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Little Tokyo Service Center: Building and Preserving Community

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Stemming from a surge of activism in Little Tokyo, the Little Tokyo Service Center has been addressing the needs of the community members for more than three decades. Formed in 1979, their aim has been to "provide linguistically and culturally sensitive social services to the Little Tokyo community and the broader Japanese American community in the Southland."

In the 1980s and '90s, outside developers were brought into Little Tokyo from Japan and Korea to fund the modernization of the historic area. Growing concern of displacement of the elderly, homeless, and low-income people led the Little Tokyo Service Center to establish the Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation, which focused solely on the housing needs of the residents of Little Tokyo.


Community Development
What began as a social service for Japanese elders grew into a valuable advocate and tool for activism and change.


Providing Affordable Housing
Concerned with outside investment interests during the 1970s, the Little Tokyo Service Center equipped themselves to make a change in their community.


Planning Little Tokyo's Future
Following a 40 year-plus relationship with the now defunct Community Redevelopment Agency, the Little Tokyo Service Center prepares to continue.


Preserving Little Tokyo
With only three Japantowns left in the nation, student activists -- who would later become part of the Little Tokyo Service Center -- took on the fight to save their community.


Regional Connector
With the second busiest transit hub set for construction in the heart of its community, Little Tokyo and the LTSC make plans for the changes to come.

Today the two organizations have merged and known simply as the Little Tokyo Service Center. Services offered by the LTSC include literacy programs for youth and elders, support for small businesses, counseling and historic preservation. To date the organization has developed over 600 units of affordable housing and $100 million in non-profit real estate projects for the community, in areas ranging from East Hollywood, Chinatown, and Monterey Park. They also spearheaded the preservation of the historic San Pedro Firm Building, Union Center for the Arts, and the Far East Cafe building, all part of the Little Tokyo Historic District.

Little Tokyo faces the challenge similar to that of the greater Los Angeles -- to modernize and thrive while preserving its rich history and culture. By strengthening and preserving the residential community while attracting visitors to frequent its historic landmarks and buildings, the Little Tokyo Service Center continues to help Little Tokyo retain its character as a historic Japanese American neighborhood.

Update: Alan Nishio was selected a KCET Local Hero 2014. Read more about Nishio here.

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