Leon Worden




Time to take our house numbers back

Leon Worden · July 16, 1997

When you weren't looking, our City Council voted 5-zip last week to change the house numbers of every man, woman and business in the City of Santa Clarita.

OK, that isn't quite true, but at least I've got your attention. What the Council did was vote 5-zip, at Carl Boyer's and Jan Heidt's urging, to have city staff do one of those bureaucratic "feasibility" studies to see how hard it would be to change the house numbers of every man, woman and business in the City of Santa Clarita. They're supposed to report back in about three months.

Now, I've gotta tell you. When Boyer first floated the notion in 1990, he almost got laughed out of town. And I was probably one of the ones doing the laughing. A big metropolitan paper even talked about how "quirky" we are. But in these past seven years, I've come to think it might not be such a bad idea.

Once upon a time, we were a happy little town with our own house numbers. The Signal's print shop was at 636 Sixth Street. It moved to 104 West Sixth, around the corner from the Sheriff's Office. Newhall Hardware was at 725 Spruce. The old jailhouse was three blocks away at 1026.

Suddenly, under the cover of darkness, the big, bad County of Los Angeles came along and changed everything. They didn't even have the guts to do it in broad daylight. Merchants in Newhall awoke one morning in the mid-1950s to discover that the county had changed all the "Spruce Street" signs to "San Fernando Road" in the middle of the night.

Never mind that San Fernando was despised by the locals as much then as it is now. The county didn't care. It didn't end there. Without so much as a by-your-leave, the county took all our nice, small-town addresses and changed them to five digits.

Why? Nobody knows for sure. But the effect was clear. No longer were we our own little self-contained community. Now we were an insignificant, far-off fiefdom in the hinterlands of the vast County of Los Angeles. And the county was going to make darned sure we knew it.

You see, there actually IS a pattern to our house numbers. They radiate out from the center of downtown Los Angeles -- just like our OWN house numbers USED to radiate from the center of downtown Newhall.

The Saugus Cafe, for instance, is at 25861 North San Fernando Road. In theory -- I've never tested it -- the Saugus Cafe is 258 blocks north of downtown Los Angeles. Similarly, City Hall, at 23920 West Valencia Boulevard, is 239 blocks west of downtown Los Angeles. (All of San Fernando Road and Valencia Boulevard are technically "North" and "West," respectively, since all of San Fernando and Valencia are north and west of downtown L.A.)

Now tell me. I thought we were supposed to be a city. Didn't we vote to create our own city ten years ago? And didn't most of us come here because we wanted to ESCAPE the crime, drugs, smog and everything else that's associated with L.A. and the valley below? It's time to make that final show of independence and take our house numbers back.

There's another reason. You can't find anything from the address. If I say "22900 Market Street," how are you supposed to find it? Measure 229 blocks west of L.A.? But if I say -- and I'm making this up -- 380 W. Market Street, you would automatically know that all you have to do to find the SCV Senior Center is travel up Market Street, three blocks west of San Fernando Road (assuming San Fernando, or better yet Spruce, would be the east-west dividing line).

There was good cause not to make the switch in 1990 when Councilman Boyer first proposed it. All the merchants in town would have to shell out oodles of money to change their letterhead.

That's no excuse anymore. The state Public Utilities Commission is poised to take away our 805 area code, and all the merchants will have to shell out oodles of money to change their letterhead anyway. They could change their addresses in the same print run.

And besides. Who's got more of a right to change our numbers -- the City Council or the telephone people?

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Leon Worden is a Santa Clarita resident. His commentary appears on Wednesdays.


©1997 LEON WORDEN — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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