Briefing Room: more about Westminster Avenue versus Boulevard


Hi Seal Beach!

I was very excited to receive the below email from John (who works as a Senior Engineer for a Southern California city) in response to my question about Westminster Avenue vs. Boulevard.  Although this is really interesting, I unfortunately lost my bet with Cpl. Garcia (Joe, let me know if you want a Nick’s burrito or coffee and a pastry from Crema).

John wrote:

I didn’t think I’d be able to find anything at all, but I had an extra hour on my hands and so I decided to see how good Orange County’s records are. Plus I was a bit nostalgic; I lived in western Huntington Beach for a while so I know the area—although certainly not as well as you.

Anyway, I do indeed have a very interesting answer for you. It turns out, beyond a reasonable doubt, that on both sides of Bolsa Chica Road, the road was named Westminster Avenue until the City of Westminster renamed it to a boulevard at some point between 1973 and 1991. How do I know this? I pulled maps from the Orange County Assessor’s Web page which, it turns out, is super easy to use.

First, every map I pulled in Seal Beach refers to it as Westminster Avenue. So whoever did the research for you at Seal Beach City Hall did it right. It’s interesting to see that Seal Beach City Council staff reports (also locatable online back to about 2011) often erroneously refer to it as a boulevard. Maybe now that they’ve done their research they will stop doing that. (Or, change the street name to Westminster Boulevard?)

Second, I closed those maps already but my recollection is that the maps that incorporated Seal Beach showed the road on them. This means the road existed (at least on paper) before Seal Beach was a city. So Seal Beach inherited what the County had done.

Third, there exists a legal definition of Westminster’s boundaries, but it doesn’t have a map; just a legal description. So that doesn’t tell us what was mapped when Westminster incorporated.

Now to the good part. I found two maps recorded by the City of Westminster. One is from 1973. By then, Westminster was indeed a city, but the road in question is referred to as Westminster Avenue. The other is from 1991. This one refers to the road in question as Westminster Boulevard.

If we accept both these maps as correct, that means the City of Westminster changed the name from Westminster Avenue to Westminster Boulevard sometime between 1973 and 1991. Naturally they can’t change the name of a road outside their city limit, so the legal name remained Westminster Avenue in Seal Beach.

So the reason why it’s different in the two cities is because it was originally Westminster Avenue, but was changed to Westminster Boulevard within the City of Westminster well after their incorporation. To find out why they did that, you would have to ask them. But that’s not really that hard to guess: Someone thought their main road should be a boulevard.

Happy road researching!

John, thanks so much for this great info! Ok Sun Readers, my next challenge, can anyone find out why and when the City of Westminster changed the name from Avenue to Boulevard?  Also, I emailed Google Maps and asked them to change the name back to Avenue within our city limits but haven’t heard back yet.  Does anyone have a friend that works for Google that can help us?

Keep your questions coming!  Email today and see if your question gets answered in our regular Q&A.