SAN FRANCISCO — Early in the morning on Jan. 5, two of the cherry blossom trees in front of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California in Japantown were found vandalized.
The trees were destroyed down to the trunk; not one branch was left on any of the trees.
“This was not simply a passerby trying to break a branch off for fun,” said JCCCNC Executive Director Paul Osaki. “Someone took their time breaking off every branch. This was no easy task as some of the larger branches were over 3 inches thick and the trees 12 to 15 feet high.”
Osaki said that surveillance video showed the vandal at work over a three-day period, starting on New Year’s Day. The JCCCNC staff wasn’t aware of the damage until they returned from the three-day weekend.
A third tree was vandalized in a similar way two years ago.
The trees were the first to be planted in Japantown in over 50 years since the Redevelopment Agency uprooted every tree there during the 1960s and ’70s. The JCCCNC planted the trees to commemorate the visit of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko in 1994.
A GoFundMe page (https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/replace-cherry-blossom-treet) has been launched, raising more than $3,000 toward the goal of $5,000 as of Friday afternoon.
“At this time, we are uncertain about the estimated costs to replace the trees, as there are many factors that are left unknown including what support we will receive from the city for the replacement of the trees,” the JCCCNC said. “Estimated costs could total in the range of $5,000-$10,000.
“The Center will work with the City and County of San Francisco, the community, and if needed a private contractor to restore the beautiful cherry blossom trees for all to enjoy. The Center would like to thank everyone for their outpouring of support during this time.”