Supervisors designate Japantown
as special use district
By Dan Powell
June 28, 2006
As Japantown celebrates its centennial this year, the Board of
Supervisors approved a plan to designate the area as a special-use
district to guard against developers and businesses they fear
would dilute the unique flavor of the neighborhood.
"This is very common-sense legislation," Supervisor
Ross Mirkarimi said at yesterday's Board of Supervisors meeting.
"[It] calls for a community-driven process that's also fair
to merchants and property owners, but one that protects the historical
integrity, the cultural integrity, of Japantown."
Mirkarimi introduced the ordinance requiring conditional use
authorization on Feb. 28.
Under the ordinance, the Planning Commission has the power to
stop any activity that it believes would lessen the cultural or
historic character of the area, including new franchise or chain
The legislation comes in response to news that two hotels and
two malls in Japantown were put up for sale by Kintetsu Enterprises
of America, a Japanese company that has run the businesses since
1968. The buildings include the three-square-block Japantown mall,
the Best Western Miyako Inn, and the Radisson Miyako Hotel.
"It was about four or five months ago when we were very
alarmed that literally two-thirds of the whole territory of what
we know as Japantown was being sold," Mirkarimi said.
Japantown has been around since 1906. At its height, the district
encompassed some 25 city blocks. Over the years, that number has
shrunk to about six.