Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park (Photo/Flickr-Patrick G CC)
Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park (Photo/Flickr-Patrick G CC)

Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park, named for an antisemite, may get a new name. What should it be?

In the heart of Golden Gate Park is a charming lake with a boathouse. It’s well shaded and a favorite spot for birdwatchers, casual walkers and boaters. It’s called Stow Lake, named for noted antisemite William W. Stow, the speaker of the California State Assembly in 1855 who, among other things, called for a tax on Jews designed to drive them from the state.

Obviously, it’s overdue for a new name.

Myrna Melgar, who is Jewish, has been the loudest voice on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors calling for the lake’s name to be changed. The District 7 representative first learned about the issue when J. reported on it in 2019.

On June 1, the lake, built in 1893, will be one step closer to getting a new name when a community meeting will be held on Zoom at 6 p.m. to discuss the matter.

Back in October, the Board of Supervisors issued a resolution calling for the name to be changed; however, only the city’s Recreation and Park Commission has the power to rename the 12-acre doughnut-shaped lake.  The June 1 meeting will be the first of three public meetings the commission must hold in order to move forward.

On the agenda for these meetings, of course, is choosing a new name for the lake.

Myrna Melgar
Myrna Melgar

“Show up and make a suggestion for a new name,” Melgar urged her constituents in her latest email newsletter, noting that “Blue Heron Lake so far is the leading contender.”

That name would be appropriate. Great blue herons have been nesting at Stow Lake for 30 years, according to the organization San Francisco Nature Education, whose volunteers spend six Saturdays each spring helping visitors view the birds and their chicks. The final 2023 session will be tomorrow, on May 20.

So, J. readers — what do you think?

Is Blue Heron Lake the way to go?

Or maybe you would prefer the restorative justice approach, naming the lake for a Jewish official from California history?

Of course, some of our early community pillars are out; remember Julius Kahn, the anti-Asian early 20th-century Jewish lawmaker who no longer has a San Francisco playground named after him because of his support for the notorious Chinese Exclusion Act? Or San Francisco Mayor Adolph Sutro, whose famous baths were segregated, resulting in controversy surrounding his namesake elementary school?

How about naming it Voorsanger Lake, after Rabbi Jacob Voorsanger, the early Congregation Emanu-El rabbi who founded this venerable publication?

Maybe there’s a long-serving city parks official who could be recognized?

Or could it be a revenue opportunity for the city: Treat it like a stadium and crassly sell naming rights to a different corporation every few years? Salesforce Lake, anyone?

Let us know what you think Stow Lake’s new name should be by emailing me at [email protected]. We’ll get back to you soon on the best suggestions we receive.

David A.M. Wilensky
David A.M. Wilensky

David A.M. Wilensky is director of news product at J. He previously served as assistant editor and digital editor. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @davidamwilensky