$33.5MM Facelift Planned for Japantown Peace Plaza in San Francisco

San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, San Francisco, Japantown Peace Plaza, RHAA Landscape Architects
Peace Pagoda (made of concrete).Japantown.San Francisco, CA

By Jon Peterson

The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department is planning some big changes to the historic Japantown Peace Plaza. The 37,000-square-foot park, located at 1610 Geary Boulevard, will receive a $33.5 million facelift that would be funded by bonds on both the state and federal levels.

For the project to become a reality, however, it still needs to go through the San Francisco Planning Department for approval and review. Once that is completed, the renovation could begin as early as the first half of 2024, with a potential completion timeline set for the fall of 2025.

The City of San Francisco has outlined five design goals for the improvements planned for the park. These are to make Post Street visually open to pedestrians and park visitors, provide a large permanent stage and seating capacity from 200 to 300 people, create an inviting and playful space for people of all ages at the plaza, create visual expressions along Geary Boulevard to entice pedestrians to visit the park and to incorporate significant cultural elements including portions of the original design of the plaza.

The park’s visual distinction today comes from a five-level Peace Pagoda, designed by Japanese architect Yoshiro Taniguchi and presented to San Francisco by the people of Osaka, Japan, in 1968, as a symbol of goodwill and friendship. Osaka is a sister city to San Francisco.

The area known as Japantown today was formed after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and fire, according to the San Francisco Parks Alliance website. It occupies an area of the Filmore district that is roughly within the confines of California Street to the north, O’Farrell Street to the south, Fillmore to the west and Laguna to the east.

According to the website, most Japanese immigrants to the United States entered the country through San Francisco, and many settled either south of Market Street or in the Chinatown area. Following the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco and the rapid expansion of Los Angeles, many Japanese immigrants left the City and moved to what is now known as Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, which remains the most populous Japanese settlement in California today.

Mill Valley-based RHAA Landscape Architects is working on the renovation design in conjunction with the San Francisco Public Works. The new design opens up the spacious plaza, with an S-shaped short stair step dividing the upper and lower plazas. The upper plaza will include two large landscaped spaces creating intimate private seating spaces. The upgrades will feature the Peace Pagoda, boulders, cherry trees, the cultural monument, flagpoles and a cultural wall with Heiwa calligraphy signage.

After several decades since the blaze opened, the current conditions call for a major overhaul of the park. One of the problems with the current condition of the property is that it has been leaking rainwater to the two-level MTA-owned garage, which sits below the park. The renovation will address the water intrusion issue by demolishing all existing surfaces and fully waterproofing the plaza.

The Peace Pagoda and Peace Plaza are eligible for local designation under the National Register of Historic Places Criterion A and C. This is due to its association with the redevelopment of Japantown, the neighborhood’s social history, and as an architecturally significant work of master architect Yoshiro Taniguchi.

West Coast Commercial Real Estate News