Protesters march along Grant Avenue through Chinatown to urge the SFMTA to name the Central Subway station Chinatown Station and not after Rose Pak on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

SFMTA to take second vote on Rose Pak Central Subway name

It’s deja vu time for Chinatown.

Next Tuesday, for a second time, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors will vote on whether to name the Central Subway’s Chinatown station after the late community organizer Rose Pak.

The last time the board voted on the same proposal, it deadlocked 3-3 after extensive and impassioned community presence both for and against.

But now, a seventh member has joined the board and could act as a tiebreaker.

SFMTA board director Steve Heminger, the former executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, was appointed in May. It is unclear what position Heminger will take, and the San Francisco Examiner could not reach him by press time.

But the Mayor’s Office and Board of Supervisors confirmed Heminger for the role, and some on the Board of Supervisors — including Supervisor Aaron Peskin — have ardently supported naming the station after Pak. In the past, supervisors and previous mayors have grilled appointees on their positions to ensure expected votes will align with their principles.

Pak — who is credited with many local feats, like saving Chinese Hospital — famously flew to Washington to personally lobby for $500 million in grant funding that city officials said guaranteed the construction of the Central Subway, the San Francisco Examiner previously reported.

She was a controversial figure, however, and community groups are split on whether the station should be named “Chinatown Rose Pak Station” or just “Chinatown Station.”

The main opposition comes from the Falun Gong religious group, who clashed with Pak while she was alive. Also opposed are a smattering of neighborhood leaders like Pius Lee, who also sometimes clashed with Pak, and long-time community stalwarts the Chinese Six Companies.

On the other side, in support of honoring Pak, are some of Chinatown’s most influential groups: the transportation advocacy group Chinatown TRIP, the API Council which represents dozens of nonprofits, and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. They mustered nearly 500 supporters at the last vote on the station name.

Wednesday, in anticipation of the new vote, roughly a hundred protesters marched through Chinatown in opposition to adding Pak’s name to the site. The march crossed in front of the future site of the station, which is still under construction.

“Peskin: Serve your district, not special interests,” read one protest sign. “Chinatown Station ONLY! NO Rose Pak!” read other signs.

The $1.6 billion Central Subway was originally scheduled to be completed by late 2018. However its completion date is undergoing a six-week review by its new project director, Nadeem Tahir, and an independent review has warned that date is likely to slip to mid-2020.

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