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Virginia Park Could Be Renamed After Local Civil Rights Leader

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By Jorge Casuso

April 13, 2023 -- The City Council early Wednesday morning was poised to kick off a process to rename the Pico Branch Library at Virginia Avenue Park after Santa Monica entrepreneur and Civil Rights activist Lloyd C. Allen.

But after a brief discussion, the Council directed the Recreation and Parks Commission and the Library Board to also entertain a second option.

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"I think we should consider renaming Virginia Avenue Park for Mr. Lloyd Allen," Councilmember Oscar de la Torre said. That, he added, "would be more impactful."

Allen -- who Mayor Gleam Davis said is "older than 100 but still spry and entertaining" -- played a pivotal role in the creation of the 9.5-acre park that opened in 1975.

He was the first Black member of the Recreation and Parks Commission, where he served in the 1960s and early 1970s and became Santa Monica's first black millionaire with the janitorial supply store he owned for more than 50 years.

And he pushed -- and picketed -- for businesses to hire more Black employees and arranged for Dr. Martin Luther King to speak at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.

Former Mayor Rex Minter, who died in a plane crash on Santa Monica Beach in December at age 95, "advocated" for the park to be renamed after Allen, de la Torre said. That, he added, would be more fitting.

"The state of Virginia at the time of the Civil War had the most amount of enslaved individuals," de la Torre said.

"I think that we should really think about that, that why it is in the Pico Neighborhood where the largest concentration of African Americans live, the park is named Virginia Park."

The proposal to rename the Pico Branch Library, which bears the name of Pio Pico, "the last Mexican governor of California," would be removing "the name of one person, to put in another person," de la Torre said.

De la Torre's proposed amendment to add a second option was accepted as friendly by Davis and the other co-sponsors of the original motion, Councilmembers Caroline Torosis and Jesse Zwick.

The final motion requesting the advisory bodies to consider both options and report back to the Council within 60 days was passed by acclimation.

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