City will consider Sepulveda name change
by Mark McDermott
The City Council on Tuesday night approved a first step towards renaming Sepulveda Boulevard to Pacific Coast Highway, directing staff to conduct a survey of businesses and residents to gauge support for the change.
The discussion was agendized by Councilperson Richard Montgomery, who said some businesses along Sepulveda asked him to explore the matter. Montgomery, while not expressing outright support for the change, said the city should not be tied to some sense that it would be going against its history in renaming Sepulveda. He noted that the street had already been renamed once —
in 1932, from El Camino Real — and that the impetus at that time was that the boulevard would connect San Pedro (where the Sepulveda family’s ranch had been) to a town in San Fernando Valley named Sepulveda (now Mission Hills).
“It wasn’t a South Bay name of a South Bay location,” Montgomery said. “So comments saying history is tied to that name — well, look at the history books. It’s not accurate.”
But a writer of one of those history books, the city’s unofficial historian Jan Dennis, vehemently argued against a name change. Dennis authored “A Thread in the Tapestry: A History of Sepulveda Blvd in Manhattan Beach.” She said that Sepulveda — the street itself, not the family — was part of the city’s history.
“Read the book I wrote on the history of Sepulveda — what it means to people, what it meant beginning in the 1700s, and why it’s important to hold on to a little bit of our history,” Dennis said. “If you want to leave something for future generations, please save Sepulveda. Be proud of it. It has got a great heritage.”
Councilperson Nancy Hersman questioned all the discussion of historical importance.
“History… doesn’t change by what you do,” she said. “History is always past. When I hear these arguments, ‘Oh, we are changing history’ — no, we are not.”
The discussion of changing the name of the city’s main north-south corridor was, in part, spurred by El Segundo’s renaming of Sepulveda to Pacific Coast Highway in June. The neighbor on the other side of Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, renamed the street to Pacific Coast Highway years ago.
“El Segundo’s name change has created a Sepulveda island, just in terms of continuity,” said Stephanie Katsouleas, the city’s Public Works director.
Councilperson Steve Napolitano argued that El Segundo had a reason to change the street’s name that Manhattan Beach does not.
“Of the one thousand things we need to do in Manhattan Beach, this one doesn’t make the list. This is a solution in search of a problem,” he said. “El Segundo is trying to be known more as a beach community. The fact that beach is in our name in Manhattan Beach — no one is confused by who we are.”
“What does this make better?” Napolitano asked. “How does this improve the quality of life for residents or businesses in Manhattan Beach?”
Councilperson David Lesser said he was “on the fence” regarding the name change but open to discussion. His worry was staff time, but Katsouleas said the survey would take no more than 10 or 15 hours to conduct, mailing a survey to businesses and perhaps conducting an online survey for residents.
Mayor Amy Howorth said she’d been initially receptive to the idea but most of the feedback she’s gotten from residents has not been in support of a name change.
“I’ve gotten probably more negative [feedback] on the change than positive,” she said. “I don’t hear people clamoring to change it. When I first heard the idea, I thought, ‘Oh, cool, Pacific Coast Highway, because we are on the coast.’ But my liking or not is not important. There are some places you’d perhaps add a little cachet to businesses because it would attract more people if you were PCH… I don’t think we have that.”
The Chamber of Commerce conducted an informal survey in which 24 businesses — including large businesses such as Skechers and the Manhattan Village Mall and small businesses such as Grow and Tin Roof Bistro — expressed support for the name change; six businesses, including Manhattan Postal Center, Kaiser, and Union Bank, opposed the name change.
Toni Reina, a representative of Continental Development, said the company was in support of naming the street Pacific Coast Highway because of the prestige associated with the name, “which is known throughout the country and the world” and would thus have economic benefits. She also said Continental, along with some other businesses, would help pay for some of the costs associated with the name change, such as signage.
Dennis noted that there are an estimated 472 businesses along Sepulveda. She said that most small businesses she’d talked to opposed the change.
“In talking to many of those folks, they say absolutely not,” she said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
The council voted 4-1 to conduct a survey.
“I’m not saying I am for a change, but I think it’s okay to talk about,” Howorth said. “I have no problem asking a question, and then pursuing it.”