City Council Votes In Favor of Renaming Constitution Way to Wilma Chan Way

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City Council Votes In Favor of Renaming Constitution Way to Wilma Chan Way

At its February 15th meeting, City Council voted to rename Constitution Way to Wilma Chan Way in honor of the late Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, who tragically died after being struck by an automobile while crossing Shore Line Drive on Nov. 3 last year.

Wilma Chan’s Legacy
Chan was an Alameda resident for 27 years. Chan graduated from Stanford University. She represented Alameda County’s Third District as its Supervisor from 1995 to 2000 and from 2010 until her death. She also sat in the California State Assembly from 2001 to 2006.

In their petition letter, Chan’s children, Daren Chan and Jennifer Chan, described her as a true Alamedan who championed affordable health care, childcare, housing, immigrant rights, senior services, and lifting people from poverty.

"She loved Alameda for all that it had to offer including a safe neighborhood, great public education system and a true sense of community," wrote Chan's children in the letter sent to Alameda City Manager Eric Levitt ("Wilma Chan’s children asks city to rename street after former County Board Supervisor," Feb. 10). "As a public servant, her service representing the people of Alameda on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and in the California State Assembly has left an extraordinary legacy in our community."

Chan was the first Asian American elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. She went on to serve in the California State Assembly, becoming the first Asian American Majority Leader of the Senate and authoring groundbreaking legislation.

Among other accomplishments, Chan helped create the Alameda Youth Collaborative for Children, Youth, and Families (ACCYF), a mechanism for the City, school district, County, and youth-serving organizations to exchange information to enhance community youth services. She also founded First 5 Alameda County, a program of early intervention and enrichment to narrow disparities among children. Early in the pandemic, she secured sick pay for income-eligible residents diagnosed with COVID-19 so they could self-isolate.

Procedural Requirements
To rename Constitution Way, City Council chose to waive specific procedural requirements of the Council’s Street Naming Policy, including that:

1. One or more City residents, business owners, or property owners submit the petition, including at least 500 resident signatories or 50% + 1 signatories of resident and business property owners on the street

2. There is a public process, including outreach, public meetings, and a recommendation by the Planning Board

3. The individual has been deceased for at least three years

City Planning staff determined that changing the name of Constitution Way would otherwise be straightforward. Only one unoccupied property, owned by the East Bay Municipal Utility District, has a Constitution Way address.

Six public speakers, including former City Councilmembers Lena Tam and Jim Oddie, former County Supervisor Alice Lai Bitker, County Supervisor Dave Brown, and Sarah Oddie all spoke in glowing support of the renaming proposal.

Mayor Ezzy Ashcraft, Vice Mayor Malia Vella, and Councilmembers Tony Daysog and Trish Herrera Spencer felt that the magnitude of Chan’s accomplishments warranted making an exception to the City’s Naming Policy.

Councilmember John Knox White abstained. He said that while he revered Chan highly, he was concerned that the city had received a petition from more than 1000 Alamedans asking the council to rename a park named after a racist Alameda mayor, yet the council had not acted. He felt that the council should think about how it uses its discretionary power and what happens when it uses it in some places and not in others.

In the final vote, Ashcraft, Vella, Daysog, and Herrera Spencer voted in favor of the renaming. Knox White abstained.