By Gary Walker
Activists know that in order to achieve any type of success, they must be patient, and determination has to be an important part of their vocabulary.
For two Playa del Rey nature advocates, they are close to seeing how those two virtues have served them well as they inch closer toward realizing a long-held goal.
Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents Del Rey and Playa del Rey, submitted a motion to his City Council colleagues Sept. 6, seeking their support to rename the Marina Freeway as the Ballona Freeway.
The news that Bonin had asked the council to change the name of the freeway brought cheers from Marcia Hanscom and Robert “Roy” van de Hoek, co-directors of the Ballona Institute in Playa del Rey who have been actively campaigning for the name change.
The idea for changing the name of the freeway originated at an awards dinner hosted by Hanscom’s organization five years ago to honor journalists whom they considered worthy of mention for their reporting on the planned community of Playa Vista. The institute, as well as other environmental and conservation groups, opposed the development that was approved in 2002.
One of the honorees was Los Angeles Times columnist Patt Morrison, who was sitting with Rosemary MacHardy, a Venice resident who is the co-chair of the Ballona Freeway Committee with van de Hoek.
According to Hanscom and van de Hoek, it was there that Morrison floated the idea of renaming the freeway.
Morrison confirmed that she had indeed suggested the name change to Ballona at the awards ceremony, and that she was thrilled that the City Council would be considering it.
“I would be so happy to see it named after a natural resource,” she told The Argonaut. “I’m very happy that it’s on the radar.”
Van de Hoek said he thinks about the name change every time he drives the 90 Freeway. “I think that it should be a ‘no-brainer’ to change the name of the freeway especially after you drive it and you can see the landscape and some of the features of the wetlands,” he said.
Hanscom referenced Morrison’s Dec. 6, 2008 column where she talked about how renaming the Marina Freeway could get more people interested in the wetlands and how that resonated with her.
“For me, that was so important because after working for 20 years trying to save wetlands, I know that it took years just for people to understand the word ‘wetlands,’” she recalled.
Morrison mentioned the importance of the wetlands ecosystem and the role that it plays in the environment as a nourishing, replenishing source when it functions in a healthy manner. “The Ballona Wetlands is like the Ford Motor Co. of the environment,” the columnist said. “It really is like a little factory.”
In order to rename the freeway after the ecological reserve, the state Legislature must pass a bill authorizing the name change, said Kelly Markham, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).
“City Council approval alone is not sufficient,” Markham said.
After state legislators give their approval, the bill would then go to the director of Caltrans for authorization of the new name. In addition, in order to finance the change in name of the freeway, a nonprofit organization is required to provide Caltrans with a minimum of $2,500, but that figure could increase, Markham said.
Known locally as the “90,” the Marina Freeway links Marina del Rey to Los Angeles. The freeway runs between Slauson Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard, terminating near Marina del Rey. Caltrans officials had planned for it to run through Orange County, ending in eastern Anaheim, and it was originally planned to be called the Slauson Freeway.
For a short time in the early 1970s, it was named after President Richard Nixon, who called San Clemente home. But subsequent to the Watergate scandal that drove Nixon from office, state officials quickly moved to change the freeway to its current appellation.
In 2002, Yorba Linda, a northeastern Orange County city, assumed responsibility of what was Imperial Highway, which lost its state designation. The city then renamed that stretch the Richard M. Nixon Parkway.
Bonin said the response to the possible renaming of the freeway has been overwhelmingly in favor of the proposed name. “This motion has received a tremendous amount of positive feedback and I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” he said.
MacHardy, Hanscom and van de Hoek have also contacted state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Marina del Rey) for his assistance with the possible renaming of the freeway.
According to the senator’s office, before a state highway can be given a new name, what is known as a concurrent resolution must be initiated and the Assembly and state Senate must pass it.
Another local legislator, Assemblyman Steven Bradford (D-Venice) recently had his Assembly colleagues approve a resolution calling on other cities to support changing the name of a state highway.
Assembly Bill 42 would rename State Highway 42 after baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson, who wore No. 42 as a player for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
“Mr. Robinson was an American hero in many ways,” Bradford said. “It would be a great tribute to his legacy to rename Route 42 in his honor.”
Hanscom said MacHardy has played a vital role in keeping the idea of the Ballona Freeway alive.
“While Roy and I are founders and leaders of Ballona Institute, our organization is far bigger than just us and it’s nature advocates like Rosemary others who help make things happen,” said Hanscom. “We are grateful for her support and active interest in Ballona; without such interest, Ballona would be far more vulnerable to the many threats that are raising up even 10 years after everyone thought these 640 acres were ‘saved.’”
Morrison said renaming the freeway Ballona should not be treated as simply changing the name of another freeway or honoring something that is defunct. “We need it to represent the vital commitment to the environment and our natural resources,” she asserted.
Because the Legislature will adjourn Thursday, Sept. 12 for the rest of the year, introduction for state legislation can not begin until next year.
Environmentalists’ push to rename Marina Freeway results in council motion
By Gary Walker