YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Los Angeles Street Names

July 05, 1989|Researcher Cecilia Rasmussen

The names of many Los Angeles streets have changed repeatedly over the years, reflecting the city's transformation from a tiny Mexican colonial town to a booming metropolis. Some streets, predictably, honor war heroes and explorers. But others have been named for trees, actors, land developers and--in one case--the proximity of a bullfighting ring.

These days, it is not easy to change the name of a street. You must submit petitions signed by the majority of landowners along the route to the Land Development and Mapping Division of the Bureau of Engineering. After other residents get a chance to object, a name-change ordinance is drafted and sent to the local City Council member, the council's Public Works Committee and, finally, the full council for approval.

People living along private thoroughfares may have to pay up to $1,000 to alter street signs. There is no charge, however, with a public street. It cost the city about $70,000 for new signs when Santa Barbara Avenue became Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in 1982.

At last count there were 953 private and 8,845 public streets in Los Angeles. Since the mid-1930s, ordinances have required that the ones running north - south be called avenues and those running east - west be called streets.

Listed below are the current names of some of the city's streets, the dates they were dedicated and some of their history.

Aliso Street: 1854 When early settlers arrived at the Los Angeles River (El Rio de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles de Porcinucula) by way of Mission Road, they picked as a nearby gathering point a huge sycamore that gave them shelter and became a landmark, "El Aliso." That Spanish word for sycamore was later used to name the road carved out near the river, which then was not a concrete channel.

Alpine Street: 1887 Before it was named for one of California's 58 counties, it had been known as the Street of the Virgins, a place where the young ladies of the pueblo strolled with their duenas (chaperones) past admiring caballeros (gentlemen).

Alvarado Street: 1855 Named after Gov. Juan Bautista Alvarado, who in 1836 became the first governor to promote public education.

Arcadia Street: 1872 Arcadia Bandini, born in 1823, was the daughter of prominent ranchero Juan Bandini. She came to be regarded as one of the most beautiful belles of Los Angeles and was just 14 when she married 40-year-old Abel Stearns, who had come west from Massachusetts and acquired Southern California's largest land-cattle empire. Stearns built a home for his bride one block south of the Plaza--the community's central gathering area--and the house, called El Palacio, became the social hot spot. In 1858, Stearns constructed a two-story business block on Los Angeles Street nearby and called it Arcadia Block. The street was officially dedicated one year after Stearns' death in 1871.

Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Street: 1988 Running diagonally from 1st Street to the corner of 2nd and San Pedro streets in Little Tokyo, it was renamed from Weller Street last year to honor the Japanese-American astronaut killed in the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. A century ago, it was used as a shortcut by stagecoaches carrying passengers from San Pedro to the Bella Union Hotel.

Beverly Boulevard: 1921 Beverly Farms, Mass. 25 miles north of Boston (Farms has since been dropped from its name) was where President William Howard Taft vacationed in 1900. Burton Green, founder of Beverly Hills, decided that a good way to lure people to his city would be to name it after the resort of Presidents. In 1906 Green had a street named after himself--Burton Way.

Broadway: 1890 Part of it was first called Calle Fortin--Fort Street--because it passed through the hilltop Ft. Moore. Another section was known as Eternity Street, because it led to a cemetery; Downey Avenue, after Gov. John G. Downey, and Buena Vista Street, whose "good view," as legend has it, was the view from the hillside of the women's bathing pools (where the senoritas wore bathing dresses). City officials eventually decided to rename Fort Street because the area's many German citizens had trouble with the pronunciation--it would come out "Fourth Street," causing confusion with a thoroughfare by that name. By 1910, all sections were dedicated under the one name, Broadway.

Crenshaw Boulevard: 1904 It was informally known as Crenshaw Boulevard as early as 1889 after George L. Crenshaw, an importer who earned a reputation as the "banana king."

Los Angeles Times Articles