Where the Neighborhood Has No Name

We’ve written before on whether a child’s first name has any effect on life outcomes, and whether street names have any effect on housing prices. What if a neighborhood changes its name?

Ask the residents of South Central Los Angeles. Actually, you can’t, because technically the neighborhood no longer exists. The name “South Central” was wiped from official maps of the city five years ago to improve the reputation of an area that had become synonymous with violence and crushing poverty after the 1992 L.A. riots.

But erasing the neighborhood’s name may have had some unintended consequences, the Los Angeles Times reports. Investment seems slow to come to this neighborhood with no name, and residents of this nowhere place say they’ve lost the sense of community they used to have.

In the case of a neighborhood, could it be that having a bad name is better than no name at all?

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  1. wb says:

    There has been a huge battle in Portland, OR over which street to rename Cesar Chavez. I’m frankly offended that they renamed Portland Blvd. to Rosa Parks Way. I would LOVE it to be named after a LOCAL African-American achiever. But it irritates me to rename a street after someone who has no local ties, when we have plenty people with direct ties to Portland who could and should be honored. We already have an MLK Blvd. At least Cesar Chavez was famous on the west coast.

    I loved them renaming Front Ave. to Naito Parkway, after the Japanese-American family who have invested so much in the city even after having to relocate to Utah during WWII.

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  2. Chris says:

    It helps if everyone has the same idea of what a place name means. On a somewhat larger scale than neighborhoods, everyone in Western New York knows that “upstate” ends around Utica but everyone in NYC thinks “upstate” starts at the edge of NYC (or maybe the top of Westchester or even Dutchess County) and extends to cover the rest of the state.

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  3. Paul says:

    In Baltimore you have real estate agents trying to change the name of the Pigtown neighborhood to the generic name of Washington Village.

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  4. Charles says:

    Chris (#18) – I thought “upstate” started at 96th St… 😉

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  5. Jake says:

    @15: It’s the “North Shore” when talking about new construction and entertainment. “North Side” is generally reserved for talk about blight and shootings.

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  6. mohan says:

    I used to live in the Maryland suburbs of DC, where neighborhoods happily borrow the prestige of their more affluent neighbors. Driving northwest from Georgetown (probably one of the nice neighborhoods in all of DC) up to the Maryland border, you hit Bethesda, a VERY nice suburban town. Adjacent to Bethesda is the pricey suburb of Potomac. Continue up rt 355, and you hit Rockville, again, a very nice town, but it didnt have the cachet of Bethesda. What did the developeres do? The southern end of Rockville now calls itself “North Bethesda”!?!?! I almost broke a rib laughing when I heard that one. I lived in a townhouse on the western end of Rockville where they started referring to themselves as “North Potomac”. Again hilarity ensued. I started referring to both faux-burbs as “Not Potomac” and “Not Bethesda” to remind myself of where I was. I kept waiting for Baltimore to start referring to itself as “North District of Coumbia”.

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  7. Tudza says:

    Pete Townshend

    “The White City, that’s a joke of a name

    It’s a black violent place if I remember the game

    I couldn’t wait to get out but I love to go home

    To remember the White City fighting”

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  8. anne, wrigleyville, lakeview, chicago says:

    levitt, you should know chicago prides itself on its neighborhood names, you probably could do some interesting studies on the west/south loop areas…

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