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City officially removes Justin Herman’s name from plaza

It’s for real this time

Justin Herman Plaza with the Ferry Building clock tower in the background. Photo by Sue Stokes

The city’s Recreations and Parks Commission voted Thursday to remove the name of former city planner Justin Herman from the public plaza at the Embarcadero, effectively ending a decades-long argument about whether it’s appropriate to honor Herman, whose policies shaped modern San Francisco but also wiped out underserved communities.

The vote was a follow-up from a botched October vote that appeared to favor the name change, but it later turned out that commissioner Eric McDonnell, though favoring the change, actually left before casting a vote, turning a seeming 4-3 decision into a 3-3 tie and necessitating a new resolution this week.

Thursday’s vote was 4-2 in favor of change, with one commissioner (not McDonnell) absent.

The resolution renames the space simply “Embarcadero Plaza” for now, although the commission may change the name again in the future. Petitions to attach the names of people like poet Maya Angelou or photographer David Johnson made the rounds earlier this year.

Back in September, the Board of Supervisors voted 11-0 in support of the name change. Although the board technically has no authority over such things, the unanimous support put a significant amount of oomph behind the renaming campaign.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who introduced the resolution, told Rec & Park during October’s meeting that his opinion of Herman’s legacy had become more nuanced this year but that he still believed it’s “time to turn the page” on the conflict.

The fountain at Justin Herman Plaza. Photo by Bill