Earlier this week we reported that Supervisor Jane Kim was asking around about what it'd take to wipe Lech Walesa off the map. The former Polish president and democratic leader wasn't exactly espousing San Francisco values when he suggested homosexual politicians should sit "behind a wall" in Poland's parliament. And now Kim wants his name off the gritty alleyway sitting in her district.
Well, it's not going to happen tomorrow.
City policy on street name changes calls for input from up to five departments - Department of Public Works, Planning Department, Police Department, Fire Department, and Department of Building Inspection - and multiple actions from the Board of Supervisors (additional bodies would be involved if Lech Walesa Street were on port land, park land, Presidio land, state highway land, or a university campus, which, fortunately, it isn't). In a 10-paragraph policy, eight sections of four city and state codes are cited.
Renaming a street in San Francisco is just like anything else -- exhausting.
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Per state code, the heavy lifting required to topple Walesa rests with the Board, which "may initiate a resolution" to change the name. This resolution is relayed from the Board clerk to the DPW to the chief surveyor for "review and investigation." The DPW conducts its own study alongside the surveyor, and both report back to the Housing and Neighborhood Services Committee, which then may or may not move the issue along to the full board.
Should the Board approve the name change - with the blessing of the mayor or overriding his veto with eight votes - the new street name will be forwarded back to the chief surveyor for "inclusion within the Official Map of the City." This map is "updated on a somewhat irregular basis" as most folks with streets named after them are either dead or have the good sense not to make profoundly bigoted statements on television.
And yet, even after all that, we'd still have Lech Walesa's name on the wall for a long while to come. Per Section 701 of the Public Works Code, "Once the street name has been officially changed, the street signs must contain both names for a 5-year period."
So, which will be faster? Getting Lech Walesa's name off the city's streets or Lech Walesa's struggle to bring democracy to Poland? Time will tell.
Peruse the city's name-change policy yourself: Street Name Changes.docx