People walk though what is now known as Embarcadero Plaza in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, September 19, 2017. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Online petition calls for renaming Embarcadero Plaza after late Mayor Ed Lee

A petition calling for the renaming of The City’s Embarcadero Plaza in honor of the late Mayor Ed Lee had collected almost 1,000 signatures by late Friday morning.

Lee served as mayor of San Francisco beginning in 2011 and died Tuesday after suffering from a heart attack. He was 65.

The Change.org petition seeking 1,000 signatures had reached 954 by Friday.

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“Now is the time to honor a great man by naming the plaza in his honor,” reads the petition launched by Kevin Birmingham, a San Francisco-based real estate broker and owner of the North Park Real Estate firm.

Birmingham could not immediately be reached for comment, but indicated online that the petition would be delivered to the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department once enough signatures are collected.

The plaza’s name, as with Lee’s legacy, have stirred controversy in recent months.

Formerly named Justin Herman Plaza, a resolution introduced by Supervisor Aaron Peskin in September called for the Recreation and Parks Commission to strip the public plaza of its name, renaming it Embarcadero Plaza until a permanent name is agreed upon. The Board of Supervisors voted 11-1 in support of the name change.

As executive director of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency in the 1960s, Herman led urban renewal efforts that displaced thousands of residents and small businesses from the Western Addition.

According to the resolution, Herman was quoted in 1970 as saying, “This land is too valuable to permit poor people to park on it” to garner support for his urban renewal project.

Similarly, Lee, San Francisco’s first Asian-American mayor, has earned both praise and criticism for perpetuating The City’s gentrification by catering to tech interests. While presiding over The City’s employment boom, Lee offered tax breaks to several companies in a bid to lure them to San Francisco, which subsequently contributed to an affordability crisis.

In November, the Recreation and Parks Commission voted 4-3 in favor of the name change. Rec and Park spokesperson Connie Chan said Friday that no formal petition for the renaming of the plaza had been submitted to the department.

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