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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lech Walesa Street Name-Change Resolution to Be Submitted. A San Francisco First?

Posted By on Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 11:59 AM

click to enlarge Time ... for a change?
  • Time ... for a change?

Update: Read the 1986 resolution creating Lech Walesa Street, and the 2013 resolution calling to do away with it. See end.

Jane Kim's staff has confirmed to SF Weekly that, at today's Board meeting, the District 6 supervisor will introduce a resolution commencing the arduous procedure of stripping Lech Walesa's name off a city street.

Altering the city's map to reflect Walesa's rapid transformation from the prime mover and shaker in the Polish democracy movement to the world's most outspoken homophobe (other than Michelle Shocked) will be a years-long process.

But is it unprecedented? Yes and no.

See also: Prior Lech Walesa coverage

When the subject of changing city streets comes up, most folks will think of Army Street's transformation to Cesar Chavez in 1995. History-minded folks may note San Franciscans' revolt at "unpronounceable" Spanish names being instituted in 1909. And wonks will direct you to the city's actual policy regarding street name changes, which you can read in its entirety here: Street Name Changes.docx.

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It turns out that altering street names is not as rare as you'd think in a city where progressiveness often goes hand-in-hand with fighting any attempt at change. Here's a Board of Supervisors resolution from 2011 to alter parts of La Playa Street to be on Great Highway. And here's a 2012 resolution to change the name of Edinburg Street to "Edinburgh" -- which makes sense, as that's the correct way to spell Edinburgh.  

On the other hand, SF Weekly could not track down any instances of a city street name being changed due to outrage over the behavior of its namesake. That's not to say every San Francisco Street is named after a saint, however. In 2009, we spoke with Clarito "Bing" Aradanas, who wondered why so many city streets were named after people who gleefully killed his Filipino ancestors. Among them:

  • General Arthur MacArthur (Douglas' father), who was the overall commander of a war rife with atrocities;

  • General William Shafter, who uttered the "destroy this village in order to save it" statement of his day: "It may be necessary to kill half the Filipinos in order that the remaining half of the population may be advanced to a higher plane of life than their present semi-barbarous state affords."

Update, 1:30 p.m. Here's the 1986 resolution that converted a section of Ivy Street into Lech Walesa Street. Notable highlights:

WHEREAS, Lech Walesa, is one such individual who has unselflessly (sic) strived through his work and dedication for the improvement of all people to be able to live within a democratic system in which the rights and privileges such as equality, freedom of expression, justice and truth is available to everyone...

WHEREAS Leach (sic) Walesa hopes that the citizens of the United States will continue to be attentive to what is happening in Poland ...

WHEREAS, Lech Walesa has given his unqualified approval to have a street named after him...

This resolution passed, 9-0, on June 23, 1986. Carol Ruth Silver and Dick Hongisto were absent.

Here's the resolution that will be introduced at today's Board meeting to change the street's name to Dr. Tom Waddell Place. Highlights:

WHEREAS, The City of San Francisco celebrates the tolerance and inclusiveness that Dr. Tom Waddell advocated throughout his life and strongly refutes the hate speech against the LGBTQ community expressed recently by Lech Walesa...

FURTHER RESOLVED, That both of the street names shall remain posted on street signs for five years, and then the street signs shall be replaced with signs indicating only the new street name, "Dr. Tom Waddell Place" ...

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

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