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Manzanar Committee Supports Memorial at Tuna Canyon Camp Site

The Tuna Canyon Detention Station. (Courtesy of the Little Landers Historical Society)

The Manzanar Committee on Feb. 28 reiterated its support for efforts by the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition (TCDSC) to build a memorial on the former site of Tuna Canyon camp in the Verdugo Hills area of Los Angeles and called on the community to not be fooled by what it called deceptive efforts made on behalf of the developer, who intends to build condominiums on the site. The committee issued the following statement:


On June 25, 2013, the City of Los Angeles declared an approximately one-acre size oak grove on the location of the former World War II Tuna Canyon detention facility as a Historic-Cultural Monument.

The land that the oak grove is on is slated for a 229-unit residential development by Snowball West Investments, who quickly sued the City of Los Angeles seeking a reversal of the Historic-Cultural Monument declaration, which would allow them to raze the oak grove and build on that land.

Snowball West lost that case, but recently, a petition that has been made to appear to originate from the TCDSC has been circulated, calling for the memorial to be built across the street from the oak grove.

That petition did not originate from the TCDSC. Rather, it appears to have come from an architect who is an agent for the developer.

“Please be aware that the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition is not connected to, and does not support, a petition calling for a Tuna Canyon memorial to be located across the street from the actual site of the detention station in any way, shape, or form,” the TCDSC said in a statement. “This petition is being circulated by someone working for the 229-unit housing project proposed for the historic site, and not by any organization that is genuinely working to preserve the history of Tuna Canyon.

“We are working on plans for an on-site memorial, and other public amenities, in a regional park that would benefit the community, and the City of Los Angeles. We are hoping the owner will discuss selling the land at a fair market price to a public agency for these purposes.”

The Manzanar Committee first announced its support of the TCDSC’s efforts in June 2013, and we denounce the deceptive, deceitful tactics that appear to have been made on behalf of the developer.

“The Manzanar Committee wholeheartedly supports the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition’s efforts to insure the memorial to those unjustly incarcerated at Tuna Canyon is built on the original site of the Department of Justice facility,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. “The Manzanar Committee decries the architect’s attempt to derail efforts to establish the memorial at its rightful place.”

Embrey pointed out that the tactics being used are nothing new to the Manzanar Committee.

“The current empty ‘offer’ of the architect to relocate the Tuna Canyon Detention Station memorial site is reminiscent of what the Manzanar Committee experienced while lobbying to create the Manzanar National Historic Site. The main opposition to establishing a historic site at Manzanar came from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP).

“In strikingly similar fashion to what the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition is experiencing — disrespectful, arrogant underhanded, deceptive, and dishonest, maneuvers — the LADWP’s Mike Gage offered to set up a ‘memorial park’ in Los Angeles. Manzanar Committee Chair Sue Kunitomi Embrey’s response was direct: nothing less than a national historic site at the scene of the crime would do. The land where the United States government incarcerated more than 11,000 people of Japanese ancestry held profound significance. A memorial at the site was what the former incarcerees wanted, demanded, and ultimately received.

“Nothing short of following the wishes of the descendants of those incarcerated at the Tuna Canyon Detention Station is acceptable. We call on the architect to withdraw the petition, and immediately cease and desist from all efforts to derail the memorial at Tuna Canyon.”

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