Ocotillo Square sign toppers unveiled Wednesday in Cathedral City

CATHEDRAL CITY — As a young girl, Nancy Ross lived in a neighborhood named Eastmoreland. She identified with that name. It provided her with a sense of place, and a way to relate with others from the neighborhood with an “almost automatic friendship.” Now as a councilmember, she wants to provide some residents with that same sense of place with new one-of-a kind street sign toppers.

“Feeling a part of something is important for all of us and having a branded named neighborhood is one important way,” Ross told Uken Report.

The neighborhood in question is known today by several names, “The Mile” or “The Square Mile” or the “South City” but no formal name has ever been attributed to the neighborhood, according to Ryan Hunt, communications and events manager for the city. It is located in District 2, which Ross represents.

“By adopting a formal name … and installing sign toppers, this will give the majority-Latino neighborhood a sense of place, helping to foster a real feeling of community,” Hunt said.

The new name of this vibrant neighborhood is now anointed “Ocotillo Square.” The boundaries are to the South, Dinah Shore: to the North, Ramon Road; to the East, Date Palm Drive; and to the West is Cathedral Canyon. Street sign toppers were designed by Barbara Swain.

In April 2022, Ross and volunteers walked the neighborhood, speaking to residents and placing flyers at each house inviting them to two different neighborhood meetings at Ocotillo Park. Based on the comments received at those meetings, Ocotillo Square was the favorite name of the residents there.

In October, Ross hired students from the Cathedral City High School Choir to walk the  neighborhood in teams, each with a chaperon, knocking on doors and asking if having these street sign toppers in the neighborhood would be something they would support or if they would prefer not to have any. Of those who responded, 191 households out of the 197 visited supported the sign toppers.

Councilmember Nancy RossRoss said she wrote an “in-kind” check to the Cathedral City High School Choir for $1,500. In exchange for that generosity about 15 students volunteered to go door to door.  Additionally, she had 10 adult volunteers who chaperoned the youth the entire time, even May LeRoy, the Cathedral City High School choir director, brought a car full of kids and remained with us the whole time, Ross said. The youths carried pictures of the sign topper prototype.

It was during this community research that we all began to realize how important this could be to the residents, Ross said.

Sign Toppers Provide Residents Sense of Place

Councilmember Nancy L. Ross

“When the kids went door to door, people would open their screens and hug them,” Ross said. “They would ask questions and show real enthusiasm. I saw this level of delight when I was chaperoning, too. I am so thrilled that the neighborhood shared the same vision I did. I can’t wait to see all the signs installed, knowing I had a part in this neighborhood’s branding.”

When complete, there will be a total of 21 sign toppers in the neighborhood. The estimated cost is $3,000 and will come out of Ross’ District improvements allocation, (sometimes known as discretionary funds.)

Ross, who exudes joy, excitement and energy, said she enjoys every minute in this area of her district more than any other place in Cathedral City.

She described the familial joy of multi-generations in the park, laughing and playing from early in the morning with the older people working out until late in the evening with the teens skateboarding. She said she sees people exchanging phone numbers before they leave.

“This kind of camaraderie can’t be bought, but it can be elevated,” Ross said. “Give someone a sense of place, belonging, partnership and amazing things can happen.”

You might help a neighbor you might not have previously known very well, but now you all live in Ocotillo Square, so they are one of yours. You are keeping your lawn nicer because you like those neighbors, and they keep theirs up. You might pitch in on a neighborhood clean-up because these are “your people,” and this is your neighborhood.

“Having that sense of place is a high priority to me and in my research, I discovered article after article from around the nation of people doing just what I had wanted.  One of those articles stated that, “Neighborhood sign toppers can be so beneficial. Not only do they help foster a sense of community and promote neighborhood branding, but they increase security and make neighborhoods more desirable.”

The unveiling of the street sign toppers was the culmination of months of work and meetings, finding a designer, getting an OK from the Arts Commission and City Council.

“They asked some really good questions,” Ross said. “There was no free ride because I am a peer. Once I had accomplished all of those thumbs up, I turned it over to Deanna Pressgrove at our Public Works department. She has street signs made for the city and knows just who to call.”

Whether other districts or neighborhoods get street sign toppers remains to be seen.

“That will be dependent on each district and their representatives, but I truly hope so,” Ross said.







Image Sources

  • Nancy Ross: Nancy Ross
  • Street sign toppers: Ryan Hunt, Cathedral City