Neighbors Protest Proposed Zen Garden In San Francisco’s Japantown

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) Neighbors on Cottage Row in San Francisco’s Japantown are digging in their heels, protesting a proposed rock garden.

The Zen garden would take up about 25 feet on the Sutter Street side of Cottage Row.

What organizers thought would be a simple gift to honor their Japanese-American ancestors turned into a heated neighborhood fight.

Paul Osaki, the executive Director of Japanese Cultural and Community Center, who is spearheading a project to honor the first generation of Japanese-Americans who founded San Francisco’s Japantown, said he is shocked the debate has gotten so heated.

The project: build a small Zen garden on Cottage Row.

Osaki said, “There’s a lot of history there, which made [it] an ideal site to have this garden to honor the first generation Japanese-Americans who established Japantown.

Osaki says after World War II and redevelopment, the Japanese-Americans were forced out of the Western Addition, and their homes and businesses were leveled to the ground.

He said the only open green space in Japantown is Cottage Row’s mini-park.

But some neighbors question claims that Cottage Row had any affiliation with historic Japantown.

Osaki said, “There are some that feel that it’s not part of Japantown and so put your garden over in your community.”

One neighbor said the proposed garden has caused tension in the neighborhood.

One woman who didn’t want to go on camera said she liked the idea of honoring the first San Francisco Japanese-Americans and thinks it’s important to honor all of the people who have come to make San Francisco so great, but said she was concerned about the maintenance and garden’s final design.

She told KPIX 5 that other neighbors opposing the project said there is perception that it’s catering to, or providing, a portion of public land to a specific entity and it may be considered favoritism.

One neighbor published a website with studies debunking historian accounts that Cottage Row was once called “Japan Street” and proposed a garden to honor all cultures that contributed to the neighborhood.

The criticism, opened old wounds for Osaki, who said, “The opposition or the criticism hurt because I know what…the earlier generations must have felt.”

Well-known landscape designers have already offered to donate their time to design the garden and Osaki says if it is approved it will be maintained by the city.

The proposed Zen garden was supposed to be part of Japantown’s 110th anniversary celebration, but there will be more neighborhood meetings before a final decision is made.

More from Cate Cauguiran

One Comment

  1. ERICH says:

    ACK I been GOOGLED!!

    About 535,000 results (0.68 seconds) 
    Cottage Row San Francisco california
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    Did you know that in most of the World there is no native word for NIMBY. Not really surprising when one stops to consider that peeps in most of the World have no backyard and feel blessed just the same. I spent the Day, like most others, working in the midst of morons. Well, you can imagine my disgust as I walked into my grubby little tenement on this absolutely gorgeous afternoon, Swung the windows wide and flipped on your news. When I am looking for mental stimulation at the end of a long mindless Day in the cube there are usually about five Minutes of it to be found in every newscast.
    Some guy in San Francisco wants to honor his ancestors with a tiny Zen Garden only to be met with cries of foul play by the racist home owners of the mini-hood in their over priced mini-houses nursing their mini-mental capabilities.
    This is so racially motivated not even the lame rhetoric/POV filled with controlled contempt and paced apathy could hold as much truth as a rake or a colander.
    These people putting up a stink are worse than their peers in generations gone by. Pull your heads out of your cell phones and look at the messy shambles of the society/World we inhabit. Living in that mini-hood it seems unbelievable and inconceivable to me that the neighbors can be so self centered and bleak! Sounds as though the mini-minded locals do not deserve a lovely Zen Garden seems like a waste of a perfectly fine idea but I understand Mr. Osaki’ POV.

    I do not know about any of you but I feel so much better now, A Zen garden sheesh! Come on over if cleaning the detritus of homeless strikes your fancy NIMBYs.

  2. a parent says:

    This is like kicking the Japanese out of Japantown for a second time. Gentrification at its worst. Are they proposing opening up internment camps again?

  3. June says:

    The neighbors say their objection is based on the project being dedicated to one ethnic race as not being fair. Sounds more like just being politically correct. Parks are like museums – it’s suppose to embody and respect history, culture, nature to name a few. So honoring the legacy of First Generation Japanese-American in this Cottage neighborhood, where their history resides is so appropriate. It is not about the select few residence of today “approving it”. After all, it’s public land and not their land. As history has shown with Parks as well, it needs to be governed and not be monopolized or controlled by the few and experienced only by the elite. I hope this small section of residence will embrace history and diversity.

  4. The homeless, addicts, and drunks will quickly take over this open space. Welcome to S.F.’s newest Camp for low-life.

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