Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church update

The fate of the historic Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church continues to be a hot topic. Donna Graves, Director of Preserving California's Japantowns, sent an email to Herb Fauland, Principal Planner for the City of Huntington Beach. Excerpts follow:

“I am writing to express concern over the reported threat to a complex of significant historic resources in Huntington Beach. I've been notified that the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church and the Furuta House (7622 and 7642 Warner Avenue) are to be demolished to create space for the operations of Rainbow Disposal.

“As the director of… the first statewide survey of pre-WWII Japanese American historic resources, I am alarmed by this news. The Church complex was among a very small number of Orange County historic structures identified by our survey earlier this year. Not only does the site has immense local significance, it is a rare example of an intact complex of buildings that reflect a thriving immigrant population.

“These structures were identified by a 1985-86 Historic Building Survey conducted for the Orange County Japanese American Council, and are included in a list of historic sites in the Historical and Cultural Element of Huntington Beach's General Plan. …CSU Fullerton Professor Arthur Hansen recently described the Church complex as ‘a priceless part of the Japanese American heritage in Orange County....
arguably the most important structures representative of the Nikkei legacy in our county.’

“…Can you please notify us of the status of this site and what steps were taken under CEQA to assess impacts of demolition and development?”

Excerpts of Herb Fauland’s reply follow:

“The City of Huntington Beach is fully aware of the historical significance of the church and house... The City has received an application for a general plan amendment, zoning map amendment, and environmental assessment by Rainbow Disposal Co. to change the land use and zoning designations from residential to industrial. Due to the historical significance and in accordance with CEQA, the City is processing a focused environmental impact report (FEIR) to analyze the environmental impacts associated with the proposed demolition of the two structures. The City has hired a consultant to prepare the FEIR in accordance with CEQA. The project is moving slowly through the process and the City is waiting for additional information from the applicant to continue the processing of the project.

“…I have forwarded your email to [the project planner for this project, Ricky] Ramos so that he may pass on the information contained in your email to the city's consultant in the preparation of the FEIR.”

It's good that City Planning knows the historic significance of these buildings,.. But that certainly doesn't mean they're out of harm's way. Hopefully everyone involved can work together to come up with a win-win outcome. I'll post more details as the become available.

Today's photo is a current view of the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church. The 1934 church is on the left, and the 1910 mission is behind the fence on the right. The mural on the 1934 building was an addition by the pentecostal church that held services there in more recent years. (I'll let you supply your own "Rainbow vs. rainbow" joke.)

Link: An earlier post about the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church.

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