Residents told Onetta Harris’ name won’t be removed from community center

The Onetta Harris Community Center, 100 Terminal Ave, Menlo Park.

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

Residents of Menlo Park’s Belle Haven neighborhood said yesterday (Jan. 14) they’re worried that the name of the Onetta Harris Community Center may be changed when Facebook rebuilds the center and adds a library.

“We don’t want our history obliterated and made extinct — we want our history to remain,” said resident Greg Goodwin. “We kept kids out of prison and got kids to school through the center.”

All seven of the speakers at last night’s Menlo Park City Council meeting said the community center, which was named after a community volunteer, was a uniting force in Belle Haven, the neighborhood east of Highway 101.

Onetta Harris was a community volunteer who helped create many programs not only at the center at 100 Terminal Ave. but in both Belle Haven and East Palo Alto. She was also on the Ravenswood School Board, her relative Israel Harris said yesterday. She died in 1982 at age 57. In 1983, the City Council unanimously voted to name the center in her honor.

“We all knew that Onetta embodied the community at large — she brought people together,” said Ken Harris, another relative of Onetta Harris.

Facebook last month submitted a proposal with the city to build a library, gym and new senior center where the Onetta Harris Center is located. Both Facebook and the city have said the rebuilding of the community center is separate from the massive Willow Village project that is proposed less than a mile away.

Mayor Cecilia Taylor, who grew up in Belle Haven, reassured last night’s speakers that no decision has been made to rename the center, and that Facebook has made no moves to have the naming rights for the center.

Facebook Campus Development Director Fergus O’Shea said the social network company is not interested in renaming the center and that the name should be up to the council.

Councilwoman Catherine Carlton said there has been no discussion about renaming the center. The council will talk about Facebook’s proposal at its Jan. 28 meeting.

3 Comments

  1. I was not in attendance at the meeting, however I have heard from several people who were in attendance that a sizable portion of the speakers did not actually live in Belle Haven. Also, many Belle Haven residents who wanted to comment on the agenda topic (the architectural design of the proposed center) did not speak, as they felt intimidated by the room.
    The naming issue was brought up at a previous neighborhood meeting where Facebook and Belle Haven residents who jointly created the project concept, shared the idea with the community.
    What is sorely needed is a parallel set of meetings to discuss the name, so we can gather feedback from the public on other relevant topics related to the center.

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