Supes unanimously back renaming of Justin Herman Plaza

Acknowledging a dark chapter in city history, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously backed a resolution calling for the renaming of Justin Herman Plaza.

The resolution, introduced by Supervisor Aaron Peskin, calls for the Recreation and Park Commission to rename the plaza at the eastern end of Market Street “Embarcadero Plaza” until a new name can be agreed upon.

Herman, who led the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency in the 1960s, has become inextricably linked in the city’s history with “urban renewal” and “slum clearance” projects in the Western Addition.

Those projects displaced around 4,000 residents and small businesses and bulldozed 60 square blocks of the city, destroying an established black and Japanese American community, according to city officials.

Herman is alleged to have once said “This land is too valuable to permit poor people to park on it.”
However, Peskin emphasized that Herman does not bear sole blame for those projects, which were backed by a large number of city officials over the years.

“This was not just about Justin Herman, this was about a national misguided policy that we commonly referred to then as urban renewal, which resulted in the decimation of communities here and in urban America,” Peskin said.

Board President London Breed, who grew up in the Western Addition, said she had experienced what it was like to live in a community “that was literally destroyed by the San Francisco redevelopment agency.”

“His name was a really negative one in the community,” Breed said of Herman. Breed noted that a budget analyst’s report found that renaming the plaza would only cost around $5,400 to change the signs.

Peskin said the Recreation and Park Commission is expected to take up the issue at its October meeting.

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