Rally sparks conversations about SFD renaming process

Avery Aguero

On March 9, the San Anselmo Town Council held a meeting via teleconference to further discuss the potential renaming of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard amid concerns about the negative racial connotations of the name. High School 1327 (HS 1327), formerly known as Drake High School, is also set to be renamed on March 31, as of print. The process began last fall, when county supervisors Katie Rice and Dennis Rodoni formed a committee of representatives from Larkspur, Ross, San Anselmo and Fairfax to consider renaming the 43.8 mile long street. After hearing reports from the two San Anselmo councilmembers, the council moved forward and opened up a town forum in early February to collect feedback from San Anselmo residents on the proposed renaming plans.

After almost six months and no changes to the street name, the San Anselmo Town Council is no longer pursuing the proposal. This inaction can be attributed to the petition presented to the council, as the proposal did not follow San Anselmo town resolution 3125A, which requires that two thirds of the residents on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard agree to the change. The vote ended up being three to two against renaming. 

Councilwoman Eileen Burke believes the proposal was not passed, in part, due to the significant economic implications associated with renaming the boulevard. The approximate cost of changing all of the old street signs in San Anselmo would be around $5,000. Residents who live on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard would also have to change the title to their property and the addresses on their passport, drivers license and credit cards which can be a costly process for local homeowners. Additionally, businesses would need to pay for updated advertising and permits such as a liquor license for restaurants, bars and liquor stores. 

Raising their voices, community members try to “Save the Name” of Sir Francis Drake High School and Boulevard. (Courtesy of Melissa Auchard at HS 1327 News)

Last November, Burke was elected to be on the San Anselmo town council and, as a community representative, she believes in strictly following the democratic process. However, as the parent of twins who attend HS 1327 she believes this democratic process did not take place during the removal and renaming of Drake High School. 

“I think [the renaming of Drake High School] is an example of forcing a predetermined outcome on unwilling stakeholders,” Burke said. “[The HS 1327 Site Council] took a poll, but removing the name was not supported by the majority of students, students of color, parents or the community. Instead of one person, one vote where we’re all equal, a cornerstone of democracy, it turned out that a group of only 100 [people], weighted their vote 10 times.” 

Redwood alumni and Fairfax resident Diana Perdue made similar observations about the school’s name change. Perdue was one of the participants at the “Save the Name” rally on March 14, where dozens of community members opposing the name changes gathered in front of the school with signs and banners. Like many others at the demonstration, Perdue felt unheard by, in her eyes, the lack of a fair and democratic process when deciding a new name for the high school. 

Showing support, one rally participant covered their car with posters, flags and Sir Francis Drake memorabilia opposing the name change. (Courtesy of Melissa Auchard with HS 1327 News)

“Democracy has certainly, and intentionally, been disregarded during the entire process, and that is what the rally group was so infuriated by,” Perdue said. 

In contrast, former Redwood faculty member Taber Watson, who is now teaching at HS 1327, believes that there are several misconceptions about the Drake Leadership Council (DLC) and their position in the renaming process. The DLC is an elected body of students, parents, staff and community members who are responsible for gathering public input about the name decision and reporting back to the Tam Union High School District Board (TUHSD). 

“At the end of the day, the DLC makes the final decision,” Watson said. “So, for example, when [the name] ‘San Anselmo High School’ [was] in the top four, but the [DLC] found that it was not a very equitable name for whatever reason, it is within their right to remove it from contention. And people think that their vote is not being counted, but in fact, it’s not really a vote, it’s a survey.” 

As of March 10, the DLC moved into the semifinals of the name change process with two student-proposed name choices in the running: Bon Tempe and Olema Trail. However, the DLC voted to pull the name Olema Trail from the running on Friday, March 26 after a representative for the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria opposed it. With not knowing how to proceed yet, the DLC made the decision to put the voting on hold until they meet again. The DLC is scheduled to have another meeting to discuss the next steps on April 1. 

Although the rally aimed to protest the high school name change, Perdue believes the main intention was to also express the community’s feelings towards the street name change.  

“Passing Drake High, where I had my first swim lesson at age four, driving on familiar streets, seeing Sir Francis Drake Boulevard exit and knowing I’m almost home, [they’re] emotional attachments for me and the names should remain as they are,” Perdue said.