El Sereno neighborhood name dispute ends up in court

A group of El Sereno residents have filed a lawsuit against the City Council over its decision last year to recognize a section of the neighborhood  as “Rose Hills.”

The City Council in September adopted a motion by Councilmember Jose Huizar to install five blue-and-white Rose Hills community signs.  But the legal action filed by El Sereno resident Jorge Garcia and the El Sereno Historical Society says the council should have never taken such a position  and wants the council to rescind its decision. “There is no substantial evidence to support the City’s determination that there is, or ever has been a community by the name of Rose Hills,” according to the lawsuit filed in L.A. County Superior Court.

Rose Hills, according to the city,  is located in the western edge of El Sereno  but many people would have a difficult time distinguishing the difference between the two communities. The exact boundaries of Rose Hills, which appears to spread across the blocks and hills west of Huntington Drive and Mission Road, remain unclear. Not even the council motion provides boundaries, just five locations – including Huntington Drive and Collis Avenue and Soto Street and Mission Road – for the signs.

Some Rose Hills signs had appeared a few years ago but there’s no record of the City Council voting on the issue and it’s not clear who removed the signs.

Some residents, including neighborhood council member and activist Anthony Manzano, have long insisted that Rose Hills needed to be recognized as an existing community. During a presentation before a council committee last year,  Manzano  presented a history packet on Rose Hills with newspaper clippings dating back to 1915 naming the Rose Hills community as part of Los Angeles.

Manzano sees the historical society lawsuit as a stall tactic.

“What is going on now is another attempt to interrupt progress,” said Manzano with regards to El Sereno Historical Society. “It is more of a way to continue as they have, with obstacles and objection, because they didn’t get their way.”

El Sereno Historical Society’s most recent newsletter describes Councilmember Huizar as biased in what they  refer to as the division of El Sereno’s community and an unfair expansion of Rose Hills. “Councilmember Jose Huizar and this Rose Hills group did not provide any set boundaries,”  the newsletter says.

The lawsuit, filed last November,  says that a report from the Education and Neighborhood Committee did not have enough evidence to support a renaming of the area, nor did the report present an environmental or community impact statement.

Whether  the lawsuit delays the installation of Rose Hills streets signs remains to be seen. It’s not clear whether this is the first time the city has been sued over a community name.

West L.A. Neighborhood Council Chairman Jay Handal is familiar with neighborhood council politics and does not see this lawsuit going far because there are so many specific guidelines that are followed when naming an area.

“My personal opinion is that the City Elected officials have the right to do an area naming. I am sure that they would not have done what they did without rather extensive stakeholder input.”

A pre-trial conference has been scheduled for early February.

By Nathan Solis

Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis stories, reviews and photos at Smashed Chair.

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