After Heated Debate, San Francisco Will Name Chinatown Station For Rose Pak

Scott Lettieri
August 21, 2019 - 8:31 am
Chinatown Station, part of the Central Subway Project

Chinatown Station, part of the Central Subway Project (Photo credit: Margie Shafer/KCBS Radio)

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco officials voted to name one of the city’s upcoming Central Subway stations in honor of a controversial figure in Chinatown politics.

The decision came after hours of heated public testimony Tuesday from hundreds of Chinatown residents who were split on whether or not the late Rose Pak deserves the honor. The debate has led to previous protests against honoring Pak

The line to speak in front of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors stretched outside of the hearing’s chambers and down the hallway outside.

Pak, who died in 2016, never held public office but was an influential activist who had the ear of many powerful leaders in San Francisco. Supporters call her a role model and hero, while critics say she was a ruthless power broker and bully.

“We believe Rose Pak was Chinatown’s warrior and we believe that Rose Pak is Chinatown,” said one supporter who spoke during the hearing. 

“It was Rose Pak that led the fight for our community to get organized,” said another. “Rose not only helped build the Central Subway but also Chinese Hospital, the API council and many other charitable causes.”

Pak was a strong supporter of the Central Subway project, and envisioned it as a funnel that would bring tourists from Union Square and downtown into Chinatown.

But Pak’s critics said honoring her send the wrong kind of message about Chinatown.

“Behind every deal, Rose Pak had her hidden agenda,” said one resident. “If you talk to Chinatown people privately, 98% of them don’t like Rose Pak.”

Despite opposition, the SFMTA voted 4-3 in favor of the “Chinatown Rose Pak Station” name. The subway is set to open in early 2020.

Reported by Scott Lettieri. Written by Jessica Yi.