By Lynne Bronstein
The three-block street near Sorrento Market previously known as Bush Way has been re-named for Albert and Ursula Vera, former owners of Sorrento Market.
The City Council was unanimous in voting for the re-naming.
Albert Vera, Sr., was an Italian immigrant who arrived in the U.S. in 1950 at the age of 15. He gradually learned English and started a food delivery service that grew into a storefront grocery, Sorrento, at 5518 Sepulveda Boulevard.
Over the years Vera became involved in Culver City affairs and ran for City Council. He served three terms and was Mayor. Even during his years in local politics he continued to work in his store and often donated food to charities and local events.
Ursula Vera was born in Cologne, Germany in 1936. She also emigrated to the U.S. and after a brief first marriage that yielded a son, she met Vera while he was on one of his deliveries.
Ursula was characterized by all who knew her as a warm and generous person. She worked at Sorrento from 1971 on and was known to some for her sense of humor as well as her generosity.
Albert Vera passed away in June, 2010 from a sudden coronary. Ursula Vera struggled for several years with health issues and passed away in May 2011.
Because of what the Veras have meant to Culver City there has been a movement to honor them. It was originally suggested the Culver City Senior Citizens Center be named for the couple but that plan seems to have been put on ice for the time being.
Instead, the idea was put forth to re-name the small Bush Way street after the Veras. In January 2013, the Council discussed this idea and sent it to staff.
Staff found that the Veras qualified for the naming honor because their contributions met the criteria stated in City Council Policy 2006-01, for which the individual(s) would need to have made “extraordinary contributions to the community, which have been consistent and continuous over a considerable period of time” and “be deceased for a period of at least one year prior to the initiation of the naming process.”
Stephen Hadland, publisher of the Culver City Observer, spoke to the Council regarding the proposal. Reading from his editorial published earlier this year in the Observer, Hadland said of the street re-naming: “This is a nice start but does not begin to honor them in a way that fully represents all they did for Culver City, and humanity.”
Hadland enumerated the charitable contributions made by both Albert and Ursula, noting that “if there were more people in the world like Ursula and Albert, there would be no person hungry and no one homeless.”
He hoped the city would move ahead with the original plan to name the senior center after the Veras in addition to re-naming the street.
A letter from Albert Vera, Jr., son of Albert and Ursula, was read into the City Council meeting record. Vera Jr. thanked Culver City and said his family would be happy to accept the honor in memory of his parents.
It was the wishes of the Vera family, as well as many letters of support that Council members said they had received from the community, which gave them the resolve to re-name Bush Way.
“This is a good first step,” said Meghan Sahli-Wells, noting that the move to name the senior center for the Veras might still be made in the future.
Mehaul O’ Leary and Mayor Jeff Cooper both cited Albert Vera as their “mentor” who got them involved in politics. “I bought my first house about 27 years ago near Bush Way,” said Cooper. “Politics at that time was far from my mind but meatball sandwiches were on my mind.”
Going over to Sorrento, he recalled, he became friendly with Albert Vera and credited Vera with teaching him about “civic pride.”
The four street signs on Bush Way will be replaced soon with signage featuring the new name. The total cost to the city is estimated to be $150 per sign.