The Emperor's Bridge Campaign



EMPEROR NORTON BRIDGE  ::  The Petition & the Campaign  

The Petition & the Campaign

On 12 June 2013, Isadore Hall — the California State Assemblyman who represents the 64th Assembly District, south of Los Angeles — introduced Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 65 (ACR 65).

The nonbinding Resolution called for the Western crossing of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge — the section from Yerba Buena Island to San Francisco — to be named the “Willie L. Brown, Jr., Bridge,” for the former Speaker of the California State Assembly and former Mayor of San Francisco.

The Resolution’s lead sponsor was the California NAACP.

When the Assembly's Committee on Transportation recommended two months later, on 13 August 2013, that the full Assembly pass the measure, good-government advocates and Bay Area newspapers and news sites objected that the proposal was in conflict with the Legislature’s own rules for naming facilities like the Bay Bridge. These rules required, among other things, that:

  • “The person being honored must be deceased.” But Willie Brown is alive.

  • “The author or co-author of the measure must represent the district in which the facility is located....” But none of the Resolution's authors or co-authors represents the Assembly or Senate district in which the Western span of the Bay Bridge is located.

  • “The proposed designation must reflect a community consensus and be without local opposition.”

Clearly, ACR 65 was at odds with the first two of these requirements. But the Resolution’s compliance with the third requirement, too, already appeared to be in jeopardy.

A little more than a month earlier, on 8 July 2013, Sacramento-area resident John Ginn had published an online petition calling for the Western crossing of the Bay Bridge to be named instead for Emperor Norton. This petition attracted more than 500 signatures by the time it closed that September.

Click to sign the petition  simply to  add  “Emperor Norton Bridge” as an  honorary  name for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Click to sign the petition simply to add “Emperor Norton Bridge” as an honorary name for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

On 1 August 2013, San Francisco writer and urbanist John Lumea published a petition calling on the Legislature to add “Emperor Norton Bridge” as an honorary name for the entire Bay Bridge system.

This petition caught fire.

Aided by social media, the petition went from fewer than 100 signatures to more than 1,000 in its first few days of media coverage — coverage that eventually included SFist, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED (Bay Area NPR affiliate), the Los Angeles Times and Laughing Squid.

By the time of the Senate transportation committee’s 9 September 2013 hearing on ACR 65, the petition’s signature count was just shy of 3,800.

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As it turned out, the Senate committee did what its counterpart in the Assembly and, later, the full Assembly had done: It ignored the Legislature’s naming rules and recommended that the full Senate approve the measure.

On 12 September 2013, the Senate consented to this recommendation and the California Legislature adopted the nonbinding Resolution to name the Western crossing of the Bay Bridge for Willie Brown.

But the petition — today at 6,100 signatures (and counting) — continued to grow, and became the impetus for the 28 September 2013 launch of The Emperor’s Bridge Campaign at a Twitter-mobilized party held at Emperor Norton's Boozeland, a new Emperor-themed bar in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. The original idea was to provide organizational "ballast" and focus to the movement to name the entire San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge for Emperor Norton. We continue to believe this can and should be accomplished, independent of any separate namings for the bridge’s constituent crossings, or "spans." (See, to learn about our current bridge-naming effort.)

The Campaign quickly established itself on Facebook and Twitter, where our friends and followers include a diverse and growing list of kindred spirits who share our love for the Bay Bridge and the Emperor, and who — like us — want to see the two kept together in the minds and hearts of people everywhere.

AT THE CAMPAIGN'S FIRST ANNUAL TANNENBAUM TOAST, ON 8 DECEMBER 2013: Emperor Norton (Joseph Amster), Michelle Lavonier, Kristian Akseth & a mysterious arm. The Tannenbaum Toast is the Campaign's holiday party celebrating the tradition that it was Emperor Norton who originally called for the great Christmas tree that has stood in Union Square, San Francisco, every Yuletide since 1880. | The House of Shields, San Francisco

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The Emperor's Bridge Campaign remains "on task" in the effort to name the Bay Bridge for Emperor Norton.

But, in the six years since our launch, we've built out a larger cultural-historical mission of research, education and advocacy designed to honor the life and advance the full legacy of the Emperor. The bridge-naming effort now is a "campaign within the Campaign" — one of a variety of Projects intended to give voice to this larger mission.

AT THE TANNENBAUM TOAST: The view from the mezzanine.

AT THE TANNENBAUM TOAST: The view from the mezzanine.


The Campaign incorporated as a nonprofit in October 2014.

To return to the Overview of our bridge-naming project, click here.

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