ore than 7,000 came together in Los Angeles to celebrate the grand opening of L. Ron Hubbard Way, a tribute to a man who is considered a true friend by millions across the globe. Describing the April 5 celebration as “The historic recognition of a man who, in all he accomplished, was a profound inspiration to people in this city – and to people everywhere,” was the President of the Church of Scientology International, Rev. Heber Jentzsch. Sharing the stage with Rev. Jentzsch were John Travolta, Kirstie Alley and officials representing the City Council, Mayor and the Governor of California.
Hailing the occasion as a testament to what can be accomplished “when so many citizens and employees of the City of Los Angeles join together in a shoulder-to-shoulder effort,” was Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan’s representative, Chelsea Cochrane. Ms. Cochrane also presented the Mayor’s official congratulations, declaring, “The work on this street and its beauty have been inspired by the Church’s founder, author and humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard. His humanitarian works are contributing greatly to helping eradicate illiteracy, drug abuse and criminality in the city of Los Angeles.”
“L. Ron Hubbard Way is a great tribute to a great man.”
– Public Works Commissioner Todd Burnett
Rev. Jentzsch also acknowledged all those who had contributed both behind and on the scene, including city employees from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Pacific Bell and the many hundreds of “conscientious staff and city workers” whose work had made the project a success.
He further extended his appreciation to the many thousands, “who through their heartfelt actions have exemplified what it means to be a friend of Ron.” As a word on those “Friends of Ron,” he explained, “this is really a unique organization in that it has no membership requirements. Anyone can join by simply stating—’I am a friend of Ron.’”
And in the spirit of that statement, City Council president and legislative force behind the project, John Ferraro, stepped to the podium and likewise announced, “Today, I am a friend of Ron.”
Councilman Ferraro went on to describe the grand opening event as “a very special day in the City of Los Angeles” and representative of the important works of Scientologists. “Councilman Richard Alatorre and I and many of us on the City Council felt that this had great possibility – working together with the community, working together with this great organization.”
The Councilman’s sentiments were particularly fitting in light of the fact that, as Rev. Jentzsch pointed out, “it was very much L. Ron Hubbard’s dream that the people in this city – Scientologists working hand-in-hand with their neighbors – would create not only a sense of community, but a model for all communities to follow.”
And that model is indeed both admirable and elegant. In addition to those specifically acknowledged by Rev. Jentzsch were the many hundreds of neighbors and local volunteers who pitched in to help lay the more than 150,000 bricks – a job normally estimated at eight weeks, but with the dedication of those hundreds, it took only four days.
Rev. Jentzsch was joined in cutting the ribbon to officially open the street by Councilman Ferraro, Ms. Cochrane, Kirstie Alley and John Travolta. The ceremony was followed by a day filled with entertainment which featured a concert by the Church’s Golden Era Musicians and renowned Australian recording artist Kate Ceberano, who traveled half-way across the globe for the occasion.
Making an Ideal Street
The story of the new street began in the fall of 1996, when the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance renaming the street, with a flood of positive letters from citizens and local leaders reaching City Hall in support.
During discussions of the renaming, Council President Ferraro summarized some of the many favorable comments received in response to the proposed change and stated that the Scientologists “have demonstrated commitment to work for the betterment of the community, involving themselves in anti-crime efforts, community clean-up and beautification.”
“The Church has been a member of this community for a long time,” said Councilman Richard Alatorre. “They are extensively involved in positive work,” he added, pointing to the social betterment efforts of Scientologists.
Alatorre cited Scientologists’ literacy campaigns and the Narconon drug rehabilitation program – a secular organization which utilizes methods developed by Mr. Hubbard and whose worldwide headquarters are in Los Angeles – as particular reasons for his support of the name change.
Fred Shaw, a local community activist who helps head up the “Boys to Men” project for at-risk youth and who has dedicated himself to teaching inner-city youth to read, was among those who attended the council meetings to support the measure. He described the benefits for inner-city youth of literacy programs utilizing Mr. Hubbard’s technology—"rescuing them from a hell that promised only drugs, prison and death.”
“The work on this street and its beauty have been inspired by the Church’s founder, author and humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard.”
Ms. Chelsea Cochran
Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan’s representative for Hollywood
“When we see the lives of young people restored, when we see the hope back in their eyes ... we think the work of L. Ron Hubbard needs to be recognized,” Shaw told the Council.
With the renaming measure passed, work on the street began. Extensive streetscape improvements, organized and executed by Churches of Scientology in Los Angeles in cooperation with the city, included repaving the street itself – the first brick street constructed in Los Angeles since the 1930s open to regular traffic. It is earthquake-proof and designed to last for decades to come.
In completing the project, Church staff worked closely with officials, engineers and other personnel from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Department of Public Works, Pacific Bell, Continental Cablevision and many other organizations.
Local residents rolled up their sleeves to participate in what was truly a neighborhood effort. Bill Sturdivant, a building manager, said, “I’ve never seen anything like it. The teamwork, the perseverance. I mean, I’ve seen a miracle come right before my eyes. Everyone figured it would take a month longer, but they said they would do it – and they’ve done it. ... I’m very proud of it. And I’m proud to be on this street and a resident here.”
“L. Ron Hubbard Way is a great tribute to a great man,” said Public Works Commissioner Todd Burnett. He described the streetscape project as “a very important story, for not only the city of Los Angeles, but for the rest of the nation – to show what determination, community support and enthusiasm can do to better the quality of life for everyone.” – T. Whittle