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Throwdown in Japantown: Developer Threatens Festivals

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Japantown locals are claiming that two cultural mainstays— the Cherry Blossom Festival and Nihonmachi Street Fair— have been threatened by the developer and HOA board president of the condominium dev at 1600 Webster Street. In a heated exchange (reprinted after the jump for your reading pleasure, natch) neighborhood reps defend their festivals against allegations that claim the fairs as public nuisances with their "schlocky souvenirs" and "mediocre food stands." Such events violate the Girl Scout rules of honor, says the developer, by leaving neighborhood streets in shambles. We smell trouble: The festival committee can't afford to hire the city to steam clean the sidewalks following this year's festival (though its volunteers have vowed to do the best they can, in-house).

Both associations have promised to protest to the city should the festivals muck up the 'hood this time around. Small claims court? Oh hell yes. Team 1600 Webster will take the nabe to court, no problem. Street sweepers don't come free, people. Adding an extra twist of animosity to the already-sticky situation is the nabe's history with the developer; at one point, the community even offered its own funds to purchase and preserve the Japantown Bowl, which was subsequently sold, razed, and rebuilt into 1600 Webster development. Bad blood!
· Japantown Festivals Threatened [Akit's Complaint Department]
[Image courtesy SF Citizen]

The beef:

From: 1600 Webster Street Homeowners' Association
To: Nihonmachi Street Fair Committee

As you are aware, this Association (along with other members of this neighborhood) must tolerate what seems to be an endless use of Post and Webster Streets for a series of look-alike street fairs with the same purveyors of schlocky souvenirs, mediocre food stands and exhibitors who have absolutely no relationship to the community. There is no other neighborhood which is asked to put up with these sorts of disruptions, and that, of course, doesn't include the disruption presented by the Fillmore Street Fair which is only one block away.

Thus, we find it astonishing that the Fair organizers would propose an event that would leave the neighborhood in worse condition than you found it and then impose your clean-up costs on this Association and other property owners. The streets and sidewalks of this neighborhood are usually filthy, especially those that surround that appalling mall, and 1600 Webster already devotes part of its yearly budget to the maintenance of its sidewalks and street trees from which this neighborhood receives a direct benefit.

We want to make it very clear to you that if the neighborhood sidewalks are not cleaned in an adequate fashion this year, this Association will file a protest with the City when you seek a permit for next year's street fair.

David H. Zisser

President, 1600 Webster Street Homeowners' Association

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From: Developer, 1600 Webster Street
To: Nihonmachi Street Fair Committee

This is real simple. You want to put on an event; you take responsibility. In this instance, you make a mess, you clean it up. You don't get the benefits (proceeds), without the liabilities (expenses). If your event doesn't make money, you should rethink it's usefulness. In any event, if we have to clean up afterwards, we will not only oppose the event next year we will look to small claims court to reimburse us for clean up costs. We don't need a bunch of emailing back and forth on this. It is not a negotiation.

John McInerney

Developer 1600 Webster Street

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Nihonmachi Street Fair Response

Dear Mr. Zisser,

Thank you for your email regarding the upcoming Nihonmachi Street Fair.

After thoroughly reading your reply I am very troubled by the response you presented.

The Nihonmachi Street Fair (NSF) like the many other community events held in and around Japantown has always worked with our neighbors both residential, community organizations and businesses to make sure that we keep our streets clean and that the event is a successful one especially for the many non profit organizations that participate.

We have never received any negative comments like this and it puts a damper on what we hope will attract many visitors to the area. The Nihonmachi Street Fair has always done our best to keep the streets of Japantown pristine after the event closes each day. Our committee knows how important it is to not only represent the NSF in a positive manner, but that our actions also reflect our organization and more importantly our community.

Due to very limited funds this year we are unable to spend the funds to hire the City to steam clean the sidewalk area directly in front of the 1600 Webster condo. The Food Fest area will be contained on Post Street. Other than having our volunteers sweep the streets during and after the event, as well as the Department of Public Works coming by to sweep the entire Fair areas, we should be fine. Of course if any of the streets that we use is soiled and is an eye sore we do go out there and physically scrub the area.