Renaming of Blvd. Stirs Ire on Both Sides of the Street

Times Staff Writer

When Lynwood city officials renamed Century Boulevard in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. last month, they forgot to tell South Gate. And South Gate had a stake in the decision because one side of a nine-block stretch of the boulevard is in that city.

The name was changed along a 3 1/2-mile segment of Century Boulevard in northern Lynwood. South Gate merchants and residents, however, are concerned about the boulevard where for nine blocks it is in Lynwood on one side and South Gate on the other.

South Gate City Atty. Bruce Boogaard said if the two sides cannot agree, one side of the street could be named Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard while the other side could remain Century Boulevard.

That is exactly what could happen, Lynwood Councilman Paul Richards said. "If they don't want the change, South Gate will have Century and Lynwood, Martin Luther King."

Lynwood's Right Challenged

South Gate officials question the right of Lynwood to change the name of that segment of the boulevard without telling them.

"Lynwood doesn't have the right to change the name of streets in our city," Councilman William H. DeWitt said.

"We have a Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital. There's a Martin Luther King Boulevard in Los Angeles. We don't need another," said South Gate resident Maria Morales.

The executive director of the South Gate Chamber of Commerce, Russell Lamkin, said: "It is stupid. All this will cost merchants a lot of money to print new letterheads and stationery."

Merchant Cirilo E. Poots said he moved to 3077 Century Blvd. in South Gate about five months ago and believes a name change would disrupt his business.

Poots, who owns Cirilo's Customs Tailor, said customers who frequented his previous location in Huntington Park are just beginning to come to his new shop.

'This Is Not Good'

"I had to leave my Huntington Park shop because the city bought it as part of a redevelopment area," Poots said. "Now, they want to change the name. This is not good."

Although Lynwood officials have apologized and asked that representatives from both cities get together and talk over the problem, neither side seems willing to change its position.

"I would hope they would change," Lynwood Mayor Evelyn Wells said. "It is up to them and their people. Hopefully, they will come along with us."

But South Gate Councilman Gregory Slaughter said: "Everyone (in South Gate) is opposed to this change."

During a council meeting Monday, Slaughter voted against meeting with Lynwood officials to discuss the problem. The other four South Gate council members voted to hold talks, but with some misgivings.

"I'm opposed to changing Century Boulevard to anything," South Gate Councilman Robert Philipp said. "I don't see the benefit to South Gate or Lynwood."

South Gate Mayor Herb Cranton said he would arrange a meeting with Mayor Wells to see whether a compromise can be worked out. Cranton also asked the city's administrative staff to poll merchants and residents in the nine-block area to see how they feel about the change. Philipp said he supports a survey but believes most people oppose the change.

Unofficially, DeWitt said he counted 24 businesses and 40 homes in the area. DeWitt said he also believes most people in the poll area would be opposed to the change.

State Law Allows It

According to Boogaard, state law allows a city to change the name of a street within its boundaries. But Boogaard said there is no law requiring cities to "meet and confer" on a name change of a street located within the borders of each.

"Historically, cities meet (to decide on name changes) as a matter of courtesy to residents who border the street," he said.

South Gate Councilman DeWitt is concerned about giving the nine-block segment of the boulevard two names. "That would be confusing, especially during emergencies where ambulance drivers or police would be trying to find an address," he said.

Meanwhile, Joseph Wang, Lynwood public works director, said new street signs have been put up at some of the major intersections in Lynwood. Wang said it will take about two months to complete the task.

He said he is prepared to change the signs in South Gate, too, if that city agrees to the name change. Signs on Century Boulevard between Alameda Street on the west and Long Beach Freeway on the east are being changed to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The portion in South Gate is on the north side of the boulevard between Santa Fe Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard.

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