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Split SFMTA board punts on naming Chinatown subway station after Rose Pak

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The controversy around naming San Francisco’s Chinatown Muni station over Rose Pak has hit a wall, at least for now, as directors of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency were not in agreement naming the station after Pak.

Directors were deadlocked 3-3 in naming the station after the late Chinatown community organizer Pak, who some city officials say played a critical role in securing federal funding for the station.

With no motion made by any member of the board to approve the proposal, the item was tabled possibly for a future meeting. A vote to postpone the proposal until Steve Heminger joins the board failed. Heminger’s appointment to the SFMTA board was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Board directors Cheryl Brinkman, Amanda Eaken and Cristina Rubke were against naming the station after Pak, citing the transit agency’s own naming policy of naming transit stations after geographical locations that directors approved in 2016.

Gwyneth Borden, Malcolm Heinicke and Art Torres were in favor of the adding her name to the future station.

Borden said that the Central Subway would not exist if it was not for Pak’s advocacy for the project after The City tore down the Embarcadero Freeway after the Loma Prieta earthquake:

“It just wouldn’t because it wasn’t anyone’s priority.”

Borden added:

“It really was her brain child. There’s no two ways about it.”

Brinkman said she was “leery” of naming the station after Pak despite the proposal to include the station name with her name:

“I look around the world right now and all the things that have been named after people or statues that have been put up for people have been removed that are being fought over.”

Brinkman noted that The City removed Justin Herman’s name from the plaza at the Embarcadero in 2017.

She continued:

“I just can’t. This goes against our policy we put into place a year ago. I just feel like it’s too divisive. Look at this. We’re dividing the community.”

Brinkman suggested to look for other ways to honor Pak at the station.

Dozens of speakers opposed to naming the station after Pak made a variety of allegations against Pak. Some said she was an unregistered spy for China, a bully in Chinatown and worked against members of the religious group known as Falun Gong.

While many spoke out against naming the station after Pak, supporters of Pak held a rally outside of City Hall before the board meeting wearing red t-shirts with her face on it that read “Chinatown Rose Pak Station.”

Even Mayor Willie Brown showed up to the meeting to speak in favor of naming the station after Pak in a brief one-minute comment — the time allotted for each public speaker.

District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin reintroduced the effort to name the station after the Chinatown activist. Supervisors passed a non-binding resolution 10-1 in support of the effort at the same the SFMTA board meeting was discussing the matter.

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