Years ago, an Oxnard booster group made tongue-in-cheek bumper stickers that read: "Oxnard — More Than Just a Pretty Name."
Now an image consultant hired by the city has addressed the awkward-sounding moniker head on, suggesting the more sun-splashed, salt-soaked and tourist-friendly "Oxnard Shores."
"It's meant to add a physical picture," said Roger Brooks, the head of Destination Development International, a Seattle firm that says it has advised more than 900 cities. "If there were a town called Pismo or Seal, would it mean anything to you?"
The recommendation was one of several unveiled by Brooks at a meeting last Thursday. The centerpiece was the idea of branding Oxnard — that is, Oxnard Shores — as "The International City" and building a 100,000-square-foot downtown emporium showcasing local produce and restaurants with international menus.
But the city's name, as always, generated the most heat. Over the years, it's been the butt of many a joke, a punch line for comedians who ask: Just what part of an ox is the nard? More than one local candidate has proposed starting over, most often with the windswept tang of "Channel Islands."
But "Oxnard Shores" — which is already a beachfront neighborhood near the city — seems like a crowd-pleaser, Mayor Tom Holden says.
"It was the most controversial part of the process," he said. "There were individuals like myself who didn't want to lose `Oxnard,' and those who wanted to change it. Both groups thought this might be acceptable."
Right now, it's just a proposal that has yet to reach the City Council.
The city has Channel Islands Harbor and miles of beaches. But Brooks, who was paid $125,000 with funds raised mostly from local businesses, said it isn't known outside the region for seaside fun.
The 112-year-old city is named for Henry T. Oxnard and his brother James, who built a sugar-beet processing plant that has long since been dismantled.
Brooks said a resident spoke of meeting one of the Oxnards' descendants, who was amazed the city had lasted so long under the family banner.
"You mean you kept the name?" the man reportedly asked, incredulous.