Position Paper

From: The Pinedale Assembly Center Memorial Project Committee, a joint committee of the Central California Nikkei Foundation and the Central California District Council of the Japanese American Citizens League

To: Fresno City Council

Re: Designation of Building 8 located at 7435 N. Ingram Avenue, Fresno, to the Local Register of Historic Resources

The Historic Preservation Commission unanimously voted to nominate Building 8 to the Fresno City Council for designation to the Local Register of Historic Resources on November 28, 2005. The Fresno City Council will conduct a public hearing to consider the designation on January 10, 2006. Building 8 has historic significance due to its use as a warehouse by the Sugar Pine Lumber Company and its inclusion in the Pinedale Assembly Center and Camp Fresno during World War II. Building 8 is part of the site acquired by the Army on March 22, 1942.

The primary interest of the Pinedale Assembly Center Memorial Committee (“Committee”) is in the use of the site as an assembly center to intern 4823 Americans of Japanese ancestry from May 7, 1942, to July 23, 1942. It is part of a larger story of the internment of Japanese Americans during the War, the story of the Japanese American soldiers who fought in World War II to prove their loyalty to America and the struggle for redress, which resulted in a Presidential apology and recognition of the rights of Japanese Americans as citizens of this great country. Within the context of this broader story, the site has local, state and national historic significance. The Committee does not want to impede the developer’s plans to demolish the building so long as an appropriate memorial is established on the site with interpretive materials to explain the historic significance of the site.

The California Office of Historic Preservation has reserved California Historic Landmark No. 934 for the Pinedale Assembly Center, a temporary detention camp for Japanese Americans as a first phase of the mass incarceration of 97,785 Californians of Japanese ancestry during World War II. This is compelling if not conclusive evidence that the site has state historic significance. Pursuant to Executive Order No. 9066 signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, thirteen makeshift detention facilities were constructed at various California racetracks, fairgrounds and labor camps. These facilities were intended to confine Japanese Americans until more permanent concentration camps, such as those at Manzanar and Tule Lake in California, could be built in isolated areas of the country. Beginning on March 30, 1942, all native-born Americans and long-time legal residents of Japanese ancestry living along the West Coast were ordered to surrender themselves for detention. The Pinedale Assembly Center was used to intern residents of Sacramento and El Dorado Counties in California, Oregon and Washington.

The site of the Pinedale Assembly Center also has national historic significance. The Manzanar War Relocation Center was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1985 and has been incorporated into the National Park Service with an Interpretive Center. Senator Dianne Feinstein has asked Interior Secretary Gale Norton to have Tule Lake War Relocation Center declared a National Historic Landmark. Many of those interned at the Pinedale Assembly Center were relocated to Tule Lake, where they were forced to stay for nearly three years. On November 16, 2005, the House of Representatives passed by unanimous voice vote HR 1492, the Camp Preservation Bill. The Bill would create a $38 million grant program to preserve sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II, including the Pinedale Assembly Center. The legislation is designed to be flexible. Matching grant funds may be used to create interpretive or educational facilities in lieu of preserving structures.

The Pinedale Assembly Center Memorial Project Committee (“Committee”) was established by the Central California Nikkei Foundation (“Foundation”) and the Central California District Council of the Japanese American Citizens League (“JACL”) to promote a memorial project for the Pinedale Assembly Center. The Foundation is a non-profit corporation which operates a senior center and assisted living facility and sponsors educational programs. The JACL is the oldest and largest Asian American human and civil rights organization in America. The Committee is being assisted by Paul Saito and Irv Miyamoto. Mr. Saito is a landscape architect and designed the landscape for the Shinzen Friendship Garden at Woodward Park and the Fresno Assembly Center Memorial Project. Mr. Miyamoto is an architect and designed the gazebos at the Shinzen Friendship Garden.

The Foundation and the Central California District Council of JACL successfully collaborated with the Fresno District Fair as co-sponsors in the creation of the Fresno Assembly Center Memorial Project. Americans of Japanese ancestry from Central California were temporarily interned at the Fresno Fairgrounds during World War II. A California Historic Landmark was dedicated at the Fresno Fairgrounds on February 19, 1992, marking the 50th anniversary of Executive Order No. 9066. The inscription on the Landmark reads: “This memorial is dedicated to over 5,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry who were confined to the Fresno Fairgrounds from May to October 1942. This was an early phase of the mass incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. They were detained without charges, trial or establishment of guilt. May such injustice and suffering never recur.”

The Committee urges the City Council to designate Building 8 to the Local Register of Historic Resources or require the developer to participate in the creation of an appropriate memorial project on site with interpretive materials as a mitigation measure for its demolition of Building 8. The memorial should utilize materials from Building 8 as a symbolic way of preserving a portion of Building 8. The memorial could also encompass historic treatment of the Sugar Pine Lumber Company and Camp Pinedale as well as the Pinedale Assembly Center. The Committee would be happy to collaborate with the City of Fresno and community groups to develop an appropriate memorial.

For more information, contact: Dale Ikeda,  (559) 313-9322 (cell), Chair, Pinedale Assembly Center Memorial Project Committee