Saturday, September 26, 2015

City of Huntington Beach announces intention to appeal June 2015 court decision

   Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates announced to local media on Friday, September 25, that the City of Huntington Beach intends to appeal the Orange County Superior Court decision that rendered moot the "Warner-Nichols" project Environmental Impact Report and determined the City violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

    Orange County Superior Court Judge Gail Andler ordered Huntington Beach on June 2, 2015, to rescind within 45 days the 2013 CEQA action---the Environmental Impact Report (EIR)---that rezoned the Historic Wintersburg property to commercial / industrial and included the approval for demolition.  Read our June 2, 2015, post with associated media coverage at

   Local media were informed Huntington Beach does not plan to return the commercial / industrial zoning, but wants to have the language regarding a CEQA violation removed.  We cannot confirm the City's intention until the appeal is filed within the next couple weeks and the actual appeal language is available.

RIGHT: Aerial view of Historic Wintersburg, the former Furuta farm and Wintersburg Japanese Mission complex. The residential neighborhood of Oak View can be seen to the east, the Oak View Elementary School to the south, and industrial operations to the west. Across Warner Avenue is a private school. (Photograph courtesy of Huntington Beach High School alumni Fred Emmert, Class of 1960, owner of © All rights reserved.

   In 2012, Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force chair Mary Urashima commented, "the draft EIR segments the future land development plans from the current proposal to change the zoning to industrial / commercial.  The draft EIR also separates the onsite structures for historic analysis.  While the majority of structures meet state and federal historic criteria for listing, the entire site and collection of buildings should be evaluated as a historic district due to its age, the progression of extant buildings, and unique history."

LEFT: The 1912 Furuta bungalow as viewed through the barn, the last pioneer barn left in Huntington Beach. The sun room of the Furuta bungalow is where Charles Furuta was interrogated by the FBI following the attack by Japan at Pearl Harbor. He was taken to the Huntington Beach jail, then the Tuna Canyon Detention Station, then to the Lordsburg New Mexico military detention center, then after more than a year, reunited with his family at the Colorado River Relocation Center at Poston, Arizona. Like other Japanese Americans, he was never found to have committed any act against the United States. (Photograph by M. Urashima, 2014) © All rights reserved.

   Other comments provided in 2012 on the Warner-Nichols EIR included:
--Inadequate historical and archaeological review.  The historical technical report is ten years old and the environmental assessment is eight years old.  A more thorough site survey should be conducted for both 20th Century activities and for prehistory uses and artifacts.

--Why is the future use separated from the application for demolition and the zone change?  How can the public make a decision regarding a change to the General Plan and regarding a future proposed development and its impacts?  What General Plan policies encourage increasing an industrial footprint adjacent to an elementary school and residential uses?  The fundamental intent of CEQA is to allow the public to review the plan in its entirety, without “piecemealing” the process. What necessitates demolition? What is the project?

--The Warner-Nichols EIR stated its goal was "establishing land use and zoning designations that are compatible with the adjacent existing commercial and industrial uses to the west and southwest of the project site. Providing a buffer to limit conflicts between the commercial and industrial uses to the west and the existing residential neighborhood to the east." How will the proposed project impact Oak View?  How can the public review and consider unknown industrial / commercial plans?  How do the applicant’s objectives meet the City of Huntington Beach General Plan policies?

--To quote the City’s own analysis, “The proposed project would conflict with applicable General Plan policies adopted for the purpose of avoiding or mitigating an environmental effect. Demolition of historic resources, as proposed by the project, is not consistent with the City’s General Plan goals, objectives, and policies that encourage protection, preservation, and retention of historic resources. The inconsistency with the City’s resource protection policies is a significant adverse impact that cannot be mitigated to a level of less than significant.”  Why approve a project that conflicts with General Plan policy?

LEFT: An introduction to the history, Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach authored by Mary Adams Urashima, chair of the preservation effort, was published in March 2014 with History Press.

   By 2013, the property had been inspected by representatives from the National Park Service, who stated the historic property retained "remarkable integrity."  It also was inspected in 2014 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which named Historic Wintersburg one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in June of that year.  Read the announcement from the National Trust at

   "The site contains six extant pioneer structures and open farmland, and is one of the only surviving Japanese-owned properties acquired prior to California’s anti-Japanese 'alien' land laws of 1913 and 1920, which restricted land ownership by immigrant populations," announced the National Trust in June 2014.  "In contrast to Japanese American confinement sites from the World War II era, Historic Wintersburg represents the daily community life and spiritual institutions of Japanese settlers as they established a new life in America."

RIGHT: In 2015, after two years of development, Our American Family: The Furutas of Historic Wintersburg, was screened at the Japanese American National Museum before airing nationally on public television stations.  The preview can be viewed at

   Historic Wintersburg is a unique cultural site that tells the important story of early Japanese American immigrants as they sought to make a new life and build a community in Southern California,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust, “We strongly support a collaborative effort that preserves Wintersburg’s historic landscape while building upon its longstanding role as an educational and supportive space for the Huntington Beach community.” 

LEFT: A film screening and panel discussion at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, California, for the public television program Our American Family: The Furutas. The screening was held in February 2015 for the annual Day of Remembrance held at the Museum, the 73rd anniversary of Executive Order 9066 which mandated the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans on the West Coast. (Photograph courtesy of Asian Pacific Islander Historic Preservation Forum) © All rights reserved.

    By 2015, a historic resources survey conducted by Galvin Preservation Associates and received by the Huntington Beach City Council acknowledged the six structures at Historic Wintersburg met criteria for the National Register of Historic Places.  Also in June 2015--after the community raised $30,000 to fund the effort--the National Trust assisted with a technical analysis of Historic Wintersburg with the Urban Land Institute (ULI). The results of the analysis and ULI's recommendations are expected by the first part of October 2015.

ABOVE: The Wintersburg Mission in May, 1930, upon its official incorporation as a Church, twenty-six years after its founding in 1904. The Mission building opened in 1910. Behind to the right can be seen the 1910 manse (parsonage). To the left can be seen the 1912 Furuta bungalow.  This photograph of the Wintersburg congregation and clergy was taken at the dawn of the Great Depression, and the congregation had already begun fundraising for its second church building which opened in 1934.  During WWII, the entire congregation and its clergy were forcibly removed from California and incarcerated, due to their ethnicity. (Photograph courtesy of the Wintersburg Church) © All rights reserved.

   From the Friday, September 25, 2015, Huntington Beach Independent:  "Mary Urashima, chairwoman of the Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force, said that she and other preservationists will continue their efforts to protect the site. 'It has already been recognized nationally as a rare and significant place in American history," she said. "We hope the city and all the stakeholders will continue to work with us on that effort.'" 

   Read the full article from the Huntington Beach Independent at,0,3176784.story

   As we have said many years now, we will continue our effort to save and preserve Historic Wintersburg, one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. We're just getting started.

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

Today at Historic Wintersburg: The delegation from Anjo, Japan, our Sister City!

ABOVE: The delegation from Anjo, Japan, with Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force members on the south side of the 1912 Furuta bungalow. (Photo, September 11, 2015) © All rights reserved.

   Today, we had the honor of taking the delegation from Anjo, Japan---Huntington Beach's Sister City---on a tour of Historic Wintersburg.

   We enjoyed making new friends and sharing the history of the Japanese pioneers of Orange County.  We'll post more photographs, but wanted to capture this moment of international friendship and shared history. We hope our friends from Anjo can return one day to visit a beautifully preserved Historic Wintersburg!

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

In support of the Tuna Canyon Coalition; Tuna Canyon's connection with Historic Wintersburg

The Tuna Canyon Coalition's event was held to raise matching funds for a grant received by the National Park Service for a museum-quality traveling exhibit. The historic and cultural monument at Tuna Canyon--approved by the Los Angeles City Council in 2013--has been in limbo, due to litigation by the property owner. (Photo, M. Urashima, August 29, 2015) © All rights reserved.

  Historic Wintersburg was part of the Tuna Canyon Coalition's August fundraising event at the Nishii Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. There is a shared history.

   The Tuna Canyon Detention Station was a former Civilian Conservation Corps camp taken over by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Immigration and Naturalization Service on December 8, 1941, following the attack by Japan at Pearl Harbor.  A hastily established prison camp, guards were garnered from the U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Army. By December 18, 1941, there were 70 Americans of Japanese descent detained at Tuna Canyon, which would also receive those of German and Italian descent, and Peruvians of Japanese descent. Hundreds would follow, eventually transferred to military detention centers in Missoula, Montana and Lordsburg, New Mexico.

LEFT: A meditation garden at the Nishii Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, where the Tuna Canyon Coalition event was held. (Photo, M. Urashima, August 29, 2015) © All rights reserved.

   On August 29, 2015, a thousand came to raise funds for a traveling exhibit, remembering those imprisoned at the Tuna Canyon Detention Station. Accused on the basis of their ethnicity, many of those incarcerated were Buddhist priests, teachers, business owners, civic leaders, and Christian clergy. 

   The connection to Historic Wintersburg? Charles Furuta was confined at Tuna Canyon, before he was incarcerated at a military detention center in Lordsburg, New Mexico. Driving to Tajunga from Huntington Beach, his family was only able to talk to him through a fence.

RIGHT: The sculpture, "Endure" by Ernie Jane Nishii, was displayed at the event. Nishii "grew up in Tule Lake Segregation Center during WWII, where she had nightmares." (Photo, M. Urashima, August 29, 2015) © All rights reserved.

   During an oral history conducted in 2013 for Historic Wintersburg, Etsuko Furuta Fukushima recalled visiting her father at Tuna Canyon. Driving from Huntington Beach to Tuna Canyon today might take at least two hours, depending on Southern California traffic. In 1942, it would have been an all-day effort to get there and back before curfew.

   "I remember the fence, the wire fence," recalled Etsuko, an alumni of Huntington Beach High School and age 92 when speaking with Professor Emeritus Arthur Hansen, on behalf of Historic Wintersburg. "And I don't remember we were able to talk to him through the fence, but I don't think we were able to get inside."

   "He was expecting the FBI to take him, because he was a leader of the community, he was president of the Japanese Association," Yukiko Furuta recalled of her husband, Charles, during her oral history interview in 1982. "So, he had already packed a suitcase with warm clothing, and was ready."

LEFT: David Ono, anchorman for KABC Channel 7 in Los Angeles, California, acted as master of ceremonies. (Photo, M. Urashima, August 29, 2015) © All rights reserved.

   Charles Furuta was taken to Tuna Canyon several months after Pearl Harbor. Yukiko Furuta recalled it was around February 22 or 23 of 1942.  They were expecting the FBI and both were "in fear", she explained during her interview.  

   The FBI arrived a few days after President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, mandating the forced removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast.  Charles Furuta was interrogated by the FBI in the sun porch of the 1912 bungalow he had built for his bride, Yukiko, one of the six structures that remain at Historic Wintersburg.  He was first taken to the Huntington Beach jail and then to Tuna Canyon.

   "How do you feel about the whole thing of seeing your father on the other side of the fence?" asked Historic Wintersburg's interviewer Hansen of Etsuko Furuta Fukushima.

   "I thought, 'For heaven's sake, he couldn't be a spy,' but then the FBI were wrong," explained Etsuko

RIGHT: Photograph taken backstage by Historic Wintersburg author, Mary Adams Urashima, while waiting to be introduced by David Ono (at left). Ernie Nishii (at right) remarked on his family's personal connection to Tuna Canyon. (Photo, M. Urashima, August 29, 2015) © All rights reserved.

   Like other Japanese Americans, Charles Furuta was never found to have committed any act against the United States.  The majority of those incarcerated were American cititzens and had known no other country. The Issei--like Charles Furuta, who had arrived in 1900--were prevented citizenship, but had put down roots in America, established businesses, raised children.

   Charles Furuta was identified first due to his ancestry, then as a possible leader by the FBI due to his land ownership, his activity with the Wintersburg Japanese Church, and his civic involvement with the Smeltzer Japanese Association, which met in Wintersburg Village above the Tashima Market. A 1912 photograph shows Charles Furuta with a group of Huntington Beach mayors and other local leaders, at a meeting to raise funds to rebuild the Huntington Beach pier. The very actions he had taken over the prior four decades to become American worked against him in 1942.

   Yukiko Furuta recalled that Reverend Sohei Kowta was interrogated by the FBI at the Wintersburg Japanese Church (also one of the six structures remaining at Historic Wintersburg), but managed to delay his removal so he could accompany his congregation.

   "The FBI came to the church to take Reverend Kowta, but then the minister said that all the husbands had been taken and the wives were having trouble. If he would be taken, no one would take care of them," said Yukiko in 1982. "So the FBI agent called the office and talked to the people at the office. Then they decided not to take him. So he could stay in the Japanese community."

VIDEO: The Thousand Cranes dance by Nancy Hayata, accompanied by June Kuramoto of Hiroshima. Nancy Hayata is holding orizuru, origami crane, a symbol of peace and related to the real-life story of Sadako, an atomic bomb survivor (known as hibakusha). A poem about Sadako has her saying, "I shall write peace upon your wings, and you shall fly around the world..." (Video, M. Urashima, August 29, 2015) © All rights reserved.

   The charismatic Reverend Kowta would deliver a sermon prior to his congregation's forced removal, invoking Abraham, "the great migration leader."

    "Every crisis is a testing time of one's character," said Kowta in 1942, prior to joining his entire congregation as they left California for confinement in Arizona. "Selfish people, during a crisis, show their selfishness to a greater measure than they do in ordinary times.  Generous people reveal their generosity to a greater degree than they do at other times."

   "Give us a desert. We shall make it a beautiful garden; give us a wasted land, we shall change it into a productive field; give us a wilderness, we shall convert it into a fruitful orchard," said Kowta, who would unify many of the religious groups at Poston. "Provide for our children competent teachers, regardless of the buildings we shall have, we shall make ours one of the finest schools in the country."

LEFT: Families who were confined at the Tuna Canyon Detention Station gather for a group photograph at the end of the event. In front, Dr. Lloyd Hitt of Little Landers Historical Society, and Minoru Tanai, UCLA Japanese American Studies Chair Committee, both leaders in the Tuna Canyon preservation effort. In the top row, Nancy Oda, chair of the Tuna Canyon Coalition, with her family, descendants of the Reverend Guzei Nishii, a respected Buddhist minister from San Diego who was confined at Tuna Canyon. (Photo, M. Urashima, August 29, 2015) © All rights reserved.

   Yukiko Furuta explained that in the evening they "pulled the blind and shade and turned out the light and went to bed early," following the curfew instructions to everyone on the West Coast. After Charles Furuta was taken to Tuna Canyon, their son, Raymond--engaged to Martha at the time--thought he should get married quickly "because otherwise they might not be able to get married."

   Raymond and Martha were married in the Wintersburg Church by Reverend Kowta.  Later when the Furuta family arrived at the Colorado River Relocation Center at Poston, Arizona--a bleak desert, as described in the sermon by Reverend Kowta--the Wintersburg pastor would marry Etsuko Furuta to her fiance, Dan Fukushima, in one of the Poston barracks.

RIGHT: What remains of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station, now a golf course recently purchased by a home developer, Snowball West. Tuna Canyon was designated a historic site by the City of Los Angeles City Council in a unanimous vote. The one-acre cultural monument under the oak trees at Tuna Canyon has been delayed due to Snowball West's lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles alleging illegal historic-cultural monument status. Their writ was denied as of mid August 2015, allowing the Tuna Canyon historic-cultural monument effort to continue. (Photo, M. Urashima, June 2015) © All rights reserved.

   During Etsuko Furuta Fukushima's oral history interview in 2013, she was asked, "you had your life to look forward to, and they had their life very abruptly interrupted. How did your parents get affected by--I'm sure you thought about this -- how did it affect them?"

   "Well, after working...and building up what they had to have it all torn down and then start all over again," Etsuko replied, "That was just terrible."

LEFT: The iron oxide red siding of the 1912 Furuta bungalow at Historic Wintersburg, where Charles Furuta was interrogated by the FBI before he was taken to Tuna Canyon. A charming California cottage, with monumental civil liberties history, the Furuta home is one of six important structures at Historic Wintersburg. (Photo, M. Urashima, 2014) © All rights reserved.

   Charles Furuta would stay at Tuna Canyon three weeks before he was taken to a military confinement center in Lordsburg, New Mexico.  It would be one year before he was reunited with his family at Poston.

   Yukiko visited Charles two times at Tuna Canyon, each time traveling first to Santa Ana (seat of Orange County government) for permission from officials to visit her husband.  After the long drive to Tajunga from Huntington Beach, Yukiko was only allowed to talk to her husband for ten minutes, speaking to each other through the fence. It was enough time for Charles to tell her to keep the family together and leave California with the others, per the federal order.

ABOVE: The whispering oak trees at the former Tuna Canyon Detention Station. (Photo, M. Urashima, 2015) © All rights reserved.

   By 1960, Tuna Canyon Detention Station buildings were torn down, erasing evidence of the prison camp.  It became the Verdugo Hills Golf Course (before the sale to Snowball West), retaining the stately oak trees that were present during WWII and are a prominent feature at the property today.

RIGHT: From the Call Leader newspaper in Elwood, Indiana, an account that was shared around the country of the whispering trees of Los Tunas Canyon (Tuna Canyon).  The article notes, "the noise made by one leaf was so slight that it could not be heard a foot away, but the thousands grating continuously together kept the sound vibrations in such constant motion that their sigh was heard above the ordinary rustling of the leaves of the chaparral."  It is the many thousand whispers of yesterday and today that can bring voice to the story of Tuna Canyon. (Image: The Elwood Call Leader, Elwood, Indiana, January 16, 1918)

   There is something about the trees in Tuna Canyon.  Between 1917 and 1918, a news report circulated around the country in which a hiker reported "whispering trees" in "Los Tunas canyon" (one example, the Arizona Republican, "Finds Trees that Seem to Whisper", November 10, 1918).  Tuna Canyon's trees continue to communicate to those who plan the historic-cultural monument. Their theme for the planned traveling exhibit: Only the Oaks Remain.

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.