Participants in an Aug. 24 press conference announcing a $5 million grant from the state to update Buchanan Mall. From left: Grace Horikiri, Japantown Community Benefit District; Aiko Cuneo, sculptor Ruth Asawa’s daughter; Assemblymember Phil Ting; Paul Lanier, Asawa’s son; Linda Mihara, Paper Tree; Jon Osaki, Japanese Community Youth Council; and San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston. Buchanan Mall includes two origami-inspired fountains designed by Asawa.

SAN FRANCISCO —  After decades of neglect, San Francisco Japantown’s Buchanan Mall is finally getting a much needed makeover after Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) secured $5 million from the state budget.

This open public space, which also serves as a vital commercial corridor, has not seen any upgrades since 1976, despite its historical significance.

“Japantown, like many API communities, has not received the types of investments needed to thrive and provide valued historical lessons that teach us about the mistakes of the past and foster greater understanding. Amid rising Asian hate, this kind of attention and critical support is long overdue,” said Ting, chair of the Assembly Budget Committee.

Marked by the Torii Gate at its entrance, the pedestrian walkway is a one-block stretch on Buchanan Street between Post and Sutter, bordering Japantown’s Peace Plaza. A center piece of the Buchanan Mall project will be to repair of the iconic Ruth Asawa foundations, which haven’t worked for more than ten years. Upgrades to other aspects of the mall will be critical for small businesses already suffering from the pandemic, as well as decades of deterioration.

“The small businesses in the Buchanan Mall are critical to the character, culture and economy of Japantown. I am grateful to Assemblymember Ting for making our community a priority in the state budget,” said Jon Osaki, executive director of the Japanese Community Youth Council.

In addition to revitalizing the community, supporters see the efforts to repair and upgrade Buchanan Mall as a way to right a historical wrong. Thousands of Japanese Americans were forced out of the area not once, but twice. First, they were ordered into internment camps during World War II, losing their homes and possessions. While many returned to Japantown when the war ended, the redevelopment of the Western Addition resulted in mass forced evictions from the late 1960s to mid-1970s.

The Buchanan Mall Project will complement the renovation of the adjacent Peace Plaza, which received $25 million from San Francisco’s Health and Recovery Bond Measure approved by voters last November. With this state and local partnership, the community hopes renewal can bring healing from the area’s tragic history and ensure Japantown’s survival.

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