Street Name Game Has a Few Rules

Times Staff Writer

Despite his 10-hour workdays, the piles of housing maps, now 2 feet high, inside John Trichak’s cubicle continue to grow.

Trichak’s job is seemingly simple: approve names for new streets in unincorporated Riverside County. But in the fastest-growing county in the United States, it can be a Sisyphean task.

Each week Trichak receives up to 50 maps of new housing tracts. Using a red pen, he eliminates street names he can’t pronounce or spell easily, and ones that are too common or too long. Two weeks ago, for example, he rejected Bird of Paradise Street for a property in Wildomar because of its length -- the letters would be too squished on a street sign.


His task is further complicated by the fact that the supply of standard street names has been outstripped by the growth of housing in the Inland Empire.

This leaves little room for old-fashioned intersections such as 1st and Main. These days in the Inland Empire, you’ll find the corner of Buttercup Way and Silktassel Drive in Rancho Cucamonga, Cloudburst Lane and Goldmine Drive in Temecula, and Treasure Drive and Defiance Way in Moreno Valley.

Trichak says his job is to give developers room for creativity while ensuring that street names won’t confuse police, firefighters or postal carriers.

To show a visitor what slipped through before he took the job, Trichak pulled out a copy of a yellowed Riverside Press-Enterprise article. He pointed to a photo of street signs reading Thata Way and Whicha Way -- an intersection in Hemet named before the city was incorporated.

“Just imagine the confusion,” he said with a quick laugh.

Planners back then probably didn’t think Riverside County would become home to so many people, Trichak said, or they wouldn’t have approved those too-cute-by-half names, which could cause deadly mix-ups for police and firefighters -- plus headaches for postal workers and pizza deliverers.

“We have to think about now but also about the future,” he said.

Trichak recently pored over the street names submitted by a developer during a second round of checks on a project.

“What are you doing, people, sneaking a brand-new name on me?” he said to himself, delighted to have made the catch.

At age 65, Trichak said he’d never worked harder than now during his 35 years in the Riverside County Transportation Department as an engineering technician.

He’s at his desk by 7 a.m. and works until 5 p.m. He takes only a few short breaks, usually to puff away on the single cigar he allows himself daily.

The walls of his cubicle are covered with maps that remind him how his job has changed. Pointing to a map of the rapidly growing Eastvale area, he said, “This, this was nothing but dairies 10 years ago.”

Trichak isn’t the only one working harder. Many developers in the Inland Empire say coming up with usable street names is increasingly challenging. For the 2006 Thomas Guide, several thousand streets were added to the combined San Bernardino and Riverside edition, according to Nancy Yoho, vice president of geographic information systems for Rand McNally & Co., the publisher. In the combined edition for L.A. and Orange counties, there were about 700 new streets.

Riverside County ranks No. 1 in the nation as the county with the highest average annual net population gain over the last four years -- 56,719 -- according to a survey released in April by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Jeremy Smith, a project manager for Woodside Homes Inc., recently had to name streets in the 105-home community in Menifee called Providence.

“It’s so hard to come up with something new and original,” said Smith, who decided to give tribute to the Utah ski resorts near which he grew up.

The tract, under construction, includes Nordic Lane (short for Nordic Valley Ski Resort), Basin Court (Snowbasin Ski Resort) and Powder Court (Powder Mountain Ski Resort).

KB Home, one of the largest developers in the region, gave a community in Norco the name of Cloverdale Farms to reflect the area’s agricultural history. Most of the streets, such as Mare Meadow Court and Massy Harris Way, are related to farming. (Massey-Harris was a leading farm equipment manufacturer in the first half of the 20th century. It is now Massey Ferguson.)

Naming streets is important and tricky enough that some developers hire marketing or advertising firms to dream them up.

Laguna Niguel advertising agency C&M; Communique Inc. was hired by Granite Homes to come up with tree-themed street names for a Moreno Valley tract called Beechwood. C&M;’s list of prospective names included Button Willow, Golden Larch and Silver Spruce.

Trichak, who is thinking about retirement in December, said he was never too impressed with any street name.

“It doesn’t matter to me; it’s just another name,” he said. “It either works or doesn’t work.”

Trichak has a few hard-and-fast rules. If the street is a cul-de-sac, for example, he requires that the name end with “Court” or “Circle.”

If a street within 10 miles has the same name as the proposed name of a new street, the proposed name is rejected. He recently threw out Cypress Drive because there is a Cypress Avenue nearby. He also rejected Merriman Drive because a Merrimac Court exists 6 1/2 miles away.

“Everything is the same but one letter,” Trichak said, so if it was said in a hurry, it could be misunderstood.

And if the name doesn’t roll off Trichak’s tongue easily, then it probably won’t get a place on a map.

“If I can’t pronounce it, you can’t have it,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Once, when he couldn’t, he wrote down the name on a piece of paper and asked 10 people in his office to say it aloud.

No one could, so it was rejected. As are names Trichak can’t spell.

Though he’s approved or rejected thousands of street names in Riverside County, Trichak can’t tell you his favorite. Or the worst name submitted.

“I do so darn many,” he says, “I don’t remember them.”



Name that street

Popular street-naming themes in San Bernardino and Riverside counties include animals, states, colleges, precious stones and fruit. Some examples:

* Hawk Court (Victorville)

* New York Street (Indio)

* Stanford Drive (Rancho Mirage)

* Sapphire Way (Fontana)

* Grapefruit Boulevard (Coachella)

Many streets are named after the famous:

* John Glenn Road (Apple Valley)

* John F. Kennedy Drive (Moreno Valley)

* John Lennon Lane (unincorporated Riverside County)

A list of street names in one cluster in Hemet reads like a travel brochure:

* Copenhagen Street

* Dublin Court

* Florence Street

* Melbourne Court

* Paris Street

Like to golf? Also in Hemet, you can find:

* Birdie Lane

* Greens Drive

* Hole in One Court

And some names might say something about residents’ personalities:

* Happy Lane (Desert Hot Springs)

* Joy Court (Chino)

* Prosperity Drive (Ontario)

* Heavenly Way (Corona)

* Wanderlust Drive (unincorporated Riverside County)

Source: The Thomas Guide