Artists Testify Before Cultural Heritage Commission

Residents of 800 Traction Ave. (from left) Miles Hamada, Jamiee Itagaki, Nancy Uyemura, Bruce Yonemoto and Mark Oberhofer testify before the Cultural Heritage Commission on Oct. 5. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor

The artists/residents of 800 Traction Ave., who are under threat of eviction, made a passionate case for the preservation of artists in the Arts District, not just a building that houses them, on Oct. 5 before the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission.

More than 30 supporters filled the hearing room as the commission considered an application for historic cultural monument status by DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners, who purchased the Joannes Company Building for $20 million.

“It is entirely ironic that the artists, most of whom are Japanese American, are being evicted this year, the 75th anniversary of the World War II relocation to concentration camps of our parents and grandparents,” stated Bruce Yonemoto, a resident of 800 Traction. “This eviction underscores the lack of empathy towards ‘cultural history’ by the DLJ Real Estate Partners. How many times do Japanese Americans have to be evicted from their homes?”

Dorothy Wong, Ph.D, a historic preservationist, presented a report to the commission critical of the DLJ application and recommended that it be rejected. She noted that it listed the years of historic significance as from 1917 to 1959. Wong prepared the National Historic Landmark nomination for Baldwin Hills Village.

“This span covers only about 40 percent of the building’s 100-year exist