California Fool's Gold -- A Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography map and a snapshot of Los Angeles

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 17, 2014 01:26pm | Post a Comment

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's hand-painted map of Los Angeles County communities and neighborhoods

Yesterday I finished painting a large map of Los Angeles County. On it I attempted to depict every Los Angeles County community and every Los Angeles neighborhood. It was also important to me to include the two Channel Islands that are part of Los Angeles and to depict them where they actually are in relation to the rest of the county (and not shrunken and stuffed into a box in the corner -- a fate with which Hawaii and Alaska are intimately familiar). 

I first started writing about exploring Los Angeles neighborhoods in October 2007. I began writing about Los Angeles County communities a month later. I expanded to Orange County in 2010, in defiance of ignorant protestations based on stereotypes which, as with those leveled against Los Angeles, have a increasingly little resemblance to reality. I tagged all of my pieces California Fool's Gold in homage to the late, great Huell Howser, a fellow immigrant from the Upper South and explorer of the real California. I'd love to be able to map and explore other countries, cities, and neighborhoods too though and there is literally nowhere that I won't go. Have easel, will travel.

Then again, if I never get to leave Southern California, I'll be OK; it's an endlessly fascinating and supremely diverse place. If you find yourself visiting here, may this map hopefully inspire you to not limit your adventures to the usual (no offense, Hollywood & Highland, the Hollywood Sign, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive, the Sunset Strip or the Citadel Outlet Mall).

There are at least 13,000 years of human history here that you will hear nothing about if you take a guided bus tour of celebrity homes and just watch "reality" television. There are nearly ten million people in Los Angeles with no connection to the entertainment industry other than as consumers. There are 21 regions (kingdoms in my mind) in which 133 languages are spoken that are neither English nor Spanish. The only way to really get to know Los Angeles is to explore it. 



The mountainous Angeles Forest region is home to fewer than 5,000 humans who live alongside black-tailed jackrabbits, black bears, bobcatsCalifornia ground squirrels, coyotes, deerdesert bighorn sheep, desert cottontail, elklodgepole chipmunksMerriam's chipmunks, mountain lions and if they're ever reintroduced -- fingers crossed -- grizzly bears. 3,069 meter tall Mount San Antonio (popularly known as "Mount Baldy" because of its treeless and frequently snow-capped peak) is the highest point in the county and completely dwarfing the tallest human-made structures of any so-called vertical cities. Angeles Forest is one of the few regions where our otherwise mostly-excellent public transit network is virtually non-existent. 


While people frequently describe Los Angeles as being desert, most of it (the Los Angeles Basin, at least) is actually chaparral. The Antelope Valley is desert though -- the Mojave to be precise -- although it's far from a lifeless place. It's home to the fifth and sixth most populous cities in the county (Lancaster and Palmdale) as well as some of its smallest towns (Juniper Hills, Largo Vista, Neenach, Llano, and Pearblossom). In spring the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve attracts visitors with its seemingly endless expanses of bright orange blossoms... and some of those visitors drive a bit out of their way to experience an off-key rendition of the Gioachino Rossini's William Tell Overture by motoring over the grooves cut into a section of Avenue G between 30th and 40th Streets.


There are eight islands in California's Channel Island archipelago. Only two, Santa Catalina and San Clemente, are part of Los Angeles County. Their combined area is larger than that of Little Rock, Omaha, Tampa, or Salt Lake City. Like the Galapagos, the Channel Islands are one of the richest marine biospheres in the world. The village of Avalon, on Catalina, is a popular tourist designation. San Clemente is currently under the control of the US Navy, which makes visiting there a bit more difficult. 


Los Angeles was famously described as being "72 suburbs in search of a city" and even Los Angeles champion Reyner Banham only begrudgingly discussed it in a footnote of his seminal work, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies. The conventional view of Downtown is that it was once a glorious place with charming (and since flattened) Bunker Hill and largest concentration of picture palaces in the country, the Broadway Theater District. After the 1930s or '40s everyone except City Hall moved elsewhere and it was mainly notable for being the home to the homeless (Skid Row) and a few punks and artists (the now yuppified Arts District). Then, about a decade ago, the empty buildings were converted to lofts and DTLA (as its typically referred -- to my annoyance) was reborn.

In truth there was always a there there and the mainstream's disinterest in part worked in the favor of the elsewhere-persecuted transgendered and gays of The Run, the Mexican and Central American merchants who kept the Historic Core alive with little help from outside, and the night shift-oriented Seafood District, Flower District, and Produce District, which still feed Angelenos' stomachs and souls. Of course, Downtown is also home to Los Angeles's most well known ethnic enclaves, Chinatown and Little Tokyo, as well as the popular, kitschy Olvera Street in the genuinely historic Pueblo.


The Eastside
, located East of Downtown (and on the eastbank of the Los Angeles River), was historically home to Latinos and the "not-quite-whites" (such as ArmeniansCatholicsJews, Italians, Orthodox Christians, Russians) who were restricted by the white Protestant City Hall establishment from living in (and being in after dark) much of the rest of the city. For many decades its been the heart of Mexican America -- especially the neighborhoods of East Los Angeles (aka East Los). 


It was only in 1906, after Los Angeles annexed an area along the San Pedro Bay, that the greatest West Coast city actually became a coastal town. The Harbor is also home to the second largest city in Los Angeles County, Long Beach, and the neighborhood with the lowest elevation in the county, Wilmington. It's home to the enclave of CambodiatownToday the Harbor is the fifth busiest port in the world (the four busiest are all in East Asia) which gives it a hugely distinct coastal character at odds with the image of Ray Ban-wearing boardwalk rollerbladers and sand volleyball players. 


Although Hollywood is often used as a synonym for both the entire city of Los Angeles and the mainstream American film industry, in reality it's only one of Los Angeles's many regions, and one in which fewer "Hollywood" films are made than in places like Burbank, Culver City, or Studio City. Although most of Los Angeles's theaters are dominated by mainstream, international (both arty and commercial) or revival fare, Hollywood is also home to the Los Angeles Filmforum, founded in 1975 and is the only local organization in Southern California dedicated exclusively to avant-garde, experimental, and progressive media art. Finally, while millions are annually lured to Hollywood's rather well-known (and unimpressive) tourist traps, the region does have its neighborhoods with more measurable cultural value like Little Armenia, Thai Town, and Theater Row


Along with Hollywood and Midtown, the Mideast is located within Central Los Angeles. Historically, before the city expanded westerly, its neighborhoods of Silver Lake and Westlake were the westernmost ones in Los Angeles (its western border then formed by Hoover Street). However although the local gangs still represent the Westside, not many of the region's other residents do. It's also home to the city's largest and fifth largest city parks (Griffith and Elysian) and the vibrant enclaves of Filipinotown and Little Central America. The region is also well known for its live music venues (Bootleg Theater, The Echo and Echoplex, Pehrspace, and Satellite) and the Echo Park Film Center.


Los Angeles is mostly residential although it's anchored by the bustling Miracle Mile and Wilshire Center neighborhoods. Midtown is also home to the city's most-densely populated neighborhood (Koreatown) and is known for its museums (the A+D Museum, CAFAM, George C. Page MuseumLACMA, and Petersen Automotive Museum). In addition to Koreatown it's home to the small enclaves of Little Bangladesh and Little Ethiopia


Northeast Los Angeles
's neighborhoods, centered along the Arroyo Seco, have long been associated with the region's Arts & Crafts movement and that bohemian spirit is still much in evidence, despite the spread of gentrification. Even the Jack in the Box in Highland Park conforms to the Craftsman aesthetic. Historically it's been thought of as part of the greater Eastside although a distinct "NELA" identity began to emerge around the 1970s (when the NELA 13 gang formed in Highland Park). 


Northwest County is home to one of the county's smallest villages (Gorman, Green Valley, and the Lake Towns) as well as the third largest city in the county (Santa Clarita). Santa Clarita is home to the highly-regarded California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) but is probably better known by tourists for its Magic Mountain theme park.


The Pomona Valley
straddles easternmost Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire to the east. Its largest (and titular) city, Pomona, is home to the Los Angeles County Fairplex. Beautiful, woodsy Claremont is one of the county's primary cultural hubs (although the drag races and beer-filled twinkies of the Fairplex are a sort of culture too) thanks in large part to its consortium of colleges. 


The San Gabriel Valley
is home of more Asian-American majority communities than anywhere else and are sometimes collectively referred to as the Far Eastside. Thanks in large part to the large numbers of mainland Chinese, Filipinos, Hong Kongers, Indians, Japanese, Koreans, Indonesians, Taiwanese, Thai, and Vietnamese, it's also home to the most thriving and delicious food scene. The SGV's largest city, Pasadena, is well-known for its museums, theaters, and culture in general. It's second largest city is El Monte, known regionally as a major transit hub. 


The San Fernando Valley
, frequently referred to simply as THE Valley (despite the presence of at least nine other contenders) is in the popular imagination a sort of sun-bleached suburban void. While it is home to vapid, mall-loving Valley Girls and the porn industry, it's also highly diverse and (thanks to southern communities like Burbank, Canoga Park, Encino, Studio City, and Warner Center) increasingly urban. The Valley is also home to the second, third, and fourth largest Los Angeles city parks: Sepulveda Basin Recreation AreaHansen Dam Recreation Area, and O'Melveny ParkProving that suburbs too can be beautiful, in Granada Hills is Balboa Highlands, Los Angeles County's only Eichler tract


The Santa Monica Mountains
are home to the county's largest state park, Topanga State Park, and many beautiful beaches (e.g. El Matador, El Pescador, and La Piedra) which lend city of Malibu its reputation as "The Riviera of America." It's the whitest part of Los Angeles but, home to large populations of Canadians, English, Germans, Persians, Russians (as well as Japanese, Koreans, Mexicans, and Taiwanese) it's less homogenous than its reputation suggests.


The South Bay
refers to the cities and neighborhoods along the southern edge of the Santa Monica Bay and atop the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The largest city in the region, Torrance, has a strong Japanese presence, reflected by its being the home of Honda and Toyota's stateside headquarters (the city's largest employers) and the second largest population of Japanese-Americans in the country (after Honolulu). The Beach Cities are, though much smaller since the end of the Cold War, still dominated by the aerospace and defense industries and LAX, the nation's busiest and largest airport without rail access, is located in the Westchester neighborhood. 


Known to locals simply as THE Eastside (but inferred to refer to the Eastside of South Los Angeles), this region was historically home to Los Angeles's black population, which mostly resided in the neighborhoods of South Central, South Park, and Watts. All three of those neighborhoods were instrumental in cementing Los Angeles's status as the heart of the West Coast Jazz scene. With the end of segregation, the city of Compton became primarily black and became widely recognized for its Electro Funk and later Gangsta Rap scenes. Following significant demographic shifts, the entire region (except for West Compton) is now majority Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran).


As with South LA's Eastside, most locals refer to the region simply as "the Westside" (and represent it as such in countless rap songs), but it's similarly understood to be part of South Los Angeles and distinct from THE Westside (which is to its north). It's home to almost all of Los Angeles County's famous black majority communities (e.g. Baldwin HillsInglewood, Leimert Park) and is home to the region's most famous north-south street, Crenshaw Boulevard.


The communities of Southeast Los make up the bulk of the so-called Gateway Cities, a collection of industry-oriented post-World War II suburbs (and formerly the region's Dairyland). It's home to Los Angeles's most Latino city (Maywood -- birthplace of Tapatío hot sauce) and the birthplace of ersatz-Latino Taco Bell (in the region's largest city, Downey). The supposedly soulless suburban sprawl was beautifully evoked (Lakewood to be precise) in DJ Waldie's poetic work, Holyland. The region is also home to the county's Little India.


The Verdugos
are a chain of mountains (or hills, depending on your standards) which give the region its name and form one side of the Crescenta Valley (which the region includes). The largest city in the region is Glendale, the fourth largest in the county, known in part for its large Armenian population. The city of La Cañada-Flintridge is home to one of the region's most beautiful green spaces, Descanso Gardens.


As with Orange County and the Valley, the Westside is often stereotyped as a plastic place full of plastic (and silicon) people but in reality it's home to some of the region's best food (especially Brazilian and Indonesian), the ethnic (and also culinary) enclaves of Little Osaka and Tehrangeles, high culture venues (Bergamot Art StationCenter for the Art of Performance at UCLA, the Getty Museum, Getty Villa, the Eames House, the Hammer Museum, and the Skirball Cultural Center), weird culture (the Museum Of Jurassic Technology), and a number of great movie theaters (the Aero, the Landmark, the Nuart, and the Regen, and the Silent Movie theaters). 

So leave your stereotypes at home and share your discoveries and suggestions in the comments. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods to be the subject of future pieces, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, vote here. To vote for Orange County communities and neighborhoods, vote here


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