SAN FRANCISCO — Opposition to the city’s proposed transformation of the Kimpton Buchanan Hotel into housing for the homeless has prompted a member of the Board of Supervisors to suggest alternative sites.
Community leaders and others who live and work in Japantown said in an open letter that their neighborhood would be negatively impacted by the project.
Located on the corner of Sutter and Buchanan streets and previously known as the Kyoto Inn, Miyako Inn, and Hotel Tomo, the Buchanan Hotel is one of only two hotels in Japantown; the other is Hotel Kabuki on Post and Laguna. During the pandemic, the Buchanan Hotel was used to house the homeless on an interim basis.
Opponents say that residents of the hotel, which is next door to the Nihonmachi Little Friends preschool, have left trash and human waste on the sidewalks and in some cases behaved in a disruptive or threatening manner toward local merchants. It’s further alleged that the hotel staff takes no responsibility for the residents’ actions if they are not on site.
Saying that the community was never consulted about the proposal, the opponents likened it to the uprooting and detention of the Japanese American community during World War II and the redevelopment of the 1960s and ’70s, which resulted in several residents and businesses in Japantown and the Western Addition being evicted through eminent domain.
Supervisor Dean Preston, whose district includes Japantown, said in a series of tweets on Sept. 7, “I will continue to listen and try to find the path through that respects community, delivers desperately needed supportive housing, and respects workers. There are no shortcuts.
“Japantown has endured a painful history of racist state-imposed decisions that left a legacy of distrust. From internment to redevelopment, we need to recognize that making decisions for, instead of with, the J-Town community can reopen generational wounds. This cannot be ignored.
“There is a history in Japantown that needs to be acknowledged and real reasons why there’s pushback to losing one of two hotels there and to being blindsided. Context matters and it’s important not to paint every situation with the same brush.”
In a letter to the Department of Homelessness, Preston wrote, “What has become clear from this outreach is that while the Buchanan presents an attractive opportunity on paper, and there is a strong desire across the board for permanent supporting housing in District 5, there are unique and significant impacts raised by community members on the sale of the Buchanan Hotel.
“These concerns broadly fit into four categories: first, the impact of losing the tourist hotel; second, the impact on union workers who may lose their jobs; third, the process; and fourth, the alleged impact of having supportive housing at this site.”
According to SFist, Preston’s suggested alternatives are the Majestic Hotel, 1500 Sutter St., and the Gotham Hotel, 835 Turk St. According to one source, these alternatives do not mean the Buchanan Hotel will be removed from consideration.
Mayor London Breed, a former District 5 supervisor, has also expressed a desire to take more time to get feedback from the community.
Preston, who has been an advocate of hotel conversions, has gotten some pushback on Twitter.
Armand Domalewski: “Every neighborhood that opposes housing for the homeless always has a particular good-sounding reason for opposition — but repeat that process, over and over, and you see exactly why we’re in the mess we’re in.”
Andrew Menotti: “Every neighborhood needs to house the homeless. Every single one.”
Steve Gifford: “I’ve got homeless hotels where I live (The Mission) and hotels where I work (SOMA). But sure, Japantown residents are special for some reason.”