A work crew plants a tree at the site of Tongva Park on Wednesday.  (Photo by Daniel Archuleta)

A work crew plants a tree at the site of Tongva Park on Wednesday. (Photo by Daniel Archuleta)

CIVIC CENTER — The multi-million park across from City Hall will be named Tongva Park in honor of the Native American tribe that populated the Santa Monica area hundreds of years ago.

The City Council on Tuesday rejected the official recommendation of Palisades Garden Walk, the long-standing working title of the park, on the grounds that the reference to the Tongva people would cause visitors to the park to learn more about the history of Santa Monica and its original inhabitants.

“It won’t just be a spectacular park as a place, it will be learning opportunity,” Councilmember Gleam Davis said.

Councilmember Bob Holbrook was the sole no vote. He was concerned that people would not recognize the significance of the name and its relation to the city.

“I have lived here 70 years and never heard the word ‘Tongva’ until that meeting,” Holbrook said, referring to the Oct. 2, 2012 meeting in which the City Council first considered naming the new park.

At that meeting, the council requested that the Department of Community & Cultural Services undertake an extensive public outreach process to solicit names for the park.

That included several community meetings and a survey that was completed by 550 people living both inside and outside of Santa Monica.

City officials said those who participated did not give a single, clear preference for names put on a short list by the council in October, but instead submitted 166 new suggestions ranging from the obvious (Civic Center Park) to the whimsical (Sandcastle Park and Endless Summer Garden) and even the politically charged (New Bum Park).

That led city planners to stick with the original moniker coined during the planning process — Palisades Garden Walk.

It became clear that having a name so similar to the landmarked Palisades Park could become confusing, however. A gentleman who paints in the nearby Palisades Park came to the meeting with an example of his work, requesting that the council not change the name of the park.

Tongva Park did receive 128 votes, leading council members to go with that suggestion.

Not all in favor of honoring the past could get behind “Tongva,” however.

A contingent, including Dr. Gary Stickel, an archeologist trained at UCLA, argued that the correct name for the tribe was actually “Kizh,” and that “tongva” referred to a stone used by the Kizh people to split seeds.

Representatives of Chief Red Blood Anthony Morales, the chairman and tribal leader of the Gabrieleño/Tongva of the San Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians said that “Tongva” was the accepted and more-used name.

Construction on the 6-acre park began in spring of 2012 and is estimated to be completed in late August 2013, city officials said.

 

ashley@smdp.com