Published : Thursday, June 22, 2017 | 1:42 AM
[Updated Thursday, June 22, 2017 | 6:19 p.m.] When the historic La Loma Bridge reopens this month, not only will it reconnect to the city West Pasadena residents weary of detours but it will bear a new name that pays tribute to one of Pasadena’s shining citizens, the late John K. Van de Kamp.
Pasadena City Councilmember Steve Madison said that a reopening and rededication ceremony will be held on June 24, at 9 a.m., at the east end of the bridge, after which participants will cross the bridge toward the west side for refreshments and dialogue.
“The reopening is long overdue due to unexpected problems with the construction, the weather and the like,” Madison said in a statement. “I hope you will agree with me the results are grand and we now have a bridge that matches the beauty of the iconic Colorado Street Bridge, well worth the wait.”
The rededication that will rename the span as the John K. Van de Kamp Bridge will honor the Pasadena-born lawyer who would become Los Angeles County District Attorney, U.S. Attorney and later on California Attorney General.
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.
Geoffrey Baum, former president of the West Pasadena Residents Association, said he thinks renaming the bridge in honor of Van de Kamp is “a wonderful tribute to the decades of service to a great neighbor.”
Other West Pasadena Residents Association members also expressed their enthusiasm for renaming the bridge in honor of the late 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, an 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.”
“I think it’s a very appropriate name and I hope it will continue his memory and legacy into the future,” echoed Avram Gold, also a Board member.
Marsha Rood, Vice President of the Downtown Pasadena Residents Association and former Development Administrator for the City of Pasadena, said she absolutely and overwhelmingly endorses the renaming of the bridge.
“He did wonderful things for Pasadena, and wonderful things for the state,” Rood said of Van de Kamp. “He was well-respected, well-educated, very thoughtful, very judicious person, well-respected in the community and the state. He cared about things. He was committed and high-principled as an individual. He had a wonderful way with people.”
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 was born on February 7, 1936. He graduated from the John Muir High School in Pasadena, and obtained his AB degree from Dartmouth College. He graduated with a Juris Doctor degree from Stanford Law School in 1959. He served as assistant U.S. Attorney and later became the first federal public defender in Los Angeles. He was appointed District Attorney in 1975 after the previous incumbent, Joseph Busch, died in office.
Van de Kamp became California Attorney General when the incumbent, George Deukmejian, ran and won as Governor. When Deukmejian announced that he would not seek a third term as Governor in 1989, Van de Kamp ran for the office hoping to succeed Deukmejian a second time, but lost the Democratic primary election to Dianne Feinstein the next year.
After his loss, Van de Kamp retired from politics and with his wife returned to Pasadena. He entered private law practice and remained active in environmental causes until his death.