By Aaron Blevins, 8/18/2011
WeHo Weighs Names for LGBT District
The City of West Hollywood will put further thought into renaming a portion of the city, “Historic Boystown.”
During Monday’s meeting, the West Hollywood City Council voted unanimously to have city staff do more research before designating a name to the portion of Santa Monica Boulevard between La Cienega Boulevard and Doheny Drive.
The area has been considered the center of the gay community for the last 40 years, and the city has sought to recognize its history through renaming the area since April.
“You have to recognize that it’s been a haven for gay men for a long time,” Mayor John Duran said.
Although that area has been informally known as “Boystown” for years, Duran said some city officials believed that changing the name to “Historic Boystown” would “take the bite out of it.”
However, some residents took offense. Duran said some felt that the new name would exclude some people within the LGBT community or would be generally demeaning.
He referenced parts of Southern California, such as Koreatown, that have names that could be considered exclusive.
“And that’s what we have here,” Duran said.
He said that, according to recent Census data, 35 percent of the city’s population is a part of the LGBT community. Of that 35 percent, 90 percent are gay men, Duran said.
The mayor said the businesses and housing in the area caters to gay couples. In fact, just six percent of West Hollywood families have children, Duran said.
The area “really lends itself to singles,” he said.
In hopes of reaching somewhat of a consensus, the city is looking into other possibilities that would encapsulate the historical facets of the city’s gay roots. The name “Historic Boystown,” though, is still a possibility, Duran said.
“We may come up with other nomenclature that is more appropriate or suitable,” he said. “I think we’re all trying to keep an open mind.”
Duran said the city would contact various stakeholders for input, including residents, businesses, organizations and those well versed in the city’s history.
“Ultimately, it would come back (to the council) for a final vote,” he said.
The mayor said the history of that area of West Hollywood is important to the LGBT community. In past years, it has been host to same-sex marriages, protests and LGBT rights celebration rallies.
Therefore, the city would like to promote “Boystown” as a LGBT tourist destination with a welcoming atmosphere, Duran said. And that would include more than just signage.
“For example, I would like to see an art component,” Duran said, adding that he would like to promote the area through other infrastructure such as street poles and sidewalks. “There are various elements of the boardwalk we can use. I would really like us to be creative.”
Potentially, the council’s decision on this matter could mean more tourism, he said.
“It means additional hotel dollars, restaurant receipts” and lounge patrons, Duran said, adding that the overall idea is to further “beautify” a distinct part of West Hollywood.
“Hopefully people will stay engaged. Let’s just stay open here,” he added.
Mayor Pro Tempore Jeffrey Prang said it is difficult to take a stand on this matter before the city completes the research process. He does, however, agree that it is important to brand and market that particular area of West Hollywood.
“We want to keep it strong and vibrant,” Prang said. “How we refer to it … that’s subject to discussion.”
He said there is no timeline for a decision.
“Obviously, it’s something we’d like to move forward with as soon as possible, but there’s no sense of urgency,” Prang said.