Japantown Cultural Heritage and Economic Sustainability Strategy (JCHESS) (7.5MB)

What is the Japantown Cultural Heritage and Economic Sustainability Strategy (JCHESS)?

JCHESS Agendas and Minutes

Vision, Goals, and Objectives

It is one of the only three remaining Japantowns in the United States. It has excellent access to city and regional public transportation and offers a good variety of commercial streets that provide access to daily needs. It continues to be one of the major San Francisco tourist attractions. 

The Japantown Cultural Heritage and Economic Sustainability Strategy (JCHESS) is the first document in San Francisco to focus specifically on how to preserve and promote a neighborhood's cultural heritage. The vision of the JCHESS is that Japantown will thrive as a culturally rich, authentic, and economically vibrant neighborhood, which will serve as the cultural heart of the Japanese and Japanese American communities for generations to come. Specifically it will:

  • Secure Japantown’s future as the historical and cultural heart of Japanese and Japanese American Community. 

  • Secure Japantown’s future as a thriving commercial and retail district.
  • Secure Japantown’s future as a home to residents and community-based institutions.

  • Secure Japantown’s future as a physically attractive and vibrant environment.

Area's of Concern

The JCHESS includes an assessment of the existing conditions in Japantown, and identifies particular "areas of concern" with regard to cultural heritage and economic sustainability, as follows:

Areas of Concern related to Japantown's land

  • Utilization of developable parcels

Areas of Concern related to Japantown's buildings

  • Compatibility of architectural style
  • Lack of pedestrian scale
  • Preservation of historic buildings and structures

Areas of Concern related to Japantown's organizations and institutions

  • Capacity challenges for community-serving organizations and institutions
  • Lack of permanent space for existing organization

Areas of Concern related to Japantown's businesses

  • Business viability
  • Business ownership transitions
  • Finding culturally appropriate businesses
  • Attractiveness of the shopping district 
  • Potential business displacement 
  • The future of the Japan Center 
  • The future of the Japan Center Parking Garage

Areas of Concern related to Japantown's cultural activities and events

  • Limited space for community activities 
  • Costs of Acquiring permits for festivals

Areas of Concern related to Japantown's public realm

  • Peace Plaza design 
  • Buchanan Mall design 
  • Streetscape maintenance o Landscaping 
  • Lighting 
  • Street furnishings 
  • Wayfinding signage


To address these areas of concern, the JCHESS includes a series of recommendations that are considered by the City and community as having the best potential to fulfill the vision of the JCHESS. Given the range of concerns, there is no single tool that could fulfill this vision. It is more likely that a series of recommendations will need to be implemented in a complementary and coordinated manner to ensure maximum benefit to Japantown, including a combination of existing tools and proposed strategies.

Existing tools

  • Utilize Tools for Preservation of Historic Buildings and Structures
  • Leverage the Japantown Special Use District to Cultivate and Attract New Businesses Appropriate to Japantown
  • Utilize the City's Design Guidelines
  • Implement Streetscape and Pedestrian Improvements per the Better Streets Plan
  • Implement Proposed Transportation Improvements 
  • Market the Neighborhood through SFTravel

Proposed Strategies

  • Create a Community Development Corporation
  • Create a Community Land Trust
  • Implement Invest in Neighborhoods
  • Negotiate Community Benefits Agreements with Major New Developments
  • Create a Community Benefits District
  • Implement a Mello-Roos Community Facilities District
  • Utilize Funds from the San Francisco Grants for the Arts
  • Utilize Japan Center Garages' Capital Improvement Funds
  • Create a Japantown Neighborhood Commercial District
  • Create Japantown-Specific Design Guidelines
  • Implement Improvements to Peace Plaza
  • Implement Improvements to Buchanan Mall
  • Develop a Strategic Plan for the Japan Center Malls

Proposed JCHESS Area (94KB)

JCHESS Agendas and Notes

2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009


March 7, 2017: Agenda (75KB), Notes (87KB)

April 11, 2017: Agenda (214KB), Notes (705KB)

September 12, 2017: Agenda (56KB), Notes (1.2MB)

October 10, 2017: Agenda (727KB)


January 15, 2014: Agenda (53KB), Minutes (86KB)


January 16, 2013: Agenda (86KB), Minutes (74KB)

February 20, 2013: Agenda (70KB)

February 26, 2013: Agenda (16.9MB), Comments (184KB)

March 20, 2013: Agenda (61KB), Minutes (70KB)

May 15, 2013: Agenda (70KB), Minutes (37KB)

June 19, 2013: Agenda (70KB), Minutes (74KB)

August 7, 2013: Agenda (61KB)

November 6, 2013: Agenda (49KB), Minutes (115KB)

November 20, 2013: Agenda (53KB), Minutes (86KB)

December 18, 2013: Agenda (49KB), Minutes (82KB)


January 10, 2012: Agenda (61KB)

March 14, 2012: Agenda (61KB)

June 20, 2012: Agenda (61KB), Minutes (74KB)

August 15, 2012: Agenda (61KB), Minutes  (74KB)

September 19, 2012: Agenda (61KB)

October 17, 2012: Agenda (61KB), Minutes (70KB)

November 14, 2012: Agenda (61KB), Minutes (61KB)


January 20, 2011: Agenda (53KB), Minutes (70KB)

March 2, 2011: Agenda (53KB)

April 20, 2011: Agenda (33KB), Minutes (102KB)

May 25, 2011: Agenda (115KB)

June 15, 2011: Agenda (119KB), Youth Presentation (1.3MB)

July 20, 2011: Agenda (119KB)

August 27, 2011: Agenda (53KB), Minutes (184KB)

September 21, 2011: Agenda (61KB), Minutes (78KB)

October 19, 2011: Agenda (66KB)

November 16, 2011: Agenda (61KB)


February 17, 2011: Agenda (49KB), Minutes (70KB)

March 31, 2010: Agenda (61KB)

April 27, 2010: Agenda (127KB)

June 2, 2010: Agenda (49KB)

June 16, 2010: Agenda (131KB)

July 27, 2010: Agenda (123KB), Minutes (61KB)

August 24, 2010: Agenda (53KB)

September 28, 2010: Agenda (119KB)


July 21, 2009: Agenda (45KB)

September 9, 2009: Agenda (131KB)

September 24, 2009: Agenda (49KB)