The owner of Da Vinci Ristorante in Beverly Hills had no objection to changing the name of "Little" Santa Monica Boulevard. In fact, he said, Da Vinci Drive did not sound bad at all.
"It's no joke; it's serious," said Domenic De Nichilo. "It would add a touch of class to the street."
He was just as serious about the problems of running a business on one of two parallel roadways that bear the same name.
One, a park-lined thoroughfare known unofficially as "Big" Santa Monica, has virtually no businesses on its route through Beverly Hills, while "Little" Santa Monica, a few feet to the south, is the home to dozens of shops and restaurants. Big Santa Monica is 15 miles long and part of the state highway system, while Little Santa Monica is just under five miles long.
"For the locals it's no problem," De Nichilo said. "But a lot of our customers come from out of town. They don't know the difference between Big Santa Monica and Little Santa Monica. Sometimes they drive up and down for half an hour and then they call us and say they can't find us."
Hoping to resolve the confusion, members of the Beverly Hills Planning Commission suggested a name change.
Staffers sent a list of possible new street names to businesses and professional offices along the boulevard, asking for reaction and other suggestions. The change would have applied only to the Beverly Hills portion of Little Santa Monica, which also extends into West Los Angeles.
Despite the concerns of De Nichilo and some of his neighbors, however, it appears that Da Vinci Drive is an idea whose time has not yet come.
New Burton Way, Business Triangle Drive, Challenger Drive and Astronaut Drive are also suggestions that will have to wait, according to Allan Alexander, chairman of the Beverly Hills Planning Commission, who said the name-change proposal will be dropped at next Monday's meeting.
Although the City Council recently renamed an isolated stretch of Little Santa Monica Boulevard east of City Hall, the latest survey found little support for changing the part that runs west toward Century City.
"The response has been almost unanimously opposed to change," Alexander said.
There were some voices for change, however. Jeffrey A. Stein of Camp Beverly Hills, a clothing store, said, "Santa Monica is Santa Monica and Beverly Hills is Beverly Hills. Why not rename the street Little Beverly Hills Boulevard or just Beverly Hills Boulevard.?"
But the naysayers carried the day with 24 responses, to nine in favor or expressing no opinion. Most opponents complained of the high cost of replacing stationary, business cards and other printed matter.
"Whose harebrained idea was this to change the name?" asked Norman D. Rose, an attorney. "Whoever it is, I suggest you change his or her name rather than that of the street."
Cheryl A. Pestor, who maintains an office on Little Santa Monica, said, "A name like 'Business Triangle Drive' sounds like a street in Orange County and is boring and dull."
Although some of the letter-writers said the existing name should be kept because it has served well for decades, records show that the street that is now Little Santa Monica has borne several names.
It was once the western extension of Burton Way, separated from Big Santa Monica by a now-defunct railroad spur. In 1925, the city granted a request of property owners to rename Burton Way from Canon Drive to the western border. It was designated on official maps as Santa Monica Boulevard South Roadway, to distinguish it from Big Santa Monica.
In 1944, a short stretch of Burton Way east of Canon Drive was also changed to Santa Monica Boulevard South Roadway, including a portion of Alpine Drive that curved up behind City Hall.
In 1959, the portion that was once Alpine Drive became Alpine Drive again, while a short stretch of Little Santa Monica near Rexford Drive was renamed Burton Way.
After some debate, the oft-changed portion of Alpine Drive became Civic Center Drive last month, along with the isolated stretch of Little Santa Monica that ends at Doheny Drive.
It was in the course of those deliberations that the idea arose of rechristening the rest of Little Santa Monica, the Planning Commission chairman said.
Commissioner Richard Carroll, owner of a Rodeo Drive clothing store that also extends to Little Santa Monica, said he thought a new name would help revitalize the shopping district.
He favored a name like "Academy Drive," to honor the movie community, Carroll said. But in the end he realized that it was not to be.
"People don't like change, particularly in Beverly Hills," he said.