Berkeley Residents Try (and Fail) to Name Street After Avocado Toast
When Britain's Natural Environment Research Council completed construction on a £200 million research ship—one that was hailed as the organization's biggest and most technologically advanced—it turned to the public for help selecting an "inspirational" name.
It launched an internet poll and, for a while, one of the leading names was a tribute to a terminally ill child. And then an Internet Guy suggested 'Boaty McBoatface,' and that was it: Boaty McBoatface collected almost four times as many votes as the runner-up name, and the top 15 was filled with other silly (but no less glorious) suggestions like "Usain Boat," "Ice Ice Baby," and "NottheTitanic."
In the end, the Council went with the boring-but-dignified RRS David Attenborough, in honor of the soft-spoken naturalist. And although that Votey McVoteface took place several years ago, it was obviously the first thing that came to mind when we heard that Berkeley, California was letting its residents choose a new street name.
Last October, the NorCal city said that it would be both redesigning and renaming a two-block stretch of Shattuck Avenue. Shortly after the $10.3 million project was announced, officials installed a large chalkboard "idea wall" where members of the community could submit their own suggestions.
According to Berkeleyside, the only rules were "nothing disrespectful, mean or vulgar," but everything else seemed to be fair game. (Except maybe for any names related to Stanford University, the longtime rivals of nearby Cal-Berkeley).
"The goal of this is to increase civic pride and enthusiasm for major changes taking place in downtown,” Kieron Slaughter, a Berkeley community development project coordinator, told the outlet this week. “It’s an opportunity to have a person, movement, something that’s typically not recognized in city infrastructure. It’s rare that you get to name a street without taking something away.”
More than 900 names were submitted, including more than a dozen tributes to former President Barack Obama, one write-in vote for "Captain Underpants Way," three references to gentrification, a half-dozen Jerry Garcia-related ideas, and yes, several suggestions for "Streety McStreetface."
Weirdly, the city didn't seem to seriously consider the nomination for "I Like Meatballs," or the three chalked-in votes for "Avocado Toast."
In the end, it narrowed the list down to 10 possibilities, including five tributes that were unanimously supported by the city's naming selection committee. The latter five honored state assemblywoman Anna Saylor; Julia Morgan, the first licensed female architect in the state of California; Maggie Gee, one of only two Chinese-American women to serve as a Women's Airforce Service Pilot during World War II; and William Byron Rumford, the first African-American voted into state office in California. Almost 200 nominations were submitted in honor of Kala Bagai, an immigrant from India who arrived in Berkeley in 1915, but was forced out of the city by racists who literally prevented her family from moving into their home. She refused to give up or give in, and ultimately became an influential community leader who was known as "Mother India."
Berkeley residents will have the chance to give their opinion on an even shorter shortlist in the next few weeks, and the City Council is expected to make a final decision in March. It's probably too late for Toasty McToastface to make the cut.