After Battle, Portland Renames Street After Cesar Chavez

Baxter Holmes, Los Angeles Times, February 28, 2010

The chanting started at the front of the church, a full-throated belt from a man pumping his fist from behind the lectern.

Si se puede! Si se puede! Yes we can! Yes we can!

{snip}

Just below the man sat the reason for their chanting: a huge representation of a street sign, 7 feet long, 2 feet tall, green with white letters reading “Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.”

Three years. That’s how long it took to get a street here renamed after the labor leader and human rights activist. {snip}

“This has been horrible,” said Marta Guembes, co-chairwoman of the Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard Committee.

{snip}

A key dispute: Why not rename a park or bridge? But the committee wanted a street. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks each had one, as did local developer and civic leader Bill Naito.

Finally, after much dispute, the City Council voted 5 to 0 last July to rename 39th Avenue–a seven-mile stretch that passes about 650 homes and upscale stretches.

“Having been through three of them, street renamings are inherently one of the most controversial things a city can go through,” Portland Mayor Sam Adams said.

{snip} William Schneider, a chiropractor whose office is located on 39th, had spearheaded the opposition group for financial and historical reasons. He liked the history of the street and didn’t want his business address to change.

His e-mail list had about 150 people opposed to the new street name, mostly for similar reasons. But the motivations of some people who attempted to join his group disturbed him.

“The people I talked to, some of the racism I saw, I was pretty astounded,” Schneider said.

{snip}

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