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Name-Change Plan for Street Sparks Debate

City Council to vote on renaming a stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard for late Mayor Tom Bradley.

June 22, 2003|Erika Hayasaki | Times Staff Writer

Even though Maryalice Jones grew up in North Carolina, she knew when she arrived in Los Angeles 30 years ago that Crenshaw Boulevard, which runs through a stretch of South Los Angeles, was an unofficial symbol of the city's black culture and community.

Now, the South Los Angeles resident fears that the boulevard's fame and significance will be lost if a proposal to rename it after Los Angeles' first black mayor, Tom Bradley, is approved at Wednesday's City Council meeting.

Jones, 58, and other residents met Saturday at Coley's Restaurant in Inglewood to debate the name-change idea, which Councilman Nate Holden proposed this month as a tribute to Bradley, who served as mayor for 20 years. Bradley died in 1998.

Holden, who will retire June 30, told The Times last week that he wanted to see the boulevard renamed before he leaves office. The proposal would rename the stretch of Crenshaw that runs from Wilshire Boulevard to 79th Street.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday June 25, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 1 inches; 55 words Type of Material: Correction
Crenshaw name -- An article in Sunday's California section on a proposal before the Los Angeles City Council to rename Crenshaw Boulevard after former Mayor Tom Bradley misidentified the Crenshaw family member for whom the street was named in 1905. He was George Lafayette Crenshaw, a developer who died in 1937, not Charles Crenshaw Sr.

Nearly 20 activists, residents and business leaders attended the round-table brunch, sponsored by the National Alliance for Positive Action, which promotes awareness and social change in the community.

"Crenshaw is the most famous black street in America," said Najee Ali, an activist who said he has gathered more than 5,000 signatures from people who oppose the plan.

But others said it is time to change the boulevard's name to more accurately reflect the community, and Bradley would be ideal to name it after because he was a black leader who came from the Crenshaw community.

"Crenshaw Boulevard, and that whole pattern of developments, came at a whole different time in America," said Robert Farrell, a former Los Angeles councilman who spoke on behalf of Bradley's fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, which supports the name change. It was a time when blacks were "not considered worthy" of having streets, landmarks or buildings named after them, he said.

William Jenkins III, also a Kappa Alpha Psi member, said "the family behind the [Crenshaw] name has no identity to most," adding that more streets and buildings should be named after black role models.

Crenshaw Boulevard was named after Charles Crenshaw, a white businessman who came to Los Angeles from Missouri in 1905 and bought land in the area that now includes South Los Angeles, said his grandson, 93-year-old Charles Crenshaw Jr., who lives in Burbank and was reached by phone Saturday. His grandfather died in 1937.

"He named the street immediately when he bought these properties. See in those days it was easy to name a street after yourself; you just filled out a paper and that's it," the grandson said. "He didn't visualize that Crenshaw would grow to such an extent. It grew beyond his dreams."

He said his grandfather was proud that such a major thoroughfare was named after him, and that it would be upsetting to the family if the city renamed it after nearly a century.

"It would seem to me just a shame to take a name away and put it in the name of some other family. I'm disappointed in the very thought," he said.

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