What’s in a name? More than a decade ago Los Angeles officials decreed that the area south of the 10 freeway would no longer be referred to in official documents as South Central. Instead, to end the stigma of crime and violence associated with the area, officials rebranded it “South L.A.” but the area may soon see another name change.
District 8 Councilman Barnard Parks introduced a proposal last week to abbreviate South L.A. to “SOLA.” The proposed change is indicative of a larger trend at promoting city nicknames: West Hollywood has been embraced as WeHo, and Downtown has taken on the moniker DTLA for locals.
As far as South L.A. residents? “They see these other communities reinvigorated by these contemporary names,” Parks told the L.A. Times. “And they wonder, at times, why their community is lagging behind.”
But many feel a name change would do little to address real concerns in the region, said Streetsblog L.A.’s Sahra Sulaiman.
“Folks do indeed wonder why their community is lagging behind, this is true. But I can guarantee you that the vast majority of them are well aware that that lag has far more to do with structural inequalities and decades of disinvestment in the area, not the name it goes by.”
“South L.A.” may be what we advocates use to describe the 51-sq. mile swath of town south of the 10 Freeway, but “South Central,” for many residents, is about more than geography — it is part of their identity.”
Intersections discovered just that last year, when many people who have long lived or worked in South L.A. said they embraced the name “South Central” because it symbolizes the history of a neighborhood that shaped who they became. Oscar Menjivar of Urban Txt told Intersections:
“I think “South Central” brings a sense of community for the people who grew up in South L.A. I never felt that it was such a bad place to live. It was portrayed very differently in the movies, it was portrayed bad. If anything, “South Central” is a sense of pride, and sense of community. A place where people grew up with similar issues, similar challenges. I’ve overcome great challenges, and I’ve done amazing things.”
But the name of the area isn’t the only thing that is evolving. The construction of the Crenshaw/LAX line and the construction of a major residential and shopping complex called SoLA Village—planned around the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza—will undoubtedly bring change to the area.
“The towering, 1.66-million-square-foot, Blue-Line-adjacent complex will include nearly 1,500 residential units in two towers over 30 stories tall plus retail, a 208-room hotel, restaurants, and a grocery store. There’s no doubt that SoLA Village, when completed, will dramatically alter the neighborhood, which until now has largely been ignored by fancy developers.”
Sulaiman contends that rebranding is possible but must be done with deference to the local community. She points to the renaissance of Leimert Park as an example of how residents created a hub of art and culture within South L.A.
“If there are any lessons to be learned from the efforts of the Leimert Park stakeholders, they are that re-branding must be grounded in something real and it must be something that the community members themselves believe in,” Sulaiman said in her blog. “By that measure, alone, “SOLA” — which incidentally means “alone” or “lonely” in Spanish — probably would not qualify as a particularly useful or viable name change.”
On Twitter, many people have spoken up with their own opinions and name suggestions:
— ERA (@emergingERA) April 22, 2015
— c1typlann3r (@c1typlann3r) April 21, 2015
#SouthLA is a community of people w/ tremendous pride. People always talk about the bad in South Los Angeles but there’s a lot of good too.
— Jasmyne Cannick (@jasmyne) April 21, 2015
— SoLA Food Co-op (@SoLAFoodCoop) April 21, 2015
What are the next steps? City Hall has moved discussion to the Education and Neighborhoods Committee.
What do you think? Chime in with our poll: