The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors recently voted to name a future subway station in Chinatown after late lobbyist Rose Pak, following a lengthy hearing.
After hearing six hours of public comment during their regular meeting Aug. 20, both in favor and against the name, directors voted 4-3 in favor of naming the Central Subway station “Chinatown Rose Pak Station.”
Pak, a Chinatown community leader crediting with helping transform the city’s Chinese Hospital and turn the Central Subway into a reality, has proven to be a controversial figure within the city’s Chinese community.
According to opponents of the name, Rose Pak does not represent Chinatown. They’re advocating for the new station to be simply named Chinatown Station.
“This issue has caused division in our community,” said Eva Lee of the Chinatown Merchants Association during a rally at City Hall ahead of the meeting.
“Many individuals have contributed to Chinatown. To name a station after Rose Pak minimizes the work of others,” she said.
According to the merchants association, it’s already gathered more than 16,000 signatures from people opposed to naming the station after Pak. The group has said it would submit a November 2020 ballot initiative to let voters decide.
Dozens of people on both sides flooded the meeting, resulting in hours’ worth of public comments, both in English and Cantonese.
Several current and former city supervisors also spoke during public comment in favor of naming the station after Pak, including former Supervisor Jane Kim and current Supervisor Sandra Fewer.
“She was a force of nature; she wielded influence and power without a position or money,” Kim said.
Kim warned that if the board of directors shot down adding Pak’s name, “we will only reflect a history that has purposefully written out women and people of color and made them invisible and that is not what San Francisco stands for.”
“In her heart, she always, always fought for Chinatown.” Fewer said. “She spent her life doing that.”
Pak died in 2016 of natural causes.
Although Muni officials had predicted the Central Subway, which will take passengers from Chinatown to the city’s South of Market area, would be complete by the end of this year, the project is expected to be finished sometime in 2020.