Maybe, just maybe, the state Senate will take a minute to listen before it pushes through a resolution to rename the western span of the Bay Bridge after former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

Brown has been perhaps the most influential African-American politician in state history. Yes, he deserves recognition for his contributions. But renaming the span after him is insulting.

After all, it was then-Mayor Brown's selfish actions that prompted delays in the construction of the new eastern span for two years and cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in supplemental studies and inflationary costs.

San Francisco’s former Mayor Willie Brown, attends the San Francisco Symphony’s Opening Night Gala in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept.
San Francisco's former Mayor Willie Brown, attends the San Francisco Symphony's Opening Night Gala in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013. The gala opens the Symphony's 102nd season. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

While right-thinking people were concerned about replacing the seismically unsafe span that broke in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, Brown and others promoting the city's development of former Navy property on Yerba Buena Island attacked the new bridge's design and alignment for their own purposes. The delay ended only after White House intervention.

As former state Business, Housing and Transportation Undersecretary Robert Wolf, who dealt with Brown on the bridge project during Gov. Pete Wilson's administration, told our investigative reporters back in 2002, "Willie Brown was playing games with people's lives."


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The span and the Golden Gate Bridge are regional, national and international symbols for the entire Bay Area. They stand on their own and should not be labeled with anyone's name. They link together disparate communities, and should help unify, not divide.

The naming of roadways traditionally lies with the state Legislature through nonbinding resolutions, essentially requests to the state Department of Transportation. The Assembly has already approved the resolution. The Senate will vote before week's end.

Gov. Jerry Brown, the former mayor of Oakland, it should be noted, on Tuesday expressed his clear displeasure. Since he's responsible for Caltrans, he could refuse to comply with the Legislature's wishes. But he shouldn't have to do that.

While Willie Brown was much-revered by many San Franciscans, he certainly was not, and is not, universally loved within his own city, and certainly not beyond its borders. San Francisco has plenty of significant landmarks it can bestow with Brown's name if it wishes.

But not the bridge.