A trick question: Do you know where you live?

Do you know where you live? Yes, of course you live in the United States, or California, or Long Beach. But if you drill down deeper into the name bestowed on your own niche of the city it becomes a more dicey question.

Especially familiar with their neighborhood’s name are those who reside in the city’s larger and geographically delineated or enclosed areas, like the Alamitos Peninsula, or more modern developments like Marina Pacifica, Bixby Hills and Spinnaker Cove.

Then there are people who say with confidence that they live in, say, Bixby Knolls. But, do they? Are they sure they don’t live in Bixby Highlands or Bixby Terrace, or New Bixby?

This three-bedroom, one-bath home on North Marshall Way (in the shadow of St. Barnabas Catholic Church) in Bixby Terrace is listed at $659,900. Listing photo.

And people who live by the Traffic Circle may say they live in the Traffic Circle area. Well, which Traffic Circle area? North of the Traffic Circle is the Artcraft Manor neighborhood, and moving clockwise from there you’ll find the neighborhoods called The Circle Web, Historic Zaferia Village South, Historic Zaferia Village Northeast and then you’re on the hill in the Signal Hill Southeast neighborhood.

The areas north of Marine Stadium, which used to be limited pretty much to Alamitos Heights, now includes the newer areas of Village on the Green and the high-dollar-spelled ‘hoods of Bay Harbour and Windward Pointe.

North Long Beach neighborhoods tend to attach their names to schools in their area: Addams, Grant, Hamilton and Madison are just a few Northtown neighborhoods.

I was well into adulthood before I discovered I had squandered much of my boyhood years in La Marina Estates. For me it was “just east of Cal State Long Beach” or the somewhat wrong-side-of-the-tracks-sounding “foot of Bixby Hill.”

The naming of micro-neighborhoods is an ever-evolving thing and its genesis can be found in local history, real-estate offices, neighborhood associations, nearby landmarks and popular culture.

Wikipedia has a list of scores of Long Beach neighborhood, and the city also keeps a roster and a map. But as large as they are, both lists are incomplete because every year a few more pop up, or split off, or disappear.

Gentrification sometimes plays a role. Cities like San Francisco and New York have upgraded the names of neighborhoods to connote a bit of a nomenclatural spiffiness with such changes as SoBro to indicate the rise in status of the former South Bronx, while San Francisco underwent an entire renaming program of neighborhoods that included changing Western Addition to NoPa (North of Panhandle) and Financial District to the apt name of Barbary Coast. Even our little sister town to the north has changed the notorious name of South Central Los Angeles to the less-threatening South Los Angeles.

There’s no agency overseeing the names of many of Long Beach’s neighborhoods. When an area attains a name, it’s often an organic process that may arise from residents feeling that their community is in need of a jazzier remake, such as the descriptive but unimaginative name South of Conant for an East Long Beach area that encompasses the homes between Conant and Spring streets and Clark and Woodruff avenues, which some residents have been rallying to adopt SoCo.

A three-bedroom, two-bath house in the South of Conant—or SoCo—neighborhood is listed at $699,900. Listing photo.

That’s just another example of the abbreviated portmanteau that’s been a trendy way to name a neighborhood since Manhattan’s SoHo (SOuth of HOuston Street) became a thing in 1962. About eight years later, Tribeca, the ultra-hip trapezoidal TRiangle BElow CAnal Street was born in Lower Manhattan and over the ensuing decades spawned the official historic neighborhoods of Tribecas West, East, North, South and Tribeca South Extension.

At least just as often, a neighborhood is named for its own homeowners’ or residents’ association. A notable and recent example is the active neighborhood dubbed AOC7, for its boundary streets of Atlantic, Orange, Cherry and 7th, but it’s also true of Rose Park, El Dorado West and Willmore.

In simpler times, when neighborhoods were slightly less self-aware of themselves, the Association of Realtors carved the city into areas to make searching for homes easier, said Realtor Mike Dunfee. “Area 1 was Naples, Area 4 was Downtown, Area 8 was Signal Hill. Lakewood Village was Area 29, Park Estates was Area 36,” and so on.

“Later, some neighborhoods became subcategories, like the Cliff May Ranchos in East Long Beach, and Bluff Heights,” said Dunfee. “And then some Realtors began naming some neighborhoods for marketing purposes or to fine-tune their searches.”

Notably among these is the Keller Williams agency, whose website is perhaps the handiest way to discover or ascertain the name of your particular neighborhood. That site is where you can discover such little-known Long Beach enclaves such as Acacia Lane, Silva-Bentree Junction and Cedar Rose.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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