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Public Will Get Say in Bid to Name Street After Bradley

June 28, 2003|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

Bowing to public pressure, the Los Angeles City Council on Friday postponed an effort to rename Crenshaw Boulevard after the late Mayor Tom Bradley, prompting the measure's chief sponsor to warn that the move was being torpedoed.

"To delay is to deny, and you can be assured of that," Councilman Nate Holden said during the last council meeting of his 16-year tenure.

Postponement supporters said it was necessary so that residents can have more of a say in the matter and insisted that they could approve the change later. "There's no reason to rush this," said Councilwoman Janice Hahn. "If this is a good idea today, it will be a good idea a month from now or six months from now."

The council unanimously approved a motion by Councilwoman Jan Perry to send the proposal back to committee for further discussion, prompting cheers from about two dozen Crenshaw residents in the council chamber.

"Today was a victory for neighborhood councils," said Pat Jones, co-chair of the Southwest Neighborhood Development Council. "We live in the neighborhood. We know what we want."

Holden's proposal to rename Crenshaw Boulevard during his last month in office had generated protests from neighborhood councils and business owners along the corridor who complained they were not consulted about the decision.

Many residents said that renaming "the 'Shaw," as its commonly known, would erase a name that has come to symbolize the heart of the African American community in Los Angeles.

"People know it," said resident Linda Johnson. "They want to go down Crenshaw Boulevard because they've heard so much about the barbershops, Leimert Park."

"You hear about it from the West Coast to the East Coast, from the north to south," said Winnifred Jackson. "There's a name recognition that's a benefit to the community."

Others said it would cost them thousands of dollars to reprint their business forms with a new address. On Friday, several council members said the matter needed more discussion. They backed a motion supporting the concept of naming a street after Bradley, but insisted on more public hearings to determine which thoroughfare should bear his name.

Neighborhood groups "deserve to weigh in on the decision that we make down here at City Hall that will really impact their daily lives," said Councilwoman Hahn.

Councilman Dennis Zine said eventually there will be a street named after Bradley, but not without public involvement.

"We told the community of Los Angeles that we want to listen to them, we want their input," Zine said.

Greg Nelson, head of the city's Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, said the council's decision to consult with the community represents a shift in how the city has done business in the past.

"Today is a day to remember, because this was a fundamental change in the way government operates," he said. "You aren't measured by how fast you can do it, but by how much you can involve the public."

But supporters of the proposal called the delay a disservice to the legacy of Bradley, the city's first and only African American mayor.

"This has been an issue that has gone way too long for somebody who has been so valuable to the city of Los Angeles," said Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who nevertheless supported the delay, saying there was not enough support to move forward.

Holden complained that city officials have quickly approved the naming of other public buildings, such as the move to name the Central Library after the former Mayor Richard Riordan two years ago.

"There was no debate, there was no dispute, nobody talked about process," Holden said. "They just did it."

Crenshaw Boulevard got its original name almost 100 years ago when George L. Crenshaw, a pioneering real estate developer, laid out a series of upscale residential tracts in mid-city Los Angeles, including Lafayette Square. At the time, African Americans were restricted by racial covenants from living in those neighborhoods.

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