The Chinatown station on the new Central Subway line will be called Rose Pak-Chinatown Station, following a 4-3 vote by the SFMTA board on Tuesday. The vote, which broke a 3-3 tie vote taken in June, will enshrine the late power broker with her very own monument, despite vociferous objections from those who hated her.
The tie-breaking board member, as the Examiner reports, was the newly appointed Steve Heminger, who took his seat after the last vote was taken. "In her day Rose Pak was a divisive figure, and she remains so today even after he death,” Heminger said, per the Examiner. “If that were the standard, we’d have to tear down half the street signs in San Francisco," he said, adding that Pak will now be remembered the way we remember "who John Geary was, or Henry Haight."
As many will recall, Pak was an unavoidable and divisive figure in San Francisco politics, one who constantly advocated for Chinatown — and helped secure federal funding for the Central Subway — and who had the ear of several mayors in a row. As a key player in the sphere of Willie Brown, Pak famously helped influence the choice of Ed Lee as interim mayor, and perhaps singlehandedly launched the "Run, Ed, Run" campaign to persuade Lee to run for a full term.
But Pak made her share of enemies, not the least of which were the practitioners of Falun Gong — a religious sect, or meditation practice, that Pak was notoriously hostile to, and whose followers believed Pak was an agent of the Communist Party in China that persecuted them. (Incidentally, the Falun Gong also believe that President Trump was sent by god to bring down the Chinese government.) Opponents of the rail station naming gathered 16,000 signatures to stop putting Pak's name on the station — and a leader of the protest has called Pak "the village bully" — but Heminger was swayed more by her supporters, and a unanimous vote earlier this year by the Board of Supervisors.
Some 300 speakers appeared at Tuesday's board meeting, waiting in line to give public comment over six hours despite a broken air conditioner and sweaty conditions. As the Chronicle reports, some of those were there in support, like Chinatown resident Allan Low, who said, "Rose Pak could be your best friend or your worst friend — but as imperfect as Rose Pak was, she had a vision. She would kick, she would claw. But the Central Subway was always her vision."
But others were there to voice their anger, like Adam Zing, who said according to the Chronicle, "I cannot deny that there are people who love Rose Pak. But you can see that so many people do not love her. Why force this on us? This is a public station. Take your love private. Don’t bring this upon us." Others reportedly spoke in Mandarin about how Pak would never pay for her own meals in the neighborhood, and masqueraded as being poor when she was in fact rich.
SFMTA board member Gwyneth Borden explained her vote by saying that though she never knew Pak, her vote was as a woman of color supporting the recognition of another woman of color, and her accomplishments.
City College of San Francisco trustee Ivy Lee spoke out with her support at the meeting, per the Examiner, saying, "We need more Rose Paks. We need women who are not afraid to say, 'I’m not going to smile more, I’m not going to be nice, I’m going to fight like hell to protect my community.'"