Press "Enter" to skip to content

Haven’t You Wondered…How are streets named?

As I was walking my dog in my neighborhood, I came across a street called Oso, which I thought was quite an odd name. Why would someone name a street after the Spanish word for a bear? Quite perplexed, I thought of an even bigger question: how are streets named?
Having waited on the phone listening multiple times to the broken record of Beethoven’s 5th symphony, the “hold, please” music for the City of LA, I finally exited the labyrinth of bureaus that deal with naming streets and was transferred to Maritzza, who works for city planning on Westlake, near Macarthur Park.
Maritzza told me three distinct ways of how streets are named.
First, the community of a certain district can rename an existing street if they bring up the motion to its district council. If the motion passes, the Bureau of Engineering changes the names on the maps and the street signs.
The same thing happens for parks or any other public properties.
“The name changes according to what’s more popular at the time,” Maritzza said.
She joked about the possibility of an Obama street being named in the future.
Secondly, when there’s a large development for private streets, the owners of the property propose the name to the Subdivision of the Land Department of the Planning Department of LA (whew!). Until then, the subdivision temporarily names the streets A, B, C, etc.
Thirdly, when there’s a large project, such as the building of Union Station, the owners of the project get to name the street(s) near the project once the city has a development agreement with the owners.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find details on any recent cases of streets being named. Most streets in Los Angeles have already been well-established and named, said Carolyn Ramsay, communications director for councilman Tom LaBonge (Thank goodness. LA doesn’t need to be bigger than it already is).
More specifically, Ramsay enlightened me and said that the area around Marlborough was established ninety years ago by main developer Henry Hancock (hence the name Hancock Park).
“The street naming depends on the age of the neighborhood and the developer, who can either be a private owner with lots of money or land,” said Ramsay.
So I guess if I wanted to start naming a street, I should start gathering land (which is totally possible at my age) and then sell it to the public. Well, I know what my first street is going to be – Huh St.