Senate OKs Bay Bridge name change, lawsuit seeks to overturn it

Attorney G. Whitney Leigh (left) and his client, good government advocate Bob Planthold.

The California Senate gave its blessing to the rename the western span of the Bay Bridge after former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown on Sept. 12, blatantly disregarding mounting local opposition to the proposal. Since ACR 65 is a nonbinding resolution, Gov. Jerry Brown cannot veto it even though he went on record earlier this week saying the 77-year-old bridge should keep the same name it’s always had.

San Francisco Sens. Mark Leno and Leland Yee both voted in favor of the resolution.

The same day, Attorneys G. Whitney Leigh and Lee Hepner filed a complaint seeking injunctive relief to overturn the resolution on behalf of their client, good government advocate Bob Planthold.

At a press conference, Planthold said the lawsuit “has nothing to do with Willie,” but rather sought to remedy what he perceived as state lawmakers ignoring their own rules, a state of affairs he characterized as “Orwellian.” Here’s an excerpt of his comments to reporters:

For his part, Leigh questioned why Sacramento legislators were in such a rush to rename part of the Bay Bridge when construction of the eastern span had only just been completed, following long delays and overruns. “There is a shadiness and irregularity to this procedure,” he said.

The suit, directed at the California Senate and the Assembly and all the lawmakers responsible for pushing it through, alleges "arbitrary suspension and/or violation of legislative rules and policies" to fast track the legislation.

Specifically, Hepner said, lawmakers ignored an established timeline for introducing new proposals, instead allowing ACR 65 to be submitted four months after the formal deadline. Additionally, he said, the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing was technically barred from meeting between Sept. 3 and 13 – a rule likely meant to keep lawmakers focused on more pressing issues, like approving 400+ bills before a Sept. 13 deadline – but nevertheless, ACR 65 passed out of that committee on Sept. 9 on an 8-1 vote.

Planthold previously served on the city’s Sunshine Ordinance Task Force and was previously an officer on the San Francisco Ethics Commission. Leigh is the former law partner of Matt Gonzalez, a former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who joined two other former board presidents to formally call on Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to stop the resolution from going forward.

Despite Gov. Brown's opposition to renaming the Bay Bridge, it remains unclear exactly what he’ll do about it now that it has formally passed. In response to a query about whether he would take steps to halt implementation, spokesperson Evan Westrup responded in an email: “Got your message. Don’t expect we’ll be providing further comment today.”


be so gung ho about a lawsuit opposing it based on purely procedural and technical grounds?

This rename passed so easily and unanimously that I cannot imagine a less worthy fight for SFBG.

Heck, that span of the bridge isn't even in SF County. It's in Alameda County and the City of Oakland.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

Why don't you live in the real world? In the real world, the vote was to change the name of the bridge in honor of Willie Brown, not Harvey Milk. You and about 10 other nonpoliticians (assuming you're not one) are about the only people in the bay area in favor of it. Wait a minute - I get it! You're Willie Brown!

Well Willie, you were a corrupt mayor and people know that which is why people in SF and the bay area don't want it named after you - you know corruption like the way you opened up voting booths only in Hunters Pt in the weekend before the Tuesday mayoral election so that an area thick with your supporters would have a lot more time to vote than other areas.

Such a stunt should have gotten your sorry ass thrown in jail. You didn't get thrown in jail but you lost credibility with the general bay area public for pulling stunts like that.

And screw Phil Ting who co-sponsored this dumbass bill. I'll go out of my way to try to get him defeated in his re-election.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 11:52 pm

all, and you offer no evidence for that. They probably don't care or are OK with it. Willie was a popular mayor whether you like it or not, and he helped SF benefit from the two big tech booms, and deserves credit for his risk-taking innovative approach there.

But my real point was the hypocrisy of the SFBG supporting a rename in the one case (Milk) and opposing it in the other case (Brown) out of no principle except political bias.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 6:48 am

Why not the new eastern span?

Or why not name the entire bridge? It's not like it's really two separate bridges anyway.

Posted by anon on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 3:47 pm

to survive into the forseeable future. The original bridges were designed to carry heavy rail, not heavy egos.

Posted by lillipublicans on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 4:09 pm
Posted by anon on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

For the record: F@CK naming any part of the Bay Bridge in honor of Willie Brown. Emperor Norton, the Widow Norton or Karl the Fog-fine-but Sells Out the Town Brown? Hells no.

Posted by Guest MoFoPlz on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

now it will cost more tax payer money to litigate this nonsense bridge idea.

Posted by Guesjgst on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

this would have been a zero-cost project, but for the ideological lawsuit, of course.

I suspect a Judge will toss it out in a summary judgement as mischievous and trivial. Given how the renaming passed almost unanimously, a judge would be highly reluctant to get involved.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 4:54 pm

Rules are rules and apparently they ignored the rules on what's allowed in changing the name of the bridge - for instance the person who it will be named after must be dead.

If a judge doesn't believe in enforcing laws, he or she wouldn't be much of a judge. My guess is when it comes down to it, the judge will have more respect for the law then you do, Willie Brown, and won't toss it.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 11:58 pm

Luckily, judges use common sense to make such decisions, and is unlikely to quibble given the huge majority this rename had in both Houses.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 6:49 am

We have school's in need of money for our children education and politicians are wasting money with their insane behavior in pleasing eachother's ego!!!

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 8:17 am

Or, at least, it wouldn't have done before this petty-minded lawsuit.

New signage is to be paid for privately.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 8:36 am

And just in case such a law would be found unconstitutional, a completely severable clause could ban *anybody* who'd served more than twelve years as Assembly speaker.

*... the subject of water treatment deserves study...

Posted by lillipublicans on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 4:54 pm

He'll no! It's SF Bay bridge and always should remain
With that name.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

Totally with you on that. Work to defeat Phil Ting when he runs for re-election. The dummie co-sponsored this dumb resolution.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 12:00 am

It pleases me no end that the Willie L. Brown Jr Bridge will now be a permanent reminder to us peons and voters just how freaking corrupt our state government is.

We will always look back on the cowardice of sissy Ammiano, soon to retire, opposing the name change but abstaining in the assembly vote. What the heck does Ammiano have to lose if he found some backbone and voted no?

Then we can fondly recall how Ding-a-ling Ting and Mark "Can I Run for Congress Yet?" Leno ignored the will of the people and cast their votes for Slick Willie's ego gratification.

Very curious to see how the Bay Guardian glosses over Ammiano's cowardice in the future.

Posted by MPetrelis on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 5:22 pm
Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 6:50 am

Does the name change really stick?

Posted by Greg on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

We're arguing now over how much signage.

But hey, you can call it the Harvey Milk Bridge if you want. Nobody is stopping you.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 6:51 am

It would be more fitting if they had named the bridge after Dr. Leroy Looper who was a modern day hero for the poor and unknown.

Posted by GuestJames Brady on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 7:52 pm

Never heard of him.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 6:52 am

and be heralded and celebrated in California.

I am a HUGE fan of political correctness.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 7:29 am

nothing to do with Willie or San Francisco. It is the west span that is being renamed.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 7:56 am

Slick Willie only managed to up the cost by a half billion or so and delay the completion by about 6 years. He should be given a fair trial and a blindfold.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 8:49 am

And the span being renamed is not the new span.

Apart from that, you're 100% correct.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 9:04 am

So much hysteria over something that matters not at all! Appararently worrying about the fictitious name of the Bay Bridge (which is what everyone WILL continue to call it just as they do now) is more fun than addressing REAL issues like health care, budget shortfalls and Repuglican attacks on civil liberties.

Posted by rememberthepast on Sep. 16, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

of course nothing else has, proving that the opposition was petty and a total non-issue.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 16, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.