Support Swings to Name Center for King : Port Board Member From National City Gives Proposal the Majority

Times Staff Writer

National City’s representative on the Board of Port Commissioners said Friday that he will vote to name the San Diego Convention Center for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a commitment that appears to make the controversial name change all but certain.

Port Commissioner Delton Reopelle said Friday that he will vote for the name change when it comes before the board next month to reflect the wishes of National City’s City Council, which unanimously endorsed the move Tuesday.

“I originally made the statement that I had not made up my mind, but I was leaning toward opposing it,” Reopelle said about the name change. “I do represent my City Council, and the City Council wants it, and I intend to work with them.”

“There certainly is merit in naming it after King for his societal role,” said Reopelle. “I wouldn’t argue with that, but I would like to kind of, at this point, leave it at that. . . . I do intend to do a lot of studying of the subject between now and the date we vote.”


Reopelle joins three of his port board colleagues, all of whom were appointed by the San Diego City Council, in pledging to vote for the change. That represents a four-vote majority on the seven-member board.

The effort to name the $160-million, bay-front convention center for the slain civil rights leader comes more than a year after San Diego voters overwhelmingly passed a 1987 referendum that stripped his name from a prominent thoroughfare, reinstating the name of Market Street. That vote stirred angry protests in the black and minority community, prompting civic leaders to promise that the city would find a suitable monument to King.

San Diego City Council members, who were rebuffed by the voters for putting King’s name on the street, last week voted, 7-2, to put the civil rights leader’s name on the convention center. Council members voted that way despite the fact than an overwhelming number of letters and phone calls to their offices opposed the move.

Although council members favored the change, Mayor Maureen O’Connor warned last week that the council could face an uphill struggle at the Port District board, which is building the convention center and must approve any name change. O’Connor said port commissioners told her that they may oppose the move because a midstream name change could make national and international marketing efforts more difficult.

Hope for naming the center for King brightened this week with the unanimous endorsement by National City’s City Council.

Reopelle said his change of heart in supporting the name was not based on the fact that he is up for reappointment to the port board next week by National City’s City Council. He is being considered for his second four-year term.