San Bruno Opens Tanforan Memorial to Honor Japanese Americans Interned During WWII

San Bruno, Tanforan Memorial, BART, Blach Construction

Historic memorial plaza and bronze statute honor 8,000 unjustly imprisoned in San Bruno

San Bruno, Calif., Sept. 2, 2022 – Blach Construction recently joined the Tanforan Assembly Center Memorial Committee (TACMC) to celebrate the unveiling of a historic memorial plaza and bronze statue to honor the 8,000 Bay Area residents of Japanese ancestry who were unjustly imprisoned at Tanforan “Assembly Center” during World War II.

Located at the San Bruno Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Station, the memorial’s ribbon cutting celebration marked the culmination of a ten-year effort by TACMC to create a permanent feature that documents and pays homage to the many people affected. Inspiration for the memorial began in 2012 with the installation of a photography exhibition featuring the work of Dorothea Lange and Paul Kitagaki, Jr. The memorial’s bronze statue brings to life one of Lange’s photographs of the young Mochida sisters on their way to Tanforan. 

“The purpose of our decade-long effort to commemorate this space was twofold,” said Vice Chairman of the TACMC, Steve Okamoto. “Our primary goal was to create a permanent monument to honor those 8,000 Japanese who were imprisoned at Tanforan. Secondly, we aim to educate those who have never heard of the Tanforan Assembly Center, thereby inspiring a future where such injustice is unthinkable, and will never happen again.”

Blach Construction served as general contractor for the project, installing the statue, and constructing elements for the plaza, including benches, seat walls and a conceptual horse stall to represent the accommodations of those detained at Tanforan. Artist Sandra J. Shaw sculpted the bronze statue, and RHAA Landscape Architects donated the design of the memorial plaza to honor their Japanese American founders. The memorial also includes bronze panels listing the name of those imprisoned at the Tanforan internment camp, as well as a multitude of historical quote markers. 

“Our devotion to seeking projects that align closely with our values as a service-minded builder was greatly exemplified through our work with the Memorial Committee on this impactful and long-awaited project,” said Blach President Dan Rogers. “We are guided by a core desire to enhance and serve our communities through collaboration and quality craftsmanship. The Tanforan Memorial is an invaluable asset to the Bay Area, serving to memorialize our past and shape our future, a future that ensures equity for all.”

Inside the San Bruno BART Station, a new long-term exhibit entitled “Tanforan Incarceration 1942: Resilience Behind Barbed Wire,” organized by the BART Art Program and curated by Na Omi Judy Shintani, opened for viewing. This exhibit replaces the prior exhibit of photos documenting the detention center that was installed to mark the 70th anniversary of its opening. The current exhibit places the incarceration in the context of pre-WWII experiences of persons of Japanese descent in the U.S., and a brief examination of the subsequent efforts of remembrance and awareness, legal challenges, and support of others whose rights are being similarly violated.

The ribbon cutting ceremony was well attended, featuring several speakers and performers representing TACMA, Japanese cultural organizations, BART, local elected officials and cross-cultural allies.

About the Tanforan “Assembly Center”

The Tanforan “Assembly Center” opened on April 28, 1942, and until October 13,1942 housed 8,000 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry, most of them U.S. citizens, evicted from their Bay Area homes and imprisoned during World War II. Tanforan served as a temporary detention center for Japanese Americans until they were shipped to more permanent concentration camps, the majority being sent to Topaz in Utah. This was done without charges being filed and without the due process guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.

About the Tanforan Assembly Center Memorial Committee

The Tanforan Assembly Center Memorial Committee (TACMC) is composed of former detainees from Tanforan, as well as Japanese American activists and others from the Bay Area. TACMC has been working together since 2012 to plan for the memorial, raising approximately $1,200,000 for the creation of a historic and cultural icon for the City of San Bruno. The memorial will educate the public as to what happened to the 120,000 West Coast residents of Japanese ancestry and remind people that these atrocities must never happen again.

About Blach Construction

Founded in 1970, Blach Construction builds structures of enduring quality and value throughout California. The firm’s experience encompasses a broad cross section of education, housing, institutional, mixed-use and workplace building types, translating into a diverse portfolio that includes civic/community, healthcare, K-12 and higher education, hospitality, life sciences, professional services and technology facilities, as well as affordable, supportive and market-rate housing developments. With fluency in traditional and collaborative delivery methods – and true to their Silicon Valley roots – Blach continually incorporates advanced, innovative construction techniques, leveraging in-house prefabrication, self-perform and virtual design and construction expertise to offer greater efficiencies to projects and increased value to clients. 

The firm consistently wins awards across the construction industry and general business community for projects, innovation, employee engagement and community service. Quality and safety are at Blach’s core. As a result, they are continually ranked as a “Top Contractor in California” by Engineering News-Record and have received multiple “Construction Safety Excellence Awards” from the Associated General Contractors of California. Additionally, and as a testament to their company culture, Blach has been recognized repeatedly since 2009 as a “Best Place to Work” in the Bay Area by the Silicon Valley Business Journal/San Francisco Business Times.

Blach is headquartered in San Jose with offices in Monterey and Orange County.

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