Rejecting the weird and the unoriginal, the City Council picked a new name for Santa Monica's newest park Tuesday night: Tongva Park, after the first inhabitants of Los Angeles.
Tongva Park replaces placeholder name Palisades Garden Walk for the 6-acre park that will connect Main Street to Palisades Park. It is one of two parks under construction in the city's civic area, and when it opens this fall, will feature native plants, play areas for children and hills with ocean views.
The name "will be a spectacular learning opportunity," said councilwoman Gleam Davis. "It is an unfamiliar word."
Councilman Bob Holbrook cast the dissenting vote, which was 4-1, saying "I’ve lived here over 70 years and never heard the name." He said he preferred a "simple" name, like The Commons or Central Park, "but all the great park names have already been used."
There are 500,000 Native Americans who live in Los Angeles, Wendy Teeter, the Fowler Museum's curator of archaeology and a Venice resident, told the council.
But "we have a hard time getting people to understand the history of Los Angeles," she said.
When it last discussed a new name in October, the council was unable to reach a consensus. It asked for the community's input, but that didn't help much—there was no clear favorite and some of the suggestions were pretty weird ("Spaceship Adventure Park" and "Planetarium of Eden," for example).
POLL: Help Rename Palisades Garden Walk
Santa Monica resident Paulina Sahagun told the council in the fall that naming the new green space Tongva Park would lead to "teachable moments." She said teachers could tell students, "this is where the original people of this land stood."
"We need to set a precedent," she said. "Too much development has happened and we forget [the history.]"
This isn't Santa Monica's first homage to the Tongva.
Moomat Ahiko, a street that runs below the Santa Monica Pier, connecting Ocean Avenue to Appian Way, is a Tongva word that means "breath of the ocean," said Davis.
The Tongva, "meaning People of the Earth," were later called the Gabrielino.
The Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians disavows Tongva as the original name of the Indians associated with the San Gabriel Mission. They believe Kizh is the proper name.
More than half a dozen speakers at Tuesday night's meeting urged the council to choose Tongva.
Correction: This article was updated at 3:15 p.m. to correct a statement by Wendy Teeter on the number of Native Americans living in Los Angeles.