Pacific Beach Planning Group in August unanimously endorsed a proposal by two local social activists to rename PB Community Park as Fannie and William Payne Community Park. The Paynes were both pioneering Black educators in post-World War II PB.
San Diego State University administrator Paige Hernandez, who has done extensive research on the subject, and PB resident Regina Sinsky-Crosby, have teamed on the project. Their goal was to create a petition drive seeking 1,900 signatures for renaming the park.
That signature goal would match the number of PB homeowners who, in 1945, signed a petition demanding the removal of William Payne, the community’s first Black teacher on the staff of Pacific Beach Junior High School (now PB Middle) because of his race.
That petition, which ultimately failed, sought to have Payne transferred to “a more suitable assignment,” given the school and its students were nearly all white.
“Currently, the (recent) petition has up to 2,800 signatures,” noted Sinsky-Crosby. “What’s really stood out are the comments: People are so wholeheartedly in support. This is important to them.”
“We understand this is a very symbolic act, and it does not undo the historical implications of anti-Blackness or racism in Pacific Beach,” said Hernandez. “But it is a start, especially since this painful historical past is (now) so public.”
Added Hernandez, “We felt it (petition) was a step in the right direction for community members to reaffirm people of color in our community and speak out against hate. So we’re hoping that renaming the park is not just the end, but that there can be educational opportunities built into the curriculum at PBMS, and to create scholarships for Black high school students and other opportunities for revitalizing the park. The park is not in great shape, and is kind of an eyesore.”
PBPG board member Karl Rand pointed out the city “has a criteria for renaming parks for significant individuals and significant events that goes through the City Council.” He added District 2 Councilmember Campbell’s office has “offered to usher this through the bureaucracy.”
Board member Ed Gallagher was uncertain at first whether to back the proposal.
“I was a little skeptical because when you think of it, there are so many (Black) people, like author James Baldwin, who are worthy of having a park named for them,” he said. “But when I read the story of this person (Payne), I realized the students of PB Junior High (then) missed out on an amazing opportunity. I’m absolutely in support of renaming that park in the interests of intercultural exchange.”
IN OTHER ACTION
At the request of board member Gallagher, PBPG voted 11-3-0 in favor of extending the Slow Streets initiative now active on Diamond Street to Hornblend Street. His proposal would create an approximately 3-mile, U-shaped loop that Gallagher noted would “enable PB residents to safely recreate in fresh outdoor air and uncongested space.”
The Slow Streets pilot program was introduced by the mayor recently to make it safer for San Diegans to walk and bike by creating more space for physical distancing and reducing congested foot traffic at parks, beaches, and outdoor trails.