Museum of the City of San Francisco
By Subject
By Year
The Gift Shop

Slum Danger in ‘Jap Town’ Under Study
Civic Leaders Seek Suitable Plan for Evacuated Region

Civic and business leaders in San Francisco today went all out to find a suitable plan that will prevent the Japanese district from turning into the worst slum in the history of the city.

The 20-block area—Octavia to Webster and O’Farrell to Pine-st—will be completely evacuated by May 15, leaving many of the old substandard buildings vacant.

While any ways of meeting the problem were being studied, however, there was a possibility that all would be stymied, because California has no law that will permit the establishment of a slum clearance project.

This was the opinion of Raymond D. Smith, acting secretary of the San Francisco Real Estate Board.

Law Needed

“I don’t say it is impossible to rehabilitate the area, but I can see no way to take immediate action,” he said. “I believe we will have to wait until the Legislature reconvenes next year and then enact a slum clerance law similar to New York’s. I don’t think there would be any opposition to such legislation, but the Japanese district could deteriorate greatly.”

Heading the list of civic and business organizations asking for a speedy rehabilitation plan was the Junior C.C. [chamber of commerce] Its request was followed by similar pleas from the Down Town Association, California Housing and Planning Association, Telesis, San Francisco Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the San Francisco Center for Women voters.

Meet Thursday

The City Planning Commission will meet Thursday to discuss the situation. Mark Jorgensen, city planning director, said the commission will first ascertain “what legal authority the commission has concerning rehabilitation.”

Albert Evers, director of the San Francisco Housing Authority, declared the area might serve to meet the local housing shortage, if, properly rehabilitated, it were offered to defense workers or opened to the overflow from Chinatown. It was, however, feared that neither defense workers nor Chinese would care to move into vacated Japanese residences, at least not if the former Japanese owners retained ownership.

Supervisors Act

At today’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors a supervisor announced he would introduce a resolution calling for the board to do all within its power to avert a slum.

Mr. [Chester] MacPhee declared most of the homes definitely need rehabilitation.

“Many of them are 30 or 40 years old and were originally built for gas lighting. Most of them are wood frame structures and should be brought up to date. The problem is further complicated by the fact that there are building construction bottlenecks which must be smashed before any large-scale modernizing can be started,” he said.

San Francisco News
April 13, 1942

Go to the Japanese Internment page.

Return to the top of the page.