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Taking the name to Hart

Some want to name the OASIS Senior Center after former Mayor Evelyn Hart, while others cite that's against city policy.

September 13, 2010|By Sarah Peters, sarah.peters@latimes.com

NEWPORT BEACH — Although the soon-to-open OASIS Senior Center on top of a man-made hill with an ocean view came in $4 million under budget, one council member said a cloud will continue to hang over the building for the near future.

That is because there has been a grassroots push to rename the center after a beloved community matriarch — Evelyn Hart, a former mayor who spearheaded the effort to raise funds for the center. And there has been some pushback, as city policy forbids naming such public buildings after individuals, and some officials want that tradition upheld.

"We have this fabulous new building that the whole community really got behind," Councilwoman Nancy Gardner said. "And in a way, it's tarnished now."

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The City Council will vote Tuesday on the recommendation made by the city Parks, Beaches and Recreation Committee to honor Hart by naming a building within the facility — either the events center or one of two rooms — after her.

The commission recommendation falls short of a proposal brought forward by Newport resident Tim Stoaks earlier in the month to rename the entire facility the Evelyn Hart OASIS Senior Center.

"Why people would oppose something as beautiful as honoring an individual, who really is such a jewel to the city, is just beyond me," Stoaks said.

Councilman Steve Rosanski said that he would support the recommendation by the parks commissioners.

"If anyone deserves having something named after them, Evelyn would be at the top of the list," Rosanski said, "but we do have a policy that's in place for a good reason."

Garner, whose district includes the center, wouldn't say which way she leaned on the issue, preferring to "go in with an open mind."

Hart had raised $4.4 million as chairwoman of the senior center building campaign and contributed consistently to the center over the years, including serving as Friends of OASIS president.

However, under city policy, parks and other public facilities cannot be named after an individual.

The concern is that this would create a demand Newport Beach could never satisfy, as that there are not enough naming opportunities to properly honor all deserving residents, according to the City Council staff report.

Hart turned down a request to be photographed Monday, saying she felt the controversy did not deserve more media attention. She added that already too much has been diverted away from the beautiful new center and onto her name.

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