The identity crisis is almost over for long-suffering La Canada Flintridge--just in time for its ninth birthday.
With a chorus of hearty ayes, the City Council voted unanimously Monday night to correct a typographical error that appeared on the city's incorporation papers after the 1976 vote for cityhood. Much to the community's dismay, someone had added a hyphen nine years ago and mistakenly rechristened the city La Canada-Flintridge.
Although the gratuitous hyphen is not in common use or on the city's seal and letterhead, it shows up in documents filed with the secretary of state's office, which certified the city's incorporation.
How it got there remains a mystery.
The hyphen was nowhere in sight when citizens voted for cityhood for La Canada Flintridge. And it wasn't on the original petition for incorporation, city officials said.
Cohesiveness as a City
La Canada and Flintridge, formerly unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, opted to become one city when they were threatened with annexation to either Glendale or Pasadena. A hyphen was pointedly omitted from the city's name because residents thought it would connote a continuing separation between the communities and perhaps undermine their cohesiveness as a city.
Somewhere along the paper trail that led from the county's Local Agency Formation Commission to the registrar-recorder to the secretary of state, "the hyphen was slipped in," Mayor Barbara Pieper said.
The city, upon learning of its new name, protested the snafu. But, because of state law, local officials learned that the hyphen couldn't be slipped out as easily as it was slipped in.
It would have taken another vote of the citizens of what the state called La Canada-Flintridge to change the city's name back to what they had voted for in the first place. That procedure would have been time consuming, confusing and expensive. It would have taken an estimated $11,000 election to do the same job as a $1.40 bottle of correction fluid.
"We thought that was ridiculous," Pieper said. So the city reluctantly retained its dual identity, casually ignoring the hyphen.
Meanwhile, some outsiders and newspapers seemed intent on inserting the unwanted hyphen. Although technically correct, the inclusion of the hyphen is annoying to those who live in the affluent community of 20,000.
"It's been a nuisance," Pieper said. "It's just been a nuisance."
Earlier this year, the state Legislature, in what Pieper called a "brief flash of wisdom," amended the California Government Code to allow city councils to change a city's name by passing an ordinance.
To commemorate the city's ninth birthday, the council Monday decided to take advantage of the change in the code.
The amended code does not become effective until January, however, so the city is not expected to be known officially as La Canada Flintridge until February, city officials said.
But there is a chance that the hyphen could once again become part of the city's name. Under the new state amendment, the citizens of La Canada Flintridge retain for two years the option of reinserting the hyphen, or making any other change, through the ballot process. City officials, however, don't expect that to happen.
"We are going to be La Canada Flintridge--no slash, no dash," a smiling Pieper said.