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2005-01-21-Louis Rose Point—San Diego

Harrison Weblog

2005 blog


San Diego names bayside circle after 

Louis Rose, its first Jewish settler,  Jan. 21, 2005

By Donald H. Harrison

The Point of the matter is San Diego has named some land specifically for Jewish pioneer Louis Rose.  It is called Louis Rose Point.

San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy, City Councilman Michael Zucchet, Park and Recreation Director Ellie Oppenheim  and Steve Solomon, president of the United Jewish Federation of San Diego, had participated in a ceremony at the  proposed site last September 22 to mark the San Diego aspects of the 350th anniversary of Jewish settlement in North America.

But formal approval for the naming of the site on a boat channel leading to San Diego Bay awaited action by the Park and Recreation Board. That came yesterday (Jan. 20), the same day President George W. Bush was inaugurated for his second term.

The small circle of land at the foot of Womble Street occupies a small portion of what was formerly Naval Training Center—but as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process is now called Liberty Station. The location alongside the boat channel was specifically chosen in honor of Rose's dream to move the City from Old Town San Diego to the edge of San Diego Bay in order to develop the area as a commercial port. To that end, Rose in 1869 laid out the 30-block-long townsite of Roseville—an area  that is today part of the Point Loma neighborhood of San Diego.

The San Diego Park and Recreation Board—after hearing from a succession of speakers, including this write—voted unanimously to formally bestow the name "Louis Rose Point" on that circle of land, which will be an enclave in a larger, as yet-unnamed city park. The sprawling former Naval Training Center property overlaps Roseville, and from Louis Rose Point, one can see a panorama of the genteel community that grew up on the pioneer's town site.

Park and Recreation Board member Norman Greene led a succession of speakers in favor of the project, noting that his colleagues had voted in 2002 to name something in that area for Rose, and that two years before that the City Council and then-Mayor Susan Golding also had indicated their approval of the project—but somehow nothing got done. Saying that cities do not have good institutional memories—except in the cases of formally adopted resolutions and 
ordinances— he urged the board to complete the naming process. Once that was completed, he said, a campaign could get underway to raise private funds to build a suitable memorial to Rose.

Other speakers included former California Assemblyman Howard Wayne; Dr. Paul Thomas, president of Trinity Lutheran Church; Rabbi Scott Meltzer of Ohr Shalom Synagogue, and longtime San Diego resident and columnist Gert Thaler.

As Louis Rose's biographer, I was given the three-minute time allocated for individual speakers to tell why he was important to the city. I explained that when San Diego was founded in 1769 by the Spanish, they chose Presidio Hill because it was high and could be defended, was near a source of fresh water, and had Indian villages nearby where the Franciscan padres could preach Christianity. It made sense for the Spanish, but for Rose, who grew up in Neuhaus-an-der-Oste near Germany's busy Elbe River, and immigrated to New Orleans on the Mississippi River, the fact that it was several  miles removed from the bay made no commercial sense at all.

Next, Rabbi Meltzer speaking for his Conservative synagogue, for the San Diego Rabbinical Association—"and to what extent I can, for the entire Jewish community"—said it is a matter of pride that the city chose to recognize "one who had a grand vision of what this city could be at a time when this city's future looked bleak, at least for some."

Wayne, a Democrat who served three terms in the state Assembly, told the board, "I know that we have a rich and distinguished history here in San Diego, but it is often for many people not well known. One thing that we can accomplish with this motion is to help bring history to light to people who would visit this Point..."

Thomas said his church has been enriched by the merger of two congregations, one traditionally white, the other traditionally black, and added about Louis Rose Point "This is an ecumenical type of project we are looking at. Particularly on this inauguration day, it seems appropriate for all of us to look back and remember those who have come before us—to honor their memories, their sacrifices, to honor their spirits and their commitments to make San Diego a better city." 

"Further," Thomas said, "it seems appropriate to point out that the Old World sent us their wanderers and dreamers. Louis Rose was one of the immigrants who came here with little but had a vision for the future. Only in America could an immigrant and a member of a minority religion rise to the heights of a Louis Rose. He was quite an example. We should remember him. Our children should know of him for the example he set."

Thaler concluded the period for public comment by telling the board members of "having lived here for many years—84 of them. I hope that if there is a dedication of this memorial to Louis Rose in '08 or '07 that I would be here with all of you to enjoy that. 

"I grew up on the Bay of San Diego, my father's business was established in 1890 and I know the bay very well and I know the vision that people had and shared with Louis Rose," said Thaler, a columnist for the San Diego Jewish Times. "I attended the dedication of the park, and as I stood there, I thought this vision should come true, because truly San Diego is still the most beautiful city in the world."

When public comment ended, board members were quick to signal their approval of the idea. Moving approval, board member Daniel Mazzella told of growing up in New York City and attending a school called PS 12—for Public School 12. "How exciting is that?" he asked about the name. "How much more exciting and interesting for our culture that we can start to add some of those pieces that are missing. I think that this is a promise kept... I think this is an important cultural augmentation to the story of San Diego."

Board Member Kevin Faulconer, who had seconded the motion, said he and other residents "hear the term 'Roseville' a lot in Point Loma, as some of you folks might now, but not too many folks may know what that means."

Board Member Olivia Puente-Reynolds said she hoped that ultimately a statue of Rose would be built, along with a marker explaining his significance to the community's development.  She said she liked his famous quote to doubters about San Diego's rich prospects: 'Just Wait Awhile and You Will See!" 

Greene, Puente-Reynolds, Mazzella, and Faulconer were joined in voting for the project by Daniel Coffey, Darlene Gould Davies, and M. Virginia "Ginny" Barnes, the latter of whom chaired the meeting in the absence of the regular chairman, Jim Austin. Three other board members—Aurora Cudal, Robert Ottilie and Robert L. Robinson—were absent.