Letter: Name the tunnel after Tom Lantos?

Letter to the editor

Posted by on Sat, January 5, 2008

Cheri Parr
Congressman Lantos visits the tunnel construction site in May

We received an interesting suggestion from a reader:

In the light of Congressman Tom Lantos’ announcement yesterday that he will not seek re-election because of illness [County Times], I would really like to see the Tunnel named for him. If others agree with me, I think the place to start would be e-mailing State Senator Leland Yee. Lantos has represented us for almost thirty years and was highly influential in funding and getting the work under way on Devil’s Slide.

After visiting the tunnel construction site with Congressman Lantos back in May, it was clear to us how closely he identifies with the project.

Not to take anything away from Mr. Lantos, nor from any politician, but I find such naming suggestions distasteful.  I likewise am put off - as well as being sometimes confused - by the corporate naming of such things as sports stadiums.

In an earlier era, facilities like that of the Western Cattleman’s Association were given very colorful names as a result sometimes of happenstance or a good quip - as when a San Francisco newspaper columnist wrote “they’re building a palace for cows” down in South San Francisco.

Devil’s Slide is legendary, and colorful, too.

As the tunnel is approached from the north, one will first cross a bridge, the travel through one of two tubes, finally bursting forth into the open air and views of the Coastside, as though escaping from a breathing passageway.

Devil’s Nose - or Devil’s Nostrils - anyone?

Comment 2
Sat, January 5, 2008 10:40pm
All my comments

Wonderful suggestion!  Tom Lantos championed Devil’s Slide, and fought to fund the tunnel in both Democratic and Republican-controlled Congresses. (Ditto BART expansion.)

Even more important, Tom has brought honor to San Mateo County as a leader and a statesman.  He fights for our interests—and our values, too, as the foremost fighter for human rights ever to walk the halls of Congress.

Here’s hoping that Tom fights cancer with the same success that he fought for us.

David Lee

I’m as appreciative and grateful as anyone for Mr.Lantos’ support of and work for the funding and realization of the tunnel project, but not to the extent of giving him naming honors - as a duly elected representative of the area, it was his (well-paid) job to represent and champion the needs of our communities, which in this case he did quite well.

The case could be made for naming the structures after any number of people who were much more critically instrumental in the 20 year effort of stopping the freeway bypass project and promoting (and then implementing) Measure T, many of whom did so at their own expense and motivation. I think it would be an argument without any popular consensus or resolution at this time ... (some sarcastic individuals have suggested that if it is to be named after any politician, it should be Quentin Kopp, as the former State Senator’s obtuse and bullying defense of the freeway bypass probably recruited as many anti-bypass activists than anything)

Devil’s Slide is unique in its history and sense of place in a way that is greater than any current situation, and I feel the tunnel project should not be used as a convenient memoral municipal project, regardless of how emotionally affected we may be by current circumstances - it has affected the lives of coastal residents for hundreds of years before our time and will continue to do so long after we’re gone. It has become a defining symbol of the coastal communities, and as such the name “Devil’s Slide Tunnel” can stand on its own.

With respect to the unamed letter writer, I would discourage any campaign to name the tunnel after any particlar person - we can add all the plaques we want to honor those who helped bring it about (and certainly Tom Lantos would receive appropriate and prominent honor there), but for most it was the specialness and essence of the place itself that made it important, a point that Congressman Lantos has himself repeatedly stated. I feel it is a better tribute to the spirit of all involved to keep its name. Until I hear otherwise, I’d like to think Mr.Lantos would agree.


No way!  Of all the important things that Mr. Lantos has worked on during his career (http://www.lantos.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=214&Itemid=91)—human rights, etc.—I think tunnel approval ranks pretty low.  The last paragraph in Chuck’s post summarizes my feelings, as well. -Rich

Here we go again.  The concept of naming public facilities after people has been argued before: 

I am very much against naming public facilities after anyone for any reason.  See the arguments pro and con in the above thread.

There’s quite a difference between the suggested reason for the airport naming and naming a tunnel for a respected representative. And how, by the way, did a little stretch of Highway One get named for Lou Papan?

Michaele Benedict

No, they’re both covered by my objection to naming any public facilities after people.

As to that stretch of SR 1, they didn’t ask my opinion.

I’m not opposed to naming something after someone, if they were singularly instrumental in the whatever it is that makes the place what it is. And honorific names do come in handy for street naming, or we’d have Avenue 1, 2 & 3 instead of Portola, Balboa and Alhambra.

The reasoning for the proposed airport naming and the tunnel naming is different in circumstance and origin: an honor to a young girl pilot vs the recognition of a politician’s work. These things need to be balanced against the whole of the honoree’s reputation, history and what they stood for (which is why, despite his support of the tunnels, many would be opposed to having Lantos’ name on the structure because of his other political stances). It needs to be analyzed as to whether the reasoning for the naming would be significant over the long run or is just an immediate popular emotional response. These can become an embarassment many years later sometimes.

And it should also be considered whether that honor would be shortchanging and possibly insulting to others who may have been more instrumental in the project’s realization. Nice plaques in obvious places can handle most of the needed recognition.

The Lou Papan stretch of Highway 1, most well known for its recurring mudslide,  is within the city limits of Pacifica, which is why no one consulted Leonard or any of us. It was probably based on just the sort of political payback we would want to avoid.


Comment 9
Mon, January 7, 2008 1:28am
Carl May
All my comments

I really don’t care what they call the twin tunnels fiasco/scam, but if people think Lantos was instrumental in addressing the highway situation at Devil’s Slide, they simply don’t know the history of the controversy. He was MIA until the twin tunnels project was railroaded into being, refusing to get involved in the road debate for, literally, decades. One gets the idea he would have done just as much to help obtain federal funding for the freeway bypass if that was the way the political mess shook out.

Carl May

What’s wrong with just calling it the Devil’s Slide Tunnel?


The question asked by Michaele:
“And how, by the way, did a little stretch of Highway One get named for Lou Papan?”


In case of interest, there are other sections of State Route* 1, (originally Roosevelt Highway) named for people:

General Douglas MacArthur Tunnel (San Francisco)

Robert E. McClure Tunnel (Santa Monica “father of the Santa Monica Freeway”)

CHP Officer John Pedro Memorial Freeway (Watsonville)

and then various Veterans’ groups claim portions of State Route 1 in So Cal.

I’m a bit of a Route 1 enthusiast, so, sorry if this comment is over the top!

Named-for signs along Highway 1 seem to go in contrast to the Scenic Highway regulations, such as:  “Prohibit billboards and regulate on-site signs so that they do not detract from scenic views.”  But then again, not all of Route 1 is considered Scenic Highway.

To me, named-for signs serve more as a headstone than as a monument marker.

*Leonard! I’m using State Route instead of Highway!  :)

and for what it’s worth, Lou’s sign on State Route/Highway 1 at the south end of Pacifca blew down in the recent storms.

such are the fortunes of monuments.

I’m sorry so few agree with me on naming the tunnel for Tom Lantos (where are all those people who kept him in office for nearly 30 years?) But I have to say that Chuck Kozak is, as always, informed, articulate, tactful and funny. I wish HE’D run for office.