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Councilman Says New Name For Richmond Would Jazz Up Its Image
November 19, 1998
Richmond-by-the-Bay has cachet, he thinks

Catherine Bowman, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, November 19, 1998

You've heard of Carmel-by-the- Sea and Stratford-upon-Avon -- but Richmond-by-the-Bay?

That's the dream of Richmond City Councilman Tom Butt, who thinks a fancier appellation would improve his city's image.

Although unemployment and crime are down, many people see the city as a poor and dangerous place, he said. Last week, a 12-year- old boy riding on a school bus was shot in the jaw by a man aiming at a passing car.

Richmond needs to make the most of what it has, and the waterfront is the place to start, Butt said. With 32 miles of shoreline, the historic Kaiser shipyards and 2,800 acres of regional parks, the area is a natural draw.

``If you sell the idea that Richmond is a waterfront city, that there's no stigma attached to living or working or visiting here, then you start attracting people who come here to live and work,'' he said. ``It could become a destination place -- people could come here like they go to the wine country.''

Not everyone, however, thinks a longer name will bring cozy inns and rooms with a view. Tinkering with the city's name, said Mayor Rosemary Corbin, is just plain frivolous.

``Richmond's had its name for 94 years and there's a lot of history there,'' Corbin said. ``There's no question Richmond has gotten a bad rap but we are improving.''

The unemployment rate of the city's 93,000 residents dipped below 10 percent this year for the first time in a decade, Corbin said. And the number of murders in the city this year -- 18 so far -- is the lowest in years.

Corbin said the City Council and the city attorney made it clear at Tuesday's meeting that a new name would require a charter amendment that would have to be approved by the voters.

Aside from the snickering at City Hall, reaction around town was mixed.

``What's the point?'' asked resident Dennis Lollie as he sat in a barbershop chair on Macdonald Avenue yesterday. ``What's it going to be next -- San Francisco-by- the-Bay? El Cerrito-by-the-Bay? It's not going to do anything.''

But others say the idea is worth looking at.

``It probably would help because of Richmond's reputation for crime,'' said Esperanza Garcia, a dental receptionist who works downtown. Richmond-by-the-Bay, she said, sounds ``more scenic.''

Butt is not the first civic leader to suggest a new name as a way of turning around a city's unflattering reputation. West Pittsburg became Bay Point in 1993, and some East Palo Alto boosters are trying to give their city a new name.

Butt acknowledges that changing Richmond's name alone will not fix the city's problems. But add to that a plan to aggressively market the waterfront, he said, and the city could see an improvement.

No matter what his colleagues say, Butt is not giving up. He plans to organize his supporters and may try to put a referendum on the ballot.

``Everybody's been supportive,'' he said.