CITY HALL — A move to give an official name to the 6-acre park being built across the road from City Hall stalled at the Recreation and Parks Commission Thursday night amid concerns that the decision was being rushed.

The Recreation and Parks Commission was the first public agency to get a crack at recommending a name for what is now known as the Palisades Garden Walk, or as staff referred to it, “the park across the street.”

The $46.1 million park was designed by the internationally-renowned James Corner Field Operations group, and will be paid for with redevelopment agency money.

Commissioners could only weigh in on the 6-acre section bounded by Main Street, Civic Center Drive, Ocean Avenue and the I-10 Freeway.

The section in front of City Hall, now called Town Square, will be named separately through a process with the Landmarks Commission.

City staff brought forward survey results from two community workshops from November 2010 and February 2011 respectively, as well as the results of two online surveys that were posted for a month each.

However, with a final tally from the February meeting showing the eight top vote getters separated by only three votes at most, the ballot counts were anything but conclusive.

That left commissioners, aided only by the comments of three community members that attended the meeting and a City Council-approved naming policy, to sift through the options.

They also took the opportunity to throw out names of their own, including People’s Central Park and the Seaside Green.

One suggestion put forward by Commissioner John Petz was “The Ken,” after the late Mayor Ken Genser.

Commissioners, in large degree, pooh-poohed many of the suggestions that had been voted on during community workshops, particularly Arcadia Park, which they felt evoked the City of Arcadia, and anything with the name “arroyo” in it, which struck them as generic.

The appeal of Arcadia Park, according to Tom Cleys, who came to speak in favor of the name on behalf of the Santa Monica Conservancy, lies in the historic significance of one Arcadia Bandini Stearns de Baker, the woman who donated the land for Palisades Park and the land on which the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration campus sits.

“This area is central,” Cleys said. “It’s our Central Park, Balboa Park, Griffith Park, and its naming needs to be commensurate with the importance of the space.”

The argument didn’t fly with members of the commission, who worried that the name would confuse tourists and would require a history lesson to fully understand.

“What is currently Palisades Garden Walk is bigger than one person,” said Commissioner Dryden Helgoe, who initially favored People’s Central Park or Santa Monica Central Park for the site.

While some commissioners bandied about ideas, at least one took issue with the proceedings from the get-go.

Commissioner Richard McKinnon, who makes his living as a marketing consultant, told his fellow commissioners that if he were doing this as an exercise for his business, he would have started with a name even before designing the park.

“It strikes me that to make the identity of the park is what we should have done first,” McKinnon said, emphasizing that the name did not have to be decided on by the end of the evening.

The difficulty, as he saw it, was that none of the commissioners had any experience in developing a brand for the park, which would then invest identity in the space.

“I would never gainsay you if you came to me and said, ‘This is the law,’” he told Chair Neil Carrey. “Here, we’re struggling.”

In the end, the commission chose to table the discussion until August, in the hopes that more suggestions from the public would come forward, and that commissioners could come to the table with a more clear sense of direction.

The group did, however, express a hope that paths cutting through the “park across the street” could have individual names as well, both for the purposes of honoring individuals of importance within the community and to get the paths noted on Internet searches and Google Maps.

ashley@www.smdp.com

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