Call it the case of the incredible shrinking Compton Boulevard.
The cities of Hawthorne, Lawndale and Gardena are all considering changing the name of Compton Boulevard along a six-mile stretch of the street.
The proposed new name: Marine Avenue. If the change is approved, the three South Bay cities would be turning away from downscale Compton and looking west to tonier Manhattan Beach, where the street has been called Marine Avenue since 1908, according to city records.
The three cities wouldn’t be the first to abandon the name.
Compton Boulevard--an east-west artery that runs from the Manhattan Beach city limit through Bellflower--first began losing ground in 1986, when business owners in Paramount successfully lobbied city officials to change the name of their two-mile stretch of Compton to Somerset Boulevard. At the time, one businesswoman said the change was needed because Compton was “well-known for the slums and strife that existed there for the last 20 years.”
In making the change, Paramount officials denied that it had anything to do with Compton or its image. And last week, Patrick West, Paramount community development director, said the name was changed to help give Paramount its own identity. But he acknowledged that no effort has been made to change the names of Downey or Lakewood boulevards, which also run through the city.
Officials in the cities affected by the latest proposal also say the change is not an effort to distance themselves from their neighbor to the east.
Instead, the primary intent is to end confusion over addresses, said Gardena businessman Chuck Nader, who originated the idea. Earlier this year, Nader asked the Gardena City Council to change Compton Boulevard to Kenneth Hahn Boulevard in honor of the longtime county supervisor.
When Hahn expressed reluctance at accepting the honor, Nader organized a committee of business people to discuss other possible names. They reached a consensus on Marine Avenue.
Calling the street Marine Avenue would “eliminate confusion of mailing and enhance our real estate ties with the beach cities,” said Nader, who has owned a furniture store on Compton Boulevard for 30 years.
People unfamiliar with Gardena often think that addresses listed on Compton Boulevard are in Compton, Nader said, adding that the confusion has worsened in recent years.
The proposal to rename the street is not anti-Compton, Nader said. “This has only to do with property owners on Compton Boulevard.”
Idea Called ‘Disgraceful’
But Compton City Councilman Maxcy Filer doesn’t buy it.
“I think they’re doing the same thing that Paramount did,” Filer said. “They’re looking at it from the standpoint that, allegedly, the name of Compton has a stigma attached to it. I think it’s disgraceful that they would think of changing it.”
Filer said a name change would be inconsistent with the history of Los Angeles County, where thoroughfares like Figueroa Street run from the heart of downtown Los Angeles to Wilmington, more than 20 miles away.
“They have ulterior motives,” Filer said. “The city of Compton has a great history . . . then all of a sudden when Compton becomes a predominantly black city, they can find every excuse in the world to take the name Compton away. I just don’t believe their motives.”
Whatever the motives, Compton Mayor Walter Tucker said he is not concerned.
“I have no problem with people changing anything,” Tucker said. “We change names of schools and other things all the time. They can do what they like. That’s the least of my worries.”
In recent years, others have cut their ties to Compton.
In 1985, the Dominguez Medical Center, a hospital located partly in Compton and partly in Long Beach, moved its mailbox to the Long Beach side and got a Long Beach mailing address. And Carson residents who said they were afraid to go to the Compton Courthouse to pay traffic tickets successfully lobbied earlier this year for a satellite court in their own city.
In Gardena, a survey of Compton Boulevard property owners, requested by Nader’s committee of Gardena business owners, is running 60%-40% in favor of the change, said City Manager Kenneth Landau.
Lawndale City Manager Daniel Joseph said his city also is taking a poll of property owners on the street to find out if they prefer Marine to Compton. In Hawthorne, City Council members have been studying the name change proposal for several months, but there is no plan to vote on it, said public information officer Tom Quintana.
If the change is approved, the cities would have to pay for installation of new street signs. Paramount spent about $6,000 installing signs in 1986.