Renaming of Eaton Wash Park to Viña Vieja Park

At its November 7, 2005 meeting, the City Council voted to change the name of Eaton Wash Park to Viña Vieja Park.  The following summarizes how the change came to be.

The original name Eaton Wash Park was attached to the park sometime during early planning, presumably because it is adjacent to Eaton Wash.  Although it did not go through a formal naming process, the name became embedded in the formal documents of the city.   Of course, there are several other parks no less adjacent to the wash, and several also have Eaton in their name.  Eaton Blanche park is just south of Del Mar, Eaton Sunnyslope is just on the other side of the wash and Orange Grove Blvd., Eaton Canyon Nature Center is north of New York Drive.

At a Recreation and Parks Commission meeting in 2004 where a change to the park plan was being considered, several neighborhood residents heard a speaker requesting the park be named after a relative.  This led to the question – why shouldn’t the neighborhood the park was originally intended to serve choose the name?

We were encouraged by our city councilman’s field representative, some city staffers, and members of the Parks and Recreation Commission to bring our neighborhood together to try to figure out and propose a better name for the park.

The desire was to change the name of Eaton Wash Park to something which is:

1.  Less confusing.

2.  More historically significant to our specific neighborhood.

It was desirable that the new name be picked in time to go through the approval process before money was spent on park signage and various park references are updated with its opening.

As a result, we collected proposed new names over a period of about two months including at our February 12 meeting and at the park’s groundbreaking ceremony.  A list of these with some reasons for and against are in the table below.

An original favorite was La Viña because of its historic accuracy.  La Viña was the name historically used by residents to refer to the area where the park will be.  The northern portion of our neighborhood, including where the park will be, was a vineyard before the portion now east of the power lines was turned into housing in 1947.  For a few years dairy cows belonging to a dairy located where Eaton Sunnyslope park is now were allowed to graze in the area.  After the dairy moved out, the land was vacant until the plant nursery came in the early 60s.  Albert Barrios remembered that during the 50s some area residents still sent their children to play in the vacant “La Viña”.  Even those who hadn’t lived here when it was vineyard could still find remnants of grape vines there.

But due to the potential confusion with the controversial Altadena development of that name, we wanted to find something else.  La Viña Vieja was proposed – old vineyard.

At our March 12 meeting, we discussed the proposed names.  La Viña Vieja had become the front runner.  Vivian Perez, our wonderful 77 year lifetime resident and already the third generation of her family, then suggested that the “La” could be left off of La Viña Vieja, making a shorter and unique name.  So we added Viña Vieja to the list.  When we voted it was overwhelmingly our first choice.  We also took a vote for an alternative choice.  The alternative choice was Vineyard.

As of April 6 we wrote a letter submitting Viña Vieja to the City Manager to begin the approval process, which is described here: City of Pasadena Park Naming Policy.

In subsequent months, we learned some city staff had received an e-mail requesting a different name and a letter in opposition.   To verify that there is substantial support for the new name beyond just those who attended the March meeting, we took names and addresses of supporters at our Neighborhood Fair on June 4, 2005.  41 adult attendees indicated support, one said she didn’t care and didn’t wish to indicate support, and two said they thought something else would be better but could not remember what it was.  Subsequently another 5 signatures were collected, but we didn’t make a concerted effort and didn’t even gather those of all the attendees of the March meeting.  At our July meeting we explained our choice and selection process to the writer of the e-mail who said she had not been aware of our efforts.  She agreed Viña Viejo is a meaningful choice, though a bit of a tongue twister.

An indication was received in late August that the rename request was being researched by the city’s Public Works department.

The subject of renaming the park was on the agenda of the Recreation and Parks Commission meeting of October 4, 2005.  The staff report prepared for the commission recommended naming the park Viña Vieja.  It also presented requests that had been made for the names Twombly, Alice Frost Kennedy, and Orange Grove.  At the meeting the staff also reported subsequently receiving a communication requesting Eaton remain in the name and presenting some alternatives.  Staff reported receiving one e-mail from an identified resident urging them not to approve any name containing Viña  based on concern that this would somehow lead people to come to Del Vina street rather than to the park entrance and thereby cause an increase in traffic and crime in the neighborhood.  Diana Twombly spoke to the commission requesting the park be named after her grandfather Fred Twombly and showed a videotape about his life.  Laura Ellersieck spoke about how and why East Eaton Wash Neighborhood Association chose Viña Vieja and handed in the support petition collected at the neighborhood fair.  There were no other speakers.  In deliberations, commissioner Alderson reported receiving “passionate” e-mails against the name Viña Vieja.  He did not provide any detail other than that the main objection seemed to be concern over leading people to the area of Del Vina street.  He also indicated he didn’t personally like the name but said that wasn’t important to his decision.  He also said he had been unaware of the rename effort until it came to the commission agenda and felt there had not been enough community discussion.  After hearing this the other commissioners were also concerned that perhaps there had not yet been enough community outreach and discussion.  They discussed with staff what notification had been made to the community and also discussed the possibility of delaying a month.  Staff discouraged delaying.  The commission was very aware that once named, a park name is rarely changed and lasts a very long time.  After considerable debate the commission voted 4 yes, 1 no, 1 abstain (3 were absent) to forward the staff report to the City Council for action.

Renaming Eaton Wash Park to Viña Vieja Park went to the City Council on November 7, 2005.   Here is the text of the agenda report.   At the meeting, Todd Holmes, the city’s Landscape Architect presented the city staff’s recommendation.  Our area’s councilman Steve Haderlein presented strong support and arguments for changing the name.
Kathy Vacio and Manuel Vargas spoke to the council in support explaining why it was meaningful and important to the neighborhood.  Victor Gonzalez, Susan Chu, Laura Ellersieck, and Ruth Ellersieck also came to show and lend support.  We know there were some supporters who wrote letters, but whether or not the council saw them was not disclosed at the meeting.

Two opponents spoke to the council.  One said she’d lived in a house backing up on Eaton Wash for 50 years and had never seen a vineyard.  She said she wanted a more euphonic name and suggested Monte Vista because of the mountain view.  Of course, it is now about 60 years since the vineyard was removed, so she hasn’t been there long enough to remember it.  And Monte Vista doesn’t conform well to the city naming policy.  Another speaker, Tim Brick, urged not changing the name because doing so would dishoner Benjamin Eaton, who’s ranch was in the area and who was instrumental in first distributing water and irrigation.  The argument was made that there are already many recreational facilities named for Eaton and no dishonor or disrespect is intended.  In the end, the council voted unanimously to change the name.

Proposed Name Reasons For Reasons Against
La Viña Historic name used by residents to refer to the area where the park will be.
The northern portion of the neighborhood, including where the park will be, was a vineyard before the portion now east of the power lines was turned into housing.  Until the plant nursery came in the early 60s, area residents would still send their children to play in the vacant “La Viña”.
Name of controversial Altadena development
Vineyard English translation.
La Viña Vieja Variation on historic name which indicates it is old. And indeed, it was an old vineyard. Distinguishes it from controversial Altadena development.  Locals can leave the Vieja off. Not the exact term that was used for it by area residents.
Viña Vieja Shorter then La Viña Vieja, and more obviously different then La Viña.  Our longtime residents say this is an acceptable variation. Not the exact term that was used for it by area residents.
Chihuahuita  (sp?) Historic name for the southern portion of our neighborhood
Chihuahua also happens to be a dog breed.
How is it spelled?
Chihuahua also happens to be a dog breed.
East La Viña Was there a west?
Lamanda Park Historic name for the area to the west of the wash.  There was a Lamanda Park train depot and a citrus packing plant. Confusion with Lamanda Park library.
The park area was not actually in Lamanda Park.
Titleyville May be a historic Anglo name for neighborhood.  Titley Ave is now essentially a driveway south of Foothill to the 210 freeway.  But maps from about 1915 appear to show it continuing north through what later became an elementary school then the continuation high school and now PCC, and then roughly where Avocado Ln and Avocado Ave are now.  Some residents remember a Titley market at the corner of Foothill and Titley Ave. Who was Titley?
Mountain Vista The park should afford a nice mountain view. Very generic. Most of Pasadena has a nice mountain view.
Wisteria Vineyard Someone said wisteria vines were here They were grape vines. Wisteria is a legume (same family as peas).
Orange Grove Park It is on Orange Grove Confusing, with two other parks just the other side of the wash, also on Orange Grove. And Orange Grove is a very long street, better known on the west side.  And there is an Orange Grove park in South Pasadena.
Las Lunas
Nearby street Do not want to draw attention of outsiders to neighborhood pedestrian entrance.
Coyote There have been, and surely will continue to be, plenty of coyotes in the park area. Increasingly true throughout Pasadena.
Powerline For the Edison powerlines that have been and will be an obvious feature. Not very attractive.
Name of person who donated land western portion of park will occupy. * Recognize the donation Facts of donation are in dispute, and naming after people is now much harder to get approved than it once was.
Alice in Wonderland Park or
Alice’s Wonderland Park
Alice being the donor after whom the dog park is named.
Eaton Coyote It’s a pun. Although fun, this isn’t serious.
Eaton-Orange Intersection of Eaton Wash and Orange Grove.
It’s a pun too.
There are two parks on the other side of the wash which are also at this intersection.

* Not clear currently who the donor was.  According to city attorney’s office, the current park configuration lies on land obtained from Frank and Mary Silva in 1954 and from Louis and Eliza Blatz, Elma Koch, and Hilda Reichel in 1933. Although we have heard it stated in the past that the land was donated to the city for parkland, the city attorney’s office says that it cannot be determined whether the parcels were donated to or purchased by the city.   An examination of available deeds shows they were in return for what are now small sums from $10 to $150. Back in the 30s that was a lot of money.