Place Names in Our Chapter

One estimate of the population within our chapter boundaries puts it in excess of 2.3 million people.  I think that’s a reasonable guess since the footprint is mostly urban, though we also encompass San Clemente and Santa Catalina Islands, which are relatively undeveloped.  Another former island, Palos Verdes Peninsula, also contains a lot of open space / preserve. We seem to be a Chapter of extremes of population and open space.

South Coast Chapter of the CNPS (in red)
South Coast Chapter of the CNPS (in red)

Looking at a map, I imagine waterways as native plant highways, so it makes sense to track along them.  A long stretch of the LA River runs through the chapter, from Boyle Heights near the northeast corner of the Chapter to the Port of Long Beach.  There’s hopeful restoration areas and parkland containing native plants adjacent to the La River (Golden Shore Marine Biological Reserve, Wrigley Greenbelt, Dominguez Gap Wetlands, DeForest Park, Ralph C. Dills Park, etc), but it doesn’t take much imagination to see more.  The Rio Hondo river, flowing from the Whittier Narrows (just outside the South Coast Chapter) joins the LA River  in the middle of the South Coast Chapter, near present day Lynwood.

Below is a list of the major place names within Chapter boundaries in no particular order.  We hope you’ll recognize your home, but remember that place names are not the same as city names since they can be regions or neighborhoods – even very large neighborhoods such as San Pedro (which is within the City of Los Angeles) or small ones such as Bodger Park (a neighborhood in the City of Hawthorne).  There may be errors or omissions since this was an “eyeball” effort.  Some cities or areas have the chapter border running through them, so they aren’t fully encompassed, but we make note of them anyway.  Is your area mentioned?  If not, drop us a note.

Place Names in the South Coast CNPS Chapter

Two Harbors
San Clemente Island
El Segundo
Manhattan Beach
Hermosa Beach
Redondo Beach
Rolling Hills Estates
Rancho Palos Verdes
Palos Verdes Estates
San Pedro
Harbor Gateway
Long Beach
West Carson
Culver City
South Los Angeles
Boyle Heights
Huntington Park
South Gate
East Compton
Rancho Dominguez
Signal Hill
Los Alamitos
Hawaiian Gardens
Bell Gardens
East Los Angeles
Pico Rivera
Santa Fe Springs
La Mirada


  1. One that’s baffled me for a long time is the difference between the Centinela Valley (Hawthorne / Inglewood) and the Gardena Valley. Are these actual valleys, and are they separate? Is there rising ground between them? How did Centinela get its name? And how does that compare with the former spread and flow of the Dominguez Channel / Slough, before it was given sharp concrete borders and forced to become a seasonal river with a permanent path? Most of the Dominguez Channel north of El Camino College has been improved with a bike path along one side or the other, which was planted with California native plants several years ago. That was a good thing to do, but it probably bears little resemblance to what the area looked like before being reshaped by hoof, plow, and bulldozer.

    1. The Historical Society of Centinela Valley has some interesting crumbs of information:
      “The name Centinela Valley evolved from the name Centinela Ranch when ranching activities were ending.”

      Piecing this together with a memory of a visit to the Centinela Adobe and its overlook onto the 405, I suspect the name “Centinela Valley” refers to the corridor through which the 405 flows between Westchester and Ladera Heights.

      Gardena Valley was a new term to me, but again the historical societies come to the rescue:
      “… it has also been conjectured that [The City of Gardena’s] name was derived from the “Garden Spot,” because of the fertile, green valley created by the nearby Laguna Dominguez slough and channel.”

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