Efforts to change name of San Andres Street sees both support and opposition
A local group is trying to rename San Andres Street on Santa Barbara’s Westside.
The Dolores Huerta Street Renaming Project is looking to change the street name to “Calle Dolores Huerta” to honor Dolores Huerta, a labor leader and civil rights activist who launched the National Farm Workers Association alongside César Chávez to fight for farmworker rights in California.
The activist has won several awards for her service and advocacy for farmworkers, immigrants and women. Her awards include the Presidential Medal of Freedom and induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She’s the first Latina to receive those honors.
Miguel Avila, a real-estate agent who has lived in Santa Barbara for almost 48 years, is one of the leaders of the project.
“Her history speaks for itself. She spent 75 years fighting for women’s rights and continues to fight for people’s rights, for the unfortunate and all the ones who don’t have a way of fighting for themselves,” Mr. Avila told the News-Press. “We feel that San Andres doesn’t have really any history or any meaning to the history of Santa Barbara, so we feel that calling it Calle Dolores Huerta would look and sound like a better place for her name to be put on the street.”
The group has posted flyers around town listing reasons why they chose San Andres Street.
“San Andres is named after André Pico, who was neither a saint nor a resident of Santa Barbara,” the flyer reads. “It is a main artery in the Westside that will gain historic stature by becoming part of a national movement to honor those who fought for social justice. The new name ‘Calle Dolores Huerta’ will highlight the Latino culture of the Westside.”
The project collected almost 400 signatures before the pandemic by knocking on doors and tabling outside Foodland, and more than 300 signatures on its change.org petition. The total number is approximately 700.
“This is not a political thing,” Mr. Avila added. “This is an idea to respect a woman who has given her life for the better of communities and humanity. It has nothing to do with being a Republican or a Democrat.”
He said that out of all the calls he has received about the project, one in 10 have been opposed. He said he hopes to educate those who oppose to change their minds.
While the project is still trying to gauge public opinion on the matter, businesses in opposition to the project on San Andres Street are offering alternatives.
Instead of renaming the whole street, businesses are offering to rename the pocket park on San Andres Street, Upper Bohnett Park, to Dolores Huerta Park or naming the Micheltorena Street bridge after Dolores Huerta and installing plaques commemorating her accomplishments.
Kathy Guzman, the manager of San Andres Hardware at 635 W. Micheltorena St. and her husband Sean, both oppose the project.
“We’d have to change our (business’) name,” Mr. Guzman told the News-Press. “We’re against it because our company is on San Andres.”
“I’m against renaming the street my business is named after,” Mrs. Guzman agreed. “It’s been located in that area for the last 50 years. I think they should take her name and honor it (by placing the name on) a new street in Santa Barbara somewhere else.”
The owner of Ray’s Liquor at 1422 San Andres St., Ray Gusman, is also in opposition of the change, but not only for the sake of his business.
“I’m learning that a lot of people grew up on this street, so for them, it carries their family life they have here in Santa Barbara,” he told the News-Press. “I mean, there’s families that have grown up on San Andres Street, and they’re the ones reaching out to me telling me that they don’t want the name changed.”
He added that he worries about directing his customers to his store, so he supports the alternatives of the park or the bridge.
A petition not to rename the street, started by Audrey Cruz, has been created on change.org as well and had 255 signatures as of Thursday. The petition lists honors Ms. Huerta has already received, such as Dolores Huerta Day in three states, and other days honoring her.
San Andres Street is in District 3, the district of City Councilmember Oscar Guiterrez. He told the News-Press he grew up knowing Ms. Huerta’s name and his parents moved to this country to work on the farms in Santa Barbara, so it was something that was ingrained at a young age.
“I’m all for honoring her,” the council member told the News-Press. “My only reservation about the entire situation is that the people who brought it forward to rename San Andres Street in her honor don’t live on the Westside. They don’t live on San Andres Street. They didn’t really go about it in a considerate manner to the people who do live on San Andres Street.”
Mr. Guiterrez said as a representative, he has to listen to both sides and assess the situation that best suits the community at large.
“I have serious concerns about the effects of changing people’s addresses in the middle of a pandemic,” he said. “People are already stressed out and depressed and uncertain of the future, and to throw on an address change on top of it that has potential of fees attached isn’t something that I feel at this certain point is completely appropriate.”
The council member said he thinks a good compromise is one of the alternatives, or even naming a school after her, although that isn’t under the council’s jurisdiction. This way, he said, residents and business owners wouldn’t have to change their address, driver’s license, passport or property title.
“I definitely respect and appreciate the notion of honoring Dolores Huerta and other people that reflect the diversity of our community,” Mr. Guiterrez said. “We just have to make sure that we go about it with the right process and make sure we get as much public input as possible before we make these serious, life-altering decisions.”
According to Mr. Avila, the project has a virtual appointment with the community advisory council on Aug. 24, so right now, proponents are focusing on educating the public and seeking input.