The city of Temecula will rename a local park after retiring Councilman Mike Naggar.
The Temecula City Council, with Naggar recusing himself, voted unanimously Tuesday, Nov. 10, to rename Margarita Community Park, which contains the Margarita Recreation Center, as Michael “Mike” Naggar Community Park.
The city will also rename the public pool planned for the Margarita Recreation Center as “Liam’s Place,” after Naggar’s son, Liam Naggar, “who has been the inspiration to councilmember Naggar’s strong advocacy in support of the special needs community,” according to a city staff report on the resolution to rename the park and pool.
“After learning of Liam Naggar’s autism diagnosis in 2008, councilmember Naggar championed many inclusionary accomplishments in the areas of recreation, education, workforce, facilities, parks and community engagement,” according to the staff report.
The name change resolution was drafted at the request of Councilmember Matt Rahn.
Naggar logged off the city council’s virtual meeting ahead of the remaining members’ vote on the resolution, but he expressed his gratitude to the city council before leaving.
“My family was honored that councilmember Rahn brought this forward and that the council is even considering this – to say honored is really an understatement,” Naggar said.
The three Temecula council members who remained at the meeting shared their praises for Naggar, who has served on the Temecula City Council since 1999.
“Mike’s commitment to the city and his heart really changed our city, and even at a statewide or even a national level became an inspiration for other communities to do the same with their special needs communities,” Rahn said of Naggar’s contributions to Temecula’s special needs population. “And it’s not just that, I mean he’s left an indelible mark on Temecula in so many different ways, and so I can’t think of a better way to have him be recognized (along with) his family for all that they’ve contributed to over so many years.”
Rahn said while he is the council member who originated the resolution for the name change, he wanted to share credit with his council colleagues.
“Although my name is on the recommendation, this is something that we all carried forward,” Rahn said. “I know, Maryann (Edwards), we had basically talked about the same concepts and things, so I’m honored to have my name associated with it but it’s something that I know we all truly believe.”
Councilmember Zak Schwank shared an anecdote from his family’s first meeting with Naggar.
“We’ve been in Temecula for 20 years, and our family’s first interaction with Mike was, he was just driving through our neighborhood and spotted my daughter, my very young daughter riding her bike and my wife riding with her and he pulled alongside and just asked them how they were doing,” Schwank said. “Like, here’s a councilmember of the city just (asking), ‘Is everything OK? And how are you?’ And that really struck a chord with us and really spoke to Mike’s heart and how he genuinely cared about the community.”
Mayor Pro Tem Maryann Edwards, who was first elected to the city council in 2005 and served with Naggar that entire time, reflected on his tenure.
“I’ve known Mike for, well, forever, and in fact he beat me in our first bid for election to the city council, and I think that was 1999, and how fitting that I get to be here today to honor him in this way,” Edwards said. “He has done so much when you think parks and playgrounds and things like that, but in addition to that, he helped to garner the support of local businesses, restaurants who are now offering special hours or more secluded spaces within their restaurants so that special needs families can go in and have it be a little more quiet for children who don’t respond well to noise or things like that, and same thing for our theaters and so many things like that.”
The name change was not without opposition. Two members of the Temecula community sent statements to the city clerk to be read into the record, registering their objections to renaming Margarita Community Park after Naggar, with one referring to the retiring councilmember as “Mike ‘socialism and liberals suck’ Naggar.”
Along with Rahn, Naggar was a proponent of a symbolic resolution in 2019 calling socialism and communism a “serious threat to our republic and representation described in our Constitution.” The resolution was controversial with some in the community.
“I am respectfully opposed to change the Margarita Community Park to Michael Naggar Community Park simply because Councilmember Naggar does not embrace the residents as one community,” the second public commenter said. “Councilmember Naggar consistently submitted divisive and biased resolutions for council approval, putting our city on a national racist spectrum. There is no place for any city landmark showcasing the name of those who caused division. Shame on anyone who supports this idea.”
After the reading of the two public comments, Rahn, Schwank and Edwards all voted in favor of the name change.
Will Fritz can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.