San Diego’s Street Names

April 1, 1964

The Journal of San Diego History
SAN DIEGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY QUARTERLY
April 1964, Volume 10, Number 2
Ray Brandes, Editor

By H. K. Raymenton

When the city fathers began to name the streets of the new San Diego they gave numbers to the north-south ones and letters to the east-west ones. Unimaginative as this system may be it is a good one, for a person in search of an address need only be able to count and be familiar with the alphabet. The numbers could go as far as the city limits, but as they did not start far enough north to letter they practically ran into the bay when they got to the letter L.

In going north from A Street they adopted an alphabetical series using the names of trees, from Ash to Walnut. They evidently stopped there under the impression that X, Y, and Z offered no tree names. They need not have, for there are a number of perfectly good trees in X, Y and Z, including Xylopia, Yew and Ziziphus. Then they chose an avian category and went west with birds from Albatross to Lark.

In Loma Portal the names of authors were used to designate streets, beginning with Addison and working north through the alphabet. Here they were not stymied with X, Y and Z for literature considerately supplied them with Xenaphon, Yonge and Zola. After Zola they began all over again with Alcott and went on with twelve authors. There seems to be some sort of fatality about the letter L. The lettered streets now stop at L; the birds come to an end at Lark; and the second series of authors cannot get beyond Lytton. Some of the authors selected owe their fame more to the fact that they have given their names to streets rather than to their contribution to literature. They were very obscure, yet they usurp the places that could have been occupied by writers far more worthy of being memorialized. It makes one wonder what the city fathers read.

In Pacific Beach a half-hearted and wholly unsuccessful attempt was made to employ the names of gems and semi-precious stones. A start was made with Agate, but Turquoise, Sapphire, Tourmaline and Opal, as well as a few non-gemmeous streets, were interposed before reaching Beryl. From Chalcedony to Hornblende there is an alphabetical sequence but it is frequently interrupted by other streets.

In the southern part of the city there is an alphabetical fragment of seven streets honoring men whose names have been connected with California history – Harrison, Irving, Julian, Kearny, Logan, Marcy and Newton. In the same quarter a beginning was made at using the Greek alphabet, but a stop was made at Eta.

Authors were commemorated in streets, but not musicians nor artists. It would have been possible to compile an alphabetical series from Apollo to Wagner; from Abbey to Whistler. The names of great military figures could have been used, beginning with Alexander and going on to Wellington, or even to the end of the alphabet, if necessary, with Xerxes, Ypsilanti and Zrinyi.

Trees have given their names to streets, but not flowers nor fruits. The former would have yielded a list from Anemone to Wakerobin; the latter, from Apricot to Watermelon. The Air Capital of the West really should have honored aviation with streets named alphabetically for airplane parts, from Aileron to Wing. It is strange that, as San Diego is on the ocean and owes much of its prosperity to the fishing industry, it never occurred to the nomenclators to try an ichthyological category. They could have begun with Albacore and gone on through Bonito and Cod to Whiting.

By the. time the Zoo was established, most of the streets in its vicinity had been named. If they had not been, the names of animals could have been adopted, starting, naturally, with Aardvark and running through the alphabet to Wombat, Walrus, Weasel or Wolf. The X-Y-Z obstacle could even have been overcome. It is true that there is no animal whose name begins with X, but the suborder that includes armadillos is Xenarthra, and there are several other zoological terms that start with this difficult letter. The alphabet is easily concluded with Yak and Zebra, Zebu or Zibet.

When the State College was built on the outskirts of the city, a chance was missed to play with classical history and mythology, thus giving the area an academic atmosphere. The first street of the series could have been Achilles or Acteon, Aphrodite or Andromeda, Ares or Ariadne; B would have supplied Bacchus, Berenice or Bucephalus. From Cadmus straight through to Wotan, a classical dictionary has a host of impressive names that could have been employed. Even X, Y and Z are solved with Xantippe or Xuthus, Ygdrasil or Ymir, Zenobia or Zeus.

 

Birds have been used and mammals have been here suggested, but there remains the field of entomology. Streets could be named for insects, from Ant to Wasp. There are also the mollusks, from Abalone to Whelk. If it were desired to memorialize with streets the aborigines of America, a complete alphabetical list could be compiled from Abnaki to Zuni, even including Xuala and Yaqui.

The possibilities are almost inexhaustible. As San Diego continues to expand, its developers may be at a loss for names of the new streets. They have only to pick a category and romp through the alphabet. The names they would choose might be better than many now used. They could not be worse than some.

If some of the foregoing suggestions seem a bit facetious, they are intentionally so. Many cities have honored with streets those whose names occupy prominent places in their histories, men who have aided to make the cities what they are. San Diego has been signally remiss in this particular. Not even Father Serra is so honored. Cabrillo has a freeway, but Viscaino is ignored. Alonzo Horton’s name has been given to a street so short it is difficult to find even on a map, let alone on the ground. It should have been given to a main thoroughfare. One with a knowledge of San Diego could supply a long list of names of men worthy of such recognition. We need a Marston Boulevard and a Davis Avenue. The name Haraszthy Street, which succumbed to a highway interchange, should be revived. There should be streets bearing the names of Crespi, Carrillo and Crossthwaite, of Derby, Fremont, Remondino, Spreckels, Whaley and a few dozen more – not in outlying developments, but in the city. If this should involve the renaming of some streets, it could be done. Other cities have done so. Why not San Diego?