The dilemma of Dykes Drive

To stop a street sign from perpetually being stolen, Buckhead residents want to give their quiet road a new name. Will it work?
Dykes Drive
On many days, the street signs on Dykes Drive are missing, costing the city and causing frustrations for residents.

Max Blau

For decades, ne’er-do-wells have stolen the road signs from one Buckhead street repeatedly. It’s gotten so bad—17 times in the past two years—that its residents want the street renamed.

Troutman Sanders attorney Brink Dickerson, who lives in a two-story brick house about a half-mile west of Chastain Park, has had the sign outside his residence, at the corner of Dykes and Hillside drives, vanish over and over. Some speculate it’s a tradition for local teenagers or some college prank that never gets old.

“While the city replaces it, repeatedly, it is missing a substantial majority of the time,” Dickerson says. “And when it is stolen, it routinely takes that long to replace.”

Dykes Drive is named for a former Atlanta Public Schools superintendent—William F. Dykes—who also had a high school named after him. Billy Payne went there. So did Johnny Isakson. But the school has been closed for 42 years (the building is now Willis Sutton Middle School), and so the name of Dykes Drive, at least as an homage to an obscure figure in Atlanta’s history, feels less relevant every year, especially when considering the annoyance of the chronic thefts of the signs, as well as the fact that the name doubles as an offensive term to describe lesbians. Residents are petitioning City Hall to change the street name to Tuxedo Forest Drive.

“We thought about derivatives of the current name,” Dickerson says, “but believed that anything with the current name in it would not stop the thefts.”

Atlanta City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, who recently introduced a measure to change Dykes Drive’s name, tells us that replacing just one sign costs $150, in addition to any expenses associated with sending the city’s Department of Public Works employees to replace them.

“For some reason, people find it amusing, and I can’t explain that, or their behavior,” Adrean says. “It’s become a big nuisance.”

Typically, the biggest obstacle in renaming an Atlanta street—as seen with the controversy in turning Spring Street to Ted Turner Drive in Downtown—is getting 75 percent of signatures from residents or businesses on the affected portion of a thoroughfare. According to Matthew Norman, a psychiatrist who’s lived on Dykes Drive since 2010, all nine homeowners on the street support the name change. If the local Neighborhood Planning Unit approves the proposal—which would give preservationists a chance to weigh in—it would go before the Atlanta City Council, then finally to the desk of Mayor Kasim Reed.

Dickerson, who currently chairs NPU-A, says there’s a bigger issue at play aside from the inconvenience caused by the constant thefts. “How many times does a friend or delivery person have to drive up and down Hillside Drive before he or she figures out where to turn?” he asks. Without the signs, Norman says, police officers, fire departments, or ambulances could also have trouble finding the street—which no one living on Dykes Drive wants to risk, should an emergency arise.

If approved, future residents of Tuxedo Forest Drive will have to deal with another set of potential headaches. “It will take all of us years to straighten out the changes in our addresses,” Dickerson says, “. . . and everyone’s credit rating will take a hit—because it will look like we moved within the last year or so.” But for Norman, who once joked with his wife about the city’s “stash of pre-made Dykes signs,” the issue is no longer a laughing matter.