Fans of the labor leader who coined the phrase "Sí, se puede" (Yes, we can) want to rename South Van Ness Avenue as Dolores Huerta Boulevard, for the legendary labor movement icon, but can they?
Storefronts on upper Van are painfully aware that the never-ending construction overhaul of the street has created an ongoing business nightmare, but a group of petitioners want to tear it all down and build something new in a different sense. An online signature drive at the political organizing/email harvesting site MoveOn.org hopes to "Rename South Van Ness as Dolores Huerta Boulevard," and it’s off to a modestly successful start at just under 2,000 signatures as of press time.
KQED spoke to the petition’s author Sean Scullion, who hopes to pull off city approval in time for Huerta’s 90th birthday, which is this coming April 10. "Renaming South Van Ness seems like a win for everyone," he told KQED. "The mayor and supervisors can have a chance to shine a spotlight on someone who exemplifies the spirit of San Francisco, the neighborhood and city get a constant reminder of a role model, and Ms. Huerta can be given a birthday gift acknowledging her contributions and sacrifices."
It is true that most SF streets are named for men, and that the city is pursuing the goal of naming at least 30 percent of streets, buildings, and public spaces for women. But the Department of Public Works notes that it takes a lot more than an online petition to get a street renamed, and remembers the uproar over the contentious 1995 renaming of Army Street as Cesar Chavez Street (Chavez was the co-founder of the United Farm Workers along with Huerta).
"There are still some bumper stickers you see around town that say 'It Will Always Be Army Street To Me,'" DPW spokesperson Rachel Gordon tells the station.
As Scullion tells KQED, "I was around San Francisco when Cesar Chavez Street was named. And I always thought it was strange that Dolores didn't get a street as well."
There have been efforts around the state and elsewhere to honor Huerta, who turned 89 last year. An intersection in Los Angeles's Boyle Heights was named Dolores Huerta Square last June, and a leaders in a county in New Mexico voted in November to rename a portion of a boulevard after her as well. Back in 2018, the San Francisco Board of Education renamed Fairmount Elementary School in Glen Park as Dolores Huerta Elementary School, offering Spanish dual immersion classes.
The renaming of South Van Ness, which honestly looks to be a longshot at this point, would obviously not affect the whole entire Van Ness Avenue. But this lead us to another question — who is Van Ness Avenue named after currently? That would be James Van Ness, the seventh Mayor of San Francisco from 1855 to 1856, and like most people things are names after in this town, a white guy from the 1800s.
Related: Gallery of Street Name Typos [SFist]
Image: Google Street View