Opinion Columns & Blogs

A colorful name fades to black

As we roll slowly into the New Year, let us pause for a moment to mourn one of the county’s great places, which passed away quietly this month.

Yes, I’m talking about Stupid Rules Lane.

Stupid Rules Lane bit the dust at a county Planning Department hearing on Dec. 5. It is now Rancho Buena Vista.

Stupid Rules Lane came into being in 1993 when Elizabeth Warren, alas, came to the attention of county planners.

They discovered that she had two houses on her driveway northwest of Paso Robles. That, in their view, made it a street. And streets, even those with a scant two homes, must have names. It says so right there in the county codes.

“They made me name my driveway,” says Warren, who now lives in Cayucos. “It was such a total aggravation.”

It was not only aggravating, but expensive. She had to go through the planning process and get permits, which of course cost money.

However, Warren got to name the street. She was so annoyed by what she considered a stupid rule that it was not a stretch to come up with the very moniker that fit: Stupid Rules Lane.

Her second choice was Dumb Law Lane. That proved unnecessary.

Warren put up a street sign letting passersby know that they were on or in the vicinity of Stupid Rules Lane.

That, however, had its downside as well. Someone purloined the sign.

And who can blame them? ’Fess up: Wouldn’t you like to have a “Stupid Rules Lane” street sign in your college dorm room, or your family room?

“That sucker went right away,” Warren recalls. “The bottom line is, you don’t want to name your street something other than Elm or it’s going to end up on some kid’s wall.”

Nevertheless, life proceeded apace on Stupid Rules Lane, until a couple of years ago when Warren sold the property. The new owner finally changed the name this year.

Rancho Buena Vista now goes into the county road name data base, along with close to 6,000 other road names.

As it turns out, naming roads is an unexpectedly complicated caper.

“The database shows the correct spelling, community, location, date officially named, any former names, and range of address numbers found on that segment,” says John Hofschroer, Supervising Planner in the county Planning and Building Department.

“We evaluate names by criteria: Is it easy to pronounce? Does it avoid any potential to be derogatory or controversial?” Hofschroer continued in an e-mail to The Tribune.

“We also make sure we understand words from other languages. Roads are usually named through public hearing — giving the neighbors and service providers a chance to speak for or against,” he wrote.

Hofschroer could not think offhand of other whimsical street names in the county, other than Easy Street off Orcutt Road.

“It’s important for it not to be funny,” he told The Tribune. “It’s all about response time, and lack of confusion” for emergency vehicles to find a location or for a panicked motorist to tell emergency personnel where he is.

Well, I can’t argue against public safety. But I’m thinking that some fanciful names will stick in the consciousness of rescuers as well as “normal” names.

How about this one: Bureaucrats Boulevard. That should be a keeper.

Meanwhile, Warren is living on Villa Creek Road in Cayucos, and Stupid Rules Lane is a fading memory.