At its February 15th meeting, Alameda 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 auto while crossing an Alameda street in November 2021.
Wilma Chan’s Legacy
Wilma Chan was an Alameda resident for 27 years. In their petition letter, Ms. 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.
Ms. Chan served as 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, Ms. 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 enhance community youth services. She also founded First 5 Alameda County, an early intervention and enrichment program 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.
To rename Constitution Way, City Council chose to waive specific procedural requirements of the Council’s Street Naming Policy, including that:
- 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
- There is a public process, including outreach, public meetings, and a recommendation by the Planning Board
- 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 Council Members Lena Tam and Jim Oddie, former County Supervisor Alice Lai Bitker, County Supervisor Dave Brown, and Sarah Oddie speaking on behalf of Wilma Chan’s family, all spoke in glowing support of the renaming proposal.
Mayor Ezzy Ashcraft, Vice Mayor Malia Vella, and Council Members Tony Daysog and Trish Herrera-Spencer felt that the magnitude of Ms. Chan’s accomplishments warranted making an exception to the City’s Naming Policy.
Council Member John Knox White abstained. He said that while he esteemed Ms. Chan highly, he was concerned that the City had received a petition from over 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, Mayor Ashcraft and Council Members Vella, Daysog, and Herrera-Spencer voted in favor of the renaming. Council Member John Knox White abstained.