Supervisors hold panel on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard renaming

01/27/2021

The choice over whether to discard Sir Francis Drake—an English sea captain with ties to the slave trade—as a road name raises questions of racial justice and equity, but it is also a practical matter. A new name for the boulevard would change the addresses of 350 businesses and residences in unincorporated Marin, and a total of 650 countywide. Ross, one of the five jurisdictions that hosts the boulevard, has opted not to make a change, while the public process for other areas continues. Supervisors Dennis Rodoni and Katie Rice are gathering input from residents in unincorporated Marin, and on Monday night held a virtual presentation. “From health status and life expectancy to educational resources and outcomes to proximity to parks and open space, the disparity between the experience of people of color living here in Marin and white residents is glaring—and that inequity, those disparities, have implications for our entire county’s economic and social sustainability and resilience,” Supervisor Rice said. She added, “The Sir Francis Drake road renaming discussion for me is connected to the broader equity work of county government.” Supervisor Rodoni described the effort as “an important conversation about listening and understanding how we are affected by our past and influenced by our future—how others are affected by our past and will be affected by our future decisions.” Monday brought some new information on the logistics of a name change, as well as input from a group of panelists, including two representatives from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, local historian Dewey Livingston, and local author Alex Brown. All the panelists were in support of questioning the current name. “I think there is a lot of opportunity that has come forward in our nation, as well as globally and locally, to really take this moment and reflect on who we are as a society, who we are at this moment in time as humanity,” said Lorelle Ross, the vice chair of Graton Rancheria. The Coast Miwok Tribal Council of Marin, which includes Coast Miwok descendants who are not part of the tribe and previously expressed frustration the county had not included them in an earlier discussion, were not on the panel but are working separately on the initiative. Ms. Brown, a librarian and historian, emphasized the importance of the dialogue. “There are not a lot of Black people in Marin, for a variety of reasons, and it’s nice to be able to speak on this and have our voices heard on this. African Americans have different oppressive issues going on than indigenous people in California, but there is so much crossover and so many parallels going on that it is nice that we are actually able to have this conversation and that typically marginalized and ignored voices are being asked to speak,” she said. “Whatever is decided on in the end says a lot about this county and what our goals are in the future.” The Board of Supervisors will make a decision in March, and other jurisdictions will make their own decisions. Supervisor Rodoni is holding a number of listening sessions on the coast in February; details can be found under “district four” under “current projects and accomplishments” on the county website. The estimated cost of changing the name is $134,000, which would cover new street signage and labor. The county, and the Marin cities and towns that opt in, would notify the assessor to update property records and the postal service. Property owners would have to make personal adaptations on their own, including by obtaining a new driver’s license and other forms of identification within 18 months to reflect their new address.