Cities and counties have very different rules as to how to request a street name change. Learn about the process necessary for a name change by visiting the appropriate department for the area. If someone wants to rename a street within the city limits, he would search the website of the city. If the street is in a rural area outside the city limits, he would search the county website.
The Right Department Varies
Which city or county department is the right one to ask about a street name change varies widely. In Austin, Texas, the city’s department of transportation is the correct agency to consult. In Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles County Street Naming Committee recommends street name changes for streets in unincorporated Los Angeles County.
In New York City, someone wanting to request a change would contact the local community board. The board provides information as to how she can have a New York City street “co-named” to honor a specific individual.
Gather Enough Signatures
Often, a city requires an individual who is requesting a street name change to complete a form with a specific number of signatures. If an individual completes a street name change form, he usually must provide his first and last name, signature, address, and information that specifies whether he is a property owner, business owner or tenant. Sometimes, a requirement exists that the person signing the form live or have a business within a certain number of blocks of the street to be renamed.
Approval Required for Private Streets
Certain cities, such as San Francisco, require city approval of a street name change for private streets. Here, the city recommends that proposed name changes that affect a private street show proof of preapproval according to the bylaws of the homeowner’s association.
Who Pays the Cost?
A county or city may require the party or group that petitioned for an official road name change to purchase, install and maintain an approved road name sign. Often, if one property owner was required to submit a road name application, that owner has the primary responsibility for the initial installation of the sign. All owners and users of the road share responsibility for the maintenance of the sign.
What the Process Entails
The process to change a street name differs by area. In Austin, the process to change a dedicated street name can be initiated by a city council member, city department or a property owner with property abutting the street to be renamed. The party proposing the name change must submit an application, pay a processing fee, remain aware of property owner and governmental entity notifications, and receive approval from the city council in the form of an ordinance.
Which Types of Names Qualify for a Change?
Cities are typically very strict about allowing streets to be renamed. A city may share its rules as to whom a street can be renamed for in its city code. Portland, Oregon, only allows city streets to be renamed after a prominent person. The prominent person must be a real person who has been deceased for at least five years. The person must have achieved prominence as a result of his or her significant, positive contribution to the United States and/or the local community.
A Limited Number of Applications
A city or county may process only one street renaming application at a time and place additional applications on a waiting list. The city or county usually processes applications of street name changes in order of submission.
- Austin, Texas: Street Name Changes
- San Francisco Public Works: Establishing Street Names
- New York City: Street Naming
- County of Sonoma, California: Road Naming & Addressing
- Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning: Street Naming Committee
- The City of Sarasota, Florida: Development Application Forms
- NYC Community Board 6, Brooklyn: Street Co-Namings
- Manhattan Community Board 12: Street Co-Naming, General Guidelines
- Manhattan Community Board 7: Guidelines for Secondary Street Naming
- City of Portland, Oregon, Charter, Code, and Policies, Chapter 17.93: Renaming City Streets
- Contact a property developer and ask that consideration be given to naming a new street after the honoree. Developers often are free to select the names of new roads and streets created in new housing developments.
- Remember other street signs and area maps are subject to the change as well.
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.