A green Vanden Road sign.

Vacaville Discusses Renaming Vanden Road to Honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr…

Tuesday’s Vacaville City Council meeting hosted a lengthy discussion on renaming city streets – specifically around the proposed renaming of Vanden Road in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The meeting was emotional, confusing, and uncomfortable at times. The discussion lasted almost two hours.

The City Council discussion emerged following two proposals from councilmembers.

  • In September 2023, Councilmember Chapman proposed renaming a street in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • In December 2023, Councilmember Roy Stockton proposed renaming a street in honor of retired Vacaville Police Officer Walt Simon.

City staff brought forth a presentation on both proposals. City staff evaluated “Arterial” and “Collector” streets within the city and identified Vanden Road as a candidate for renaming – based mostly on the number of addresses which would be affected.

City staff reported an estimated cost of $30,500 to residents and businesses in addition to $59,100 in actual costs to the city itself if the street was to be renamed.

What’s unusual about the requests is they were brought forward by councilmembers. Traditionally, requests for renaming streets in Vacaville are brought forward by residents who do the initial leg-work of building support.

City policy requires 75% of affected property owners agree to the name change of a street. There was no indication of how much support is believed to be behind this proposal.

Changing the name of Vanden Road would directly affect 55 residential homes, four home-based businesses and Callison Elementary School, according to city staff. Those “Indirectly” affected would include 213 homes and six home-based businesses (“Indirectly” affected are defined as those immediately adjacent or within 100 feet of Vanden Road).

Another option would be to identify a future street to be named for one or both of the proposed names. City staff recognized the most likely location for a future street would be east of Leisure Town Road or in the Northeast Vacaville development area.

Following the presentation, the council engaged in a lengthy discussion about renaming policies and the threshold for having a street named after a person.

Currently, renaming a city street after a notable person requires the person be deceased for at least three years. Councilmember Roy Stockton proposed changing that policy, but others (including the mayor) expressed concerns about the amount of interest there could be in renaming streets and the city’s role in determining who would be defined as a “local hero” under the policy.

There was overwhelming support for identifying a future street to be named in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and very little for renaming an existing street.

Renaming is not good, because you’re going to destroy something that means something to somebody. What are we going to do to make sure we go forward, we be patient, and do everything right?”

Councilmember GregORY Ritchie

Only Councilmember Chapman proposed moving forward with renaming Vanden Road.

No other councilmembers agreed to second the motion, so it did not pass. Councilmember Chapman then mentioned exploring the renaming of Peabody Road instead, citing few residential addresses on the major thoroughfare between Vacaville and Fairfield.

Each councilmember made articulate statements explaining their individual stances on the subject. Councilmember Roy Stockton proposed eliminating the requirement that a person be deceased for three years before a street can be renamed in their honor.

The mayor shared concerns with changing the policy, and the government’s involvement in determining who gets a street named after them and who doesn’t.

Residential streets are currently named by builders of housing subdivisions, who generally have themed names for streets. Builders submit street names for approval and city staff check for duplications and spelling corrections. There’s no formal process for encouraging a builder to choose a certain name.

City Manager Aaron Busch indicated the city would have more influence on the naming of major “arterial” or “collector” roadways, but there was no recent precedence for how those streets are named.

In one of the most emotional statements during the meeting, Councilmember Chapman said that waiting for a future street to need a name could take twenty years. “It’ll never happen. It’ll never happen!” she exclaimed.

As a second of the motion was requested for Chapman’s proposal, an awkward silence occurred while no other councilmember seconded the motion. All councilmembers verbally expressed support for naming a future street in honor of Dr. King, but none supported renaming an existing street.

Issues with Renaming a City Street

It turns out it’s not as simple to rename a street as you may think. Every affected property owner, business and renter is polled for their support. 75% support is required to proceed.

Normally, signatures of support would be obtained by those proposing the name change. In this case, since it’s the City Council proposing the changes, the work would be done by City of Vacaville staff. It’s estimated this would directly cost the city $59,100.

Once a street is renamed, all computer databases and mapping systems must be updated by city staff to ensure first responders had current address information. Residents and businesses must complete change of address procedures for… pretty much everything. Businesses will need to change their marketing material to reflect their current address.

Removing an existing street name also comes with its share of issues. Vanden Road was named after a family of Scandinavian settlers who originally planned to build a city named “Vanden.” The city never materialized but the road and Vanden High School were named in recognition of the Vanden family.

It’s unclear if Vanden family descendants have a current presence in Solano County. But, the idea of removing the name of one historical person and replacing it with another was clearly on the minds of City Council.

Discussion by City Council

Each councilmember offered thoughtful and articulate input on the issue. All councilmembers, except Chapman, opposed changing the name of an existing street.

Mayor John Carli – Expressed concerns about changing policy and having the government take on the responsibility of deciding who gets a street named after them and who doesn’t. He supported the naming of a future street in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Vice Mayor Gregory Ritchie II – Opposed the renaming of an existing street. He referred to the vast amount of Solano County residents who have served or died in the military and other notable figures. He discussed the need for a “wide funnel” but recognized that only the most elite contributors would likely be candidates for named streets. He supported the naming of a future street in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Councilmember Sarah Chapman – She proposed moving forward with the plan to rename Vanden Road in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She shared a story from a reporter who had earlier done a story on the proposal. According to the reporter, residents were initially opposed to renaming the street, but when they learned the name would be in honor of MLK, they showed support.

Councilmember Chapman’s motion to direct staff to begin the process or renaming Vanden Road was not seconded by anyone on the council. She mentioned exploring the renaming of Peabody Road, but this was not forwarded as a motion.

Councilmember Roy Stockton – The original proponent of naming a street after Vacaville Police Officer Walt Simon, wanted to change the policy requiring a person be deceased for three years before a street or park is renamed. He appeared most focused on having a protocol for allowing people to propose street names rather than giving builders the sole authority to do so. He supported the future naming of a street in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Councilmember Stockton also clarified that what he considers a “local hero” would include members of the armed forces, including Casey Sheehan, a 24 year-old Army Specialist who was killed while serving in Iraq.

Councilmember Michael Silva – Stated “I don’t feel comfortable supporting the renaming of any street.” He expressed he wouldn’t want to see the name of MLK be assigned to a solely upper-class or lower-class street and confronted the perception many have about streets named after MLK being lower-class.

Councilmember Silva instead proposed the name be reserved for use in a diverse area. He proposed several constructive ideas including naming a park or other facility after MLK and building a memorial on city grounds for former city employees. He supported naming a future street after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Councilmember Jason Roberts – Shared a personal story of having lived on a street which was renamed and how frustrating the experience was. He later suggested exploring renaming Nut Tree Parkway (not Nut Tree Road) because he believed there were few actual addresses on the street and it was a duplicate street name. He supported naming a future street after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Councilmember Jeanette Wylie – She recollected a recent proposal to rename the Vanden High School football field for a recently deceased student. She recognized the field was already named for a former student and there was an emotionally-charged conflict immediately after the student’s death. She expressed support for keeping the policy of requiring three years following a person’s death for consideration because of this. She supported naming a future street after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

City Manager Aaron Busch – He sought clarification from Council on the scope and scale of allowing streets to be renamed. He emphasized there is no current procedure for compelling a developer to name streets.

City Manager Busch was confident city staff could identify a future arterial or connector roadway to be named in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He appeared uninterested in creating a process or list of proposed names of individuals to be given to future streets.


There was no support by Vacaville City Council to engage in renaming Vanden Road.

Mayor Carli proposed a motion to name a future arterial or collector street in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The motion was seconded by Councilmember Wylie and approved by a majority.

Councilmember Stockton then proposed a future discussion on establishing a policy for naming of streets. This motion passed 4-3 with Carli, Wylie and Chapman opposing.

So, we will be talking about this more in the future…