CSP 23: Los Angeles from local to global
Little Tokyo: Reintegrating Culture and Developing Urban Nature Little Tokyo is a historic community with a strong sense for Japanese culture; however, as the housing developments and transit projects continue to grow making Little Tokyo a residential and business oriented neighborhood will Little Tokyo lose that sense of historical community and culture? If community activists in Little Tokyo continue to have a prominent influence, they can preserve the history and culture while providing the neighborhood with social change and developmental reform, which is an integral part in a growing community. Little Tokyo benefits from urban nature and built environment in the neighborhood, for they have positive environmental impacts while helping solve many social problems in today’s society and revitalizing Japanese American involvement in Little Tokyo.
Culture is a defining characteristic of Little Tokyo, so it is the community activists’ job to keep a strong connection with Japanese heritage in order to preserve the local historic neighborhood in Los Angeles from drastic change. In essence, it is important to remember global origins to achieve community action. This was one of the earliest realizations of the Japanese Americans, for they began in 1986 to try and preserve part of Little Tokyo through community action. It was the Little Tokyo Community Development Advisory Committee that campaigned and established Little Tokyo’s historical district on East First Street. Some of the oldest Japanese American businesses in the country are on First Street, and so the rich culture plays a big role in establishing a sense of community in Little Tokyo. (“The Paradox of Dispersal”, Dean S. Toji and Karen Umemoto) Local policymakers wanted to make sure that despite whatever happens, there would always be a Japanese influence in Los Angeles. It takes global customs and similar interests to create a common movement for change. Along with the new historical district created, there was also a campaign that raised thirty million dollars in public and private funds for the revitalization of the Nishi Hongwanji Temple. This costly project is a perfect example of community action shaped the developmental reform. As long as the Japanese Americans feel they need to fully integrate their culture into Los Angeles, these global minded initiatives will have public funding. The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Japanese American National Museum are two other examples of the developmental reform due to culture. These types of developments cement the history and culture into the heart of the neighborhood. It is important for Little Tokyo to establish their communal identity more than ever because of the speed in which it’s becoming a residential and business centered community. (“The Paradox of Dispersal”, Dean S. Toji and Karen Umemoto) If the community organizers of Little Tokyo had not taken steps to secure certain parts of the neighborhood from commercial development, there might be no Little Tokyo. Another major challenge that Little Tokyo faces is the lack of public affordable housing for Japanese American residents. The historical district of Little Tokyo is safe from commercial development, but in the rest of the neighborhood mass development is the main social challenge. Rich developers saw Little Tokyo as an opportunity to make money, so slowly but surly the public affordable housing got replaced by lavish luxury apartments. For the most part, young white professionals are gentrifying the Japanese residents of Little Tokyo. (Field Trip to Little Tokyo) Take the 717 Olympic housing complex for an example. There is a problem in creating housing that costs 2,500 dollars a month, for it gentrifies the existing families that in some cases have been neighborhood residents for generations. There has been community involvement to try and...