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Sign that young city has arrived

After a long wait, the West Hollywood post office will carry the city's name instead of that of Los Angeles.

February 20, 2008|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

West Hollywood leaders probably figured their request to the U.S. Postal Service had ended up in the dead-letter office.

Since forming their 2-square-mile city in 1984 officials have waited for postal administrators to recognize residents by doing away with the "Los Angeles" name attached in big letters to the front of the community post office at 820 N. San Vicente Blvd. in the center of West Hollywood.

On Tuesday, postal workers delivered the message the city has been waiting so long for: From now on, the place will be called the West Hollywood 90069 branch.

"I'd almost given up," acknowledged City Councilman Jeffrey Prang. "It's been a lengthy process."

Residents of nearby cities such as Beverly Hills and Santa Monica never had to endure being referred to as Los Angeles by the post office like West Hollywood residents have, Prang pointed out.

So significant was the late-afternoon moment that Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies shut down part of San Vicente Boulevard for the sign's unveiling. Mayor John Duran and council members John Heilman, Abbe Land and Prang pulled away the cloth that was covering it.

"I'm the mayor of West Hollywood, not Los Angeles," pointed out Duran. "Los Angeles is kind of an all-encompassing octopus. It's always been so confusing who we are and who we belong to" for passersby who glimpsed the "Los Angeles" on the post office.

Along with the new name, federal officials gave the post office a fresh coat of blue paint and a new bike rack.

The postal service's Los Angeles district manager, William Almaraz, acknowledged that the city's name-change application "was in my in-box" when he assumed his position some eight years ago.

"It was a real easy task," Almaraz said. "We're glad to change it."

Trevor Daley, district director for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), was apologetic that getting "this simple thing changed" took so long. "It should have been done a long time ago," he said.

West Hollywood leaders said they were disappointed that a similar name correction hasn't been made on a smaller post office facility on the east side of the city at 1125 N. Fairfax Ave. They have requested that it sport a West Hollywood address, too.

All that apparently is needed to remove the name "Los Angeles" from the window of that office is a razor blade.

The post office refers to the Fairfax office as the "Cole branch" because it is affiliated with the Hollywood post office, said Al Santos, acting Los Angeles postmaster. In postal circles, the San Vicente office was known as the "west branch."

Santos said no mail carriers work out of the Fairfax Avenue facility. Seventy-five employees serve 65,000 residents from the San Vicente Boulevard office, he said.

To the relief of Bradley Burlingame, president of the West Hollywood Marketing and Visitors Bureau, clerks at the San Vicente facility will soon have hand-cancellation stamps that can put a "West Hollywood" postmark on mail if residents request it.

Routine outgoing mail will still be processed in Los Angeles.

Burlingame recounted how artists had to prepare a fake "West Hollywood" postmark to illustrate one magazine article about the city because local postal workers didn't have one of their own.

City officials said their next test could be an attempt to have a single ZIP Code authorized for West Hollywood residents. Currently, residents of the tiny city use six, depending on their address.

That may be harder to get than the new name was, Prang admitted.

"When you change a ZIP Code every government document everywhere has to be changed," he said.

And that could be a bad sign.

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bob.pool@latimes.com

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