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City: Park named after racist congressman should be rechristened

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Board of Supervisors voted to rename Julius Khan playground last year

As of Thursday, the city’s Recreation and Park Commission recommended that the longtime Julius Kahn Playground in the Presidio henceforth be known as the Presidio Wall Playground, hoping to scrub off the association with a racist 20th century congressman.

The Presidio Wall name received the most votes during the public outreach process.

According to Recreation and Park spokesperson Tamara Aparton, “The majority of community members favored a geographic name for the Presidio Heights site and also considered the name West Pacific Playground. Members of the organizations Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Chinese Historical Society have driven renaming efforts and were attendance at [yesterday’s] meeting.”

Last year, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to erase Kahn’s name from the playground, but had not yet settled on a new name.

Julius Kahn, who represented San Francisco in Congress from 1905 to 1924, was instrumental in perpetuating exclusion acts targeted at immigrants from Asian countries. He also indulged in frequent racist tirades on the floor of congress, calling citizens and immigrants from China “the most debased people on the face of the earth.”

The committee’s vote isn’t final; the full Recreation and Park Commission must vote on the rechristening on September 19.

In 2018, the city voted to change the name of Phelan Avenue—named after the father of a former mayor, James Phelan, who made anti-immigrant sentiment about “orientals” a centerpiece of his 1897 to 1902 mayoral administration—to Frida Kahlo Way.