Neighbors Call Proposed Balboa Reservoir Street Names Bland

It was unclear whether the names put forth by community members are being considered.

Renderings of the Balboa Reservoir development displayed at the September 2022 open house. | David Mamaril Horowitz/Ingleside Light
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Community members who spoke to The Ingleside Light said they were unimpressed by the overwhelmingly non-native plant names proposed for the lanes of the upcoming Balboa Reservoir housing development.

“Those are like generic names that somebody might use in a subdivision out in Contra Costa County,” Ingleside resident Sam Darby said of the development team’s entries. “I’d much rather see the streets names for people or landmarks or something like that unique to San Francisco.”

At the Sept. 10 open house at Unity Plaza, the developers held a vote for attendees to name three lanes of the project, proposing eight plants and one type of plant as candidates: Buckeye, Currant, Evergreen, Ginkgo, Loquat, Meyer, Mulberry, Pear and Wisteria.

Only two names — the Buckeye and Currant — are of native plants, said Malcolm Hillan, a 22-year environmental horticulture instructor at City College of San Francisco and a licensed landscape contractor.

The names were of plants “programmed” for the development, Jeff Breidenbach, a principal at Argus Design who worked on the project’s branding, told The Ingleside Light at the open house.

Renderings of the Balboa Reservoir development with street name choices displayed at the September 2022 open house. | David Mamaril Horowitz/Ingleside Light

The plant list for the development is still being coordinated in real time and is not yet solidified, said Gary Strang, principal at GLS San Francisco.

Breidenbach also said that the names came from “the idea of growth and vitality.”

However, interviewees in the surrounding neighborhoods said the entries seemed dull and preferred names with local significance — with most suggesting a reference to Indigenous tribes in the area.

At the open house, attendees hand-wrote their own entries next to the development team’s proposals. Breidenback had said that he thought the publicly written names wouldn't be chosen, but Nora Collins, a senior director of development at AvalonBay Communities, had told The Ingleside Light all names would be considered.

"We appreciate the community's interest in potential names; we'll look at the votes and see," Collins said.

Sunnyside resident J. Heggie said the suggestions were relatively safe, being “plants rather than people’s names.”

Heggie added that she was glad to see someone propose the name “Diego,” as it could help guide people to the planned Diego Rivera Theater.

However, it’s been nearly three weeks, and no one updated the online poll to include the community’s handwritten entries. Balboa Reservoir developers did not respond to a request for an update on the vote results or for an explanation on how the community’s handwritten entries will be considered if they’re not included in the online poll.

Community members proposed Edwin Lee Avenue, Reverend “G” Gordon Lane, Diego Lane, Reservoir Lane and Phelan — names with local significance.

Ingleside resident Steven Brown suggested using names that memorialized the original stewards of the land, the Ramaytush Ohlone.

Westwood Park resident Paul Yamazaki said he’d prefer to have street names that weren’t “so generic” as the plant names.

He suggested using the names of native plants, Indigenous people who had lived in the area or notable graduates at City College of San Francisco, or some combination of the three.

“It’s like you’re in the suburbs or something if you have Loquat Street or something,” Yamazaki said.

Westwood Park resident Angel Islas echoed the others’ feelings about including Indigenous people’s names to reflect that residents are living on “the unceded lands of the native peoples of San Francisco.”

“I would say the names were acceptable but uninspiring,” Islas said. “It would be a really good idea to reflect some names that haven’t been represented in the past and something that would reflect the diversity and unique history of San Francisco.”

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