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Council Tasked with Naming Santa Monica Park; Offbeat Options on the Table

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

February 9, 2015 -- After the City Council votes on Tuesday, a future Pico Neighborhood Park could be named in honor of a local war hero or possibly after a Native American medicine woman. 

And it’s a long shot, but the park could be named after high-fat desserts or possibly become an ode to the hobo lifestyle.

The council received two recommendations from the Recreation and Parks Commission as well as 135 from local residents for the name of the 2.35-acre park, which will be located on Exposition Boulevard between Stewart Street and Dorchester Avenue.

It is temporarily named Buffer Park, recognizing its function as a cushion between residential homes and the Expo Light Rail’s maintenance yard.

The park's construction is being funded through a grant from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

A recommendation from the parks commission is to call the site Gandara Park, which would honor Private Joe Gandara. He was a Santa Monica native killed at age 20 in World War II. 

But a City staff report says Gandara’s family does not want the park named after him.

Gandara’s niece Miriam Adams “wrote to the council and the chair of the (parks commission) to indicate that while her family is humbled by the commission’s recommendation, they do not feel that Buffer Park is an appropriate choice to honor Private Joe Gandara,” the report states.

The family instead wants an Expo station named after Gandara. Only the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) can make that decision.

As an alternative, the parks commission has recommended the name Heroes Park, which the staff report says would “honor all Santa Monica military service members, war heroes and veterans, with the possibility of certain areas of the park being named in honor of individuals."

The most popular name suggested by Pico Neighborhood residents was Toypurina Park, with 16 submissions.

Toypurina was an 18th-century Native American medicine woman who lived in the area and opposed the rule of Spanish missionaries, according to the staff report, which cites a Wikipedia entry.

Other names appearing on more than one submission were Exposition Park, George Ishihara Memorial Park, People’s Park, Hahi Park, Nisei Park and Vida Park.

Things get interesting when one sorts through other submissions. 

There’s one for Oscar de la Torre Park, recognizing the school board member and Pico Neighborhood leader. Another submission called for O’Conner Park, which could be honoring the longtime City Council member, although that’s not how she spells her name.

Other names give a sense of community and friendliness, such as The Relaxation Gardens, Parque de los Amigos and the Stroll.

And there are a few that will force a person to crack a smile, including Cookies and Cupcakes, Hobo Junction East and Too Damn Close to the Sidewalk Park.

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