S.F. Artists Snub Willie Brown, Install Rogue Sign Naming New Bay Bridge After Emperor Norton

nortonbridge.jpg
twitter.com/@sfslim

Much to the chagrin of San Francisco progressives, the western span of the Bay Bridge was officially rechristened the Willie L. Brown Jr. Bridge Tuesday in a ceremony held on Treasure Island.

But while politicos, including Gavin Newsom, flocked to Treasure Island to celebrate, a group of artists remained on this side of the Bay Bridge and did a little celebrating of their own, honoring their successful attempt at upstaging Willie Brown

Late Monday night, a group of unidentified artists installed a large sign at the Bay Bridge onramp at Fifth Street, commemorating Joshua A. Norton, not Willie L. Brown. Norton was a famed 19th Century San Francisco eccentric, known for his many, many proclamations, notably the one where he declared himself Emperor of the United States, and later tacked on "Protector of Mexico" to his title. In addition, Norton is best-known for his many decrees about bridges and tunnels that he had hoped to build, connecting San Francisco and Oakland.

There have been multiple movements over the years to rename the western span of the Bay Bridge the Emperor Norton Bridge in his honor, although some Norton fans have often said that he wouldn't have had a "movement," per se -- he would have just issued a proclamation.

nortonbridge2.jpg
Emperor Norton

Following his protocol, the group of artists who installed the Emperor Norton sign this week did just that: issued a proclamation. "In 1872 Emperor Norton decreed this Bridge." Along the bottom of the sign in small lettering, it reads: "A gift from the artists to the city of San Francisco, Feb. 11 2014."

One artist involved in the project contacted SF Weekly, but asked to remain anonymous. He claims he isn't some crazy Emperor Norton fan, but said the sign was meant to call attention to the lingering resentment San Francisco artists have toward Willie Brown and his efforts to gentrify the city over the years.

The artist provided us with more insight in the following email sent today:

This plaque is a historically accurate gift to San Francisco, recognizing the origins of the Bay Bridge and honoring Emperor Norton's vision and unique character. The date was selected to coincide with the controversial naming of the old Western span for Willie Brown. During Mr Brown's mayorship in San Francisco his policies lead to wide-scale displacement of many cultural groups as well as great loss and abuse of the arts communities. So as we, the working class, teachers, artists, service industries, and families are displaced, the bulk of which are moving East, we'll have to see the name of one of those responsible emblazoned on the bridge while we leave.

No word yet from the Department of Public Works about how long the rogue sign might stay up. Best you get a glimpse of it while it's still there.






My Voice Nation Help
16 comments
busterbuster1999
busterbuster1999

I guess it’s somewhat appropriate to name the Bay Bridge after Willie Brown… Both look really sharp, have defects under the surface and have cost the state billions.

red.marcy.rand
red.marcy.rand topcommenter

We can name a public toilet after Willie. Just find the stinkiest one in town and christen it.

Chris Fisher
Chris Fisher

Nice! Willie L. Brown was an awful human.

Kipster A Fuller
Kipster A Fuller

I was born in SF. As far as I see it, no Mayor deterred change and gentrification. At least Willie Brown build me a City Hall and put a Black man on it, otherwise nobody would even know we ever fkng lived here. haha

Rio Guzman
Rio Guzman

Love that. Willie was a crook. He was smooth sure, but certainly not a hero. I could go with Emperor Norton bridge.

Steve Tidd
Steve Tidd

I love it. I said it the other day, they should never have named that bridge after a crooked politician. They should've named it after Metallica or Joe Montana. Some Bay Area guys who made many memories for us.

Mel Greene
Mel Greene

I prefer this over Willie Brown.

Chuck Stephanski
Chuck Stephanski

Are ALL of these people ignorant of James P. "Sunny Jim" Rolph, who the ENTIRE bridge is named for PREVIOUSLY.

Eric Carlson
Eric Carlson

was it just "Progressives" who were chagrined? WQho in SF wasn't!

Robert la Bohème
Robert la Bohème

It's not crooked enough to be named after Willie "Slick Willie" Brown.

FreddyDemuth
FreddyDemuth

Isn't the western span the old part of the Bay Bridge? 


Tony Gallen
Tony Gallen

It should have been named Emperor Norton bridge. Historically it would have made more sense.

pchas
pchas

There should be a statewide ballot initiative to change the name from the Willie L. Brown, Jr. Bridge to the Emperor Norton Bridge. 

john.lumea
john.lumea

The Bay Bridge was "dedicated" to Rolph but never formally or officially named for him.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.
Loading...