leaders meet with community members to discuss how a workable plan can be developed to mitigate the unintended consequence of destroying one of the country’s remaining living and historic communities.”
Rosa Parks Elementary School, which houses the Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program, would be among the schools losing bus service by 2013-14 under the current implementation plan.
“The plan right now is to turn in the petition with a request to meet with district officials,” Asato said. “We hope to continue to collect signatures until mid-July, at which time I hope the meeting is set up. At the meeting we will deliver again the signatures to date showing community concern for this issue. I hope to have community leaders join with us at the meeting with district and hopefully other city leaders.”
Several community non-profit agencies have said they will distribute the petition to their members.
The 250 people who have signed as of July 9 include Tami Suzuki, who wrote: “The Twin Peaks-to-Western Addition route has been significant in creating and retaining diversity at Rooftop School and I’m sure other schools on the route as well.
“My children were fortunate to attend Nihonmachi Little Friends’ outstanding multicultural, after-school program. Being in Japantown was important to us, for its cultural significance as well as convenience to work. Without the bus to Western Addition, our kids would have had to take two city buses to an empty home.
“NLF’s site allowed us to be/stay involved in our community, and we were able to easily pick up our children after work. Our childcare alternative was to leave work .5 hour early to get to the program offered at our school.”
Alice Kawahatsu wrote, “We have a church here in Japantown (Konko Church of San Francisco) and this would impact families that come for counseling and attend judo and martial arts classes after school. The current bus situation is a safe way for kids and parents and families. Please do not take the bus system out. Japantown and the community will suffer greatly.”
Asato thanked those who signed “for caring about our community, and the future of it … on behalf of the parents now, and potentially those in the future who want their children connected to J-town.”