Debate Flourishes Over Whether to Rename La Loma Bridge

Published : Thursday, June 8, 2017 | 5:34 AM

About the rehabilitated historic La Loma Bridge, one thing at least seems certain: it will be reopened and rededicated on June 24 at 9 a.m. But what the bridge will be called is another matter.

A public hearing Monday night will take up the idea that the span ought to be renamed, devoted to the memory of one of Pasadena’s shining citizens, the late John K. Van de Kamp, who resided quite near the bridge for much of his life.

District 6 City Councilmember Steve Madison announced the ceremony in late May, saying “we will rededicate the bridge as The John K. Van de Kamp Bridge.” But some residents near the bridge don’t much fancy the idea, and the City Council is likely to hear that opposition during Monday’s hearing.

One resident, Dr. Amy Murphy, a USC School of Architecture associate professor who lives within a stone’s throw from the bridge, said she feels that while it would be appropriate to rededicate the bridge in Van de Kamp’s honor it should not be renamed after him.

“I highly recommend that when the La Loma Street Bridge reopens it is ‘dedicated’ to John but not renamed. A plaque can be put there, but … the name stays as the La Loma Bridge,” Murphy said.

Murphy cited three reasons: that the current name is part of the bridge’s historical significance; that there is ample opportunity to name other structures for such an important Pasadena figure as Van de Kamp; and that all the other bridges in the City are named for the streets they serve to connect.

“If John Van de Kamp was an important member of the Pasadena community, it seems that there will be ample opportunity in the future to name a new structure, school, library, etc. after him,” Murphy said. “There is no reason to push replacing a perfectly fine and accurate name for a bridge at this point. It is my sense that the large majority of neighbors on La Loma and Arroyo oppose this renaming, while supporting the notion that John should have something named after him.”

Arrayed against the opponents are leaders of a number of neighborhood organizations. Several board members of the West Pasadena Residents Association and San Rafael Neighborhood Association — even the Downtown Pasadena Residents Association — endorse actually renaming the bridge after Van de Kamp.

“We are extremely proud of John and his association with us and of course we love the idea of naming the bridge after someone who’s been so important especially to our part of Pasadena,” said Chuck Hudson, a West Pasadena Residents Association Board member. “John was a national figure who was living among us and serving a vital community role. I don’t know how he found the time to do everything, but he did.”

Robin Salzer, Vice President of the San Rafael Neighborhood Association, said renaming the bridge is a wonderful idea, and a “great gesture at the right time for the right person.”

“Every time the kids would cross the bridge in decades to come they will know that the bridge was named after a man who really left his neighborhood a much better place than it was before he lived here,” Salzer said. “With this rededication to rename the bridge the John K. Van de Kamp Bridge, there’ll be a face in the story that will inspire others to follow and continue his incredible public service. He was a neighbor of mine, and he contributed in many different ways.”

Van de Kamp, who grew up on La Loma Street not far from the bridge, lived in West Pasadena almost his entire life and was very active and influential in community affairs. He served as the 28th Attorney General of California from January 3, 1983 to January 7, 1991. On March 14 this year, he died at the age of 81.

The public hearing about renaming the La Loma Bridge will be conducted during the Pasadena City Council meeting on Monday, June 12, in Council Chambers at City Hall, 100 North Garfield Avenue. The public portion of the meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.


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