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California

New push to rename L.A. freeway after Barack Obama

President Obama in Los Angeles
President Obama arrives in Los Angeles.
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

There are Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson boulevards in Los Angeles, Franklin D. Roosevelt East River Drive in Manhattan and Gerald Ford Drive in Rancho Mirage.

Now, state Sen. Anthony Portantino has introduced a resolution to name a portion of the 134 Freeway that runs from Glendale and into Eagle Rock the President Barack H. Obama Freeway.

Obama is no stranger to the area, having attended Occidental College in Eagle Rock in 1979 before transferring to Columbia University in 1981. The roughly three-year stay in the area was enough for Portantino, who represents California’s 25th Senate District, to move forward with a dedication to the departing 44th president.

“California has a long history of designating our freeways as reminders of the accomplishments of important leaders who have shown character, strength and passion,” Portantino said in a statement. “President Obama is a laudable person to showcase and for Southern Californians to appreciate.”

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The proposal comes on the heels of Pasadena’s tribute to Obama: a commemorative plaque on the small apartment he called home while at Occidental.

The idea for a highway dedication came to Portantino last Saturday during a Democratic club meeting. Shortly after the Pasadena plaque ceremony, Portantino met with Pasadena Councilman Steve Madison, who shared his excitement about Obama’s apartment plaque.

Also in attendance were community activists from Portantino’s district who made the initial highway suggestion to the state senator.

“Everybody said, ‘You know what? Why don’t we take this one step further and memorialize his presence in Southern California — in particular in Eagle Rock — by naming a freeway after him?’ ” Portantino said. “What a great idea.”

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With the support of Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, Portantino quickly turned the suggestion into resolution SCR 8. If adopted, the 134 Freeway route between the 2 and 210 freeways will carry Obama’s name.

“Part of my job is to be approachable,” Portantino said. “I’m linked to the community and residents of the district, and I want to break down the barriers between representatives and the folks. If someone comes up with a good idea, I’m going to run with it.”

jeff.landa@latimes.com

Landa writes for Times Community News.

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