LOS ANGELES — On June 25, 2013, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to declare 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 (see Los Angeles City Council Supports Motion To Declare Location Of Tuna Canyon Detention Station A Historic-Cultural Monument)
The land that the oak grove is on is slated for residential development, and the developer expressed support of the compromise that specified that the oak grove, not the entire site, would be declared a Historic-Cultural Monument by the City of Los Angeles.
But on August 7, 2013, Snowball West Investment, the developer, did an about face, filing a lawsuit against the City, seeking a reversal of the Historic-Cultural Monument declaration (see Developer Fights Landmark Status For Site of WWII Detention Camp).
The landowner has stated that they are committed to preserving the oak grove, but want a different portion of it to be where the future monument would be erected.
But what this really comes down to is money. The developer does not want to have any regulatory restrictions (and presumably, added expense) on where they can build homes and roads on the property, now, or in the future.
But the lack of Historic-Cultural Monument status also means that the landowner is free to do whatever they wish with the land, at any time.
In other words, years down the road, they could decide that they no longer want the monument. They would be able to bulldoze it and build something on that land whenever they wished, without regard to public outcry.
As dubious as their motives and intentions now appear, let’s assume for the moment that Snowball West Investment is committed to erecting an appropriate monument and preserving it. But what if they sell the property? Any future landowner would not be bound to preserve the monument unless it is protected by Historic-Cultural Monument status. That alone makes Historic-Cultural Monument status absolutely necessary.
The Coalition released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:
On August 7, 2013, Snowball West Investments filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, claiming that the City Council’s designation of Historic-Cultural Monument status for Tuna Canyon was illegal.
The Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition is very disappointed at this filing and considers this lawsuit a distraction from the real purpose of commemorating this historic site so that future generations of Americans do not repeat the mistakes of the past.
We call upon Snowball West to drop this lawsuit and to continue to work with the Coalition to create an accessible, permanent memorial site worthy of this City and the memory of the tragic events that occurred at this location during World War II.
The Coalition also released a statement of their mission, goals and vision for the monument, which is published below.
For the Manzanar Committee’s official statement on the protection and preservation of the Tuna Canyon site, see Manzanar Committee Calls On Los Angeles City Council To Designate Site of Tuna Canyon Detention Station As A Historic Cultural Monument.
Gann Matsuda, who writes from Culver City, California, is the editor of the Manzanar Committee’s official blog.
The views expressed above are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.
Tuna Canyon Detention Station
City of Los Angeles
Established June 25, 2013
To preserve the stories of the Japanese, Germans, Italians, Japanese Peruvians, and others at the Tuna Canyon Detention Station, which was operated by the U.S. Department of Justice during World War II, and was located in the City Of Los Angeles.
- To create a welcoming gathering place for people of all ages and origins, especially student groups, that explores the entire history of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station (TCDS) site.
- To establish a dynamic, emotionally engaging, living memorial for the individuals—Japanese, Italian and German immigrants, Japanese Peruvians and others—whose civil liberties were violated at TCDS.
- To present educational programming that connects the site’s history with contemporary life, serves as a somber reminder of the fragility of our democracy, and ensures its relevance for future generations.
- To create an inspirational setting for those detained at the TCDS and their families and give all visitors an opportunity to reflect on the profound significance of the site.
- To construct a well-planned site that ensures access to all people.
Our Vision For The Memorial
- There will be public access with directly adjacent parking facilities, and handicap amenities.
- It will be located on the site the City of Los Angeles designated as a Historic Cultural Monument commemorating the internment in 1941-1943 and will include a plaque designating the site’s history.
- It will be an educational place with interpretive stations where people from the City of Los Angeles and the world will be able to make an emotional connection with the TCDS under the canopy of the sycamore and oak trees.
- There will be a wall with the names of the people who were incarcerated in a setting of a Japanese garden as a place for reflection.
- There will be an area where the public may find stories of those people as well as other museum-type educational materials and guide posts.
- There will be representational and inspirational artwork to assist in reflection of what occurred at the Camp and to promote healing and understanding.
- There will be a mock-up of the camp to remind visitors of the conditions of that era.
- There will be roadside signage to indicate its historical and cultural importance.
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