Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Community & Society
Published on December 26, 2015
Hoodline Highlights: The Quest To Rename Justin Herman PlazaPhoto: Geri Koeppel / Hoodline

To close out 2015, we've asked our local neighborhood writers to choose their favorite stories from the past year, and to explain why they loved them so.

Today, we hear from editor Geri Koeppel.

When I interviewed Brett Harris-Anderson for this story, I was captivated by his passion for the city and for his family, but there’s a broader reason the story was so fascinating to me.

Every day, people pass by or through landmarks, plazas, parks, buildings and streets named after people in our city’s history without a thought. Who was Justin Herman? Who was Sue Bierman? Sydney Walton? All of these names become absorbed into our psyches as easily as saying “The Embarcadero” or “Market Street,” but they’re an homage to real people who obviously made a big enough mark to get something named after them.

The fact that Harris-Anderson’s son was astute enough to ask who Herman was, and that Harris-Anderson was motivated to research and answer the question, points to a bright, inquisitive and diligent family. But once they embarked on a mission to get the name changed to Maya Angelou Plaza after finding out Herman wasn’t someone they wanted history to remember, I thought it was remarkable. The petition hasn’t yet succeeded in renaming the plaza, but I plan to check in with the Harris-Andersons in the new year about it.

Below is an excerpt from the original story, published on May 11th, 2015.

What's in a name? William Shakespeare might say that which we call Justin Herman Plaza by any other name would still be as much fun. Brett and Michelle Harris-Anderson agree.

They're on a mission to rename it "Maya Angelou Plaza," and they've started a petition to see it through. They've been out at the plaza to pass out flyers about the petition and ask people to sign it, and they plan to present it to the Board of Supervisors in hopes that they'll take action. The pair say it will be a much-needed and long-awaited apology, and a small but hugely symbolic step to correct past wrongs. But there are many public buildings, plazas and monuments named after leaders who might not be (or might never have been) popular. Why this plaza, and why now? 

Continue reading one of Geri's favorite stories of 2015, "Petition Aims To Rename Justin Herman Plaza After Maya Angelou".