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Seeking a Sweeter Name for Street That Provokes Snickers

West Hollywood has no way to address the issue, so the two-block stretch north of Santa Monica Boulevard will keep its moniker.

November 22, 2005|James Ricci | Times Staff Writer

Heading north from Santa Monica Boulevard on Hilldale, you pass streets with the reassuringly single-entendre names of Keith and Norma. Then you come to Dicks Street.

The street is a two-block stretch of 44 small abodes, most of them handsomely updated, that peek demurely from behind high shrubs and other ornamental horticulture.

The afternoon sunlight sifting down through the street's many tall trees imparts a pleasant, domestic sleepiness to the place.

Many residents, however, are embarrassed to have the street as their address because its name is the plural of a common slang term for the defining part of the male anatomy (and for "not very nice fellow").

Accordingly, this year, a resident named Michael Fisk began collecting fellow residents' signatures on a petition asking the West Hollywood City Council to rename the street "Dickson Lane." A majority signed.

"Who doesn't want it changed?" asked Shirley Gargan, who will soon turn 70 and has rented part of a triplex on the street for nearly nine years. "When people ask me my address, I say, 'You've really asked a very unfortunate question.' I mean, even my banker laughs at me. Have you ever heard of bankers laughing?"

Pro-change sentiment is not unanimous.

Allan Shatkin, a 65-year-old attorney who lives with his Chihuahua, Pepe, across the street from Gargan, thinks the effort to rename is "absurd for many reasons."

"For one thing, it's been like this for, like, a century," said Shatkin, who bought his 1,000-square-foot house 6 1/2 years ago.

"This street is famous. It's even been mentioned in a very famous novel, 'Anarchy,' by James Robert Baker, a very famous gay writer."

Shatkin pointed out that if the street were renamed, owners would have to change information on their property titles, their return-address labels and all sorts of other documents.

Proponents, he said, argued that the name damages property values, "but I bought my house for $370,000 and now it's worth, like, $900,000."

What's more, he said, changing the street's name to Dickson Lane would only add to regional confusion.

The city of Los Angeles, which surrounds West Hollywood, already has a Dickson Avenue, a Dickson Court, a West Dickson Court, a Dickson Street -- and a Dickson Lane.

As for West Hollywood's official procedure for renaming streets, "we don't have one," City Clerk Tom West said.

At the last City Council meeting, he said, members took up a proposal to establish such a procedure but after "discussion about the various issues that are impacted -- home ownership, taxes, Social Security checks, maps, transportation, public works, telephone directories" -- tabled the matter indefinitely.

Thus, Dicks Street will remain Dicks Street ... at least for now.

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