SAN FRANCISCO — The western span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge officially took on the name of former California Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown on Tuesday.
Hundreds of people, including state and local officials, gathered on Treasure Island for a dedication ceremony for the new Willie L. Brown Jr. Bridge.
Brown told reporters he was honored to have the bridge span named after him.
“It’s really an honor for African-Americans and for the African-American community,” said Brown, who is black. “There’s nothing in the nation except the King holiday that has the universality of this bridge in terms of its carrying the name of an African-American, nothing even close.”
The state Legislature approved the name in September. It only applies to the western span of the bridge, not the new eastern span.
Brown was the Assembly’s first black speaker and the longest-serving speaker in state history, presiding over the 80-member house from 1980 to 1995. He was considered among the most powerful state politicians of his time.
Critics of the decision said that under state rules, people must be dead before infrastructure projects are named after them.
Brown, 79, said Tuesday he wanted his case to serve as an example of how to thank people while they are still alive.
“To say ‘thank you’ after they’re dead is a little bizarre,” he said.