Of San Francisco’s many new additions this year—citizens, buildings, public art—few are quite as endearing as what will soon be the city’s newest street, Martin Avenue.
It’s a humble affair, just a short stretch of pavement in Bernal Heights, near the Dogpatch Miller Garden.
Previously, these blocks were home to a messy, confusing triangle, as Brewster Street splits into two before terminating at Mullen Avenue, creating a weird, nameless stretch on city-owned land.
Today the Land Use and Transportation Committee is set to approve a measure conferring the name Martin Avenue on the corridor.
Why Martin Avenue? Well, that’s where this story gets downright charming.
According to the relevant paperwork, the name honors “Martin Ron, a land surveyor whose admiration for his adopted city inspired him to dedicate his career to achieving expertise in San Francisco land surveying.”
Ron established a firm in 1969 (although the city says 1968) that’s done survey work for almost every major project in the city for decades, including the likes of SFMOMA, Millennium Tower, AT&T Park, and even fix-ups on landmarks like the Cliff House and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Land surveying is the practice of calculating and measuring the precise distance between geographic points—a critical concern if you want your new building to end up with its planned dimensions.
The practice (of necessity) goes back thousands of years and involves a toolbox of pretty geeky and cool stuff, from ancient calculus to modern drone surveillance.
The idea of Martin Ron (whose son Ben now heads up the firm bearing his name) being just so gosh-darn in love with San Francisco and its hilly topography for all of those years that he now gets a little bit of it for his own seems downright cheerful.
Ben Ron tells us that his father was actually a Holocaust survivor from Berlin who came to San Francisco by way of Israel.
The plan to name a street for him began in 2003. Ron’s widow, now 93, often jokes that the city needs to hurry up and get the sign made while she’s still got the time.
It’s not the city’s longest street, or its busiest street, nor even, pleasant though it may be, its prettiest street.
But whereas Ron’s contribution to some of San Francisco’s most visible corners remains largely invisible, this is the one piece of his adopted town where the spotlight will soon be all his.