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Here's Where You Can Find Sites Named After Racist San Francisco Mayor James D. Phelan 

Wednesday, Apr 22 2015
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Want see how impossible it is to avoid James D. Phelan's name in California? It recurs so often, you'd think it was a subliminal message.

James D. Phelan Memorial Beach (fixed)
Even after his death, Phelan was erasing Chinese immigrants from California. The small cove between Lands End and Baker Beach was said to have been a camp for Chinese fisherman in the 1800s and was dubbed China Beach. But because of the discriminatory legislation brought forth by Phelan and his cronies, the Chinese fishing community dwindled. When tCalifornia took ownership in 1933, it named the beach for Phelan in a giant slap to the minimal clout immigrants had at the time. More than 20 years later, the National Park Service acquired the property from the state and had the sense to change the name back.

Phelan Hall – University of San Francisco
Built in 1955, the university's first student residence hall stands at seven stories to welcome college freshman, while tipping its hat to its shady political alumnus. Phelan graduated with the Class of 1881 when it was still called St. Ignatius College.

Phelan Avenue – San Francisco
It's right by City College — you know, where white supremacy thrives. Former supervisor Leslie Katz proposed renaming the avenue after Filipino activist Violete Marasigan in 2000, but the idea didn't seem to take off. All those student marches on Phelan Loop must have been bittersweet.

Phelan Avenue – San Jose
Conveniently wrapped around Kelley Park and a corner away from the Japanese Friendship Garden. The irony never lets up.

James D. Phelan Elementary School – San Jose
It may no longer exist as a K-12 institution, but Action Day Primary Plus dubs it the "Phelan campus" to keep the legacy alive in the developing minds of infants and preschoolers on Hibiscus Lane.

Phelan Library at Villa Montalvo – Saratoga
Phelan built this mansion in the early 1900s and breathed his last breath at the estate, which he had left as a public park. It stands today as Montalvo Arts Center with hiking trails, an arboretum, botanical garden. The library was left in his name, complete with his rants about immigrants infecting California and how great white people are.

Incidentally, serial killer Karl F. Warner murdered 18-year-old Kathy Bilek, his third and final victim, on property grounds in 1971.

San Francisco Foundation Art Awards
One lucky finalist can win $15,000 for his or her visual art submitted in this program, but it is forever indebted to the Phelan name. Literary artists can get $2,000 for submitting fiction, nonfictional prose, poetry and spoken word, but they'll also have to live with the name.

Phelan, CA
Last but not least, a whole city in Phelan's anti-Asian name. Nestled in San Bernardino County, the High Desert town lives up to its commemorative ideals with three-fourths of its small population white, according to the 2010 Census. In 2004, state officials almost built a group home for disabled sex offenders, but encountered heavy protest and halted plans. Maybe citizens should protest that name.


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Ida Mojadad

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