Screenshot of LTCIF Volunteers

Summer 2020 Update

Dear Little Tokyo Investors and Friends,

The newly-elected Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund, SPC (LTCIF) Board of Directors began meeting formally as of June 2020; up until then the LTCIF had been guided by an interim volunteer Steering Committee who gave life to this vision.  Now, the LTCIF Board is composed of 12 dedicated, experienced, and knowledgeable members with diverse backgrounds, representing both Class A and Class B Shares.  They are listed on the “Our Team” page.

Here are some bullet-point highlights as we move forward in the coming year:

  • Ms. Caroline Calderon, a UCLA graduate in Urban Planning has been providing expert staff support.
  • We have currently 22 “A” level ($1,000) investors and 42 “B” level ($10,000+) investors and have raised almost $600K in investments.
  • We have been approved by the State of California for a one-year extension to continue to seek investors – with a goal of reaching $2.5 million.
  • We are investigating a number of properties for purchase in Little Tokyo; the need for community-owned real estate is even more dire in this pandemic-related economy that has been disastrous for small businesses.

Thank you to all who have invested with LTCIF in order to help preserve our historic Little Tokyo neighborhood.   Please visit our website for information and Frequently Asked Questions at

The LTCIF is working to make sure the Nikkei history, heritage, and culture will continue for generations to come.  Thanks to all of you for your support and interest!


Bill Watanabe, President, LTCIF Board of Directors

POSTPONED: Coffee Hour + Walking Tour

Update: 3/12/2020, 10:00AM

Good Morning,

In response to the growing concerns regarding COVID-19, this Saturday’s Coffee Hour + Walking Tour of Little Tokyo are postponed. The Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund SPC, in coordination with other community based organizations, are taking precautions to help eliminate any potential exposure to staff and community members.

We thank you for your initial RSVP and we will inform you once we are able to reschedule the event. In light of this cancellation, LTCIF would like offer further resources to learn more about the Fund:

– “What is Little Tokyo?” is a short video by Steve Nagano that captures why we are are fighting to protect Little Tokyo.
– Read through our LTCIF Brochure to learn more about our purpose, structure and investment opportunities.
– Our Assistant Project Manager, Caroline Calderon, is available to answer any questions you may have about the Fund over the phone or through video chat. Please contact Caroline at (213) 473-1609 of if you would like to schedule a call.

Thank you for your understanding and patience,

Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund Steering Committee

The Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund SPC (LTCIF) will be hosting drop-in hours and a walking tour for individuals or groups that have questions about our efforts and impact.

– Do you have questions about the Fund?
– Are you ready to become an investor?
– Want to pick up an investor packet?
– Do you need assistance in filling out the investor forms?

Let’s chat over some coffee or tea! Feel free to drop by the Little Tokyo Koban and Visitor’s Center anytime between 10am and 12pm on Saturday, March 14, 2020.

Interested in learning more about how developments such as the Metro Regional Connector will impact Little Tokyo?
Are you familiar with legacy and new businesses in Little Tokyo?

Join us for an informal walking tour of Little Tokyo that focuses on the importance of protecting small businesses in the neighborhood. As we walk, we hope to have conversations around the types of businesses that people frequent and what community ownership means for participants.

The walking tour will depart from Koban by 11am (Estimated tour duration: 45mins).Space is limited for the walking tour, so please RSVP.
If you can’t make the event, don’t worry: 

– Stay tuned! We will be preparing more events in April and May. If you would like us to present for your organization or friends, please let us know.
– We can speak with you over the phone. Call Caroline at 213-473-1609 if you have questions.
Request an Offering Circular online and we can send you the documents you need to invest.
– Or send us an email at

Thank you and we hope to see you on March 14th!
Photo of LTCIF meeting at the Gardena Valley JCI

“Let’s building something together…”

Recap of Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund’s South Bay Kick Off

Source: Caroline Calderon

Over 40 Little Tokyo stakeholders filled the hall of the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute last Saturday, November 16, 2019 to discuss a new community development strategy  emerging from the Japanese American community: the Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund (LTCIF). 

The meeting began with a short film by Robert Shoji titled “Gone” which interrogates the question: “Will we stand by until Little Tokyo is GONE, or will we stand up and fight for the future of our community?” Familiar images and shots of Little Tokyo’s cultural institutions, small businesses and community spaces juxtaposed with cranes, “for lease” signs and closed storefronts. 

Shoji’s film set the tone of the event’s purpose: to evoke a call to action to protect Little Tokyo from the changing landscapes fueled by gentrification and rising rents that put long-time residents, small businesses and community spaces at-risk of displacement and cultural erasure.

With the Metro regional connector currently being built in Little Tokyo, there are concerns over rising rents and property values within the next two years. LTCIF is a community-driven real estate investment fund with the purpose to purchase and manage properties in Little Tokyo. The Fund as a social purpose corporation, is a new tool aimed to support heritage-based businesses and properties in Little Tokyo and will work alongside other anti-displacement strategies that are currently being used. The idea is to attain community control over properties in the area and provide below market rates to businesses, cultural institutions, spiritual centers, and other enterprises, consistent with the social purpose of the Fund.

Source: Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund

It has been over a year since LTCIF was first introduced to the South Bay community. When LTCIF President, Bill Watanabe, asked “Who came to last year’s meeting?” over half the room raised their hands. The Fund’s organizing committee worked with lawyer Brett Heeger to solidify the Fund’s purpose, structure and investment options. According to Watanabe, the Fund has grown significantly over the past months:

  • On July 30, 2019 the Commissioner of the California Department of Business Oversight officially recognized the Fund—allowing LTCIF as a social purpose corporation to sell two classes of shares directly to California residents: Class A which requires a purchase of $1,000 for one share and Class B which requires a minimum of purchase of $10,000 for two shares (with each share costing $5,000).
  • The Fund has until July 31, 2020 to reach a minimum subscription $500,000. LTCIF has more than 25 investors who have invested over $350,000 in shares. Once the Fund reaches $450,000, we have a commitment of a $50,000 from a prospective investor to help us reach the minimum.
  • LTCIF will be looking to investors to elect a Board in the upcoming months. Class A shareholders get ⅓ of the seats on the Board while class B investors get ⅔.
  • The Fund is researching sites in Little Tokyo that can be served through the Fund’s purpose. 

“You’re sitting here because I think you’re more interested not in the highest return but putting money to work that’s going to benefit the community, at the same time you’ll get something on your investment” shared Bill Watanabe.

Bill Watanabe presenting LTCIF’s structure, purpose and investment options (Source: Caroline Calderon)

LTCIF committee member, Casey Nishizu, introduced several scenarios of how the Fund can be used to purchase real estate in Little Tokyo. Graphics showing increases in market rents and vacancies reiterated the urgency to get community control of these properties in the neighborhood.

Source: Casey Nishizu

What is Little Tokyo?” a video by Steve Nagano closed the event program which reminded attendees how many families got their start in Little Tokyo. The neighborhood has also evolved into a place where visitors can learn about Japanese American history and culture, but also be patrons of unique small businesses, religious institutions, museums and community art spaces—all of which are worth preserving, especially for future generations.

An in-depth Q&A segment took place that dug deep into the Fund’s structure and investment options. Some of this discussion is captured on LTCIF’s FAQ page:

The Q&A also brought about a sharing of personal experiences and testimonies as to why it is important to take action. One attendee commented, “I grew up going to Chinatown…my parents used to buy groceries there. And now Chinatown has become this hipster destination. It has evolved into something I hardly recognize from my childhood…I admire the Japanese community for even conceiving doing something like this. I applaud this effort.”

Although this is a new tool to engage stakeholders to invest in the area, LTCIF investor Steve Nagano shared that the practice is actually very familiar: “the concept is not new to our community, the Tanomoshis, Keiro, Little Tokyo Towers, Gardeners’ Federation (and building) were all built by a cooperative effort, people contributing their part for the greater community. The difference today is the mechanism (an investment fund). As the Nisei generation pass and the Sansei age, I feel we have a duty, an obligation, to them to do our best to keep Little Tokyo.”

 “Let’s build something together greater than what I can do as an individual…there are many examples in our community of where we’ve pulled our money together to build something for the whole…” remarked Steve Nagano. Investors like Alan Nishio also shared the importance of preserving Little Tokyo in order to be a model for future generations: “This is what we’ve passed on to you…We expect you to carry it on.”

All attendees were given a Prospectus, the Offering Circular (or Memorandum) that details the Fund’s plan, structure, risks, and more. It also includes important eligibility requirements for each class of shares. One-on-one consultations and networking commenced after the Q&A. 
Prospective investors are invited to request an Offering Circular on LTCIF’s website: or even request presentations for their respective community organizations and groups. The Fund also welcomes volunteers who can share their expertise on community outreach, marketing, finance and real estate. For more information, you can contact the Fund at

Press Release: Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund Kick Off Meeting to be Held in South Bay on November 16th

For Immediate Release:                                            
November 5, 2019

Media Contacts:
Miya Iwataki 626-993-8142
Kevin Sanada 310-592-3403
Caroline Calderon 310-384-1683        

Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund Kick Off Meeting to be Held in South Bay on November 16th:
Meeting will introduce the fund and its mission to preserve Little Tokyo’s cultural identity

Los Angeles, CA  –  On Saturday, November 16th at 2:00 pm, the Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund (LTCIF) will hold a special Kick Off Meeting at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute (JCI), 1964 W. 162nd St. in Gardena to introduce the Fund to prospective investors in the South Bay, present updates on the Fund’s progress, and provide details about how to invest in the effort. The meeting will include an informational presentation followed by a question and answer session with current investors and LTCIF steering committee members. Payments and investor documents will be accepted at the event.

The LTCIF, a social purpose corporation, is a unique, community-driven investment opportunity that empowers individuals to own a stake in the future of Little Tokyo. Investors purchase shares in the Fund, which go directly toward acquiring property in Little Tokyo to preserve family-owned small businesses and community institutions. Approved by the Commissioner of the California Department of Business Oversight in July, the LTCIF has already attracted more than $300,000 in investments from community members throughout California.

“The progress we’ve made in just the last four months shows how many people care deeply about the future of Little Tokyo as a commercial, cultural, and spiritual center for Los Angeles,” noted Bill Watanabe, President of the LTCIF, “many South Bay families have strong ties to Little Tokyo, and we’re excited to share this important opportunity.”

The LTCIF was established as a direct response to rising real estate prices in the Downtown area. As development pressures in the area have grown, many memorable and historic businesses and institutions that once called Little Tokyo home have closed their doors. By purchasing, leasing, and managing real estate in and around Little Tokyo, the LTCIF will contribute to community revitalization and cultural preservation while allowing community members to own a stake in the neighborhood for years to come.

“As a resident of Little Tokyo for the past 8 years, I see it has become urgent that we focus on preserving Little Tokyo’s history and heritage. We owe it to the Issei and Nisei who built this community,” says LTCIF member Patty Nagano. “We need to keep the kimochi (heart) of Little Tokyo alive for generations.”

The LTCIF is led by longstanding stakeholders, experts in real estate and finance, and members of the non-profit community in Little Tokyo. Established in 2018, the LTCIF is dedicated to preserving the legacy of Japanese American family-owned businesses, cultural institutions, & spiritual centers in Little Tokyo of Los Angeles. To learn more about the Fund please visit To RSVP for the South Bay Kick Off, please go to



Keeping Mom & Pop on the Block

LTCIF is an emerging model for anti-displacement that centers community investment and ownership. Just last month at Los Angeles LISC’s “Preserving Cultural Neighborhood Gems” Convening on October 15th, LTCIF organizing committee members Bill Watanabe and Lisa Hasegawa joined a panel alongside CDC Small Business Finance and With Love Café and Market to discuss financial tools that could help sustain small businesses at risk of displacement.

The panel highlighted the need to think outside the box and create resources beyond traditional lending and financing tools that are not necessarily accessible to different communities impacted by rising rents and gentrification. The growing movement of LTCIF is made possible by a committee of dedicated individuals who share their expertise and networks and also by stakeholders who want to see Little Tokyo grow.

“We’re drawing from a regional pool of people who care about Little Tokyo. And [the Fund’s purpose] crosses race, class, geography…[our approach is] multi-generational…It’s really about building that community stake,” explained Lisa Hasegawa when asked about the partnerships that LTCIF has developed.

The panel was moderated by LA LISC Executive Director, Tunua Thrash-Ntuk.

Here are some highlights of the panel:

  • Bill Watanabe shared how the Fund started as a conversation in a living room among Little Tokyo community advocates and stakeholders. The rational behind the $10,000 and $1,000 share options is informed by meetings with community members and attorney, Brett Heger. In 2 months, LTCIF is halfway to their goal of $500,000!
  • Tony Barengo from CDC Small Business Finance shared information about their partnership with LISC where they offer loans (leveraged by sources such as New Market Tax Credits) to small businesses to own their spaces. The loan rates offered to these businesses are below market rate and take “the best parts” of the SBA commercial real estate loan to provide more flexibility to applicants.
  • Andrew McDowell, owner of With Love Café located near South LA, presented on his innovative social-enterprise model for his business where he invites community members to be investors and co-owners.

Although these strategies serve different neighborhoods, they are rooted in a similar purpose: to address displacement in their communities. They are examples of new and emerging models for ownership and resources for anti-displacement efforts.

A partial recording of the panel is available below (28 minutes):

LTCIF’s strategies is informed by community input and relies on the participation of CA residents. To learn more about our model and become an investor, please visit our “Invest” page.

All prospective investors should: 1) review LTCIF’s Offering Circular, 2) sign the subscription agreement and investor questionnaire, and 3) submit a payment to purchase a share or multiple shares.

LTCIF Approved to Raise Money as a Community-Owned Real Estate Fund

For Further Information Contact:

Bill Watanabe   213-359-0981

Miya Iwataki      626-993-8142

Little Tokyo, CA  –  The Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund, SPC (LTCIF) has received final approval from California regulators to receive investment funds directly from California residents as it moves to become a community-owned and managed real estate fund. Through a direct public offering (DPO), LTCIF can offer shares of stock directly to potential investors. Proceeds will be used to purchase real estate in and around Little Tokyo, allowing community investors to have a say in what happens in the community and potentially benefit from LTCIF’s success.

A public meeting to announce the DPO and to provide the next steps for potential LTCIF Investors and supporters will be held on Saturday, August 24th at Union Church, 401 E. 3rd Street in Little Tokyo. A special session in Japanese will take place at 11 a.m., followed by a meeting for English speakers at 1:00 p.m. RSVP to the kick-off event here. Parking is free.

LTCIF was launched by a group of Little Tokyo community advocates who were concerned about the increasing number of closures and relocations of heritage-based business in Little Tokyo largely due to gentrification. To work towards preserving and protecting the historical legacy of Little Tokyo from the impact of gentrification, they formed a real-estate investment fund that would seek to purchase and manage properties for the purpose of supporting heritage-based businesses and properties in Little Tokyo. 

On July 30th, after careful review and negotiation, the Commissioner of the California Department of Business Oversight issued a permit for LTCIF to sell two classes of shares directly to California residents. “The State process is complex due to the important consideration of protecting investors, but we have now passed that important milestone,” said Bill Watanabe, LTCIF’s Chairman and President. Attorney Brett Heeger, of the law firm Gartenberg Gelfand Hayton LLP, led LTCIF’s legal team through the months-long permit application process.

The LTCIF has held a round of public informational workshops to inform people of the intention to start a socially responsive real estate investment fund. “This fund could assist mom and pop, and heritage businesses that have been operating in Little Tokyo for many years, and that are now vulnerable to the encroaching gentrification,” according to LTCIF Interim Board member Miya Iwataki. “Response to outreach meetings have been favorable, because many people share a desire to defend the unique cultural history of Little Tokyo.”

Steve Nagano, another member of the LTCIF Interim Board of Directors said, “My wife Patty and I are longtime residents of Little Tokyo.  In our 10 years of living at Teramachi, we have seen some of our favorite restaurants and mom and pops forced to close or relocate due to rent increases brought about by gentrification. Real estate in all of downtown Los Angeles continues to escalate rapidly. And therefore, we have to take action now!”

“It all comes down to who owns the land,” adds Watanabe. “The only way to combat this is to own the land and thereby control how rents can be mitigated and mom-and-pop businesses can be sustained. Little Tokyo Service Center has provided a model for how this can be done.”  

Mark Masaoka, another LTCIF Board member explains, “People need to understand that we are not asking for donations, but that this is an investment into the community. If successful, we hope to deliver financial return on that investment in addition to having a social impact.”

An update on Little Tokyo, and the mission, structure, and operation of the Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund will be presented at the August 24th meeting, with time for extensive question and answer. Further details on the fund are available on the LTCIF website


Little Tokyo CIF Meeting for Japanese & English Speakers

The Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund (LTCIF) is excited to announce that we will hold additional open meetings to present the formation of a community-benefit investment fund aimed at helping to preserve the historic ethnic neighborhood of Little Tokyo.

The LTCIF held a public meetings at the JACCC in August, and a second information session at the Gardena JCI in September.   According to members of the LTCIF Organizing Committee, “Approximately 75 attended the meeting with great interest in Little Tokyo; and around 55 attended the session at Gardena JCI to hear more about this new effort.”  

Two more meetings are scheduled to be held in Little Tokyo on Oct. 20th for Japanese-speaking people, and for those who could not attend the first two gatherings.  The two sessions take place at the Union Church in Little Tokyo on Saturday, Oct. 20th:

•    1 pm – 2:30 pm will be held in Japanese
•    3 pm – 4:30 pm will be held in English

The LTCIF is seeking investors who are willing to invest in the fund (a minimum of $10,000) and will receive a moderate rate of return on investment and at the same time be helping to preserve our community history, heritage, and culture.”

Everyone is invited to attend and to learn about the LTCIF and how they can participate in this exciting new venture to support the community.  More public meetings are being planned for other regions of the Southland.

RSVP for Little Tokyo Meeting

At this meeting we will discuss: What is happening in Little Tokyo? What is a Community Impact Fund? How can individuals, families, organizations and businesses get involved to preserve the legacy of Little Tokyo? There will be a Question & Answer session open to all. If you are not able to attend, please check back to the LTCIF website for updates.

Thank you and have a great weekend!


Bill Watanabe
President, LTCIF

報道期間各位              詳細:
2018 年10月5日  
「リトル東京コミュニティーインパクトファンド計画パブリックミーティング」リトル東京コミュニティインパクトファンド(LTCIF)オーガナイザーは、リトル東京の歴史的地区を守ることを目的とした地域特典投資ファンドについての、 オープンミーティングの日程を発表する。LTCIFは8月にJACCCでパブリックミーティングを開催し、9月にガーデナJCIで第2回情報セッションを開催した。LTCIF組織委員会のメンバーによると、「リトル東京での一回目セッションでは、約75人の参加者の多くがリトル東京に大きな関心を寄せており、 Gardena JCIのセッションには約55名が参加し、この新しい取り組みについて学んだ。」

  • 1 – 2:30 pm  Japanese Presentation
  • 3 – 4:30 pm  English Presentation

LTCIFは、ファンドに投資の意向の投資家(最低1万ドル)を求め、 投資収益率は中程度となっている。またこのファンドを通じ、歴史的の遺産と文化の維持に貢献する事となる。



LTCIF Website

A Recap of Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund’s First Community Meeting

On August 25, 2018, over 70 Little Tokyo stakeholders gathered in the Garden Room of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center to learn more about the Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund, a public/private partnership and platform to allow individuals, foundations, and the local government to invest collaboratively in the Japanese American community. The space, adorned with images of Little Tokyo’s streets, people and small businesses, provided an opportunity for attendees to reflect on the vibrant history of the Japanese American community.

The meeting commenced with an introduction from LTCIF Organizing Committee member, Miya Iwataki, who ended her welcome with the call to “SAVE LITTLE TOKYO!” A video created by Steve Nagano was shown to provide a brief history of Little Tokyo and highlight the importance of its existence from the perspectives of tourists, business owners, nonprofit workers, artists and other community members.

An update on Little Tokyo was presented by Takao Suzuki who spoke about the displacement of small businesses in Little Tokyo and highlighted which properties in the neighborhood are for sale. Bill Watanabe gave a brief overview of the proposed organizational structure and investment cycle of the fund.

The overview of the fund was followed by a comprehensive Q&A segment where several questions and comments were posed.  You can see the answers to many of these questions on our FAQ page.

Attendees were given the opportunity to sign “Letter of Intent” forms to show their interest in supporting the fund and its efforts. Meetings will be held in various locations across Los Angeles County to introduce the fund. The meeting ended with light refreshments, beverages and networking.

To sign a letter of intent, please click here. The signed letter can be emailed or mailed.

For any additional questions, please contact Bill Watanabe at info [@]

*Update: The Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund (LTCIF) Organizing Committee will hold its second community meeting in the South Bay. The Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute will co-sponsor this community meeting with LTCIF which will present the concept of a socially responsible corporation that will invest funds in planned and impactful real estate purchases to provide stability and support for legacy and community related business, non-profits, artists and cultural groups. Please join us to learn how to get involved in this important initiative to help preserve and maintain a vibrant, community focused Little Tokyo! RSVP: Facebook or Eventbrite.