It was frankly difficult to read the comments from some elected officials charged with naming a new public park on what everyone has heretofore known as the Burnham Strip. It’s not so much that three of the five Granada Community Service District board members were wrong for favoring the least interesting, most bureaucratic of three choices; it’s the shockingly tone-deaf justifications they offered.

At their April 20 public meeting, directors discussed what to name the strip of parkland across from Surfer’s Beach when it is transformed into a community park. Some in the Midcoast lobbied for something other than another honor for Burnham, the famed Chicago architect credited with envisioning El Granada at the turn of the 20th century. They argued that Burnham never even visited the area and that his ties were therefore tenuous and did not merit memorializing.

Months ago, local resident Steve Hawk argued compellingly that the strip be named “Jetty Park,” noting that locals know the surf spot across Highway 1 as “the jetty,” and the skate ramp on the land now is known as the “jetty ramp.” Somehow the “jetty” idea was jettisoned and the board ultimately considered three names: Burnham Park, Granada Community Park and Chiguan Park, a choice that would have honored the native tribe of Ohlone that first populated the coast.

When the dust settled, the board voted 3-2 for Granada Community Park. Which is hardly inspiring. Worse still was the reasoning voiced by the board majority. Specifically, the way local elected officials chose to shrug off the contributions of indigenous people. It was as if they were saying the extermination of native people was somehow less worthy of commemoration than the tax burden borne by today’s El Granada residents.

Somehow, in 2023, elected representatives in the Bay Area of California said this:

“I recognize the Chiguan as part of the place broadly. To me, in this particular place, the only reason it isn’t apartments or office buildings is that people worked through Granada Community Services District to preserve it specifically for a park.”

And this:

“People have worked for decades to bring us to the point where we are. I think we should honor that work and that vision that a few active people over many years have almost brought to fruition.”

And this:

“It really was the people of El Granada who made this park happen and it’s the people of El Granada who will pay for this park.”

Well, the Chiguan people never envisioned apartments or office buildings on the land either — nor, for that matter, the houses and roads owned by today’s taxpayers. Perhaps the Chiguan people weren’t among those few active people working so tirelessly to protect their view corridor because colonizers virtually eradicated them. And maybe that’s why they aren’t paying taxes to the GCSD today.

The public servants on the GCSD board are good people who toil in relative obscurity for the good of their community. In the grand scheme of things, the name of the park is not that important. However, whitewashing the Coastside past is. On this issue the board majority revealed a terrible blind spot.

Many thanks to local resident Ryan Molyneaux and Cata Gomes, a Ramaytush elder and executive director of the Muchia Te’ Indigenous Land Trust, who sought to educate elected officials on the history of the area. GCSD Boardmembers Jen Randle and Jill Grant spoke up for the Chiguan as well, to no avail. We can only imagine what they were thinking.

— Clay Lambert

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(1) comment

Barbara Dye

I agree that we should recognize the history and heritage of this area. I’d like to see a space that could serve as a cultural and educational center about the history of the Ohlone people who lived here. There are logical places to do it where the original communities were – Pillar Point, near the outfall of Pilarcitos Creek, or within Fitzgerald Marine Reserve’s land. Most entities who have worked with groups to achieve this go through a process to set aside land for these purposes, figuring out what resources will be available to support the operation, who will manage it, and how it will interact with the community. I hope that we can all work toward a more complicated outcome that would be a great resource for the Coastside. I am committed to helping with this effort.

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