First Street North

Organization and community: Little Tokyo Service Center (Los Angeles, CA)

First Street North is Little Tokyo Service Center’s neighborhood campaign to utilize the community’s social and physical history to justify and empower a claim to the right to redevelop several publicly-owned parcels of land in Little Tokyo.  It celebrates the only historically preserved block in Little Tokyo through community-based arts, awareness, and engagement and highlights how the First Street North block is critical to the past and future of the neighborhood while promoting a community vision for First Street North. The overarching goal of First Street North-related projects is to urge the city of Los Angeles to ensure that the block is developed in a manner that is consistent with the community’s vision. Specific First Street North and #MyFSN projects included:

Poster Contest

+LAB and First Street North stakeholders organized a poster contest where artists had the opportunity to craft a design that displayed neighborhood history, advocacy or activism as it pertains to the block, and/or a vision for the future of the block. Posters were placed in storefronts along First Street North enabling those who frequent the block to learn about the block on which they were shopping, walking, living, or eating. The contest was open to visual artists and poster design workshops were held with local residents to give them an opportunity to contribute. The contest resulted in a diverse set of submissions and submitters including residents, long-time community members, activists, and artists who were unknown in the community. These were the winning artists: David Monkawa (Senior Category Winner), Steve Nagano (Senior Category Runner Up), Kimsun Wong (Adult Category Winner), RJ Quiralta (Adult Category Runner Up), and Xeandric Ross (Youth Category Winner).

Launch Projects

+LAB provided support to established cultural organizations in Little Tokyo to pursue projects activating First Street North. All programming served as a remembrance of the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942, permitting the Secretary of War to prescribe military areas which initiated the unjust incarceration of Japanese, German, and Italian Americans to internment camps.

These events included:

  • Free performances in Little Tokyo of the play “Residence Elsewhere” by East West Players;
  • A multimedia event “Bronzeville, Little Tokyo,” which was presented by FORM follows FUNCTION and Visual Communications and explored a period in the 1940s when many African-Americans made Little Tokyo home; and
  • “Moving Day,” an outdoor public art installation and series of related public programs put on by the Japanese American National Museum, focusing on the exclusion orders used by the U.S. government during WWII to incarcerate thousands of people of Japanese descent.

Sake Festival

+LAB also contributed to Little Tokyo Service Center’s 11th Annual Sake and Food Tasting event held on July 21, 2017. The event was entitled, “Sake at First Street North, Little Tokyo,” and drew attention to the #MyFSN campaign through a multimedia installation designed to inspire guests to re-imagine the First Street North block.


+LAB encouraged artists and businesses to become involved in community development efforts through the creation of four unique placemats highlighting the history and importance of First Street North. Each placemat was interactive, inviting restaurant patrons to photograph their food or create origami. The placemats were designed by local artists and distributed to businesses along First Street North and the wider Little Tokyo small business community. The four artists who created placemats were: Audrey Chan, Tony Osumi, Tenaya Senzaki, and Kent Yoshimura.