Saturday, January 27, 2018

Endangered National Treasure: Republic Services selling Historic Wintersburg for self storage

ABOVE: Members of the Little Tokyo Historical Society inspect Historic Wintersburg during a briefing in April 2017. Among them was the son of Reverend Sohei Kowta, who had lived on the property as clergy for the Wintersburg Japanese Mission from 1938 to 1942. (Photo, M. Urashima, April 8, 2017) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

   Historic Wintersburg was informed late Friday afternoon, January 26, that Republic Services, Inc.---the waste management company that owns the Historic Wintersburg property---has made a deal to sell the National Treasure Historic Wintersburg property to Public Storage for development as self storage.

LEFT: Members of the California Preservation Foundation inspect Historic Wintersurg in May 2013, as part of a half day workshop on the history and preservation effort.  They are standing in front of the 1912 Furuta bungalow. (Photo, Chris Jepsen, May 3, 2013) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
    Historic Wintersburg has been working in good faith with Republic Services to purchase the property, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and th
e Trust for Public Land. Republic Services told us during these discussions--with city council members and the city attorney present--that they are open to our purchase and have no plans to develop the property.  Republic Services has now demonstrated they are a willing seller--providing an appraisal or entering purchase discussions with Public Storage--but it does not appear they have been dealing with the community preservation group in good faith.

   A self storage project would require a zone change and would cause the destruction of significant and rare historic resources considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.  This proposed project also would place a commercial development adjacent to the preschool and elementary school in the Oak View neighborhood, home to Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach.

Historic Wintersburg has been waiting since May 2017 for Republic Services to obtain an appraisal of the current market value of the property, as stated during our televised presentation to the city council on July 17, 2017, with the Trust for Public Land (available for viewing at 

RIGHT: Visitors learning about National Treasure Historic Wintersburg have included Academy Award winner Chris Tashima and best-selling author Jamie Ford.  Property owner Charles Furuta was interrogated by the FBI in the sun porch behind them, prior to his arrest in February 1942. (Photo, M. Urashima, March 22, 2017) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

  Historic Wintersburg has been vetted by the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Trust for Public Land. The preservation effort has been support by organizations from around the country and it has received both national and international media coverage.

LEFT: A delegation from Huntington Beach Sister City Anjo, Japan, visited Historic Wintersburg in 2015. This past year, Huntington Beach city council members and other leaders visited Anjo. Representatives from Anjo will be at the annual Huntington Beach Cherry Blossom Festival in March. (Photo, September 11, 2015) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
    Huntington Beach has a decades-long friendship with our Sister City Anjo, Japan, with whom we celebrate an annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Central Park each spring.  There is an annual high school student exchange with students from Anjo, as well as visits by officials and community leaders.  In 1992, Anjo contributed over $90,000 to support the rebuilding of the Huntington Beach pier and has presented countless works of art to the City over the years.

RIGHT: Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, toured Historic Wintersburg in 2015, prior to its designation as a National Treasure. (Photo, M. Urashima, January 6, 2015) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

   Historic Wintersburg is a National Treasure historic site representing Japanese pioneer history, Japanese American history, and important chapters for our country's national history, as well as being a connection for our international Sister City relationship. 

   The land was purchased prior to California's Alien Land Law of 1913, after which Japanese were prohibited from owning property. The fact that everyone associated with Historic Wintersburg was forcibly removed from California and confined during World War II due solely to their ancestry makes this a place to learn about civil liberties.  More about why Historic Wintersburg is a National Treasure can be found on the National Trust for Historic Preservation website here: and on our Wikipedia page here:,_California#Preservation_of_Historic_Wintersburg

LEFT: Tadashi Kowta talks about his life living in the manse (parsonage) at Historic Wintersburg as a child, from 1938 to 1942.  He attended the Ocean View Grammar School. His father, Reverend Sohei Kowta, was interrogated by the FBI in the 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Church, prior to his family's departure for confinement at the Colorado River Relocation Center, Poston, Arizona. Tadashi remembers his teacher and classmates coming to say goodbye. (Photo, M. Urashima, April 8, 2017)

   Erasing rare American history for a self storage project, when there is an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy by working with the community to save a National Treasure historic place.  This is one of the last Japanese pioneer historic places in Orange County and a rare historic property for California. The six extant historic structures on the property tell the story of more than a century. There remains archaeological work to uncover both the modern and the ancient history of the Tongva, for which archaeologists from California State University Long Beach wish to facilitate.

   PLEASE CONTACT City of Huntington Beach city council members and City management to urge them to save the only National Treasure historic place in Orange County and one of the rare historic properties for Japanese American history.  Ask them to use their leadership and work with Republic Services to save Historic Wintersburg on the land where the history occurred.

Mayor Michael Posey,
Mayor Pro Tem Erik Peterson,
Council Member Jill Hardy,
Council Member Lyn Semeta,
Council Member Patrick Brenden,
Council Member Billy O'Connell,
Council Member Barbara Delgleize,
(All seven can be emailed at once with
City Manager Fred Wilson,

  PLEASE CONTACT Republic Services and ask them to help save American history and not allow for the destruction of significant cultural and historic resources.  The Trust for Public Land stands by to negotiate the purchase for historic preservation and help with technical planning of a public park with historic structures.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation stands by to guide expert historic preservation. We will work with Republic Services.

General Manager, Huntington Beach, Chris Kentopp,
Regional Vice President, Dave Hauser, 
Southwest Area Director, Operations, Alberto Guardado,

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