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A name change for La Puente? To many residents, it's a bad IDea

A councilman makes the proposal, saying the San Gabriel Valley city has 'an identity problem.' Later, after hearing residents' protests, he says a better solution might be to change the city's ZIP Code.

May 12, 2012|By Rosanna Xia, Los Angeles Times
  • George Dixon, 63, a La Puente resident for four years, passes through the Donut Hole drive-through in the San Gabriel Valley city. Residents complained when a councilman, saying that La Puente had "an identity problem," suggested changing the city's name. He later backed off, saying that changing the town's ZIP Code might be a better idea.
George Dixon, 63, a La Puente resident for four years, passes through the… (Christina House, For The…)

Patricia McIntosh and her fellow La Puente residents have seen more than their fair share of city turmoil in recent years: Government officials accused of sexual harassment and excessive travel expenses. The threatened loss of municipal insurance.

But when McIntosh got wind of a proposal to change the name of her beloved San Gabriel Valley city, the 82-year-old president of the La Puente Valley Historical Society had to speak out.

"That's ludicrous," she said. "It'd be like coming in and saying we'd like to change the name of California. You just don't do that."

The recommendation was one of a number of house-cleaning motions that a newly reconstituted City Council was considering after five years of contentious governance. Measures have included a 60-day travel expense moratorium and the appointment of a permanent city attorney and city manager. Council members have even agreed to take etiquette classes and behave civilly at meetings as a condition of keeping the city's insurance coverage.

But McIntosh and dozens of other residents who crowded into the council chambers Tuesday night could not imagine why the city would need to change its name.

La Puente has "an identity problem," they were told by Councilman Vince House, who proposed the change.

"The culprit is the ZIP Code 91744, which encompasses a 9.6-square-mile region of which La Puente sits in the middle of 3.5 square miles," he said. Every time a crime occurs in the unincorporated areas of Valinda or Bassett, which also share La Puente's ZIP Code, it's reported as a crime that occurred in La Puente, hurting the city's reputation and property values, he told residents.

"We need an identity that separates us from that original post office which happened to be in La Puente," he said. "So we'll no longer have this stigma of being involved with some very nefarious locations near our city."

He noted that in a presentation by the Sheriff's Department last month, the city was told that there were 82 post-release supervised persons in La Puente, compared with four in neighboring City of Industry.

They later corrected the number, clarifying that the city itself, excluding the unincorporated areas, has only 26. "I'm not saying that we don't have crime," House said, "just that we don't have all of it."

Most recently, a woman's body was reportedly found in a gutter in La Puente. It was actually East Valinda.

Changing the name would give the city more problems, residents insisted. Street signs, maps, letterheads and bank statements would need to be changed.

In the end, House agreed with Mayor Daniel Holloway that the solution might be to change the ZIP Code instead of the city's name.

McIntosh, who said she'd be "very disturbed" if anyone ever proposed a name change again, walked out of the meeting tired but relieved. "Everybody would have protested it," she said, "he'd be on his deathbed."

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