Park, community center renamed after longtime North Long Beach leaders

Two North Long Beach landmarks will now bear the names of longtime community leaders after the City Council on Tuesday approved renaming the city’s first pocket park and the community center at Houghton Park.

The community center was renamed the Doris Topsy-Elvord Community Center at Houghton Park after the city’s first Black councilwoman, who served as vice mayor of the city twice in the late 1990s before becoming a Harbor Commissioner.

The South Street Parkway, which sits a block east of the Los Angeles River, was renamed the Dan Pressburg Parkway for the 35-year resident of the Deforest Park neighborhood in North Long Beach, who was celebrated for his charitable acts and activism in the community.

The City Council praised Topsy-Elvord for her decades of service to the city. While the city has guidelines that try to steer the council away from naming public buildings after living people, the council said she was deserving of the honor, and one member said this is an example of why that rule should be removed.

“When you have great people like the councilwoman and the legacy that she had, I see that it’s an exception to the rule, but there have been a lot of exceptions lately,” Councilwoman Stacy Mungo Flanigan said.

Topsy-Elvord turns 90 this month.

For Pressburg’s part, Councilman Rex Richardson, who represents the area where the community center and parkway are, laid out multiple letters of support from neighborhood groups, and he listed the accolades of Pressburg, which included his running an annual Christmas event to help needy families and helping to create the parkway itself. Pressburg also owns the house next door to the parkway.

“This small lot used to be dumped items, trash, and other things you wouldn’t want next to your home,” Richardson said. “Dan and a lot of residents of Deforest Park started cleaning up this little patch of dirt and ultimately it turned into a nice, green parkway and it’s transformed into a place.”

In an unusual turn of events, the request to rename the park after Pressburg did not receive a vote from the city’s Government, Personnel and Elections Oversight Committee before being sent to the full council. Instead, the renaming was requested directly from Richardson’s office.

The council voted 9-0 to approve the Topsy-Elvord Community Center naming, and 8-0 to rename the parkway after Pressburg.

Councilman Al Austin, who questioned the amount of community support and the process that the Pressburg renaming underwent during a March meeting of the committee, did not vote on the item Tuesday night.

“I would feel a lot better if we would have a little more encouragement from the community understanding that this is something that is in the heart of a neighborhood,” Austin said in March. “Maybe a neighborhood association, maybe some local residents.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Pressburg’s wife, Holly, read a letter from their son, Aaron Pressburg, who recounted his father’s hard work to build up the parkway into its current state, which includes a fence, trees and open space.

“Over thirty-plus years, my father has bagged garbage, fought to get fencing, planted trees, flowers, and I’m pretty sure he’s mowed the grass once or twice in that parkway,” the letter said.

“He never asked for recognition for it. He never said, ‘This is mine,’ even though he took pride looking out of his window and seeing something he helped create,” the letter continued. “He never said someone should pay him because the parkway is its own reward, a swath of beauty near a historic landmark.”

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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