Somewhere between Montecito Heights, El Sereno and Monterey Hills sits the community of Rose Hills. Or at least that’s what many of the residents who live there have long insisted. Meanwhile another group of residents, lead by the El Sereno Historical Society, have been equally vocal that Rose Hills does not and has never existed.
The long-running debate recently escalated and spilled over into City Hall and a neighborhood church as the City Council prepares to take a vote that could help decide whether or not there really is a Rose Hills.
It would not be the first time a section of El Sereno has been renamed. The area around Cal State L.A., for example, is now “University Hills” while “Hillside Village” is the name applied to area around Wilson High.
The El Sereno Historical Society’s most vocal member, Jorge Garcia, explains – a number of times – in person and on the society’s website that Rose Hills does not exist, and that actions of the Rose Hills’ community activists lack community participation.
“The great majority of the community has been left out of most of the important issues and decision making, especially when it comes to the creation of sub-communities,” says Garcia via email.
Residents of Rose Hills see it differently. Community activist and neighborhood council member Anthony Manzano lives in Rose Hills and has researched its history. He claims that it’s one of the oldest communities in Los Angeles and should be recognized as such. There is already a Rose Hill Recreation Center and a Rose Hill Park.
Manzano sees the issue not as the creation of a sub-community but of an official stamp recognition courtesy of five, city-approved neighborhood signs that would be placed around Rose Hills. The City Council is scheduled to vote on Wednesday, June 26, on a motion introduced by Councilman Jose Huizar to install those Rose Hills signs.
At this point, the push and pull of the issue hinges on these signs. Manzano claims that there were Rose Hills signs (pictured at top) before but that they were stolen or vandalized.
“This is what they don’t want,” said Manzano, leaving “they” unnamed. “Once we get our signs we’re official.”
But the boundaries of Rose Hills, which appears to spread across the blocks and hills west of Huntington Drive and Mission Road, remain unclear. Not even the council motion provides boundaries, just five locations – including Huntington Drive and Collis Avenue and Soto Street and Mission Road – for the signs.
At a recent Education & Neighborhoods Committee meeting at City Hall, two dozen people from Rose Hills made public statements on agenda item No. 8, the motion to install signs in Rose Hills. They wore red roses in their lapels as they shared their stories.
“I’ve always known it as Rose Hills,” said Raul Campos, who grew up in the area. “We just want to be recognized as a community.”
Manzano presented a packet on all his findings to the committee, a thick dossier of historical clippings, maps and signatures from community members.
Also attending was Garcia of the historical society. When he goes up to speak he begins to pantomime a map of El Sereno with his hands and it becomes clear that he cares about his own community. Garcia goes on past his allotted two-minutes, stating signs don’t define boundaries, that nobody had a chance to voice their opinion.
Committee chair Bernard Parks looked up from Manzano’s dossier packet that includes signatures in support of the Rose Hills recognition. “Are those 500 signatures not accurate?” Parks asked Garcia.
“There are 40,000 in El Sereno. How can that represent what the people want?,” Garcia fired back.
An amended motion in support of the signs is eventually approved and forwarded to the full City Council for a final vote. But the story doesn’t pause there.
“The meeting you saw was really one-sided,” said Garcia via email.
Garcia claims that Councilman Huizar, who represents El Sereno, has given his support to the residents of Rose Hills unfairly. “Otherwise, this would never have happened,” Garcia says.
I asked Garcia last week what his next step will be but he replies that he cannot give away his strategy.
Then, last Sunday, I receive an email from a Rose Hill activist saying that members of the historical society members are petitioning parishioners who are leaving mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe – Rose Hill.
It’s chaos. When I arrive a group of women are crossing the street to get away from the men with clipboards, and two people have video cameras on me – one from the church who claim that there are trespassers and another from the Rose Hills community. A woman with a camera from Our Lady of Guadalupe approached a man in the parking lot to ask who he represents. “I’m with Rose Hills. Please turn that off.”
A flyer being handed out states that a “group of people” want to change the community’s name to Rose Hills (plural) from Rose Hill (singular).
Women and children who walk out of mass don’t understand what this all means, and are lectured in Spanish by two men with clipboards. The men claim they are concerned citizens of El Sereno who wish to educate the church members on the upcoming name change. They have a handful of signatures and allege that church members were threatening to call the police.
Joe Manzano, Anthony Manzano’s father, points out that the flyer is trying to involve the church in the debate and confuse church members to make uninformed decisions.
“The church is not involved with this,” Joe Manzano adds. But in the packet that Anthony Manzano presented to the neighborhood committee, Father Nelson Trinidad from Our Lady of Guadalupe – Rose Hill signed his name in support of the Rose Hills signs.
It appears that this last ditch effort to sway minds about the Rose Hills signs was more confusing than effective. The City Council will have the final say on Wednesday.
Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis stories, reviews and photos at Smashed Chair.