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Despite anger, city names Chinatown station after Rose Pak

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Fury and elation over subway christening

Workers in an enormous Chinatown subway tunnel.
Chinatown Station and nearby tunnels, under construction in 2017.
Photos by Robert Pierce, Flickr

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board of Directors narrowly voted to name the new Chinatown Muni Station “Chinatown Rose Pak Station,” commemorating the late community organizer despite ire from those who still hold grudges against her three years after her death.

First floated in 2016, the naming proposal came up once before during the board’s June 4 meeting, a vote which split the body in half.

Vice Chair Gwyneth Borden backed the naming at the time, arguing that Pak’s lobbying is the only reason the Central Subway happened at all.

“It is fair to say this project would not exist if not for Rose. It solely was built because of her efforts,” Borden testified.

Director Cheryl Brinkman countered that SFMTA has clear rules against naming stations after people and said the frustration Pak’s name still evokes for some in Chinatown wasn’t worth it.

“It’s too divisive,” she said.

That vote ended on a 3-3 tie. Newly seated board member Steve Heminger provided the swing vote in favor of the Rose Pak station designation this week.

Heminger called Pak “a divisive figure,” but said this was also true of most historically significant people.

Pak, a powerful obbyist for decades, pushed for the city to extend subway service into Chinatown, and frequently bent the ear of City Hall insiders over other policies crucial to the neighborhood.

But Pak’s power and prominence earned her enemies in Chinatown as well, and the possibility of naming the station in her honor provoked public protest in 2018.

In April, the FBI revealed that it had spent years investigating Pak on suspicion of fraud before ultimately declining to charge her. The federal agency called the suspicions “unverifiable.”

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer defended Pak’s reputation Tuesday, telling SFMTA, “She was a Chinese woman, she was tough, she was a power broker, and all the time she was fighting for Chinatown.”

The final vote saw board member Art Torres and Chair Malcolm Heinicke vote alongside Borden and Torres in favor of the Pak christening.

The San Francisco Examiner reports that Pak opponents, including outspoken former judge Quentin Kopp, plan to launch a ballot initiative stripping her name from the station.