Axios San Francisco

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It's Tuesday, the last day of April, which means it's gonna be May.

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🎂 Happy birthday to our Axios San Francisco member Jesse Rogers!

Today's newsletter is 870 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Japantown Peace Plaza breaks ground for renovations

The Japantown Peace Pagoda and Peace Plaza in 2018. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado via Getty Images

San Francisco's project to renovate Japantown Peace Plaza is officially underway as the city shores up preservation efforts for what officials say is one of three remaining Japantowns in the U.S.

Why it matters: Japantown, like San Francisco's Chinatown, struggled to survive the pandemic.

  • The project aims to bolster structural protections and culturally significant features in the plaza, which has served as a central hub for the local Japanese community since it was built in the 1960s.

What they're saying: "San Francisco is the heart of Asian America," Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) said at a groundbreaking ceremony Saturday. "And no community represents that better than Japantown."

  • Mayor London Breed said the project will ensure the Peace Plaza — expected to reopen in early 2026 — remains a central gathering point for future generations.

State of play: The renovation will waterproof the 32,000-square-foot plaza to prevent water leakage to the Japan Center Garage underneath and reconstruct the building with new elements, such as seating, lighting and plants.

  • Boulders, plaques, bonsai trees and monuments will also be salvaged and reinstalled, and the Peace Pagoda will get a structural upgrade.
  • The Japan Center Malls will remain open during the renovation.

The big picture: San Francisco's Japantown is the oldest in the U.S., according to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP). It dates to 1906, when the Japanese community began moving to the Western Addition neighborhood.

  • Despite facing racism and housing discrimination, the community persisted through World War II — when the U.S. imprisoned people of Japanese descent in internment camps — and the city's urban renewal projects, which razed half of Japantown and displaced over 1,500 residents, per ACHP.

Worthy of your time: A San Francisco Chronicle project shows the longstanding effects of the World War II exile of Japantown — the number of Japanese people living in the core part of Japantown fell from over 1,300 in 1940 to 730 in 1950.

  • Ancestry also released a new collection of historical records last week honoring the over 125,000 Japanese people who were unjustly imprisoned.

Go deeper

2. SF sports roundup: 49ers make "confusing" draft picks

The San Francisco 49ers selected wide receiver Ricky Pearsall with the 31st overall pick. Photo: John Smolek/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers prioritized speed and strength in the 2024 NFL draft last week, The Athletic reports.

Driving the news: But there were a couple of controversial picks. The first was the first-round selection of wide receiver Ricky Pearsall, who "seemed to be picked more with 2025 in mind," per The Athletic.

  • Another was the "confusing" second-round selection of cornerback Renardo Green, who was drafted "about two rounds too high," ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. wrote.
  • The 49ers' overall draft grade, per ESPN: B-minus.

Here are some other notable happenings in San Francisco sports:

Golden State Warriors' Steph Curry wins award

The Dubs didn't make the playoffs this season, but at least Stephen Curry was named Clutch Player of the Year … [shrug emoji].

  • The biggest news of the offseason will be about what the Warriors do with Klay Thompson, who had an underwhelming season and will be an unrestricted free agent.

Bay FC loses two in a row

The Bay's professional women's soccer team isn't top of the league, but we hear their games are still a good time and there's still plenty of time to improve.

SF Giants navigate bullpen woes

The Giants haven't had the strongest start to the MLB season, in part due to its pitching bullpen.

Read more

3. The Wiggle: Navigating the news

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Students at several Bay Area colleges have started encampments to protest the Israel-Gaza war and demand a ceasefire. (KQED)

🧅 San Francisco tech billionaire Jeff Lawson, cofounder of Twilio, has acquired satirical news outlet The Onion. (SF Chronicle)

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed support for the Bay Area-based Democratic County Central Committee's push to investigate sexual assault and harassment allegations against local political leaders. (SF Standard)

🏥 Kaiser Permanente is notifying 13.4 million current and former members of a data breach that may have impacted their personal information. (SF Chronicle)

4. 1 cool thing: The Fillmore Eclipse

Jimbo Edwards, owner of Fillmore jazz club Bop City, in 1993. Photo: Jerry Telfer/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

A new immersive theater exhibit in the Fillmore explores the 1950s jazz scene and subsequent Urban Renewal in the neighborhood, once known as the Harlem of the West.

Driving the news: The show, "Fillmore Eclipse," opened last week and runs through May 12 at Honey Art Studio.

  • It explores redevelopment through the experience of regulars at the Eclipse — modeled after historical after-hours jazz spot Bop City — the night before it's about to be destroyed.
  • "Fillmore Eclipse" is styled after immersive experiences like "Sleep No More" and "The Nest," according to its creators.
  • Tickets start at $30.

What they're saying

Out today: Inside Axios

My cofounder, CEO and friend Jim VandeHei is out today with a new book — "Just the Good Stuff: No-B.S. Secrets to Success" — about lessons learned starting and running Politico and then Axios.

Why it matters: Jim offers dozens of easy-to-understand — and implement — ideas for dealing with the tough stuff of life and work: picking careers, dealing with bad bosses or jerks, overcoming insecurities or health scares.

Cool twist: All the net proceeds go to students who need help with vocational school, or two- or four-year college.

🎓 Terrific graduation gift: Jim details how he went from a 1.491 GPA in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to a success on the national stage.

  • The book also provides an inside look at the Axios culture animating this newsletter.

Order here ... Bulk discount here.

5. Billie Eilish is heading to the Bay

Billie Eilish performs at Coachella this month. Photo: Christina House/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Alt-pop star Billie Eilish will begin her tour of three continents this fall, performing two shows in the Bay Area in December.

Driving the news: The tour stops in San José on Dec. 10 and 11 at the SAP Center.

Between the lines: Live Nation announced the singer's tour will coincide with her third studio album, "Hit Me Hard and Soft."

  • The album hits streaming services May 17.

What's next: Artist presale begins today at noon.

👀 Megan is amazed that only 14 Black students were admitted to Lowell High School for next school year.

📖 Shawna wants to check out Clio's after reading this feature about the charming bar-bookstore.

🎤 Claire is thinking about last weekend's cabaret performance from the 8th Best Legs in San Francisco.

This newsletter was edited by Rachel La Corte and copy edited by Kathie Bozanich and Anjelica Tan.