Dianne Feinstein made history. Now she is honored with a post office?

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Dianne Feinstein made history. Now she is honored with a post office?

California Politics

Sarah D. Wire

April 11, 2024

After a groundbreaking career spanning more than half a century, during which she rose from San Francisco’s first female mayor to the longest-serving female senator in U.S. history, the late California Sen. Dianne Feinstein will be honored with a post office

named after her.

Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla, who this week joined California’s junior senator in proposing naming a San Francisco post office after Feinstein, said it is only “a first step” in memorializing her.

“I think there are going to have to be some honors to live up to Senator Feinstein’s legacy. So there are other types in the works,” Padilla said in an interview.

Still, some quickly saw the proposal as a commemoration that didn’t come close to Feinstein’s gravitas.

“It’s more of a consolation prize than a great honor,” said Ross Baker, professor emeritus of political science at Rutgers University. “Naming a post office is kind of an inside joke in Congress… It’s very, very easy to do.”

The late senator died in September at the age of 90. During more than three decades as a U.S. Senator, Feinstein played a critical role in creating multiple national parks, sponsored the 1990s assault weapons ban, and led Democrats on both the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees of the Senate. She entered the history books in 1978 when she took over as chairman of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors after the mayor was assassinated. In 1992, she became the first woman to represent California in the Senate.

Recognizing someone with a post office is quite common on Capitol Hill. In both the House of Representatives and the Senate, a state’s entire delegation must agree to the name change before the bill can be considered. So far this Congress, 150 bills have been introduced to rename post offices, many of them honoring service members killed in combat. During the last Congress, California post offices were named for an Oxnard civil rights activist, Sonoma County’s “Pasta King,” a Compton Medal of Honor recipient who died during the Vietnam War and former San Diego Rep. Susan Davis


among other things.

No money will be withdrawn as part of a post office name change invoice. The signage outside the post office will not change to reflect the new name. Friends, family or community organizations remain responsible for paying for a sign stating the memorial.

“The only thing that’s typically done is a little plaque that’s put in the post office. And so it’s more trivial than trivial,” said Steven Smith, a professor of politics at Arizona State University. “It’s a strange form of commemoration.”

Instead, many prominent members of Congress are commemorated in more obvious, lasting ways, such as renaming courthouses, federal parks, or federal buildings. For example, there is the Thad Cochran United States Courthouse in Jackson, Miss., and the Richard Shelby Federal Building and Courthouse in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Former Rep. Edward Roybal, who represented Southern California for 30 years and co-founded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, was recognized with the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building in Los Angeles and the Edward Roybal Campus of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

San Francisco Postmaster General Padilla and Senator Laphonza Butler suggested naming Feinstein near the Embarcadero overlooking the Bay Bridge. It is located on the ground floor of the Rincon Center, where Feinstein oversaw redevelopment as mayor in the 1980s.

Padilla would not provide further description of any other efforts to recognize Feinstein, other than to say they may be related to her desert conservation work.

“We’re not at that level of detail yet, but there’s something different,” he said.

California Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) have filed legislation to rename the main trail in Headwaters Forest Reserve after Feinstein

last year. She helped broker the 1999 deal that bought the land for the Pacific Lumber reservation and protected the redwoods it contained. Five months later, the bill has not yet been taken up by the House Natural Resources Committee.

In January, the San Francisco Airport Commission voted unanimously to name its international terminal in honor of Feinstein.

In 2006, Dianne Feinstein Elementary School opened in San Francisco. She told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time that her connection to the campus would help students “look at government in a much more personal way than they otherwise would have.”


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