City Council Seeks to Protect Little Tokyo

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Seeking to preserve the historic and cultural feel of Little Tokyo, the city council has proposed changing the downtown zoning requirements to the point of removing Little Tokyo from the Downtown zoning area.  The Planning Department didn’t like the idea of removing Little Tokyo as a whole, it would make tracking data for the downtown more difficult and isn’t necessary, it did provide some suggestions for protecting Little Tokyo from what the City Council terms:

…concern that Little Tokyo will be overtaken by the development activity in the rest of Downtown – eventually losing its distinct characteristics and becoming lost as part of Downtown proper.

The City Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee will hear the Planning Department’s recommendations at a hearing later today.  Basically, the Department recommends changing the downtown’s community plan to promote the goals of preserving the community through restrained development, streetscaping and creating an improved pedestrian development.

1. Maintain the existing boundaries of the Central City Community Plan which include the Little Tokyo Community as defined by the Little Tokyo Redevelopment Project Area,

2. Through the Central City Community Plan Program, consider the development of design guidelines, land uses changes, and other planning implementation tools to preserve and promote the community’s unique character including possibly:

a. Establishing a Community Design Overlay District (CDO) to promote the distinctive character and visual quality of the Little Tokyo Community, to prevent the development of structures which are not of acceptable exterior design or appearance, and to provide for on-going community involvement in project design and the evolution of the Design Guidelines. The exact boundaries of the CDO would be refined through the public participation process.

b. Establishing a Streetscape Plan to reinforce the distinct identity of the Little Tokyo Community through consistent and appropriate, design of both public and private improvement projects within the public right-of-way.

c. Proposing land use changes and other planning tools in the context of the Central City Community Plan as a whole to address the community concerns regarding the types of uses and the intensity and density of development including the possible expansion or modification to an existing condition in order to create a pedestrian oriented environment or the development of Specific Plan to address design concerns, land use changes, and other land use regulations and incentives as appropriate .

Photo: Wad/Flickr

  • I’ve heard that in Santa Fe, New Mexico the city has a pretty harsh set of guidelines that mandate the exterior finish on buildings. The effect is pretty cool, but maybe it isn’t all zoning.

    If Japanese people are leaving Little Tokyo, and other groups are moving in and want to change the area to suit themselves, why interfere in that process too much?

    Chinatown used to be where Union Station is, and it was razed and put into a very Italian neighborhood. Boyle Heights was distinctly Jewish for decades, and now it is primarily a Mexican enclave. Oakwood in Venice used to be all-black – now it is turning all-yuppie.

    These changes are talked about like some sort of crisis – but they are part of living in a large metropolis.

    I think it is easier for a councilperson to “work” on something like this because it only requires that some underlings in a bunch of city departments get busy holding meetings and writing stuff that nobody reads for the council file. When you’ve got no real idea what makes a community thrive, or fail to thrive, you get these retarded efforts to turn an area into a shrine to the past – and typically doom its future.

  • guayaba

    I agree with Umberto. The real Little Tokyo has moved to the Carson/Torrance/Gardena area IMO, and they don’t need kitschy architecture to make it authentic either.

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