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Neighbors say no to naming street after late public defender

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“His name should be in gold letter over the front door of the Public Defender’s Office”

San Francisco Public Attorneys Hold “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” Demonstration
Jeff Adachi at a Hall of Justice rally in 2014.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

[Update: Haney tells Curbed SF that under the current proposal only the span of Gilbert between Brannan and Bryant will be subject to the Adachi name.

While Gilbert Street is less than two blocks to begin with, Haney says that the truncated naming rights are a compromise in response to the complaints. The supervisor also points out that the responses to the plan come from property owners, “not necessarily residents,” most of them commercial buildings.]

Although the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution in May to rename a SoMa street after late public defender Jeff Adachi, people who live and work on what’s presently called Gilbert Street have urged lawmakers to stop the rechristening.

Gilbert Street denizens don’t want to go through the trouble of renaming their street; several of them objected because the out-of-the-way alley isn’t a suitable avenue for honoring the longtime lawyer.

Supervisor Matt Haney, whose district Gilbert Street runs through, introduced the renaming effort in March, proposing the name Jeff Adachi Way.

Every city lawmakers backed the proposal, but by law, the city cannot rename a street without first consulting residents.

According to an email submitted to the board’s Land Use and Transportation Committee on Monday from County Surveyor Bruce Storrs, “Out of the 28 fronting properties, 23 responded to the Public Works letters. All of the responses opposed the renaming of Gilbert Street.”

The Department of Public Works also received a petition with 34 signatures arguing to keep the Gilbert Street name in place.

Attorney Alex Lemieux, who appeared at Monday’s committee hearing representing Gilbert Street neighbors, said that “every property owner would be forced to engage in a very expensive process” to help facilitate the change.

Others argued that Gilbert Street, located directly behind the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, simply isn’t good enough for Adachi, who served in the office for over 30 years.

“As a tribute to Jeff Adachi, his name should be in gold letter over the front door of the Public Defender’s Office, rather than at a backdoor used as a servants’ and maintenance entrance,” according to a critical letter signed by Patrick Ngo and Al Carrero Jr.

Haney and Adachi’s colleagues selected Gilbert, which runs less than two blocks between Bryant and Brannan near the Hall of Justice, because Adachi frequently walked that route on his way to the courthouse.

The committee also received numerous letters and comments in support of the renaming plan (albeit not from anyone with a Gilbert Street address), including from community groups who worked with Adachi, like the Japanese American Religious Federation of San Francisco and Empowering Young People For the Future.

Despite the complaints, the committee again voted in favor of the rechristening, setting it up for a vote before the full Board of Supervisors.

The resolution introduced by Haney calls Adachi “the voice, not only in San Francisco but across the country, for racial justice on behalf of the criminally accused” and calls the Jeff Adachi Way imprimatur a way “to mark his permanent transformation of the fight for justice on behalf of immigrants and the criminally accused.”

Adachi, who died in February, began serving in the Public Defender’s Office in 1987. Gilbert Street is named after Gold Rush-era newspaper editor Edward Gilbert.