Still under wraps: 39th Ave and Chavez Blvd signs will peacefully coexist for the next five years.
  • Still under wraps: 39th Ave and Chavez Blvd signs will peacefully coexist for the next five years.
The knock-down, drag-out fight over a simple name finally concluded today with the installation of the first Cesar E. Chavez street sign and calls for reconciliation on both sides of the dispute.

The city's effort to rename a major city street after the famous activist and farmworker kicked off last winter with its eyes on 39th Ave, after a plan to rename Interstate Avenue crumbled over allegations of racism in 2007.

"Symbols are important and changing symbols is always controversial," said Mayor Adams today at the official renaming ceremony at Central Catholic Church on 39th Avenue. The mayor thanked the "scrappy group of applicants" and the most recent rename opposition group, whose leaders both spoke in appreciation of today's historic renaming.

"I fought fiercely to keep the street named the way it has been for 102 years. There was a lot of bitterness, but the healing has begun," 39th Avenue neighbor William Schneider told the crowd. He and Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association Chair Eric Fruits, also in attendance, spearheaded the anti-Chavez rename group Save 39th Avenue, which went so far as to question the immigration status of petitioners and investigate city street-renaming code. After City Council approved the rename, Schneider says members of the city and Latino community approached him, "After a lot of prayer and a lot of discussions with a lot of good people, I've decided it's time to end the street fight on 39th Avenue." The opposing sides would find healing through God, ended Schneider.

Emcee Armando Gonzales
  • Emcee Armando Gonzales
Lead pro-Chavez advocate Marta Guembes was equally dramatic. "It has been a very, very hard three years. Today is a day for celebration, but we have to recognize that we worked through a lot of racism and hardships," said Guembes, nearly coming to tears. The renaming is estimated to cost $86,000, including the $35,000 consultant who shepherded the process through.

Mayor Adams and Commissioner Amanda Fritz opened up the hour-long ceremony with a rather nervous recitation of the national anthem.
"We're not professional singers," Fritz apologized to the crowd before beginning.
"¡Si se puede!" shouted back a helpful audience member.

Adams (sporting new glasses, btw) was met at the church by several recall petitioners as well the first anti-anti-Sam sign I've seen so far in the city.