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Wouldn’t the Name ‘Costa Mesa By-the-Sea’ Border on a Lie?

Costa Mesa. Costa Mesa. What a great place-a.

I’ve lived next door to--let me sing it again--Costa Mesa for 16 years but never gave much thought to its name. It never crossed my mind to think, “I wish they’d rename it.” If somebody wants to rename a town, how about Placentia?

Nope, Placentia is perfectly happy with itself. It’s Costa Mesa with the inferiority complex, the town where some suffer from an identity crisis.

I spent 18 months in a town named Weeping Water. If you think that suggests we had a beautiful waterfall on the edge of town, you’d be wrong. All we had on the edge of town was a limestone quarry that created a constant cloud of dust.

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To my knowledge, the town council never once considered calling us Weeping Water By-the-Quarry.

But that was Nebraska, and this is Southern California. To my country ears, “Costa Mesa” sounds downright continental.

Not so to a group of Costa Mesa residents who may be spending too much time at the Ritz-Carlton. Their stated mission is to improve the city, and their latest brainstorm is to change its name to Costa Mesa By-the-Sea.

The group’s chairwoman told the Daily Pilot this week that “Costa Mesa” doesn’t properly identify the city as a beachy place to live. Sounds to me like she’s got a serious case of Newport Beach envy, which is weird because way before the town was Costa Mesa the area was known as Goat Hill. You’d think “Costa Mesa” would represent enough of an upgrade.

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Then there’s this technicality: Costa Mesa doesn’t border the sea.

I don’t live in the city, so I probably shouldn’t sound off.

With that in mind, I decided to talk to the future leaders of Costa Mesa. After all, these are the people who’d have to live with the name change.

Naturally, I found these future leaders outside a Starbucks on Harbor Boulevard.

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“Change the name?” says Hayato Ochiai.

He agrees that “Costa Mesa” doesn’t have much lilt to it but thinks the suggestion to change it is silly. He says it sounds like something some folks at a country club thought up after a round of golf and a few drinks.

Ochiai, 33, is on his third tour of residency in Costa Mesa. He’s not enamored of the city but says fate keeps bringing him back and hopes the third time is the charm. But of his various complaints, the city’s name isn’t one of them.

A few tables down sit Tiger Dowdy and Lori George. Dowdy is a local, but George comes from another town with a mouthful of a name--Rancho Santa Margarita. She wonders why Costa Mesa would want to add words.

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“It seems unnecessary,” she says. “The name would be too long.”

Dowdy, 28, is willing to consider it.

I repeat the name to him: “Costa Mesa By-the-Sea.”

He shakes his head. “Doesn’t grab me,” he says.

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What’s wrong with it? I ask.

“It’s been Costa Mesa for so long, I’m just used to it,” Dowdy says. “They are doing lots of changes in town, remodeling things, but this sounds like they’re trying to make the name sound like Newport Beach.”

In so many words, the name-change advocates don’t deny that. They’ve made it clear that “Costa Mesa” sounds way too inland to be enticing.

Yeah, Dowdy says, but there is such a thing as truth in advertising.

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“It’s not really by the sea,” Dowdy says. “It’s more like close to the sea.”

Then he brightens, as if having hit on something brilliant.

“I like it,” Dowdy says. “Costa Mesa Close-to-the-Sea.”

*

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Dana Parsons’ column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Readers may reach Parsons by calling (714) 966-7821 or by writing to him at The Times’ Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, or by e-mail to dana.parsons@latimes.com.


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