SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency voted 4 to 3 Tuesday to name a new Muni Central Subway station in Chinatown after the late Chinatown activist and power broker, Rose Pak.
Despite numerous protests and plenty of public comment not to name the station after Pak, a controversial and divisive figure by some estimates, SFMTA approved the naming of the station after her, to the delight of her supporters.
It was the second vote on the topic. The first vote was in June and was a 3 to 3 tie, with only six board members present and one vacant seat.
People stood for hours at San Francisco City Hall to wait their turn to speak about the naming of the station, while others watched from an overflow room.
"Rose Pak has put her life and her commitment into creating opportunities and resources for us ot enjoy the rights and privileges that we have today," said Eddie Zheng, a Pak supporter.
Hundreds voiced their opinion, with Pak's opponents outnumbering her supporters. They said they want the station simply to be named "Chinatown Station."
"We don't want Rose Pak's name on the Chinatown Station," a woman named Betty said. Another man who did not want to be named, said "so many people did not love her" and that the name was an imposition on the people.
Many of the opponents held a rally on the steps outside City Hall. Community leaders, merchants, and Falun gong practitioners said Pak had ties to communist China and that she used her power and influence for personal gain.
However, her supporters said Pak stood up for the Chinese community and fought for affordable housing. They said she was instrumental in bringing the Central Subway to Chinatown.
"Apparently she offends a lot of people. My whole thing is that a leader is never 100 percent loved," said Laureen Chew, a Pak supporter.
Chew, a professor emeritus of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University, waited in line to speak in support of the name, 'Chinatown Rose Pak Station'.
"She was a feared woman in a man's world," Chew said. "I dare any one of these people to say that they can single handedly do what she did."
Opponents said they want Muni to abide by its own rule of naming stations only after locations. They argue that it's inappropriate to name the new station after Pak.
"She basically manipulated all the politics in Chinatown so that she can gain power," said Alica Zhao from the Coalition for Chinatown Only.
Steve Heminger, the newest member of the SFMTA board, acknowledged that Pak was a divisive figure, but that that was no reason to oppose naming the station after her. Another director said it is important to honor a strong Asian female leader.