EAST WIND: Looking for Action on Traction

October 5 — The hearing room was packed! Artists. Little Tokyo community organizations. Folks struggling with gentrification in Chinatown and Boyle Heights. Supporters of Little Tokyo and artists.

What should have been a routine review and approval of an application for “historic cultural monument“ (HCM) designation for another venerable site ended instead with a preliminary victory for the artists and Little Tokyo community.

An application seeking HCM designation for the Joannes Brothers Company building located at 800 E. Traction Ave. was submitted on behalf of the new owner, DLJ Capital Partners, and presented to the L.A. City Cultural Heritage Commission by their hired consultants, Laura Doerges and Clarett West. The application did not bother to include any history of the building after the 1980s, nor its role as an integral piece of history of Little Tokyo and the Arts District.

No mention was made of the important historic and cultural contributions of Japanese American artists. They did not dig far enough to discover that the very first artists-in-residence were Japanese American artists in this very building – many still living there!

For 133 years, Little Tokyo has been the cultural heart and soul of the Japanese American community. Community organizations have become increasingly concerned about the rapid changes that are encroaching on our historic neighborhood. The Little Tokyo Historical Society came together based on that concern, and is committed to documenting, preserving and protecting the history and stories of Little Tokyo and all its residents.

Gentrification of Little Tokyo over the decades has had a profound impact on the community. Redevelopment in the 1970s driven by Japanese and U.S. corporations took a major toll on Little Tokyo. And now, lives and businesses continue to be disrupted by constant threat of displacement due to City Hall expansion plans, MTA construction through the heart of Little Tokyo, and outside developers coveting our prime real estate.

This year marks the 75th