The last mile of Compton Boulevard west of the Harbor Freeway was officially dubbed Marine Avenue last week, erasing from the South Bay a name that once coursed proudly all the way from the San Gabriel River to Manhattan Beach.
The Redondo Beach City Council, the last governing board in the South Bay to undertake the name change, cited confusion among residents over addresses in joining the rest of the area in renaming the thoroughfare.
Councilman Ron Cawdrey noted that in the last two years, every other city in the South Bay through which the boulevard runs has changed its name to Marine Avenue. The only place west of the Harbor (110) Freeway where signs for Compton Boulevard exist is the Redondo Beach side of a mile-long stretch that forms the city’s boundary with Hawthorne and Lawndale.
It is a slightly different story in the Southeast/Long Beach area, where Compton Boulevard continues to exist in Bellflower and Compton. However, Paramount in 1986 changed the name of the thoroughfare to Somerset Boulevard.
“You tell somebody to turn right on Compton Boulevard and they miss it and end up in Torrance,” Cawdrey said. But Stevan Colin, the only council member to vote against the name change, questioned the motives behind the trend.
“It’s just kind of funny to me that in, like, Lawndale, they’d want to have a street named Marine,” he said. “Or Hawthorne. What do those cities have to do with the ocean?
“I just hope that the trend won’t be that we start seeing proposals to change the names of other streets--say, Inglewood Avenue,” Colin added, referring to another city whose residents, like Compton’s, are predominantly black.
The trend has been controversial from its outset. It began in 1988, when a Gardena furniture store owner started a petition to rename his city’s end of the boulevard. Chuck Nader said at the time that he wanted to eliminate confusion that had plagued him for the 20 years that his Gardena store was situated on a boulevard named for Compton, on the other side of the freeway.
Nader’s suggestion to rename the street for Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn fell through when Hahn objected. The city did go along with Nader’s second choice, which was to follow the lead of Manhattan Beach, which has called the street Marine Avenue since the early 1900s.
The idea, with lobbying from Nader and other businesses, was picked up by other cities, to the chagrin of Compton officials. In May, for example, Ted D. Kimbrough, the then-superintendent of the Compton Unified School District, wrote a scathing letter to the mayor of Hawthorne, calling the name change “a slap in the face to our community and its residents” and “an ill-disguised effort by those who have promoted the idea to disassociate themselves from the Compton community and all that it represents.”
The mayor responded with the argument that Hawthorne is part of the South Bay and “Marine Avenue is a name that is more identifiable with a South Bay city.”
But Compton officials remained unconvinced. In an interview with The Times in December, Robert Adams, a former Compton councilman, said the trend was based on racism, and added that the South Bay cities “don’t want to be associated with the city of Compton.”
Nader could not be reached for comment but his son, Chuck Nader Jr., said his father “will be ecstatic when he hears the news.”
“I think it’s great,” the younger Nader said. “Now we’ll be associated with the cities toward the beach.”