Photo by Myles RobinsonTwo years ago, Anaheim city officials began cleaning up Jeffrey-Lynne, a mostly Latino, working-class neighborhood that sits in the shadow of the Disneyland Hotel. Six low-income apartment buildings were razed and replaced with less congested dwellings. Streets were widened, a pedestrian walkway was added, and security gates were erected.
Later this month, Anaheim will unveil the much-anticipated centerpiece of its renovation project: the Hermosa Village Community Center. That's no typo. After a long and difficult debate, city officials convinced members of the neighborhood that dropping the name "Jeffrey-Lynne" would give the locale a new lease on life.
Originally known by its inhabitants as Tijuanita, or Little Tijuana, the neighborhood intersected by Jeffrey and Lynne streets is located a few blocks east of Disneyland. Because of its high crime rate and proximity to Orange County's No. 1 tourist attraction, city officials had long sought to tear down the barrio and replace it with something closer to a suburban, gated neighborhood.
Given its reputation and the fact that one local gang had seen fit to name itself "Jeffrey-Lynne," the final step in the city's redevelopment project was to rename the area—Hermosa, which is Spanish for lovely.
"The residents felt that changing the name would create a new beginning and remove the stigma of a gang-infested neighborhood," said Anaheim community activist Josie Montoya, whose group United Neighborhoods operates a food program in Jeffrey-Lynne that will soon be housed in the community center. (Along with United Neighborhoods, the Los Amigos Children's Program—which provides reading classes and field trips for local youngsters—the Boys & Girls Club, and Anaheim's Parks & Recreation Department will have offices there.)
The Jeffrey-Lynne intersection will soon disappear completely. City officials plan to rechristen Jeffrey, Michelle and Audry streets as calles del Sol, de las Estrellas and del Mar, and there are plans to rename Lynne in the future. As with Hermosa Village, the names of the new streets were selected by a committee made up of city officials, representatives of the project developer, the Irvine-based Related Cos. of California LLP, and local residents. Until last week, Jeffrey-Lynne resident Francisco Ceja served as the chairman of that committee. He said renaming the neighborhood was originally his idea.
"I brought that idea to the committee as a way to get rid of the past," Ceja said. "I thought it was a really good idea. I asked the other tenants on the committee, and they thought so, too.
"Hermosa Village was the city's idea," Ceja added. "It's close to being a Spanish name, so it was kind of a middle ground—the city got to choose the name of the community, and the tenants chose the names of the streets."
According to Ceja, the tenants on the committee wanted Spanish names for both the neighborhood and the streets. That led to a protest by the Anaheim Police Department, which thought that Spanish street names would confuse their officers.
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"The police said that Spanish street names were reserved for Anaheim Hills and that putting Spanish-sounding names in the city's flatlands was going to be a problem for them," Montoya recalled.
So the city proposed names like Pine Street and Oak Street. "There were two meetings held to discuss this, and the residents finally outvoted the police," Montoya said. "These were names that we like and feel comfortable with."
"The project is done, and there aren't any outstanding issues left now," he said. "The new community center is beautiful. But what makes me really happy is that almost all of the tenants that used to live here have moved back. That's the important thing. At the beginning, we were concerned about how many dislocated families could move back into the project area. Now that the people are back, we're happy."