How Scientology got L.A. to name street after L. Ron Hubbard

In 1996, L.A. City Council voted to rename part of street next to Scientology headquarters after founder

The HBO documentary "Going Clear" has once again focused a critical eye on the Church of Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

In 1996, the Los Angeles City Council agreed to rename a portion of a street next to the Scientology headquarters in honor of Hubbard.

Here's the history of that move from The Times' archives: 

Q: How did the renaming happen?

Scientology requested it, and then-City Council President John Ferraro backed the move. 

Support far outweighed opposition on the block where the Church of Scientology has had its international headquarters for four decades and owns 55% of the property; 183 neighborhood residents wrote to City Hall to applaud the change, while nine complained.

Q: Was there debate?

The council voted 8-3.  

"I believe that L. Ron Hubbard was a manipulative [and] dishonest [man]," Council member Ruth Galanter said in an interview after the vote. "He's a cult leader. We don't name streets after cult leaders."

During an hourlong public hearing on the name change, resident Don Slater cited passages from Hubbard's landmark work "Dianetics" that refer to homosexuals as perverts. Slater also described the proposed honoree as a "bigot," a "charlatan" and a "crackpot."

Graham Berry, a frequent critic of the church, shared stories of friends who have "escaped from the buildings on Berendo Street," and he begged the council not to change one block of Berendo, between Fountain and Sunset avenues, to L. Ron Hubbard Way.

But others on the council didn't have an issue with the naming.

"I'm not here to try and fight or to try and defend or condemn any one person," Councilman Richard Alatorre said. "The fact of the matter is, this is the leader of this church that has been a long-standing member of the community. They are involved in positive work--they have a lot of members."

Backers cited Scientology's anti-drug and anti-graffiti programs, and tried to downplay the importance of renaming such a small slice of street.

"We have, literally, thousands and thousands of streets named for people, most of whom I have no idea who they are," Councilman Richard Alarcon said.

Q: What was the reaction?

Debate continued even after the city approved the name change. Scientology leaders hailed it as an important recognition of the church -- though others didn't like that idea.

"People live on the street and if they don't want to be associated with the Church of Scientology, they shouldn't have to live on L. Ron Hubbard Way," said Carla Robinson, a local resident.

"Why haven't they named it Bill Clinton Street or Ronald McDonald Way?" asked one business owner.

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