The Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force, which is seeking to preserve buildings in Huntington Beach that were the hub of the Japanese American community in Orange County a century ago, issued the following statement on Jan. 26:
“We were informed late this afternoon that Republic Services, Inc. — the waste management company that owns the Historic Wintersburg property — has made a deal to sell the property to Public Storage.
“We have been working in good faith with Republic Services to purchase the property, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Trust for Public Land. Republic Services has told us during these discussions that they are open to our purchase and have no plans to develop the property. They have now demonstrated they are a willing seller, but have not been dealing with the community preservation group in good faith.
“We have been waiting since May 2017 for Republic Services to obtain an appraisal of the current market value of the property, as stated during our televised presentation to the City Council in July 2017.
“We meet on Wednesday, Jan. 31, with Mayor Michael Posey, Councilmembers Jill Hardy and Erik Peterson. Please let the City Council know you don’t want to see Orange County’s first and only National Treasure erased …
“Historic Wintersburg has been vetted by the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Trust for Public Land. The preservation effort has been support by organizations from around the country and it has received international coverage.
“Huntington Beach is a community with a sister city in Japan. Historic Wintersburg is a National Treasure historic site representing Japanese pioneer history, Japanese American history, and important chapters for our country’s national history.
“From Republic Services ‘community’ page on their website: ‘Whether it’s special projects or special people who need our support, we’re there to lend a hand and do our part. Isn’t that what neighbors are for?’
“Please raise your voices to support the preservation of National Treasure Historic Wintersburg, in the interest of American history and in the interest of the Huntington Beach community.”
The task force also asked its supporters to contact Republic Services officials, including General Manager (Huntington Beach) Chris Kentopp and Southwest Area Director of Operations Alberto Guardado.
The 4.5-acre site at Warner Avenue and Nichols Street, which is unoccupied and closed to the public, includes the 1910 Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission, founded in 1904; the 1910 Manse, home to the first Japanese ordained clergy; the 1912 home of Charles Mitsuji and Yukiko Yajima Furuta; the 1908-1912 Furuta barn, Huntington Beach’s last pioneer heritage barn; the 1934 Depression-era Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church; and the 1947 post-World War II home of Raymond and Martha Furuta.
Republic purchased the property from Rainbow Environmental Services in October 2014, the same year that Historic Wintersburg was named one of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The parcel serves as a buffer between the predominantly Latino Oak View neighborhood, which includes a school, and Republic’s waste transfer facility and dump. It was zoned for residential use but there were no plans to build housing on the site.
In May 2016, following a media tour of the site, Republic Services Market Vice President David Hauser told reporters that the buildings wouldn’t be demolished as stakeholders worked toward a mutually beneficial plan.
The planning process is difficult, Hauser said at the time, because “every stakeholder has a little different angle … If there was an easy solution we would have had it already … We can’t really say what that final answer’s going to be, but large-scale development is not something that we’re looking at.”
Mary Urashima, head of the Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force, said at the time, “We want Republic to be a full partner with us. We think that they are gaining an understanding of this history and we really appreciate that cooperation.”
For more information, visit www.HistoricWintersburg.blogspot.com.
The Rafu Shimpo requested comments from Hauser and a member of the City Council, but has not heard back from them as of Tuesday evening.