In Clairemont Caminito de Oi Vay slipped through.
  • In Clairemont Caminito de Oi Vay slipped through.
  • Tom Voss
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Because San Diego’s discovery by Western civilization was financed by Spain, America’s seventh largest city is currently loaded with appreciative Spanish-sounding appellations: Coronado, Descanso, Del Mar, Del Cerro, Escondido, San Marcos, Serra Mesa, La Mesa, Encinitas, El Cajon, Mira Mesa, Chula Vista, Linda Vista, La Jolla, Miramar, San Carlos, Encanto, Rancho La Costa, Rancho Santa Fe, Bonita, Potrero, and on and on and on. In that epoch of Spanish territorialism, our turf added a nice notch to the expanding Spanish belt. Thus, our derivative name stems from sainthood, San Diego de Alcalá de Hénares, a.k.a. Diego de San Nicolas.

There are 29 Cedar streets, 28 Elm variations, 12 Eucalyptus, 18 Acacias, 15 Oaks, and 27 Palms.

There are 29 Cedar streets, 28 Elm variations, 12 Eucalyptus, 18 Acacias, 15 Oaks, and 27 Palms.

Tom Voss

Born around 1400 in a small village near Seville, Diego was sent to the Canary Islands as a Franciscan missionary. He was eventually elevated to sainthood in 1588, 125 years after his death in the town of Alcalá de Hénares (thirty miles outside of Madrid), where he is buried. And when Sebastian Vizcaino turned up on November 10, 1602 somewhere in the vicinity of what’s now known as Harbor Drive, he officially christened our town to honor the feast day of his patron saint (who also provided the name of his flagship) by erecting a large crucifix, preceding a Mass which terminated with the special name selected — San Diego. Under the aegis of King, Empire, and God, as testimony that Spanish royal possession was thus established, the inhabitants of the area were promptly Catholicized and henceforth known as Mission Indians.

An earlier real estate expedition to these parts memorialized a more popular saint. When Captain Juan Cabrillo sailed into our harbor on September 28, 1542, he dubbed his discovery San Miguel after that particular saint’s feast day — and San Miguel we remained for six decades. Local historian Lou Stein speculates in his handbook San Diego County Place Names that Vizcaino was either ignorant of Cabrillo’s earlier name designation or he deliberately found a virgin harbor, enabling him to gain all the glory for himself and his land syndicate sponsor back in the old country. But if there was any early controversy over our name, it was resolved with Padre Junipero Serra arrived in 1769 and preserved the name of his fellow Franciscan, San Diego.

So first they named the territory. Centuries later, when Homeric expeditions became financially unfeasible, they got around to naming the streets. Today land developers using surveyor’s stakes, billboards, and full-page ads in the Sunday Union in lieu of crude wooden crosses are still, out of habit, naming our county’s subdivisions and streets with Spanish-sounding names. These newer names aren’t necessarily holy or historically linked (Castelar, for instance, is an Ocean Beach street that’s the name of a town in Argentina) or even authentic. Caminito Gabaldon in Mission Valley, for instance, stumped contemporary historians until researchers who could find neither historical nor religious roots eventually learned that Gabaldon is the name of the subdivider’s mother-in-law.

Nearby in Mission Valley is Caminito de Pizza. Originally intended as Caminito de Piazza, someone in the city administration simply had trouble with the spelling. Although the city and county administrations’ present policy screens names for new streets suggested by land developers both for phonetic and for spelling duplications and for offensive names in foreign languages. Via Privada in Rancho Bernado apparently slipped past the county watch-dogs. When a sharp translator eventually pointed out that privada means privy or outhouse, the name was forever obliterated from Thomas Brothers. “We’re running out of names familiar to English-speaking people,” bemoans Bob Kausch, the city’s current coordinator of street names, who rejected the recently proposed Caminito Nabisco and Caminito Catamaran. “Not being Spanish words, these secondary name designations were inconsistent with caminito [little road or highway],” says Kausch.

But in Clairemont, Caminito de Oi Vay managed to slip through, possibly because the overworked city staff confused the sound of the Weltschmerzian Yiddish sigh, Oy Vay (“Woe is me!”), with that equally well known joyous Spanish shout of approval, olé. This wasn’t the first time the City of San Diego confused the two diverse tongues. Official approvers of street names were delighted when local land developer Harvey Furgatch, then head of the American Housing Guild, submitted the name Harvala Street for an East San Diego area he developed near University and College avenues. Thanking Furgatch for the Spanish influence, the city (erroneously) assumed the H was silent and that the accent should fall on the second syllable. Actually, sounding the H and accenting the first syllable as Furgatch had intended. Harvala is the Yiddish diminutive of Havey, the moniker Furgatch’s grandmother affectionately applied to him when he was a little boy growing up in the Bronx. So much for San Diego’s modem Spanish nomenclature.

Contemporary vignettes aside, San Diego’s approximately 8000 street names for the county’s 4255 square miles and 2000 miles of pavement have no definitive history. It was suggested to historian Lou Stein that he write one, but he demurred, figuring it would take ten years to do the job correctly. “There’s no classical naming pattern to San Diego streets,” says Stein. “Los Angeles is strictly controlled with a rigid plan, but here street naming is haphazad,” he adds, and it’s true.

We’ve got an embarrassing number of duplications resulting from the completely unregulated days of rugged individualism in the Nineteenth Century: twenty-nine Cedar streets, avenues, roads, lanes, and ways; fourteen Evergreens; twenty-eight Elm variations, twelve Eucalyptus variations, eighteen Acacias, fifteen Oaks, and twenty-seven Palms. Because olives were the principal orchard trees in San Diego’s salad days, there are now thirty-six Olive variations. And we’ve got sixteen Avocado streets seasoned with several varieties of Haas and Fuertes. Aside from the plethora of tree streets, we’ve got approximately a hundred varieties of Vista and approximately fifty varieties of Hill, including Hillsides, Hillcrests, Hill-views, and Hilltops.

Searching for the tiniest patterns in local street names in the middle of the night on a worn-out Thomas Brothers map can become an insomniac’s greatest challenge. There are, of course, some very broad name categories, such as science (streets began showing up with stellar names following the rush into space in the late Fifties), nature (birds, trees, flowers, and dogs), culture (authors, artists, composers), history (the famous and the not-so), geography (other cities in the United States and elsewhere), and sentiment (loved ones). But it’s the tiny cluster of names, the isolated oddball name that intrigues. We’ve got Pajama Drive, Thermal Way, Slumber Road, and Climax Court, and there are Memory Lanes, Shady Lanes, Hasty Lanes, Maiden Lanes, Shamrock Lanes, Butternut Hollow Lane, Adventure Lane, Air Mail Lane, Serenity Path, Cherub Court, Success Avenue, Dream Street, Enchanted Place, Secret Place, Pollyanna Terrace, Apple Tree Drive, Prestige Road, three Mockingbird Lanes and a Mockingbird Drive, Blueberry Hill Lane, Mistletoe Street, Christmas Tree Lane, Thanksgiving Lane, and Easter Way.

There’s a Jimmy Durante Boulevard in Del Mar, but no streets are dedicated to Desi Arnaz or Burt Bacharach, both famous Del Mar residents, nor is any pavement inscribed for actor Jack Klugman, who has dropped lots of cash at our racetrack. There’s a tiny group of streets in Bay Park named for American cities and another cluster of more American city streets in La Mesa. University City has a group of Canadian city streets and Scripps Ranch bears streets with Australian place names, thanks to developer Corky McMillan’s fondness for Australia. But try to find justification for Zero Road, Coping Place, and Diversion Drive. Stay awake until dawn pondering the preponderance of Sicilian street names in La Costa. Imagine living on the ominous Broken Wheel Road, Burning Hills Drive, or Grim Avenue, or even the innocuous Sand-rock Road in Serra Mesa, which was named in honor of the murdered wife of a shopkeeper, who was mysteriously bludgeoned to death while she was tending shop. And how about Friendly Drive, Carefree Drive, Restful Court, Good Karma Lane, Gotta Place, Our Way, and My Way? Why five Reagan variations (named when he was governor of California) in Mira Mesa? Who would wittingly buy property on Poverty Ridge or Starvation Mountain Road — unless, of course, it was near foreclosure and priced $20,000 under market? What unknown oenophile was responsible for the cluster of “wine” streets in Scripps Miramar, which includes Riesling, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Claret, and Moselle streets? And what beer drinker countered with Cerveza Way north of Escondido? Why is Sesame Street in Chula Vista? What about Chocolate Cliff Drive in Bonita and its Fallbrook antithesis, Diet Lane?

Some streets make geographic sense. There’s a special joy in finding that Serbian Place is located just a short walk from Saint George’s Serbian Church, overlooking Mission Bay in Bay Park. Particularly for me. Because a quarter of a century of my life was spent living on systematically planned New York City’s nameless numbered streets, I’ve got an appetite for names that seldom stops. Here are the appalling conditions that have shaped my frequent after-hours tête-à-têtes with Thomas Brothers: When I lived at 149-35 232nd Street in Queens I attended P.S. 156 (P.S. meant Public School), but I transferred to P.S. 193 when our family moved to 1289 East 19th Street between Avenue L and Avenue M in Brooklyn. The next move was to 1826 East 15th Street between Avenue R and Avenue S, where I lived until I married a mechanical engineer from some forgettable numbered street in the Bronx. Forsaking our separate numbered streets in rival boroughs, we moved together to 2433 East 27th Street between Avenue X and Avenue Y (in Brooklyn), but it wasn’t until our first-born was doing card tricks that we abandoned bland Brooklyn forever to acquire an impressive street address. I am ever grateful to Bridgeport, Connecticut for bestowing upon us 6 Nob Hill Circle, an address that immediately catapulted my self-image. What a pleasure it was to pen return addresses on envelopes in my most pretentious calligraphy. Ordering letterheads and giving verbal directions elocuting that elegant sounding street name was Elysium. So was affixing Nob Hill Circle to my driver’s license. Home at last. After that it was easy. In St. Pete Beach it was 2403 West Vina Del Mar Boulevard, followed by one series after another of glamorous streets, each bearing a different image. I was determined never again to return to numbers, and the momentum continued. My years in San Diego suburbs have been spent on Mount Alifan Street in Clairemont (inspired by a world atlas that developers of that community used to pinpoint all the mountains of the world), two exotic caminitos, a street honoring a best-selling author, Edna Ferber, and my present, very dignified, solid-sounding British street designation, Shirehall — all of which have compensated for the name deprivation of my most impressionable years.

Prompted by a recent visit to friends who live and farm earnestly on Mother Grundy Truck Trail Road near Jamul, I’ve learned that it’s been common practice among small-scale developers to name streets for wives, sweethearts, and children, with female names greatly outnumbering male names, probably because most San Diego streets have been named by men (there are twenty-four derivatives of the name Ann, more than any other female street name on the San Diego County map). Anyone would be mistaken if he suspected that Clairemont was named for Congressman Clair Burgener. The late Carlos Tavares, who developed (with Lou Burgener and joined later by Irvin Kahn) the area referred to during its post-World War II beginnings as the “world’s second largest subdivision,’’ was inspired by his wife Claire. Tavares was prolific in his expression of sentiment, not only in naming the community Clairemont, but in smaller tributes, such as Clairemont Drive, Clairemont Court, and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

Not long ago Mary Shepardson, mayor of Poway (Indian for “place where the valley ends,’’ according to historian Stein), slapped a moratorium on such cute stuff as Ann-O-Reno and Jean-O-Reno intersecting with Sam-O-Reno Road, street names representing the private escapades of one of the developers and his two former wives. Mayor Shepardson banned names that a twelve-year-old child can’t read or pronounce, and her reasons are no doubt justified. Straightforward names are easier to remember and report to police and fire departments during emergencies than oddly spelled contrivances.

Aside from private jokes and combined names (e.g., Harjoan and Rae-jean, which read like vanity license plates), developer Harvey Furgatch immortalized three of his dogs — Missy, Hector, and Towser — by imprinting their names on street signs in Serra Mesa and on city maps. Furgatch went even further by canonizing his accountant, Saul Braverman, by naming a Santee street Braverman Drive — in essence doing for Braverman the accountant what Vizcaino did for Diego de Alcalá de Hénares. And not being able to leave it alone, Furgatch made sure that Braverman Drive connected with Mavin Drive, which is another Yiddish joke.

But when Furgatch wanted to honor a friend named Birkner, the city engineers rejected the name, claiming it was similar to others and would therefore be confusing. So Furgatch merely spelled Birkner backwards, resulting in Renkrib Street in San Carlos, which means nothing at all except Birkner in reverse.

Another Furgatch attempt to glorify a couple named Rose and Morris by naming a street “Rosemore’’ was also thwarted by the city, claiming its similarity to Rosemont. Once again the invincible Furgatch reversed the names, offering Lemon Grove residents the opportunity to live on Morose Street. Furgatch readily admits that there’s never been any method to his street names selections. “I’ve done it all at random. It’s a real chore to name streets," Furgatch says.

“After you’ve named thousands of streets, thinking up more names becomes a nuisance,’’ says Elizabeth Feller, wife of Lou Feller, retired developer and mass producer of Princess Homes. (Elizabeth Feller’s maiden name, Elder, is represented in Elder-gardens Street in Allied Gardens.) “Without having a specific theme in mind, naming streets takes a lot of imagination,’’ she says. “When you run out of names, you want input from everyone — secretaries, engineers, etc.’’ During the housing boom of the Sixties, Lou Feller’s organization was building at the rate of a thousand homes per year, and during the decades (beginning in the Forties) in which he developed land in Chula Vista, Del Cerro, Allied Gardens, and other areas, the most well known Feller imprint has been a play-on-words street that evolved this way: When Princess Homes had depleted its list of street names in the Mission Village area, one of the engineers suggested Raymond Street, but his colleague protested that it was too common. ‘ ‘Okay, have it your way,” said the first engineer, and the landmark road, Haveteur Way, was born, complete with ersatz French spelling. In the early Seventies, about a decade after the now-famous Haveteur Way was conceived, Feller was building expensive homes in Del Cerro. Another Princess Homes engineer announced that he’d buy one when he was rich, thereby christening Wenrich Street.

Another local giant in land development, whose activities spanned from the early Fifties until his death in 1973, was Irvin J. Kahn. ‘‘When he died, he had 1500 employees, so it’s hard to remember who named what streets,” says Kahn’s widow, Eleanor. But she does remember Governor Drive, the main thoroughfare of University City, and how it was named — and she thinks about it every time she drives by. ‘ ‘We had a specific theme — the university, UCSD. We were driving around one Sunday and Irvin said, ‘Hey, honey, you wanna name some streets today?’ and I said, ‘Sure, why not?’ So to be consistent with the learning-and-education theme, I named the main street Governor Drive for the Board of Governors, and Regents Road for the Board of Regents, and Pennant Way because college kids collect pennants, and Honors Drive for high academic hopes. And then there’s a whole section of streets named for Nobel Prize winners,” Mrs. Kahn recalls. ‘‘Pauling Street, for instance, for Linus Pauling. Today when people give me directions and ask if I know where Governor Drive is, I just say yes — but I think, ‘I named it! ’ At that time I wasn’t particularly impressed with the fact that I was naming some streets,” she says. ‘‘Not as impressed as I am today.”

Embedded in the annals of the San Diego Historical Society’s library in Presidio Park, hidden among the mishmash of personal jokes and latter-day themes, are bits and pieces of authentic early San Diego history. On one of the early maps, drawn several months before California was admitted into the Union in 1850, Old Town and Mission Hills were designated as the first sections of San Diego to be settled and subdivided. And although several streets in that area were named for early Californios — Alvarado, Bandini, and Altamirano — English names outnumber Spanish names even in those areas of old Spanish settlements. Taylor Street honors the twelfth president of the United States. Kit Carson, Commodore Stockton, John C. Calhoun, David Twiggs, William Harney, John Jay, Bennet Riley, even Congress Street, reflect the mood of early Americana and patriotismo. Then others were honored — leading citizens, explorers, military personages, business tycoons, ranchers, and politicians. Bean Street, between Pacific Highway and Interstate 5, is named for Joshua Bean, San Diego’s first mayor (elected in 1850), and Kurtz honors his successor in office. Rosecrans memorializes General William Rosecrans, a Union Army strategist. A good friend of downtown real estate developer Alonzo Horton, General Rosecrans later participated in San Diego’s railroad and real estate promotions. Kettner was named for Congressman William Kettner, who served from 1912 to 1920, and Gunn Street in North Park for Douglas Gunn, a former mayor and editor of the San Diego Union. Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny (Kearny Mesa and Kearny Villa Road) commanded United States Army troops and led his men in the brief battle at San Pasqual in 1846. La Jolla’s Forward Street honors John Forward, county recorder, mayor (1907-1909), and founder of Title Insurance and Trust.

Remember the old parlor game — “I’m going on a trip and I’m taking an apple, a banana, a comb, a doorbell, an elephant,” and so on down through the alphabet? According to the late H. K. Raymenton, San Diego freelance journalist and names historian, the name of the game is Blenkinsop, an alphabetical game the city fathers played with trees, copied from William Penn’s ingenious 1682 method of naming streets in Philadelphia, which reflected his Quaker love of botany. This system of street naming eventually swept the continent.

Dinner party illustration

Dinner party illustration

Tom Voss

Originally, numbers were arbitrarily given to downtown San Diego’s north-south streets and letters to our east-west streets. When our city patriarchs wanted to go north alphabetically from A Street into the Hillcrest-Balboa Park area, they played Blenkinsop with trees, beginning with Ash and ending with Walnut. (XYZ needn’t have befuddled early developers, because there are trees named Xylopia, Yew, and Ziziphus, which are no more obscure than Upas, a poisonous bush that grows, fortunately for us, only in New Guinea). When they went west from Banker’s Hill, developers went birds — from Albatross to Lark, not going beyond the letter L. In Point Loma, they went authors from Addison through Zola and then began all over again with Alcott, but they never got beyond Lytton (another L coincidence, which makes historian Lou Stein suspect cabalistic overtones). Authors’ names were used indiscriminately. Some were as famous as Dickens and Lowell, and others were so obscure — Quimby, for instance — that their contributions became known more to street names than to literature. (Phineas Parkhurst Quimby [1802-1866] wrote only one book during his lifetime; its title is Mental Healing.) And because journalism is akin to literature, having been defined by Matthew Arnold as “literature in a hurry,” Charles, Dudley, and Warner streets in Point Loma were named to honor prolific author/ editor Charles Dudley Warner, editor of the Hartford Courant (which obviously had nothing to do with San Diego, but his books written in the late late 1890s did mention our town).

A century ago the big real estate boom that brought hordes of speculators to the ocean begat Pacific Beach. The first subdivision map drawn up in 1887 by the Pacific Beach Company immodestly labeled the west boundary the “world’s finest beach” and showed the community extending to the racetrack on the northeast curve of False Bay (now Mission Bay), built on what is now the site of Home Savings and Loan. In 1887 real estate promoters D. C. Reed and R. A. Thomas (now you know why there’s a Reed Street and a Thomas Street) laid out the streets in checkerboard fashion, not allowing for the contours of the land. Lacking originality, they named the north-south streets First, Second, Third, etc., ignoring the prior existence of numbered streets downtown. Garnet Avenue was then known as College Avenue, because of the short-lived College of Letters in Pacific Beach, which closed in 1897, and the east-to-west streets were named after states. But the land boom went bust, and Pacific Beach slept (aside from a little lemon farming) until the turn of the century. When it recovered, an embarrassing number of duplicate street names were discovered within the city, with fifteen parts of town having numbered streets. So in 1900 the San Diego Common Council passed an ordinance that eradicated numbered streets (in Pacific Beach) and duplicate street names and formally adopted a practice of naming streets in a given area alphabetically around a specific theme. Blenkinsop for famous nineteenth-century politicians, diplomats, and statesmen was used for Pacific Beach’s east-west streets: From the ocean going east, there was Allison (later changed to Mission Boulevard) for Senator William Boyd Allison (1829-1908), Bayard for Secretary of State and Ambassador Thomas F. Bayard (1828-98), Cass Street for Secretary of State Lewis Cass (1782-1866), Dawes Street for Senator Henry L. Dawes (1816-1903), Everts Street named for Attorney General and Secretary of State William Evarts (1818-1901), Fanuel Street named for pre-Revolutionary architect Peter Faneuil, all the way down to Pendleton Street, named for Senator George Hunt Pendleton (1825-89). (Everts and Fanuel are misspellings, as is Morrell Street for either Senators Lot Morrill [1812-1883] or Justin Morrill [1810-1898].) Ingraham Street was Broadway. It became Izard briefly in 1900, but by 1907 reverted back to Broadway. Six years later, however, when D Street downtown was changed to Broadway to accommodate the then-mayor of San Diego who lived on D Street but insisted on living on Broadway (according to legend), the main north-south drag in Pacific Beach was designated Ingraham Street — which was more euphonious than Izard, to be sure, though both Izard, a Revolutionary patriot, and Ingraham, a nineteenth-century naval officer, were equally meritorious.

The east-west streets named for states (except for Reed, Thomas, and Grand) had also been duplicated throughout the city. The situation was corrected with a Blenkinsopian romp through the alphabet with gems from Agate to Turquoise. Felspar Street, named for the mineral feldspar, was spelled correctly only once, on a 1926 promotional map that attempted (unsuccessfully, we know now) to change the name Pacific Beach to San Diego Beach.

A study done by former San Diego librarian Zelma Bays Locker shows that Mission Beach developed in 1915 with impetus from John Spreckels. Locker says the north-south streets — Strand way, Ocean Front Walk, Bayside Lane, and Bayside Walk — derived from their obvious geography, but the naming of the sixty-five short east-west passageways intersecting Mission Boulevard shows some originality. The vehicular streets were named for Spanish missions in geographical order from south to north as the missions first appeared on the California map, e.g., San Fernando Place, Santa Barbara Place, San Luis Obispo Place. The narrow walkways were called “courts” and were named alphabetically for beaches, international spas, harbors, ports, and islands, e.g., Dover Court, Ensenada Court, Portsmouth, Salem, Venice, exhausting the alphabet with the exception of U and X—although Aspin, Vanitie, and Wavecrest courts remain mysteries and at least slightly suspect.

San Diego librarian Rhoda Kruse’s prize-winning research paper, “The Mystery Man of Ocean Beach,” reveals that by 1887 promoter maps gave Ocean Beach resort street names to streets running northwest to southwest—Brighton, Cape May, Del Monte (in true Blenkingsop flow) reflecting the promoter’s hopes for the new area. Streets running northeast to southwest were originally (rather unoriginally) named First, Second, Third, etc. through Seventh — but the same tum-of-the-century ordinance that did in Pacific Beach’s numbered streets changed Ocean Beach’s numbers to authors — Abbott, Bacon, Cable, DeFoe, Ebers, Froude, and so on.

Farther up the coast is Leucadia, which is the name of one of the Ionian islands off whose cliffs Sappho is said to have leaped. It was settled in 1885 by a group of British spiritualists who journeyed to the area seeking religious freedom. Their predilection for ancient classical culture inspired them to apply Greek and Roman names to their streets — Hermes, Hygeia, Glaucus, Eolus, Mymettius, Orpheus, and Vulcan.

Promiscuous street-name changing began right after the new century did. Pacific Beach Drive was originally Pacific Avenue. The name was changed in 1935 to Braemar, and two months later changed again to Pacific Beach Drive. It was in the 1930s that movements sprang up regarding the renaming of Atlantic Boulevard to Pacific Highway. There was a contest to find a new name for the street, sponsored by the San Diego Sun, and there were heated discussions, lots of letters and petitions, and a poem, author unknown, that pushed for that broad highway by the ocean to be called Avenida Del Mar (Avenue of the Sea). This is excerpted from “No High Falutin’ Names For Them”:

When the City Fathers gather,

In the council room they’d rather,

Be most anything but “high-brow” in authoritative ways,

It is foreign to their nature,

To use Spanish nomenclature,

Or to show appreciation of our old historic days.

And in 1931, a prominent citizen named Arthur H. Hill wrote a series of newspaper articles bemoaning the city’s lack of imagination in naming streets. A project of the civic-minded Heaven On Earth Club was to write letters presenting proposals to the city council to change the downtown lettered streets from A to America, B to Banner, and so on. The battle continued for years, though nothing was changed. Today, San Diego does retain a few listless lettered and numbered streets, but the cost of changing street names prohibits rampant and widespread revisions.

A fee of $500 is required to cover the costs of processing a street name change through both the planning commission and a council hearing, in addition to any re-signing expenses that would be incurred, the cost of which must be borne by those citizens seeking the change. Costs vary depending on the size of the street and the number of residents affected by the change. Several years ago a movement to change the name of Imperial Avenue was quickly quelled when an unhappy resident learned that map changes, street signs, and freeway signs would amount to somewhere around half a million dollars.

The county’s policy is less stringent. In the spring of 1980 bandleader/land baron Lawrence Welk and his organization were able to change a strip of old Highway 395 approximately five miles long north of Escondido (where most of Welk’s land holdings are) to Champagne Boulevard, then changed an access road crossing Champagne Boulevard to Lawrence Welk Drive. He paid only for the freeway signs; the county bore the other expenses. Previously it had been against county policy for private citizens to change the names of public streets to honor themselves, but the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, led by Paul Eckert, overruled strong county objections and allowed Welk his Champagne Boulevard and his Lawrence Welk Drive; this decision led to a relaxation of policy restrictions.

Today I imagine that the marketing directors and project coordinators of the Genstar, Pardee, and Baldwin companies — all developers of what until recently was called North City West — are armed with history books, maps, globes, dictionaries, and other tools to help them devise methods of selecting street names that will subliminally sell houses; their job is to attract buyers with alluring street names. According to city street names coordinator Kausch, developers are already subdividing the land and submitting lists of names for his approval. “Lots of Spanish names,’’ says Kausch.

The present regulations require that private street designations must be preceded by caminito (although sometimes they’ve been called “row” and “rue”), and major public thorough-fares must have designations of boulevard and avenue. Smaller thoroughfares are to be called roads and streets, and cul de sacs will be known as ways, trails, or courts. The recent names submission of Supreme Court and Justice Court (proposed for another area of town) was rejected on the grounds of poor taste for “making light of a serious institution.”

According to Dick Clark, project engineer for the Baldwin Company’s Carmel Valley project (a 1500-acre parcel that’s part of the North City West plan), the developers hired a PR firm which has come up with what it considers soft, appealing names, many of which are organic. “Carmel pops up a lot,’ ’ says Clark. ‘ ‘There’s Carmel Creek, Carmel Grove, Carmel View Road, Carmel Vista Road, Carmel Harbor, and Carmel Landing.” They all seem to suggest leisure, luxury, cool breezes, and affluence. According to Clark, the proximity to Del Mar has inspired the following new street names — Del Mar Sands, Del Mar Shores, Del Mar Surf, and Del Mar Cove, all of which evoke images of cool, quiet wealth.

It’s odd that with history, geography, botany, wines, authors, real estate promoters, hedonism, and Spanish explorers nearly exhausted (some of Furgatch’s employees suggested fruit and vegetable themes for street names, but he vetoed the idea), there aren’t more streets named for our contemporaries. Former Mayor Frank Curran says streets can’t honor mayors until they die, but what’s wrong with San Diego having a Duffy Drive, a Leitner Lane, a C. Arnholt Smith Court, or an Alessio Alley?

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