21 March 2010

[pdx] Where César E Chávez Meets Rosa Parks

I recall that, on the first go-around, those in favor of the Interstate Avenue rename to César E. Chávez Boulevard plan used, as a selling point, the visual poetry and justice of having the names of two giants of justice cross at a point in front of the New Seasons Market at Interstate and what-was-then-just-renamed Portland Boulevard.

In the new age of CEC Blvd, they've gotten their wish really, just not in a way they'd of expected. Now, César E. Chávez Blvd does indeed intersect Rosa Parks Way …

… only this is Rosa Parks Way …

… and this is NE César E. Chávez Blvd …

Not to mention that NE 39th Avenue got upgraded to a Boulevard, whereas Portland Boulevard got downgraded to a mere Way.

None of this should be interpreted as my having any problem with 39th being renamed to honor Chávez, or Portland Blvd being renamed to honor Rosa Parks (as a matter of fact, I find I like them rathermuch), but rather an indication of the perversity of the universe, which once again schools us that you may get what you want, but the crucible of obtaining will sometimes surprise us by giving it to us in a way that nobody ever counted on.

Universe's funny that way.

Somewhat on a tangent, we also note that a street named for its proximity to Portland Blvd, NE Portland Blvd Ct., has retained its old name (there's precedence for this with SW Ford Street Dr, which references a no-longer-extant Ford Street), which is lucky for the Portland sign shop, as a NE Rosa Parks Way Ct blade would be about as awkward to mount as it is to say.
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Teceangl Bach said...

Well, way is an extraordinary whenn it comes to street naming, and is particularly mellifluous when appended to Rosa Parks. I don't get the Boulevard, though, unless they're simply cribbing of Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard as a template, at which point they should standardize already and stop making me speculate about it!

Benjamin Lukoff said...

Nice! We only have four streets in Seattle renamed after people — I think I may have mentioned them here before: Empire Way --> Martin Luther King Jr Way; Union Bay Place (part of) --> Mary Gates Memorial Drive; Connecticut Street -> Royal Brougham Way; Atlantic Street (part of) -> Edgar Martinez Drive.

Edgar Martinez and Royal Brougham are parallel to each other: one's on the south, the other on the north, side of Safeco Field. Martin Luther King is the old Sunset Highway and runs from Madison Valley past the city limits to Renton. Mary Gates is only a few blocks through the eastern portion of the UW campus; it's the entrance to the posh portion of Laurelhurst.

If Knute Berger gets his way — http://crosscut.com/2010/03/16/mossback/19652/ — we may see commemorative names like these cross. But it'll be a while. It would be interesting to see people who were historically opposed to each other intersecting!

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

@Teceangl: The name is simple extended. As 39th Avenue was, because the street naming ordinance holds that a street name is to be extended wherever logical. That's why we have, for instance, SE Morrison Street in so many disconnected pieces across Portland's east side. That quiet, short street was called NE 39th Avenue; ergo, it recieves the name of the main stem of the street it lines up with to the south. Since the rest of East 39th Avenue was renamed to CEC Blvd, this part goes along.

No need to speculate, actually; if it lines up, it takes the name. If CEC Blvd comes between 38th and 40th Avenues east, then you'll always find it there if there's a block of street that exists there.

What is a little funny is that streets with marquee generics, such as Blvd, can be quiet side streets (think Crystal Springs Blvd) and pastoral Ways can be busy thoroughfares (think Rosa Parks Way west of Martin Luther King Jr Blvd).

Come to think of it, the cascade of heroes of American social justice do have a certain dash when you reel them off as streets that intersect.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

@ Benjamin: You know, I caught those links you've been sprinkling about about Knute Berger – I like the cut of his jib.

I do happen to like numbered streets much much more than he does: I like the sound of "NE 122nd Avenue", and I think the neighborhood imbues the number, otherwise meaningless except as an ordinal, with atmosphere. I mean, 42nd Street is just a number – 42nd Street in NYC, now that means something! As does 5th Avenue – just a number, but imbued with reptuation. PDX's 39th Avenue had the same sort of thing.

there's also a numbered street in King County that I've always wanted to get a look at – the Skykomish area, off US 2, there's a few widely scattered avenues in the 700s and 800s. Man alive, I'd love pix of those!

Anywho! I totally enjoy the stories behind those names. I didn't know who Royal Brougham was; when I first saw maps of Seattle, I was amused that they should name a street after a car. It makes so much sense now. Seattle's MLK Way is a nice touch. I didn't know Bill's mom got a street named after her; on a tangent, we have a Laurelhurst in PDX too. It was developed by the same people who developed Seattle's Laurelhurst. You may already know that.

But as far as Knute's vision, I think it's ahead of the curve. I enjoy the idea of alleys becoming the new neighborhood centers, I know SF has been doing that with thier alleys for a very long time, and what a charming thing to do. We don't have so many alleys in PDX … the small block sizes see to that … but ther are alleys in some corners of town.

But I will always be a fan of numbered streets. Must be the bit of engineer in me, or at least the precise cartographer.

Benjamin Lukoff said...

I actually like the numbered streets too, and would only support changing a few of them — but I'm all for the alley idea. Here's my followup to his post.

Interesting that a Way is supposed to be pastoral. Not here! Alaskan Way, Denny Way, Yesler Way, and Broadway form the limits of Downtown, and they are are all major arterials. Martin Luther King Way is the old route out of Seattle to the east, before they built the floating bridges. Lake City Way is State Route 522, which will take you to US 2 and the 800,000 blocks! And I live on Roosevelt Way, which used to be one of the principal north-south routes north of the Ship Canal and is still a major street for much of its length.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

@ Benjamin: actually I was going to touch on that and got off the track. I always found it amusing that in Washington – mostly in Seattle but to a great degree in cities that part of the state – that a street with the Way generic is, more often than not, a principal arterial, whereas in most other places it's a sort of subordinate street you'll find lazily looping through a subdvision, say.

I've seen Lake City Way NE. That's one magnificent boulevard – wide, bit, and busy. Never got the chance to go down MLK Way. I hear it's interesting. And I did wonder what the main route east out of Seattle was before the bridges went in.

Tangentially, I also wondered what the Lake Washington outflow was before the Ship Canal was constructed. Turned out it was out the south end of the lake, through what is today Renton, down a now-vacated watercourse called the Black River.

I took a look at your article at Crosscut that you referred to there. I like the cut of its jib. While we don't have as many sane renaming options in PDX as Seattle does because our urban fabric is woven so very tight (as is some of our people), there are a few areas I can think of:

1. In the past, a fellow in Sellwood created a sort of public artwork where SE Sherrett Street and 11th Avenue came together – the intersection of two right-angle streets is, after all, a square. In fact, he called it "Share-it Square".

2. If the single-blocks of the four streets around Portland's Pioneer Square (we call it that, even though it's offically "Pioneer COURTHOUSSE Square" – I guess we envy you yours) could be renamed with alternative street names, NYC-style: Pioneer Square North would be SW Morrison from 6th to SW Broadway, Pioneer Square West would be Broadway from Morrison to Yamhill, Pioneer Square South could Yamhill from Broadway to 6th, and "Pioneer Square East" could be 6th from Yamhill to Morrison.

3. There are some places in PDX where multiple streets come together that could be named for additional local color. In the center of our Hollywood District, NE Broadway, Sandy Blvd, and 39th/César E Chávez come together in this big space that could become a designated "urban square", in the "Times Square" sort of way.

Of course, here in PDX we kept our named east-west streets, and many if not most of them were named after Portland settlers, so we haven't gotten any calls for systemwide renaming. It just comes up when a pressure group wants their hero honored – without regard to the objections of those in the target neighborhood, typically, and also disregarding the rules that were put in place after we got our own MLK Blvd to make sure any name change got everyone on board.