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Phelan Avenue renaming heads to Board of Supervisors

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A Board of Supervisors committee is expected to vote this week on a proposal to rename Phelan Avenue to Frida Kahlo Way. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

A proposal seeking a name change for Phelan Avenue due to the racist policies of a former mayor of the same name will head before a Board of Supervisors subcommittee on Monday.

A public vote in April that included City College of San Francisco and the surrounding neighborhood called for Phelan Avenue to be renamed after Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The vote was facilitated by the office of Supervisor Norman Yee, who called for the name change earlier this year.

San Francisco supervisors and the public will have a chance to weigh in on the renaming Monday, when the proposal is scheduled to be heard at the board’s Land Use Committee. If approved, the proposal will move to the full board for a vote at a later date.

While Phelan Avenue is named after banker and real estate investor James Phelan, the renaming is an effort to remove ties to Phelan’s son, former San Francisco Mayor James Duval Phelan, who is remembered for his anti-immigrant policies and racist election slogans in the early 1900s.

The community was presented with a choice of five names during a two-week voting period in February, and ultimately settled on Frida Kahlo Way. Prior to the vote, the CCSF board of trustees passed a resolution in support of renaming the street after Kahlo. The college is located at 50 Phelan Ave, and a campaign to rename the street as Frida Kahlo Way dates back some three years at City College.

The proposal comes as part of a larger, national movement to remove racist names and symbols from schools, city parks, buildings and public spaces.

Regardless, not everyone is happy with the name change — Phelan Avenue residents have expressed concerns that the name change would force them to navigate complicated city processes and paperwork to update their addresses.

Yee said on Friday that he expects some opposition at Monday’s hearing.

“Let’s face it, people don’t want change — especially when you don’t fully understand the impact,” said Yee, who added that if approved, street signs would bear both names for the next five years to allow for transition.

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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