So Long, Old Dover: Hello EBNA

By a vote of 20-8, Old Dover is no more.

The Old Dover Neighborhood Association voted on Tuesday night to change its name after many decades to the East Berkeley Neighborhood Association, or EBNA.

It has been a conversation that has gone on for several months amongst the membership and the board, and something that many in the mixed group of longtime residents and new residents have disagreed upon – though there is no set pattern of who prefers what.

The change brings to an end many decades of advocacy under the Old Dover name, which was named as such to commemorate the old elevated Dover T station at the corner of Washington and East Berkeley Streets (then Dover Street) by founders like Duggan Hill of City Lights. The name was the last vestige of the Old Dover place name, but current President Ken Smith said this is a chance to move forward with something new as the neighborhood changes drastically.

“When I came here four years ago, I was excited by all the energy…between residents and businesses and it was a patchwork of everyone coming together and making the neighborhood work,” he said, noting he liked the change to EBNA. “It sounded like it was breathing new life into the neighborhood and had positive energy. I feel like it can identify us as a change agent working for a better, safer neighborhood all the time.”

Smith said the decision wasn’t whimsical, but in fact it was deliberated by the Board for some time, and not everyone wanted the change.

“I like the historic name,” said Bob Wells. “People ask me about it and I tell them the story and the history of the neighborhood. I think that’s a very positive thing.”

Tiane Donahue, of City Lights, was also opposed to the change.

“I am opposed to the change,” she said. “Old Dover Neighborhood Association predates many of us here and it will be sad if that one thing that is left of Old Dover is changed. This is the one piece of history we have here that is left.”

However, it was the practical that took the cake.

The neighborhood is swarming with new apartments and new residents, members said, that want to become active in the neighborhood, yet don’t realize that Old Dover is their association.

Many have been confused by that because, while Dover used to be a place name in the area, it no longer is. Meanwhile, East Berkeley is tantamount to the new “main street” of the neighborhood.

“I had no idea what Old Dover meant because I didn’t know it was here,” said Deb Krim, a photographer at SoWa. “If you want to attract new people, you might need a name new people can associate with a place. I know East Berkeley. I would have come to an Old Dover meeting had I known it was here.”

Chris Comeaux said he likes the historic nature of Old Dover, but said the practical called for a recognizable name.

“People recognize where East Berkeley is and what it is,” he said. “For better or worse, like it or not, you know what it is.”

Smith said they will have to officially change their name on official documents, secure new internet sites and notify City Hall. He said the change would go into effect incrementally over the next two months.

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