RAFU STAFF REPORT
Ron F. Deaton, a retired city official who in 2003 sided with Little Tokyo to prevent a 512-bed jail from being built adjacent to Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, passed away Aug. 4 at the age of 77.
The proposal to build the jail on city-owned land at First and Alameda streets drew widespread outrage among Little Tokyo community members, who organized and gathered more than 13,000 signatures in opposition.
Deaton noted the community’s concerns when he recommended to the City Council that the plan be changed.
“There was a very strong reaction, so we took it into account and looked for some other alternatives,” Deaton said during a council meeting in August 2003.
“Ron was a thoughtful person, very sensitive to the way communities are often treated, particularly marginalized communities,” recalled former 9th District Councilmember Jan Perry, who represented Downtown L.A. at the time. “Ron listened to and respected the people of Little Tokyo.”
The Little Tokyo Community Council, joined by Perry, Nishi Hongwanji senior minister Rev. George Matsubayashi, and Mayor James Hahn, ultimately succeeded in moving the jail away from Little Tokyo and the Arts District.
Deaton, who served as the chief legislative analyst from 1993 to 2004, is also credited with helping to institute the 911 system, building new parks in every part of the city, and developing library services so that children and adults, regardless of income, would have access to learning and entertainment.
He also pushed for the $300 million seismic retrofit and restoration of City Hall, despite objections that the project was too expensive.
“From his first day on the job at the age of 22, this is a man who literally did it all for Angelenos,” then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said when Deaton retired “He kept the lights on through fires and blackouts. He balanced the books. He helped build parks, police stations and libraries. He kept us united as one city.”