The late Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan now has at least two streets in the county named after her following the recent renaming of Via Mercado in the town of San Lorenzo.

A host of community leaders watched the Nov. 30 unveiling of Via Wilma Chan at the intersection with Hesperian Boulevard.

The commemoration is meant to honor Chan’s community advocacy work. San Lorenzo community members made a request for the change to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, who approved it Oct. 13.

“She was a voice for those who didn’t have a seat at the table,” said Supervisor Dave Brown, who was appointed by the board to fill Chan’s seat following her death.

Last month, the city of Alameda unveiled Wilma Chan Way, which replaced Constitution Way.

‘Distinctly San Lorenzo’

The recent renaming in San Lorenzo is among the hundreds of streets in the community known as the vias, which are “our heart and soul,” said resident Michelle Clowser by phone.

“It’s distinctly San Lorenzo,” said Randy Waage, a community advocate who also spoke in the interview.

The iconic Lorenzo Theatre marquee rises above the newly christened Via Wilma Chan on Nov. 30, 2022. Chan, the late Alameda County supervisor, was instrumental in efforts to restore the historic theater. It was damaged by fire in 2020, but the project continues. (Photo by Mimi Dean via Bay City News)

The idea also went before both the Eden Area Municipal Advisory Council and the San Lorenzo Village Homes Association. Both the council and association voted in favor of the change.

Via Wilma Chan is near projects in San Lorenzo championed by Chan and that have begun to revitalize the community.

Those include the Lorenzo Theatre, Village Green Apartments, the San Lorenzo branch of the Alameda County Library and a nearly completed Hesperian Boulevard road repair and beautification project.

Chan helped to double the size the library and following decades of planning she helped get the beautification started.

Waage said community members did not know how much Chan did for them.

“She did so many things for us,” Waage said.

He and others said Chan asserted herself to get the Board of Supervisors to pass the Village Green Apartments project.

“She was a bulldog,” Clowser said, which was a little surprising to Waage and others because Chan was usually quiet.

Community’s heart keeps beating

Community members hope the project will help revitalize the core of the community.

The core was decimated many years ago by the loss of Denevi Camera and Video and Mervyn’s Department Store, which was born in San Lorenzo in 1949, according to Mervyn’s survives as only an online store.

Downtown San Lorenzo has been gone for decades, said Mimi Dean, who also spoke by phone and is on the Eden Area Municipal Advisory Council.

Village Green Apartments will include retail space on the bottom floor, where a commercial kitchen will be located, hopefully further revitalizing the community core.

The apartments will occupy the parcel where Mervyn’s was once located.

The raising of Via Wilma Chan is welcoming Chan’s “memory to the heart of our town,” Clowser said.

“She needs to be remembered,” Waage said.

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.