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LITTLE TOKYO : Task Force Formed to Revitalize Area

April 11, 1993|IRIS YOKOI

A Little Tokyo task force of business and civic leaders has formed to discuss local problems, increase tourism and come up with ways to unite and revitalize the neighborhood.

The 14 community leaders who met Tuesday decided that the key concerns are crime and safety, beautification, uniting existing resources and attracting entertainment and development sources.

Each issue will be addressed individually at meetings in a conference room at the Japanese American National Museum. The next meeting, April 20, will focus on crime.

Museum President Irene Hirano said she organized the task force because of concerns repeatedly expressed in the community about the effects of the continuing recessions in the United States and Japan, last spring's riots, increased crime and other problems Downtown.

These issues "will continue to have a major impact on our business and cultural community unless some immediate action plan is implemented for marketing and increasing available resources to improve Little Tokyo," Hirano wrote in a letter she sent to 33 business, cultural, social service and religious leaders, inviting them to join the task force.

Little Tokyo has a number of organizations addressing issues such as crime, business and development, Hirano said, but each has a specific duty and had not addressed Little Tokyo as a whole. The task force unites the groups, she said.

At the first meeting last week, task force members agreed crime and safety must be discussed before ideas for beautifying and attracting more visitors and commerce can be addressed.

Little Tokyo suffers from perceived and real crime, the community members said. While panhandling, burglaries and robberies occur, the area also has been hurt by a somewhat-exaggerated reputation as a dangerous place. This image was bolstered by last spring's riots and has kept Japanese tourists from visiting Little Tokyo, leaders said.

But even if safety measures are implemented, the community must still address the issue of "how to make Little Tokyo more fun," said Koichi Haraguchi, consul general of Japan. Besides the shops and eateries, Little Tokyo has few entertainment and recreational attractions, Haraguchi said.

Little Tokyo suffers from yet another misconception: The public perceives the community as self-sufficient, one that does not need government help, according to Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Bell Gardens), who also attended the meeting.

Community leaders said they need federal funds to help small businesses, build more low-income housing and provide social services for the needy on nearby Skid Row.

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