Muni chooses places over people for station names


San Francisco transit officials decided on Tuesday that names of public transit stations should indicate a geographic destination and not be named after people.

Under a new naming policy approved unanimously by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors, it states transit stations should clearly state a geographic location such as a nearby intersection, street, cross street or well-known destination that is clearly understood by transit riders and by emergency responders.

The policy states though that public may request the SFMTA board to add a commemorative name for an individual or group to a portion of a transit station such as an entrance, waiting area or plaza. For example, Harvey Milk Plaza, the plaza adjacent to the Muni Castro Station, commemorates the slain former San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk.

The SFMTA board will consider the individual or group achievements in the local, state or national level, or “because they have broadly recognized social, historical, cultural or political significance,” according to a SFMTA staff report.

They will also consider the person’s contribution to local transportation.

Directors of the SFMTA board will consider public input submitted for commemoration, but will make the final decision on adding commemorative names to a portion of a transit station or on other property owned by the transit agency.

The transit agency has been working on a developing a naming policy after receiving a number of requests to name SFMTA-owned properties after people over the last several years including naming the Central Subway Chinatown station after the late community organizer Rose Pak who was major advocate for building the new subway.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors in October unanimously approved a resolution urging the SFMTA to work on naming the Chinatown station after Pak citing her efforts in advocating for the construction and completion of the subway.

Yong Zeng, a San Francisco resident who lives in Bernal Heights, said he was against naming any SFMTA-owned property after Pak because of how she treated some residents in San Francisco who are part of the religious group Falun Gong:

“Such naming should not only based upon on the contribution only. It also has to consider the social impact.”

Under the approved naming policy, Pak could get her name commemorated at the Chinatown station.

The staff report also lays out a policy for naming rights and sponsorships that states the sponsorship should have a strong nexus between the naming rights sponsor and SFMTA property.

Sponsorships would last for at least 10 years in an agreement with the naming rights sponsor and SFMTA.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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