September 21, 2013

National Treasure Terminal Island Now on Path to Preservation

We at the National Trust have been hard at work in Los Angeles this past month, and we wanted to share with you some great success stories from our recent projects.

You may be familiar with Terminal Island, one of our National Treasures in the Port of Los Angeles. This once-vibrant Japanese-American fishing village was a major World War I and II shipbuilding center, as well as the birthplace of the worldwide tuna canning industry. The island also played a key role in a tragic chapter of American history: In 1942, an entire Japanese-American community there was seen as a national security threat, and its residents were forcibly removed and imprisoned at the internment camp Manzanar.

Despite the site’s deep historic significance, however, the Port of Los Angeles has neglected historic buildings there, and in 2011 introduced a plan to demolish more structures rather than adapt and reuse them.

The National Trust and the Los Angeles Conservancy joined forces on an advocacy campaign to save the island’s history -- an effort that paid off when the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners adopted the forward-thinking Los Angeles Port Master Plan Update this past August.

Threatened building on Terminal Island

The approved plan -- the first comprehensive update of the Port’s development policies and procedures in more than three decades -- offers a path for the preservation and re-use of historic buildings on Terminal Island. The National Trust and the Los Angeles Conservancy worked to ensure that the final plan would serve as a replicable model for other industrial ports throughout the country.

Preservation-focused components of the plan include:

  • Identifying Fish Harbor’s Japanese-American Commercial Village as a historic resource
  • Removing road realignments originally intended to bisect historic buildings
  • Making mixed-use land use designations that provide greater flexibility in adaptively reusing historic buildings

In addition to the National Trust’s work at Terminal Island, the organization’s Preservation Green Lab is partnering with the Urban Land Institute to advance the reuse of historic and older buildings in the City of Los Angeles. Using downtown Los Angeles as a testing ground, the initiative is identifying the most common barriers to building reuse and developing strategies to make it easier to creatively reuse buildings. Their work will help inform policies and incentives for building reuse in other cities. A report to announce the findings of the LA pilot will be available mid-October, 2013.

The Terminal Island Japanese Village Memorial honors the Japanese immigrants who lived in the once-thriving fishing village. Credit: FredMikeRudy, Flickr

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On the heels of these successes, the National Trust opened a field office in downtown Los Angeles on September 1 to further its efforts to preserve historic places in Southern California and the Southwest. Chris Morris, formerly with the National Trust’s Chicago field office, is leading the new LA office and is joined by Jeana Wiser of the Preservation Green Lab. We’re excited to continue our work there and keep the good news coming!

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi was the senior director of digital marketing at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and gawks at buildings.

We believe all Americans deserve to see their history in the places that surround us. As a nation, we have work to do to fill in the gaps of our cultural heritage.

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