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Golden Gate Park name proposal: Replace antisemitic politician with Chinese hero

Two people pass through the Stow Lake Bridge in San Francisco. | Source: Isaac Ceja/The Standard

Three San Francisco supervisors want to rename a lake in Golden Gate Park to remember a diplomat known as the “Chinese Schindler.”

Popular recreation spot Stow Lake was named after former California Assembly Speaker William W. Stow in the 19th century. Stow apparently held antisemitic views and often spoke and made laws discriminating against Jewish people.

In 2022, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution urging the city’s Recreation and Park Commission, which oversees the naming policy for Rec and Parks, to remove the name “Stow” from the lake, a nearby boathouse and the road. The resolution didn’t suggest any new names, and the commission has yet to take action.

However, Supervisor Myrna Melgar, a Latina Jewish immigrant whose district includes the lake, told The Standard she’s considering naming the lake after Feng-shan Ho, a Chinese diplomat who saved thousands of Jews fleeing the Holocaust during WWII.

“This idea brings so many communities together,” Melgar said, adding that renaming public landmarks is a long process and other naming ideas may surface.

A photograph of Feng-shan Ho while he was a Chinese consul during World War II is on display at the Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco. | Source: San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Ho, the consul general of the Chinese consulate in Vienna in 1938, issued thousands of Shanghai visas to the Jews, which allowed them to leave the country to escape the Nazis. Ho later retired in San Francisco and lived for decades in the Richmond District, close to Golden Gate Park. After his story spread in the media in recent years, he became known as the “Chinese Schindler.” Ho’s daughter, Manli Ho, still lives in San Francisco.

Vanita Louie, a Chinese American who sits on the Recreation and Park Commission, said she expects to discuss the lake’s renaming in upcoming meetings and will listen to public feedback.

Supervisor Connie Chan, a Chinese American immigrant who represents the Richmond, said she supports the renaming, too.

“This renaming not only tells the history of Chinese and Jewish community solidarity,” Chan said, “but also helps us build a future with hope and love for generations to come.” 

Board President Aaron Peskin, who’s Jewish, also said he likes the “Feng-shan Ho Lake” idea and looks forward to hearing from the public and his colleagues.

An online petition supporting the name change—started by Shabi Fiumei, an Austrian student in Taiwan—has gathered over 30 signatures as of Sept. 8. Fiumei is likely the first to propose renaming the lake after Ho, as he sent a letter pitching the idea to supervisors in May. In a message to The Standard, he said his goal is to make San Francisco “properly honour Feng-shan Ho in his home of choice.”