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Devil no longer in the details at Bethel

Bethel Towers switches address to 678 for its same location, which used to carry the mark of the beast, number 666.

February 22, 2008|By Chris Caesar

As local legend has it, Bethel Towers’ bad luck with addresses began about 40 years ago.

But the apartment building’s unfortunate address of 666 W. 19th St. has finally been righted. You can now find Bethel Towers at 678 W. 19th St. No, it hasn’t been moved — no earthquake could be that powerful. City officials helped the building managers to change the address.

The apartment tower — the largest structure in Costa Mesa’s West Side — was originally conceived as a two-tower project, providing Christian-friendly living arrangements for local seniors.

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Resentment started to brew in city hall at the size and scope of the project, however, and negotiations eventually brought the plans down to a single tower — though the 18-story building still had detractors in the Planning Department, Resident Administrator Dan Wilderman said.

“The legendary part — which may not be accurate — is that since the planning department assigns addresses, we were assigned as ‘666’ West 19th St., as we are a Christian organization,” he said.

The number 666, known in Biblical lore as the Mark of the Beast, is supposed to portend the End Times in the Book of Revelations. Beyond that, the number has also taken on a broader significance in pop culture, serving as a motif symbolizing Lucifer, evil and other unholy terrors.

Most residents weren’t alarmed by the theological dimension of the address — just plain sick of the hassle that comes along with being associated with it, Wilderman said.

“It’s not so much because of the church’s beliefs, as we don’t believe the number 666 has significance in and of itself — it’s tied to a particular biblical character,” he said. “You could name your kid Benedict Arnold, but why would you want to do that?”

“I can’t tell you how many people call, or when we call to order something, and there is a long silence on the other line after we say our address,” he said. “It’s a time waster, and an embarrassment, to a degree.”

Changing a street address is simple enough, Principal Planner Claire Flynn said — residents simply need to request such a change, and, assuming a number is available, can be reassigned.

“Once we receive a letter requesting it, and if it’s available, we’ll change it,” she said. “Then we notify all agencies — post office, city, police, fire, etc.”

Still, residents were divided as to whether the change was positive or simply an annoyance.

“It’s been that way for 40 years, we have our checks printed, friends sending us packages, and all of a sudden somebody gets this cock-eyed idea,” resident Betty Gillespie said. “Next year, they’ll abolish the 13th floor I think it’s selfish, when you have 18 floors of people who are old. It’s a lot of trouble for these people to go through all of this.”

Resident Lorraine Hamilton said that, while she’s a good friend of Gillepsie’s, she had to disagree.

“When I found out, I said ‘That’s neat! That’s really good!’” she said.


CHRIS CAESAR may be reached at (714) 966-4626 or at chris.caesar@latimes.com.

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