SF considers changing Lech Walesa Street after homophobic remarks

March 19, 2013 8:16:04 PM PDT
Years ago when San Francisco switched the name Army Street to Cesar Chavez to honor the labor leader, it sparked quite a controversy. Now a city lawmaker wants to remove the name of another labor icon after he made homophobic remarks. Lech Walesa is a small side street off Van Ness Avenue between Grove and Hayes streets in the Civic Center. ABC7 News looks into a controversial name change proposal.

You probably never even noticed it, but a one-block alley near City Hall, that used to be part of Ivy Street, was renamed for Lech Walesa in 1986. Singer Joan Baez was there to honor the man who founded the solidarity labor movement and became a Nobel Peace Prize winner. However, earlier this month on Polish TV, he said gays in parliament, "should sit in the back... Even behind a wall."

"We started receiving some calls and emails asking us if we would consider renaming Lech Walesa alley, considering that San Francisco is a beacon for the LGBT community," said San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim.

Kim introduced a name change measure on Tuesday. She pointed out that ironically the only business using the Walesa street address is the Tom Waddell Health Center which includes a transgender clinic. Waddell who created the gay Olympic Games might be a replacement name.

"No, I would not support taking the name off," said Edmund Lewandowski.

Lewandowski operates a website for local Polish-Americans. He has some political differences with the country's former president, but wants the street sign to remain.

"He should be honored somehow for his work with solidarity," said Lewandowski.

That historic movement is why some labor leaders are also questioning the potential name change, but gay Supervisor David Campos thinks it has got to go.

"He's been a hero of mine, so it is sad that someone you admire and respect would turn around and say something like that," said Campos.

The public will have a chance to weigh in before a vote is taken.