Name Is Grand Theft

When I think of Carmel Valley, a series of images crowds my mind.

I remember the two-lane road winding through watermelon and lima bean fields.

I flash on the majesty of the white covenant house, where the Sisters of Mercy used to live and grow food for the patients at Mercy Hospital. Across the valley, a crumbling, 100-year-old cemetery spreads across a gently sloping knoll, where some of the area’s first Catholic and Protestant souls--most of them Mexican--have been set to rest.

Carmel Valley means Sycamores poised along a creek whose waters drain into Los Penasquitos Lagoon, where heron unfurl their wings and snowy egret find a meal.


To others, the name Carmel Valley means something different.

On Nov. 13, the North City West Community Planning Board selected the winner of their “Name This Town” contest. Residents had picked their brains since August for a more homey sounding name than the sterile “North City West.” Their choice: Carmel Valley.

If a name can be stolen, I present a case of grand theft.

They have hijacked a name and have overlooked the obvious; it is topographically impossible to consider North City West as any kind of a valley.

The dictionary defines a valley as “an elongated depression, usually with an outlet, between bluffs, or between ranges of hills or mountains.”

But North City West never was a valley. Before the bulldozers decapitated the hilltops, the land east of Del Mar was rolling, scrubby hills.

As the hand of progress has swept away the chaparral community, carving graded pads out of southern California’s heritage, it has left no trace of natural contours, much less valleys.

North City West spreads like mold on bread, and eventually will span Carmel Valley and crawl atop Del Mar mesa to the south. When the entire area is paved over and contains a freeway, motorists won’t recognize any valley at all.


It’s a common formula. Developments are named for what they destroy.