The Kimpton Buchanan Hotel in San Francisco Japantown

SAN FRANCISCO — The Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California issued the following statement on Aug. 18.

The Buchanan Hotel, formerly Hotel Tomo, is located on Sutter and Buchanan in Japantown. The hotel was previously known as the Kyoto Inn and the Best Western Miyako Inn.

The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) is seeking to buy the Buchanan Hotel to convert it to permanent supportive housing with up to 131 units.

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The sale of the Buchanan Hotel will have a devastating financial impact on Japantown small businesses that rely heavily on tourist spending and who have already been suffering due to the loss of business during the pandemic. The fact that the city and, in particular, the Kimpton Hotels would negotiate a sale without first outreaching to the community is a stab in the pocketbook.

When Kimpton Hotels first purchased the Hotel Tomo in 2014, they met with community leaders. They told us how much they respect the rich history of Japantown and want to promote the economic validity of this special community. We believed them! We now find out that they have negotiated to sell the hotel to the city behind our backs. A hotel that has been bringing tourists to Japantown since 1974.

The city knows that the economy and preservation of Japantown are heavily dependent on tourism. The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency program destroyed the historic Japantown neighborhood in the 1960-1980s and turned the community into a tourist-dependent destination. 

In 2013, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) passed a resolution: called the Japantown Cultural Heritage and Economic Sustainability Strategy (JCHESS), which endorses as a city policy to support Japantown as a culturally and economically vibrant community.  The city BOS can’t sacrifice and break their promise to one community to serve another.

The objection to the sale of the hotel has absolutely nothing to do with not supporting the homeless community in San Francisco. It’s unconscionable for the Kimpton Hotels to put Japantown in the middle of the homeless program debate, because they want to make millions selling the hotel by selling out Japantown. Our concern has everything to do with saving the economy of our community and the survival of Japantown’s small businesses.

The annual loss of 40,000-50,000 tourists staying in Japantown will cause irreparable harm to the economy of the community.

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A community-wide meeting on the sale will be held virtually on Thursday, Aug. 26, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. For more details and the Zoom link, visit: https://hsh.sfgov.org/get-involved/notices/

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