The Name Says L.A., but Support for It May Be Drying Up
The body of water that gave Lake Los Angeles its name dried up a dozen years ago. The sunbaked community of 3,500 homes doesn’t have a single hotel room. And Downtown Los Angeles is a good 90-minute drive away.
So why do they call it Lake Los Angeles?
Residents of this unincorporated community have been asking themselves that question, and on Tuesday will put it to a vote. The question: Do we need a new name, and if so, what should it be?
Among the choices: Desert Buttes, Desert Springs, Saddleback Butte, Lovejoy Springs and Wilsona.
Barbara Crane, a local tax consultant, believes a name change is long overdue.
“People call the Chamber of Commerce and ask if we have water-skiing,” she sighed. “It’s not a resort. It’s a little rural community. There isn’t any lake, and we don’t share Los Angeles’ urban ills.”
Other residents aren’t quite so eager to rename the town.
“I have mixed emotions,” said Mike Lefebvre, who owns a local real estate business. “It’s been Lake Los Angeles forever and ever. We get a lot of teasing and a lot of jokes. But we’re also in the Antelope Valley, which doesn’t have any antelopes, and near Palmdale, which doesn’t have many palm trees.”
Lake Los Angeles’s 27-acre, man-made lake was created in 1967 to help sell relatively low-priced houses in a sparsely populated patch of desert about 20 miles east of Palmdale. The lake hosted boating, fishing and water-skiing.
In 1981, when 650 houses were occupied and 3,100 other lots had been sold, the developer, Watt Industries, pulled the plug--or rather refused to keep pumping water into the lake. Balking at a$100,000-a-year water bill, the developer asked residents to take it over.
But the townspeople voted against an annual lake assessment of about $35 per lot. Some were worried that the fee would rise and that the leaking lake bottom would require costly repairs.
Today, on the parched acreage where bass and catfish once flourished, local leaders hope a new shopping center and a Catholic church will soon be built.
Depending on whom you ask, between 12,000 and 18,000 people live in the sprawling desert surrounding the dry lake. About 65% of residents who returned a recent mail survey favored a name change, setting the stage for Tuesday’s vote.
After casting their official county ballots, the community’s 4,518 registered voters will be eligible to mark a separate ballot on the name issue. These ballots will be collected at two sites: the Video Nook store and a motor home set up near the Wilsona school district offices.
A week before the election, Lake Los Angeles leaders were lining up behind the names they liked--and taking shots at the ones they didn’t.
Lefebvre said he would not mind if Desert Springs got the nod. Coincidentally, Desert Springs is the name of his real estate business.
Crane, a member of the Rural Town Council, rejected Lovejoy Springs, derived from a now-capped local water source. “Several people have remarked that Lovejoy Springs sounds like a cheap motel,” she said.
Crane also opposed Desert Springs and Saddleback, saying other California communities have already claimed those names. She preferred Desert Buttes, a reference to the area’s scenic rock formations.
But other activists were worried about that one. They said some teen-agers would shorten the name to Desert “Butts,” setting up the town for a new round of name jokes.
Maurice Kunkel, who also has a local real estate business, favored Wilsona, a reference to a historic area ranch named for President Woodrow Wilson. “I’d just as soon keep it short,” he said.
If the community selects a new name, Lake Los Angeles’ Town Council will ask the County Board of Supervisors to make it official. Then they will tell Thomas Bros. and the auto club to change their maps.
Still, it remains uncertain if there is wide support for a new name outside the small circle of town activists.
Kunkel, a 14-year resident, pointed out that two other attempts to rename Lake Los Angeles--both in the 1980s--fizzled because of insufficient support. It is tough to round up 30 people for a town meeting, he said, so the turnout Tuesday may be less than overwhelming.
“When they start talking about a name change,” he quipped, “I tell people you might call this place ‘Apathy, California.’ ”
Name Change? Residents of the unincorporated community of Lake Los Angeles are considering a new name.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.