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LITTLE TOKYO : Block Considered for Landmark Status

August 21, 1994|TOMMY LI

A city block that tells the history of early Japanese American life has been recommended for national landmark status, but final designation awaits a review of earthquake damage to the 1st Street buildings, officials said.

"It looks pretty good," said Candice Kim, field deputy for Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles).

But first the National Park Service must determine whether to send an inspector to evaluate the 13 buildings in the Little Tokyo Historic District or to look over damage reports submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, she said.

A landmark designation could boost property owners' chances to obtain more restoration funding for buildings in the district. The area encompasses the north side of 1st Street between Central Avenue and San Pedro Street.

Do Mar, a co-owner of the Far East Cafe building at 347 E. 1st St., is hoping for such a designation to improve his chances of receiving $400,000 in grants to pay for quake damage repairs.

Another grant applicant from the district, Tony Sperl, has opposed a landmark designation, saying it would hinder property owners' plans to develop their buildings.

"I may want to tear my building down," said Sperl, whose building at 337-339 1/2 1st St. suffered $120,000 damage in the quake.

Built in 1882 as a blacksmith shop, the Sperl Building is considered the oldest on the block, officials said. Other significant sites include the old Union Church at 120 N. San Pedro St., founded in 1918 and once used as a processing center for Japanese awaiting internment during World War II, and the old Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, now the Japanese American National Museum.

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