A coalition of powerful Silicon Valley leaders want to name the new BART station in San Jose after ex-Mayor Ron Gonzales. After all, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown gave Gonzales the nickname “Mayor BART.”
Pete Carrillo, principal of consultancy Silicon Valley Advisors, this month launched an email campaign, gaining support from political leaders, activists and friends. Now, a letter with signatures from nearly 20 current and former lawmakers and leaders is headed to Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who serves as the Valley Transportation Authority chair. They are pushing for the new San Jose stop to be called “The Ron Gonzales Berryessa Station.”
The June 11 letter was signed by former county Supervisor Blanca Alvarado, San Jose Councilmembers Sylvia Arenas, Magdalena Carrasco, Maya Esparza, Sergio Jimenez, former Assemblymembers Joe Coto and Manny Diaz and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, among others.
“For over three decades, Ron Gonzales has been the champion for BART to Silicon Valley and San Jose,” the leaders wrote in the letter. “In 1989, as a county of Santa Clara Supervisor, he began his strong advocacy to extend BART around the Bay Area as the most effective way to transport thousands of Silicon Valley commuters, reduce traffic congestion, facilitate smart growth, and improve air quality.”
The letter pointed to other San Jose landmarks named after former politicians such as Diridon Station, Norman Y. Mineta International Airport, the Tom McEnery Convention Center and the Phil and Susan Hammer Repertory Theater.
“Naming the first BART station in San Jose after its champion is a logical choice and a deserving way to acknowledge his many decades of hard work to make this project a reality,” they wrote.
Alvarado said Thursday she was critical of VTA and BART for not bringing the train to San Jose sooner.
“I think (Gonzales) deserves a lot of credit. He lobbied hard and fast. It was a hot priority for him,” she said.
Carrillo told San José Spotlight that Gonzales deserves to have the new Berryessa Station — set to open Saturday after 30 years of planning — named after him because he championed the effort to bring BART here, including spearheading various revenue measures.
“Can you visualize our children walking up to the BART station and seeing a sign which reads ‘The Ron Gonzales Station’ and then reading a plaque which describes how Mayor Gonzales’ vision, his hard work and tenacity brought BART to San Jose?” Carrillo said.
However, naming a BART station after a single person might prove to be an uphill battle.
BART has several guidelines when it comes to renaming its stations — which is why none of the 48 current stations are named after an individual. According to Alicia Trost, a spokeswoman for the agency, officials use the following criteria when deciding on a BART station name:
- Overall helpfulness to the passenger
- Geographical Significance
- How well it sounds
- Ease of pronunciation
- Historical basis
- Prominence in the area
- Overall appeal
BART doesn’t have a policy that specifically prohibits stations from being named after people, though the criteria makes it very difficult, if not impossible.
The agency’s Board of Directors in 2005 established additional guidelines for naming stations, which ensured that names provide information on where the station is located within the context of the transit system.
“The name should significantly contribute to the transit user’s understanding of the station’s location, and assist passengers in his or her use of the system,” Trost said.
When it comes to renaming a station, BART officials in 2013 began charging fees for applicants to formally propose a new name. If approved, applicants must also cover the cost for the items and labor required for rebranding the station.
The 49th and 50th BART stations are set to open Saturday in Milpitas and San Jose — expanding the transit to five Bay Area counties. The stop in San Jose will be named the “Berryessa Station.”
Carrillo said he still plans to formally propose renaming the station after Gonzales.
Gonzales, a Democrat who served as the 63rd mayor of San Jose from 1999 to 2006, played a vital role in expanding the rail to Santa Clara County, Carrillo said.
Gonzales said when he kickstarted the campaign as a county supervisor in 1989, little did he know it would become a “lifetime project.”
“I’m deeply honored and slightly embarrassed,” Gonzales said with a chuckle when he heard about the efforts to name the new station after him.
He now works as the president and CEO of the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley.
BART and Valley Transit Authority are hosting ribbon-cutting ceremonies at the new stations in Berryessa and Milpitas on Friday — along with inaugural train rides. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and several other local leaders are expected to attend. The trains are set to open to the public Saturday.
“I did this project because I really felt it was important for our region,” Gonzales said. “And I think it will be very important, particularly in the second phase, when VTA can construct the next extension into downtown San Jose.”
Contact Luke Johnson at [email protected] and follow @Scoop_Johnson on Twitter.
FINAL Letter to Sup. Chavez on Gonzales Bart Station Naming 6 11 20