Bay Bridge turns Brown

Pub date September 17, 2013
WriterRebecca Bowe

The California Senate gave its blessing to the rename the western span of the Bay Bridge after former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown on Sept. 12, blatantly disregarding its own rules and strong local opposition to the proposal.

Since ACR 65 is a nonbinding resolution, Gov. Jerry Brown cannot veto it even though he went on record earlier this week saying the 77-year-old bridge should keep the same name it’s always had.

San Francisco Sens. Mark Leno and Leland Yee both voted in favor of the resolution.

As the Senate gave final approval to the measure, attorneys G. Whitney Leigh and Lee Hepner filed a complaint seeking injunctive relief to overturn the resolution on behalf of their client, good government advocate Bob Planthold.

At a press conference, Planthold said the lawsuit “has nothing to do with Willie,” but rather sought to remedy what he perceived as state lawmakers ignoring their own rules, including reserving such honors for the deceased, a state of affairs he characterized as “Orwellian.”

Leigh questioned why Sacramento legislators were in such a rush to rename part of the Bay Bridge when construction of the eastern span had only just been completed, following long delays and overruns partly caused by Brown when he was mayor.

“There is a shadiness and irregularity to this procedure,” Leigh said.

The suit alleges “arbitrary suspension and/or violation of legislative rules and policies” to fast track the legislation. Specifically, Hepner said, lawmakers ignored an established timeline for introducing new proposals, instead allowing ACR 65 to be submitted four months after the formal deadline.

Formal Assembly criteria states that clear community consensus must be in place when a major piece of public infrastructure is renamed. Yet in the case of the Willie L. Brown Jr. Bridge, no such consensus exists.

Leigh is the former law partner of Matt Gonzalez, a former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who joined former board presidents Quentin Kopp and Aaron Peskin to formally call on Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to stop the resolution from going forward.

On Aug. 29, the trio fired off an open letter to Steinberg in an attempt to halt the proposal from going any further, claiming “there exists significant concern in our community that naming the Bay Bridge for him is not appropriate.”

Peskin had a more colorful take on Brown and bridge when he spoke to the Guardian: “I think they should name the old eastern span, that they’re demolishing, after him. You know why? Because it’s old and crooked and a danger to society.”