Draft report to landmark the Peace Pagoda and Plaza in San Francisco’s Japantown


San Francisco Japantown’s Peace Pagoda is in the background. photo by Alec Yoshio MacDonald

On Sept. 18, 2013, the SF Historic Preservation Commission passed a resolution that endorsed the JCHESS (Japantown Cultural Heritage and Economic Sustainability Strategy) and directed the Planning Department staff to add three sites of cultural and historical significance located in Japantown to its work program to explore the potential for designating the sites as Article 10 Landmarks.

One of the sites under consideration is the Peace Pagoda and Plaza located on Post and Buchanan Street in San Francisco.

In order for a site to be considered for landmark designation status, it must meet certain criteria that are established by the Department of the Interior. Generally, sites 50 years of age or older and known for their architectural integrity or other distinguishing features are reviewed and analyzed to determine whether they are worthy of landmark designation.

Currently, the SF Planning Department has compiled a DRAFT REPORT to review the history and creation of the Peace Plaza and Pagoda. The draft report provides a great deal of information about the composition of the physical structure of the Pagoda and Plaza as well as the Japanese architect commissioned to create it. However, the report would benefit from feedback from the community including comments, photos, and/or firsthand experience stories about the Peace Plaza and Pagoda.

Many different thoughts and opinions were expressed by community members and residents when the Plaza and Pagoda was first erected and it is important to record those thoughts and memories as the report is being developed, especially since this is the first public site to be considered in Japantown for landmark status.

Also, there are some basic facts that should be stated so that it is clear what it means to receive landmark designation.

First, landmark designation does not mean that the owner (or in this case the community) is required to bring the structure back to its original condition. Rather, the site is examined as it exists today and the Planning Department determines whether it has retained its historical integrity.

Second, landmark designation status allows the public and community to formally document the history of the site and its importance. Landmark status is a matter of public record and history so that future generations can enjoy, appreciate and be proud of their community.

Third, there is interest in having the Pagoda and Plaza registered as a National Historic Site. Should the Pagoda and Plaza be considered and nominated for landmark status, federal funding for the rehabilitation and restoration of the site is possible.

Finally, as San Francisco’s landscape and neighborhoods change, it is important that a physical legacy remain that can illustrate the presence of the Japanese and Japanese American community in the City’s history.

The draft report of the Peace Plaza and Pagoda is available by downloading it from the SF Planning Department Website at: www.sf-planning.org/peacepagoda. The deadline to submit written comments is the close of business on May 29, 2015. The SF Historic Preservation Commission will review the Planning Department’s report at its hearing in June 2015.

Diane Matsuda is a Commissioner on the SF Historic Preservation Commission (HPC). Her affiliation with the HPC is noted for informational purposes only. The views expressed in the preceding commentary are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

See the 2024 CAAMFest