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The History Behind LA Street Names

Street signs on the corner of Woodman Place and Woodman Avenue.
Woodman Place is a short road that cuts across Woodman Avenue, a main road in Van Nuys.
(Caitlin Hernández
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What do you think about when someone mentions Pico Boulevard? For me, the first thing that comes to mind is the famous Roscoe’s Chicken ‘N Waffles that served that street for 30 years until the owner closed its doors last month.

For you, it may be a wide range of restaurants, neighborhoods and landmarks since it stretches from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles.

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How Pico Boulevard Got Its Name

But do you know the history of how the 15-mile street got its name?

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My colleagues Brian De Los Santos and Caitlin Hernández talked to Mark Tapio Kines, a film director, producer and writer who turned his fascination with the history of L.A. street names into a personal research project. His nickname is the “King of L.A. Streets."

In the How To LA podcast, Kines tells reporters about the historical significance of street names like Pico Boulevard, which was named after Pío de Jesus Pico, the last governor under Mexican rule of Alta California before California became a state.

But did you know that Pico was supposed to be 13th street? Superstitions behind that number led to it being named after the former governor.

“He was really a fascinating character, he and his brother owned pretty much the entire San Fernando Valley at one point,” Kines said. “So obviously somebody in the 1850s was very superstitious, and either Pico was considered a good luck charm, or he was considered an unlucky character.”

We’re here to help curious Angelenos connect with others, discover the new, navigate the confusing, and even drive some change along the way.

In 1869, Pico ended up selling the area around his namesake street to landowner Isaac Lankershim in order to fund a new hotel. Lankershim, Kines said, got the better end of the deal.

I’m sure you're wondering, wait…what happened to Pico?

“He lost a lot of money to gambling debts and to real estate swindles,” Kines said. Because of those bad business deals along with some ruinous natural disasters during his time, Pico ended up penniless.

In 1914, Pico Boulevard was named.

If you’re interested in learning more about the avenues, boulevards and roads you see on your daily commute, check out Caitlin’s story and Brian’s podcast episode. It’s a part of a recurring segment called LA Explained about the parts in L.A. that are easy to take for granted, but make us wonder…why in the world does this thing exist like this?

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Do you have questions about how L.A. works? Ask Caitlin by clicking on the purple button at the end of the article.

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Wait... One More Thing

How To Raise An Urban Chicken

A man stands inside a wood-framed chicken coop and adds water to a container as various colorful chickens roam the wood chip and seed filled floor.
Offer Grinwald to tends his homemade chicken coop in the backyard of his San Fernando home.
(Ashley Balderrama

Given the current prices of eggs, you might have entertained a thought or two about raising your own chickens. I mean, backyard fowl is not that unusual in Los Angeles — they provide delicious fresh eggs and they are kinda cute, if a little noisy.

But even if you are a self-proclaimed connoisseur of fine, organic eats who loves creatures of all types, caring for chickens has its challenges. There is a LOT to think about, according to the latest article from LAist’s food team.

First, does your city even allow backyard chickens? FYI Beverly Hills has banned them and Santa Monica has a cap (at 13 total, including roosters). Second, what kind of chickens do you want (there are several different breeds)? Then, once you get those chickens, how will you deal with the poop? These are serious questions. There is also all the stuff that you need — space, a chicken coop, food and water, and a plan to keep them cool when the weather is hotter than one of Dante’s Circles.

If this hasn’t scared you off yet and you are interested in what it takes to raise chickens, please read this to learn everything you need to know. Cluck cluck.

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