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A New Look for the JACL Headquarters Building

By April 7, 2023May 23rd, 2023No Comments

The organization’s San Francisco home receives a much-needed facelift thanks to a grant from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

By P.C. Staff

If you happen to be traveling down Sutter Street in San Francisco’s Japantown, you might notice a definite difference to the neighborhood now, as one of its longest-standing building tenants has a new look!

JACL’s national headquarters building, located at 1765 Sutter St., has a fresh-new paint job thanks to a $177,880 California State nonprofit security grant through the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

JACL’s San Francisco headquarters is sporting a brand-new paint job, just in time for the building’s 50th anniversary. (Photo: Bridgette Watson)

Leading the organization through the grant application process was JACL national staffers Phillip Ozaki, Ashley Bucher and Bridgette Watson. Once the JACL was notified in February that it had secured the grant, plans began immediately to beautify the façade of its headquarters building and make arrangements to better keep its staff and historic headquarters safe.

“The new paint job is perfectly timed with the 50th anniversary of our headquarters building, which was gifted by Nisei in 1973 to continue the mission of our organization. We are very grateful for grants from the San Francisco Japantown Foundation and the California Department of Emergency Services for making this possible,” said Ozaki, who serves as program director for membership and fund development.

Said Watson, operations manager: “It took some time to find the right company for this project. I wanted to keep it local and work with people that understood the importance of our building and where it is situated in Japantown. The Colores Painting Co. did an incredible job. Honestly, I didn’t realize the paint would be so bright! But I’m happy it turned out the way it did. The building looks more inviting now that it’s finished. The painters only took about a week and a half to complete the project, just in time for the Cherry Blossom Festival.”

Additional planned grant improvements include increased video camera protection, fence upgrades, more illumination, upgraded windows and doors, a building security consultant and workspace upgrades.

“It has been over 20 years since we’ve been in a position to address the many issues of deferred maintenance with regards to our headquarters,” said JACL National President Larry Oda. “The condition of the exterior of our historic headquarters building is the most visible example of our neglect, and I’m happy that staff arranged for a community grant to fund the refinishing of the building. They’re not done yet. … I look forward to the incremental improvements occurring in and on our headquarters. We may be fortunate to start the next 100 years of JACL with a state-of-the-art building thanks to our forward-thinking staff.”

JACL officially dedicated its national headquarters building in 1975 as the official “center of our organization, a living museum for our traditions and a tribute to our heritage,” according to a statement published by the JACL Building Fund Campaign.

The campaign helped raise funds to complete the building, specifically noting that “it is being built out of a far more precious material. Sacrifice. Painful, deep, genuine sacrifice. Sacrifice that began with the first Issei who immigrated to American shores to endure long-forgotten privations. Sacrifice of Nisei lives on distant battlefields. Sacrifice that is chronicled in the Great Evacuation. Sacrifice that goes by the name of racism and bigotry and has touched the lives of all Japanese Americans. But out of this crucible has been forged a magnificent heritage.”

The JACL headquarters building was then rededicated in 1977 as the Masao W. Satow Memorial Building. Satow served as national director of JACL in its postwar heyday, during which he teamed with Mike Masaoka to preside over the organization during its time of greatest growth and influence. Throughout his 27-year tenure, which began in 1946, he helped grow the JACL from 28 chapters to more than 90 by the time he retired at age 65 in 1973.

As the organization continues to prepare for its future and upcoming 100th anniversary, updating its building operations in San Francisco offers a bright start to a community recovering from the Covid pandemic.

“We are excited to be able to refresh the exterior of the JACL headquarters,” said Executive Director David Inoue. “Hopefully, this will contribute to the reflection of a vibrant Japantown. Obviously, the pandemic was very difficult for many businesses, and we need to do all we can to create a welcoming atmosphere for visitors to come to the area and patronize our neighbors for shopping, dining and entertainment.

“It is with this same spirit we are looking forward to hosting our National Convention in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles,” Inoue continued. “We need to protect our community enclaves. What were once thought of as ghettos have now become important cultural touchpoints and community gathering sites for the residents of San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles, as well as for many Japanese Americans across the country.”