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Scientologists File Petition to Rename Street

August 28, 1994|SCOTT COLLINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Some neighbors of the Church of Scientology headquarters in Hollywood are opposing efforts to rename a one-block stretch of Tamarind Avenue between Franklin Avenue and Yucca Street in honor of L. Ron Hubbard, the church's late founder.

City officials say they received a petition, dated May 26, to rename a portion of Tamarind "to honor author, educator and humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard for his specific contributions to the citizens of Hollywood and Los Angeles, as well as his contributions to society as a whole."

But since the request was made, a growing number of neighbors have objected, saying that to put Hubbard's name on the street would jeopardize the neighborhood's historic character and too closely link the area to the controversial church.

"I don't look at L. Ron Hubbard as my leader," said Carla Robinson, a screenwriter who lives on Tamarind and is fighting the proposal. "And I don't want to create any allegiance with him or his group by living on a street that bears his name."

Practically since its inception in the 1950s, Scientology has been accused by critics of being a high-pressure business masquerading as a religion to take advantage of government tax exemptions. Yet the church has no shortage of high-profile defenders--counting, for instance, numerous celebrities among its members.

It is unclear whether opposition to the Hollywood street renaming will head off the project. A church official said last week that the original petitioner has asked that the city delay consideration of the name-change petition. But Desmond Lew, a supervisor at the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering, said the request lacked specificity and that the city would continue to consider the renaming.

Lew said the petitioner is Jeffrey Scott, whom church President Shirley Young identified as a Scientology member. Scott could not be reached for comment.

On July 27, Lew said, his department received a letter from Scott asking that the application be put on hold "until we resolve current problems." Lew said the letter did not elaborate.

"Usually we get (a delay request that's) a little more in-depth as to a reason," Lew said. "I probably would like something in greater detail" before a postponement is granted.

Lew added that bureau officials are continuing efforts to notify community members of the application and prepare a report summarizing the response. The report must be approved by the full City Council before any name change can take effect.

Young, when asked the church's position on the proposal, said: "Well, of course we're not against it. That's a silly question." But she expressed surprise that the city was proceeding with the application process after receiving Scott's July letter. "I don't know why the city would continue using taxpayer money for this after the petitioner has asked for a delay," she said.

Community activists, meanwhile, are going ahead with efforts to block the petition. Kay Tornborg, an arts administrator who lives in an 85-year-old Craftsman-style bungalow on North Tamarind, says she has collected about 120 signatures on a petition opposing the name change.

"I'm all for people being recognized, but I don't think this is the way to do it," said Tornborg, who is not a Scientologist. "This gets into the very complicated issue of what the neighborhood is about. L. Ron Hubbard is not our exclusive interest."

Proposals to change street names often cause conflict, with opponents typically citing the expense and inconvenience of changing printed checks, business cards and stationery. Last year a proposal to change the name of Brooklyn Avenue in Boyle Heights to honor labor organizer Cesar Chavez drew protests from some residents who felt the change would mar the area's heritage.

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