Citizens’ Advisory Council Discovers Muni Has No Policy for Naming Central Subway After Late Chinatown Activist Rose Pak

Protest against naming the Central Subway after Rose Pak and a lengthy discussion about the future of Muni’s real estate holdings dominated the October meeting of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Citizens’ Advisory Council.

Central Subway Naming

Ten residents who practice Falun Gong used the council’s public comment period to protest an Oct. 4 Board of Supervisors resolution to endorse the idea of naming the new Central Subway after the late Chinatown activist Rose Pak.

Taking turns reading a written statement, the commenters claimed that Pak used propaganda from the Chinese Communist Party to sway public opinion and called Pak the “San Francisco version of Julius Streicher.”

Streitcher was the publisher of a propaganda newspaper in Nazi Germany.

The commenters added that Pak had advocated San Francisco politicians to fall in line with the interests of the Chinese Consulate and the Chinese Communist Party.

Pak successfully lobbied the Board of Supervisors to vote against a 2001 resolution in support of Falun Gong by promising one Supervisor funds for a California State Assembly campaign, according to the commenters.

“Originally we didn’t want to say bad things about [a recently deceased person] but there’s this other side [of Rose Pak] that our city, our Board of Supervisors, our Board of MTA Directors, and our Citizens Advisory Council should know,” said Allen Zeng, who led the group.

In 2006, Pak clashed with then-District Six Supervisor Chris Daly over a 2005 ban of Falun Gong members in the city’s Chinese New Year’s Parade, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

Daly argued that Pak was doing the bidding of the Chinese Consulate. Falun Gong members were also banned from parades in Southern California because of worries that they would air political disagreements in otherwise nonpolitical events, according to the article.

The commenters presented Falun Gong as a form of meditation that became popular in China during the 1990s, before the Chinese government banned the practice in 1999 and began persecuting tens of thousands of practitioners.

However, a report by Heather Kavan, a journalism professor in New Zealand, presents the Falun Gong as a highly media savvy cult, whose members follow the teachings of Li Hongzhi, including “unscientific claims and professions of divine status.”

Zeng said that District Eight Supervisor and California Senate candidate Scott Wiener had written in an email that the decision to name the station would be left up to Muni.

Keka Robinson-Luqman, a Muni liaison and the council secretary, said that Muni does not have a policy for naming stations.

“There is no standard [for naming the station]. Stations have traditionally been named after streets, so this will be the first time [a station is named after a person],” Robinson-Luqman said.

Mark Bellew requested that a discussion of Muni’s naming convention for stations be added to a future meeting of the council’s Operations and Customer Service Committee.

Muni’s Decaying Infrastructure

Jonathan Rewers, Muni’s design strategy and delivery manager, gave a presentation about Facilities Framework, the agency’s attempt to deal with its strained streetcar storage facilities.

“The fleet is coming. Our staff is growing. The needs of San Francisco are increasing. We need to make sure that the supportive infrastructure for our workforce is there when we need it,” Rewers said.

Among the agency’s needs are space for 240 – 300 vehicles, and new spaces for enforcement and training.

“If we can’t find $500 million for a new yard, then we need to consider adding capacity at our existing properties,” Rewers said.

Muni’s three options to be decided by the end of the year are purchasing a new facility that can fill all of the agency’s storage needs, buying a smaller facility and use double deck storage or multi use storage in the older yards or, if the agency doesn’t acquire new land, installing double deck storage at multiple current yards.

“Everything we have done to this point has been reactive. We need to be more predictive,” Rewers said.

The council discussed the storage of the agency’s historic streetcars, including an option to store currently non-functional cars outside of the city.

Although Muni is spending millions of dollars to repair the historic streetcars, some are stored outside, under plastic sheets.

“The San Francisco environment — the salt air and the moisture — is actually not a good place to store [the historic streetcars], so we are looking at better [places to store them],” Rewers said. “We are committed to storing them until we have the money to restore them. But the question is are they degrading quicker here than they would somewhere else?”

The council endorsed a motion from Mark Ballew to recommend that Muni create a policy to ensure that any Transit Oriented Developments on Muni land “maximize building height and housing density.”

Council member Susan Vaughn voted against the motion based on her desire to include a call for maximum affordability and to wait for a presentation about Transit Oriented Developments.

Meeting Recap

  • A group of Falun Gong members spoke out against a Board of Supervisors vote to name the Central Subway after Rose Pak, a recently deceased political activist.
  • Muni’s Jonathan Rewers reported on the status of Muni’s vehicle storage facilities. The council passed a motion to support maximizing the height and density of any housing built on Muni-owned land.
  • Council member Frank Zepeda presented a summary of the Engineering, Maintenance and Safety Committee’s latest meeting and the council unanimously supported a motion to endorse the San Bruno Multimodal Improvement Project.
  • Council member Susan Vaughn submitted an information request for a letter from Muni officials reversing a ban on the operation of Bauer’s commuter shuttles in San Francisco.

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