Dear Mayor Eric Garcetti,
The Social Action Commission of West L.A. United Methodist Church firmly opposes the proposed LA DWP 1,200-acre solar farm as planned for the Manzanar area of the Owens Valley. On unanimous recommendation, we agree that the visibility of solar panels from the Manzanar National Historic Site would do irreparable harm.
We are, historically, a Japanese American church founded well before World War II and then rebuilt as church families returned to Los Angeles after their release from forced relocation and incarceration.
Manzanar is a nationally recognized monument to a dark period of World War II history. The U.S. War Department, through federal policy, chose to remove the mostly U.S. citizens from their West Coast homes to a remote, desolate, undeveloped area of California. It was a move in the name of national security, which history has shown to have been totally misguided. The U.S. government has apologized and paid reparations to those who were wrongly imprisoned.
Today, almost three-quarters of a century later, this National Historic Site is an invaluable reminder to all of the injustice committed. It is a place to educate those too young to remember the actual internment. WLA United Methodist Church, as well as numerous other organizations, conducts annual pilgrimages to Manzanar for this purpose.
At Manzanar, we tell the history of harsh treatment in the hostile, difficult, isolated site. We tell the participants to stand quietly and gaze about in all directions and to try to feel what it must have been like to be taken, in military vehicles under armed guard, hundreds of miles to an unknown destination. We tell them to imagine being taken to this desolate location at the foot of the Eastern Sierras and the edge of the desert-like Owens Valley. This was to be their home for an indeterminate future.
This lesson cannot be taught, the painful memories cannot be envisioned if a 1,200-acre solar farm is a part of the vista.
Members of our church have spent decades having the site designated as a National Historic Site by the U.S. Department of the Interior, rebuilding elements of the camp, and creating the Manzanar Museum. Thousands of visitors come to Manzanar annually. Many spend time walking through the site, where markers explain the location of the barracks, school, mess hall, etc. Others devote time rebuilding landmarks such as the Japanese garden. Some simply make a stop on the way to ski, fish or camp. All are impacted by the severity and desolation, which is absolutely critical to the message of Manzanar.
Please do not destroy the opportunity for us and future generations to better understand an important segment of history. Our nation has been painfully reminded of Manzanar’s continuing relevance in the post-9/11 era when it seems that our national tolerance for diverse cultures, immigrant rights, and human rights is constantly being tested. Manzanar is an opportunity for us to learn from our past mistakes; we must preserve the site, including its all-important vistas.
Mayor Garcetti, we would welcome the opportunity to take you on a personal tour and let you experience Manzanar.
Cooke Sunoo, Chair, Social Action Commission