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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Mount Washington

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 22, 2012 07:01pm | Post a Comment

One of the Mount Washington neighborhood signs    

                  A typical Mount Washington street

This here episode is all about Mount Washington -- a hilly and almost entirely residential neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles (NELA). Its neighbors are Highland Park to the east, Cypress Park to the southwest, Glassell Park to the northwest and Eagle Rock to the north.


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Mount Washington (sold)


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Northeast Los Angeles

On this adventure I was accompanied by frequent traveling companion, Tim Shimbles.

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I can’t find any authoritative record of how Mount Washington got its name. At least one source claims it was named after a surveyor, Colonel Henry Washington, who spent time in Southern California in 1855. I wasn't able to find out when the name even first appeared but I'm skeptical about that explanation.


After recently watching Stephen Fry in America I learned about another Mount Washington, the highest peak in New England. In its heyday it was was topped by a pair of resort hotels and served by a funicular train line. Los Angeles’s Mount Washington was also topped by a resort hotel and served by a funicular train line. Even if it wasn’t originally named after the peak in the east, it seems it’s development was inspired by it.


HISTORY OF MOUNT WASHINGTON

Northeast LA was been inhabited constantly for about 8,000 years. The ancestors of Tongva arrived from the Sonora Desert and had inhabited the land for thousands of years before the Spanish conquest. Spain ruled the land from 1769-1821. It was granted as part of Rancho San Rafael to José María Verdugo in 1784. From 1821 till 1848 it was part of Mexico. When the US defeated Mexico and took California but the hill that came to be known as Mount Washington remained undeveloped until the Los Angeles Railways "yellow cars" arrived in the area between 1904 and '06.


Nickel-Leong Mansion

There were very few homes in the area prior to 1910 and they were situated around the base of the hill. One of the first was the Nickel-Leong Mansion for restaurateur Max Nickel and later lived in by the well-known Leong family of Chinatown. 


Wachtel Studio-Home

Another early home was the idiosyncratic Wachtel Studio-Home, designed by Elmer Wachtel and built in 1906 as a studio/exhibition space and home for Elmer and his fellow Plein Aire painter wife, Marion Kavanagh Wachtel.



LOS ANGELES & MOUNT WASHINGTON RAILWAY COMPANY 


The development of the Mount Washington neighborhood was begun in earnest in 1909 by developer Robert Marsh, who built the resort Mount Washington Hotel at the summit which was served by a train, the L.A. & Mt. Washington Ry. Co. -- until the line’s closure in 1919. Today, Avenue 43 and Canyon Vista Drive run along the path of the former railway.
The Mission Revival train station on Marmion Way is now a duplex


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THE MOUNT WASHINGTON HOTEL 


The hotel was long ago reincarnated as the headquarters of the Self-Realization Fellowship movement. Besides the hotel, a few, expensive first residences were sold to half a dozen wealthy men, mostly a collection of real estate men and big company presidents and managers.





Views from, of and around the former Mount Washington Hotel

The Mount Washington Hotel opened its doors in 1910. With Pasadena and South Pasadena offering much larger and more accessible resort hotels, its perhaps not surprising that most of Mount Washington’s guests weren’t out-of-state tourists. At the base of the hill, seven film studios used in Highland Park’s Sycamore Grove to shoot films and actors, verifiably including Charlie Chaplin, often gathered and stayed in the nearby hotel. When the movie industry abandoned Highland Park and Edendale for Hollywood, the hotel suffered. As mentioned earlier, the train stopped running in 1919 and the hotel afterward went through short stints as a military academy and respiratory hospital before being purchased by Parmahansa Yogananda, founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship movement, in 1925. The train tracks weren’t removed until 1930. 



ELDRED STREET



 
Steep Eldred Street and the rickety wooden stairs

At a height of 279 meters (considerably smaller than its 1,917 namesake), Mount Washington has some steep streets. Eldred Street is LA’s steepest, at a grade of 33%. Yes, there is a stretch of a San Pedro’s 28th Street that briefly attains a 33.3% grade but Eldred is apparently steepest from the base to its dead end. There, the adventurous climbing enthusiast can continue further up the hill on a rickety-looking wooden staircase. The street was laid by Delos W. Eldred in 1912 – It wasn’t until the 1950s that Los Angeles started limiting streets to grades below 15%. (Despite what is commonly claimed by Mideast Siders, the steepest streets in Echo Park and Silver Lake are officially listed as 32% and below.) The street’s residences’ mailboxes are all located at the bottom of the hill and almost everyone who lives on the hillside drives a large truck.


SOUTHWEST MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN



The entrance and museum

The Southwest Museum of the American Indian was originally opened in 1907 in Downtown Los Angeles by noted anthropologist/journalist/historian/photographer Charles Fletcher Lummis. It moved to its current location in 1914.


Memorial Pole dedicated to Henry Hunt (by Richard Hunt) 

 A sculpture of a Tongva ti'at by Gerardo Hacer

The building, designed by architects Sumner P. Hunt and Silas Reese Burns, isn’t up to current seismic standards and is thus has been closed for renovations since 2006. As of 19 May, 2012, the upper and lower lobbies will open on Saturdays only.


A garden designed and cared for by Don A. Philipp since 2000


F. RONINSON'S HOOCH RACKET

Development of Mount Washington really began to take off in the 1920s and one early, notorious resident was F. Roninson. I can’t find any information about him and his bust except on a piece that appeared on the Mount Washington Homeowners Alliance’s website called The Weird, the Wonderful and the Wacky Mt. Washingtonso I’ll just quote them:

"In February, 1924, a squad of officers of the Lincoln Heights Police Division climbed to a mansion at the top of Mount Washington on San Rafael Drive. They arrested F. Roninson, alleged proprietor of a 500-gallon still. They seized 200 gallons of moonshine and 50 barrels of whiskey mash, and exposed what they believed was one of the main sources of illegal liquor in the county."


LOUISE HUEBNER - LOS ANGELES'S OFFICIAL WITCH 

 

In the 1960s, Mount Washington resident Louise Huebner (wife of artist/Hollywood production illustrator and Boyle Heights native, Mentor Huebner) was a regular fixture on KLAC and KTTV where her taped astrological spots were credited to “the staff witch.” In the summer of 1968 promoted a series of Sunday happenings at the Hollywood Bowl. At the first of them, the Folklore Festival, she was given a certificate (signed by then- Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors, Ernest Debs, whom she presented with a golden horn for his own benefit) designating her “the Official With of Los Angeles County.” In front of 11,000 people, she cast a spell to increase the sexual vitality of LA County’s residents. It sounds strange today but this was an era that produced celebrity Satanists like Anton LaVey, Jimmy Page was obsessed with Aleister Crowley, Kenneth Anger began to develop a following, and the Doors' Jim Morrison married a witch. 

 

In 1969 she published a book titled Power through witchcraft as well as an spoken word album (with electronics from Louis and Bebe Barron!) on Warner Brothers titled Seduction through witchcraft


Then County Counsel John D. Maharg asked her to rescind her title -- they claimed that their designation was meant as a joke and completely unofficial. Huebner responded by organizing a press conference at which he threatened to reverse the spell. The county backed off and its residents remained sexually vital. Huebner went on to write more books and release more records and, as far as I know, still lives near the top of the neighborhood.


HOLYLAND

In 1989, Bret Waller and Ralph Eaton began renting a house in the shadow of the Museum of the Southwest at 500 Museum Drive where they installed an artists’ shrine and sculpture garden they christened Holyland. There they held services/BBQs on Sundays. In 1991 they gained media attention after acquiring a 1,400 pound, twelve-foot bust of Elvis originally built for a State of Mississippi float in Pasadena’s 1990 Tournament of Roses parade. First the bust – made of steel, wire, fiberglass, flowers and birdseed -- had been transported by DJs Mark and Brian to Graceland but Elvis’s estate keepers were not amused. It then spent time in a Jackson, Mississippi mall until it was sold to a Cash for Cans for the kingly sum of $13.10. Waller and Eaton were artists who also worked as float-builders and caught wind of the increasingly tattered bust’s existence through the float-builders grapevine. They purchased it for $75 and Holyland unveiled it at the King’s 56th birthday service at which Dr. Brett and Rev. Ralph distributed bits of bacon -- Elvis's favorite food. Holyland ultimately closed in 1991 when the church’s landlord sold the house and gave the duo the boot.



MOUNT WASHINGTON TODAY


The population of the neighborhood today is about 13,000 and approximately 61% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 21% white (mostly German), 13% Asian and 3% black. Owing to its hilly topography, there are no major arteries passing through it. There are only a few scattered businesses along its base; therefore, there aren’t any neighborhood restaurants, theaters, music venues, or any of the other things I typically list in these neighborhood blog entries.


I spotted a neon sign that said "Ray's Market" and thought that this would be Shimbles's and my chance to grab a bite to eat. When we walked in the door it was immediately apparently that Ray's Market is no longer -- and a woman in a cubicle chimed on cue, "There's no Ray's Market."

I also know of neither any films or TV series filmed there, nor any actors or directors who were born there... nor any bands that formed there. Dear readers, if you do, please let me know and I’ll add links to this blog entry!


SIGHTSEEING IN MOUNT WASHINGTON


Another view from Mount Washington 


Most of the sights to check out in Mount Washington are the great views it affords, the flora and fauna in the parks, and the homes.



FUNG + BLATT


Fung & Blatt residence


Schmalix residence

Fung + Blatt are an architectural firm founded in 1990 by Alice Fung and Michael Blatt with a focus on sustainable living and building practices. Mount Washington is home to several of their strikingly-designed homes. We stopped by their own private residence and the Schmalix Residence but there are also Fung + Blatts at 705 N Rome and 4223 Sea View Lane.



NOB HILL HAUS


In 2011, German immigrants Frank Pasker and Grant Leiphart designed and moved into a home on Nob Hill Drive that they christened the Nob Hill Haus. It is designed to be an exemplar of sustainable living using xersicaping, gray water, a cistern and other green features. They have a blog and offer occasional open houses but on the day we stopped by (unannounced) they weren't home. The home has been immediate sensation, written about in the LA Times and receiving a certificate from the city honoring it for “outstanding creativity in architectural and sustainable design.”



PARKS OF MOUNT WASHINGTON

Mount Washington is home to several parks that are varied in character and function but are all charming in their own way. We skipped Greayer’s Oak Park (dedicated to Greayer "Grubby" Clover, an aviator who served in France during World War II). We also passed Cleland Avenue Bicentennial Park, where we saw a child swinging.

MOON CANYON PARK and HEIDELBERG PARK




We did check out 4.5 acre Moon Canyon Park and adjacent 18 acre Heidelberg Park. The parks were slated for development which met stiff resistance from Mount Washington's residents. As a result, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy bought the land and created the parks in 2003.


CARLIN G. SMITH RECREATION CENTER


Carlin G. Smith Recreation Center was built in a narrow canyon donated to the city in 1929. After a long period of neglect, it was rehabilitated by volunteers in the 1970s. It also has an outdoor basketball court.

JESSICA TRIANGLE 


Jessica Triangle is a tiny, but attractively-landscaped pocket park in the middle of an intersection. It was completed in 2011.

ELYRIA CANYON PARK



 



We saved the largest (35 acres), Elyria Canyon Park, for last. It's home to one of the LA area’s last stands of black walnuts and I snapped pictures of the flowers that were blooming. We walked around a bit and only crossed paths with one person, a middle-aged Asian-American woman walking a small dog who smiled and said, "Nice day for a walk, isn't it? It was.










It was also a nice day for a meal! The only time I've ever heard Shimbles express an opinion about where he'd like to eat was when we were exploring Burbank... where he really wanted a sandwich (the place we went to was closed for renovations at the time). Since there's no where to eat in LA, I vacillated between King Torta in Lincoln Heights or Palm's Thai in Hollywood. We ended up at Sage in Echo Park. As we were leaving we saw the Eastside Tomato King's car... or one of the car's he's painted at least.



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As always, you can vote for other Los Angeles neighborhoods to be the subject of future blog entries, by clicking here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, vote here. To vote for Orange County communities and neighborhoods, vote here. For the record, there's currently a three way tie between Altadena, El Monte and El Sereno. Until next time!



*****


Follow Eric's Blog and check out more episodes of California Fool's Gold

California Fool's Gold -- A South Los Angeles Eastside Primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 5, 2011 09:15pm | Post a Comment
STRAIGHT BILLIN' THROUGH THE EASTSIDE

In Los Angeles, usage of the term "Eastside" varies depending on the speaker. To most Angelenos -- especially Latinos -- "The Eastside" refers to a group of neighborhoods immediately east of the Los Angeles River: Boyle Heights, Brooklyn Heights, City Terrace, East Los Angeles, El Sereno, Happy Valley, Hillside Village, Lincoln Heights, Rose Hills, and University Hills


THE (HISTORICALLY) BLACK EASTSIDE


Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of South LA's Eastside

The other Eastside is in South LA. This Eastside was historically the main area that LA's black residents were required to live until the middle of the 20th century. It should be noted that when people speak of this region -- though they're implicitly referring to the East Side of South Los Angeles -- that reference to this area as "the Eastside" likely pre-dates the modern version of communties east of the river. Check out The Eastsiders, a documentary about South LA's Eastside between 1920 and 1965.


South LA's Eastside is neighbored by South LA's Westside to the west; The Mideast Side, Downtown and the Eastside to the north; Southeast Los Angeles to the east and The Harbor to the south. In South Los Angeles, the dividing line between Eastside and Westside was traditionally Main Street, which is still the dividing line between east and west street addresses. After the construction of the 110, which runs parallel a few blocks west of Main, this more dramatic physical distinction became the dividing line between east and west.


THE GATEWAY CITIES



For much of the early part of the Los Angeles history, The Eastside (along with Southeast Los Angeles and The Harbor) were lumped together as "The Gateway Cities." The region was a huge industrial region dominated by the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in the southern end and many of the neighborhoods were built to house those involved in the warehouses and factories that popped up between the harbor and downtown.


LOS ANGELES UNDER SEGREGATION 



Gray areas showing black majority areas of Los Angeles in 1940

South LA's Eastside was home to two of the oldest black neighborhoods, South Central in the north and Watts in the south. Under racially restrictive covenants, blacks were allowed to own property only within the area hemmed in by Main, Slauson, Alameda and Washington, in Watts and a few other smaller areas like Oakwood in Venice.

SOUTH CENTRAL UNDER SEGREGATION 

In the 1940s, South Central gave rise to the West Coast's main jazz center. Numerous jazz and blues clubs and other black cultural institutions gave rise to people referring to it and neighboring Bronzeville to the north as "The Harlem of the West." Every year to this day, during the last weekend in July, The Central Avenue Jazz Festival is still held in South Central. 


WATTS UNDER SEGREGATION
 
Five miles south, around the same time, Watts became predominantly black, largely as a result of the Second Great Migration from the South during the same decade. Thousands of people came -- largely from from Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas -- to work in war-related industries. The large Nickerson Gardens, Jordan Downs and Imperial Courts housing projects were all built largely to house the newly arrived, working class immigrants as well as returning war veterans. 
 

SHELLEY v. KRAMER 

As a result of 1948's Shelley v. Kraemer, the Supreme Court banned the enforcement of racist restrictive covenants. As a result, in Los Angeles, the black population of and surrounding both areas began to pour out of their overcrowded confines. Resentful racist white gangs like The Spook Hunters formed to terrorize blacks with the hope of keeping them out of Compton, Lynwood, Huntington Park and Downey.

Gray areas showing black majority areas of Los Angeles in 1960

South Central was already home to several street gangs, including The MagnificentsThe Purple Hearts, 31st Street and 28th Street, who were engaged primarily in turf battles, pimping, theft and small time robbery. However, to counter the violence of the Spook Hunters, new black protectionist gangs like The Devil Hunters, The Slausons, The Businessmen, The Farmers and The Gladiators formed and combat their racist rivals. By 1960 the Spook Hunters were defeated and the black populations of South Central and Watts overflowed and met in the middle before began spreading into till-then-white Compton far to the south (as well as Midtown).


WATTS RIOTS & THE RISE OF GANGS 


In 1965, tensions, many racial, exploded into the Watts Riots. As a result, many of South Los Angeles' white residents moved away, most often to either Artesia, Bellfower, Norwalk or Paramount. In 1969, The Crips formed (as the Baby Cribs) in South Los Angeles' Eastside. Though initially inspired by black empowerment organizations like the Black Panthers and US, they quickly devolved into a violent street gang that mostly prayed on innocent black residents.

In 1972, a group of gangs including the Pirus, Lueders Park Hustlers, LA Brims, the Denver Lanes and the Bishops met and joined forces as The Bloods to counter the Crips' power. Gang violence escalated in the 1970s but reached a new level of violence when crack hit the streets in 1983. Violence explodedt and as a result, many long-established black families began to move to areas they perceived as more desirable.


GANGSTA RAP AND THE CRACK WARS 

Compton, which had till-then recently dominated South LA's music scene with a vibrant homegrown electro soon became known for gangsta rap in the 1980s, involving some of the same players (e.g. Arabian Prince and Dr. Dre). South LA's eastside produced Compton's Most Wanted, 2nd II None, DJ Quik and NWA. Together they painted a nightmare vision of South Los Angeles as a Crack War battleground contested by well-armed and sociopathic Bloods and Crips.


BLACK FLIGHT & THE RISE OF LATINOS 

Meanwhile, as much of the better off black population continued to move away, poor, newly arrived immigrants from Mexico and El Salvador began to fill the newly created void. By then, the South Central neighborhood was predominantly Latino although people were then accustomed to employing the name "South Central" as a racially-loaded catch-all for any black neighborhood south of the 10. Today, this mental colonialism is still evinced in the words of self-appointed hood experts who don't even live in South Central yet nonetheless claim it, denying their own neighborhood's equally unique and interesting histories in the process.

By the time of the Los Angeles Riots of 1992, which began in South LA's Westside, the Eastside was mostly dominated by LA's Latino majority, with only Compton and Watts still having predominantly black populations. After the riots of 1992, another wave of black families moved to more stable neighborhoods and today even Compton and Watts are mostly Latino cities.

THE EASTSIDE TODAY 

In 2000s, the Eighth District Empowerment Congress began the "Naming Neighborhoods Project" to identify and celebrate South Los Angeles neighborhoods with new designations, hoping to foster pride and community as a result. Three (Broadway Square, Century Cove and Century Palms) were newly-established Eastside communities. 

Today South Los Angeles is one of LA's least ethnically and racially diverse regions but I still think it's an interesting place. Except for West Compton, every neighborhood is dominated by the Latino majority (primarily of Mexican and Salvadoran origin) of 76% overall. The minorities are 20% are black, 2.8% are white and .7% are Asian.

Physically the region is a large, flat alluvial plane. The architecture, for the most part, is rather low-profile -- dominated by bungalows and lowrise apartment buildings. From the elevated sections of the Metro Blue Line one can see for miles a skyline that is only occasionally punctuated by structures like the Watts Towers and the taller, but less iconic, Mount ZionTowers, the Compton Courthouse, and near the edge of Downtown: the LA Mart, Bob Hope Patriotic Hall, and 155 West Washington Boulevard.

and now onto the neighborhoods:
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BROADWAY SQUARE 


First up, its position determined by the alphabet, is Broadway Square. Broadway Square was established by the the Eighth District Empowerment Congress's Naming Neighborhoods Project in 2008 but at least as many people know it by the more boring street-combo name, "Broadway-Manchester." It is unrecognized by the Los Angeles Times, Wikipedia, Nabewise and Wikimapia. The bedroom community is home to several fast food chains and the population is 59% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), and 39% black. 


CENTURY COVE 

Century Cove
is another neighborhood established by the the Eighth District Empowerment Congress's Naming Neighborhoods Project in 2008. The Watts-adjacent neighborhood's residents are roughly 54% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran) and 44% Black. Presumably, the "Century" of the name refers to Century Boulevard.


CENTURY PALMS 


The last of the three neighborhoods established by the the Eighth District Empowerment Congress's Naming Neighborhoods Project is Century Palms. Though mostly residential, there are a large number of auto shops, churches and small markets. The population is roughly 59% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran) and 39% black.


COMPTON 


Compton is an infamous city that is practically synonymous around the world with the South Los Angeles region of which it is part. Due largely to the mythologizing NWA and their gangsta rap followers, Compton has also become a byword for urban squalor and gang violence even though (not to make anyone feel old) nearly a quarter of a century has passed since the release of Straight Outta Compton. Naturally the city has changed a great deal in the time that saw Ice Cube go from rapping about rape and murder to starring in children's movies. To read more about Compton, click here.

EAST COMPTON (AKA EAST RANCHO DOMINGUEZ)


East Compton, also known as East Rancho Dominguez, is an unincorporated community surrounded by the city of Compton. In fact, Compton, which has in the past tried to annex East Compton but business and property owners in the area have successfully opposed their efforts. Today the population is 73% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 23% black. 


FLORENCE (LOS ANGELES) 

OK, rather confusingly (and not that atypical in a region where neighborhoods are so often nebulously) there are seemingly two adjacent neighborhoods which together form Florence. The Los Angeles one is a rather industrial area that's home to many Mexican restaurants, metal works, furniture factories, mini-markets. The population is 70% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran) and 28% black.

Florence is famous for its Crip history. Raymond Washington founded the gang (as the Baby Avenues) at Fremont High. When he was two years old, his family moved into their home near Wadsworth and E 76th Street. Florence is also where Washington was murdered in 1979, in front of an apartment building at 6326 S. San Pedro St.


FLORENCE-FIRESTONE

The other half of Florence is an unincorporated community in Los Angeles County. Along with Graham to the south, the two are sometimes referred to as Florence-Firestone, after the intersection.

THE FURNITURE AND DECORATIVE ARTS DISTRICT 



Signs for The Furniture & Decorative Arts District seem to include the entire neighborhoods of South Central, South Park, Florence, and Central-Alameda. I got my couch there at a place off Slauson so I can personally vouch for furniture being made there. There's also a huge chair, pictured above.


GRAHAM 

To the south of unincorporated Florence, sometimes lumped together as Florence-Firestone or Florence-Graham is the titular Graham. It's also sometimes referred to as Firestone Park for a tiny park in its northeast. Larger parks include Colonel Leo H Washington Park and Will Rogers Memorial Park
 


GREEN MEADOWS 

Although the Los Angeles Times once published an article, "Asphalt Jungle or Green Meadows" which gently mocked the 8th District Empowerment Congress's Neighborhood Naming Project, from what I've read, it seems Green Meadows is a pre-existing moniker that possibly dates back to the area's pastoral past. Today it's full of meat-dominated restaurants and baptist churches. The population is 54% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran) and 44% black. Despite it's bucolic name, Green Meadows is the second most violent neighborhood in the Eastside after Watts.  


HUNTINGTON PARK 

Eastside's Huntington Park was incorporated in 1906 as a streetcar suburb for workers in the rapidly expanding industries to the southeast of downtown Los Angeles. To this day, about 30% of its residents work at factories in nearby Vernon and Commerce. After the decline of American manufacturing in the area, many of the residents moved elsewhere too. The vacuum was filled almost entirely by two groups of Latinos: upwardly mobile families eager to leave the barrios of East Los Angeles, and recent Mexican and Salvadoran immigrants. Today the population is 95% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran) and 3% white.


LYNWOOD 


Though all of South Los Angeles has a reputation for crime, Lynwood is the second safest community in the region after sparsely-populated West Compton. Incorporated in 1921, the city is named for Mrs. Lynn Wood Sessions, wife of a local dairyman, Charles Sessions. It's the birthplace of actor/director Kevin Costner as well as "Weird Al" Yankovic, who released an album titled Straight Outta Lynwood. The population is 82% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 13% black and 3% white. It's home to the picturesque Plaza Mexico, a celebrated cultural and shopping center.


SOUTH CENTRAL 


In the 1930s and especially the '40s, South Central Avenue was the center of West Coast Jazz. At the time, even superstars like Duke Ellington who played around Los Angeles still had to stay in South Central. Although the most famous, the Dunbar, was located in South Park, there were numerous other jazz and blues clubs on South Central. After the restrictive housing codes were abolished, this Harlem of the West dissipated as the population dispersed, jazz declined in popularity, and the neighborhood fell into disrepair.

Nowadays South Central is 87% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 10% black, 1% white and 1% Asian. It's one of the more urbanized areas of the Eastside and, depending on where one draws the dividing line between Downtown and South Central (e.g. the 10 Freeway or W Washington Boulevard), its home to most of the iconic buildings in the region including Allied Architects Association's Bob Hope Patriotic Hall, the 13-story LA Mart, and the 14-story Art Deco 155 West Washington Boulevard building, built in 1927. To read more about it, click here.


SOUTH PARK 

South Park
is a neighborhood that lies directly south of South Central and is centered around a park of the same name. Before 1948 it was as far south as blacks were allowed to live (aside from Watts) with Slauson forming its southern border. Around 1952, the neighborhood saw the formation of The Slausons, a black gang which organized to protect blacks from attacks by racist whites hoping to keep them from moving south of Slauson. Most of the black population eventually moved elsewhere and today South Park is 79% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 19% black and 1% white.

South Park is also fairly devoted to small-scale industries such as machine shops, auto shops, upholsterers, medical suppliers, etc, much like the Furniture and Decorative Arts District to the east. Notably, it is home to the tallest structure in the region, the 12-story Mount Zion Towers, built in 1971. It's most famous building, however, is the famed Dunbar Hotel.

VERON 

The Villa Basque (image source: jericl)

Vernon has the smallest population of any incorporated city in California (although that might soon change). It's motto is "Exclusively Industrial" (take that City of Industry!). The motto isn't entirely true, Vernon has, after all, some 112 residents. It became industrial around 1919, when two slaughterhouses opened. Eventually it was home to 27 such on a blood-soaked strip of Vernon between Soto and Downey. Vernon is also home to La Villa Basque, a restaurant and beautiful relic of the 1960s (historically, aesthetically and culinarily) that has been used in Mad Men. Iniside it has an amazing Googie coffee shop, a martini lounge and a large dining room. Unfortunately, misguided efforts have been underway to "improve" it with disastrous consequences: loud, horrible music; a cheesy new name (Vivere) -- courtesy owner and disgraced former Vernon mayor, Leonis Malberg


WATTS 

In 1907, Watts was incorporated a its own city, named after Watts Station, then a major stop for the Pacific Electric Railway's Red Car line between Los Angeles and Long Beach. Most of the residents were white and Mexican traqueros who worked on the line.

Watts became mostly black in the 1940s, when southern blacks settled there in search of industrial jobs. In 1965, it was the epicenter of the Watts Riots which saw part of the city burnt to the ground and nicknamed "Charcoal Alley." It was plagued by gangs like the Watts Cirkle City Piru Bloods, Grape Street Watts Crips, Bounty Hunter Watts Bloods and PJ Watts Crips during the 1970s and '80s which contributed to black flight. Today Watts is 62% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran) and 37% black. Although there have been attempts to turn around the neighborhood's decline, it still suffers from the highest crime rate in the region.

It's famously home to the Watts Towers, built by Italian immigrant construction worker Sabato Rodia between 1921 and 1954, probably one of LA's five most recognized landmarks. Rodia himself named the structure "Nuestro Pueblo."  To read more about Watts, click here


WEST COMPTON 

West Compton is an unincorporated community west of Compton. Today, probably in part due to the negative popular associations with the Compton name, many refer to it as West Rancho Dominguez (a reference to Rancho Dominguez… a community which, unlike Compton, it does not lie directly west of). At the time of writing it's the only remaining black majority neighborhood in South LA's Eastside. The population is roughly 58% black, 36% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 2% Asian and 2% white. It also has the lowest crime rate. 


WILLOWBROOK 


Willowbrook
's name comes from the willow-lined shallow brooks and springs that covered the area up through the 19th century. It was still largely rural until the 1980s. Today it is mostly developed although less than most of the region. The population is 53% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 44% black and 1% white. Willowbrook is locally notorious as the home of the troubled Martin Luther King Jr Harbor Hospital. It's also home to the well-known Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

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And so Eastsidaz, to vote for any communities in the Eastside or any other Los Angeles County communities to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote for Eastside neighborhoods or any other Los Angeles neighborhoods, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here. Till next time, y'all know how we get down... 7 dizzles a wizzle, Bigg Bow Wiggle's, up in the hizzle, Fo' shizzle bizzle!
 

*****


Follow me at ericbrightwell.com

California Fool's Gold -- A South Bay primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 26, 2011 07:15pm | Post a Comment
SOUTH BAY, SOUTH SOUTH BAY -- THE SOUTH BAY


Although the nickname "The Bay" is often employed (rather self-centeredly, I might add) is often used by North Californians in reference to the San Francisco Bay, California actually has many bays, including Anchor Bay, Bodega Bay, Emerald Bay, Estero Bay, Granite Bay, Half Moon Bay, Meeks Bay, Morro Bay, Soda Bay, San Pedro Bay… you get the idea. And I'll admit, in Starship's "We Built this City," when the DJ says "the city by the bay, the city that rocks, the city that never sleeps," as a naive teenager in Tampa I thought they were celebrating Tampa Bay… the city that was built by Death Metal - God's honest truth.


   
       Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of LA County                 Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of the South Bay

OK, I'm getting sidetracked. LA's South Bay refers to the region bordering the Santa Monica Bay south of LA's Westside. The Harbor borders to the southeast and north of thought, along most of the South Bay's easter edge is the Westside of South Los Angeles. It's one of the most ethnically, economically and racially diverse regions in LA County. The population is roughly 40 % white (mostly Canadian, English, German, Irish and Persian), 27% Latino (mostly Mexican), 16% black and 14% Asian (mostly Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese).


Historically the vast sweep of rolling hills (which get more rolling on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in the southern end) was home to the sea-faring Tongva, whose Tovangar homeland included the Bay area villages of 'Ongoova'nga, Kingkingqaranga, Toveemonga, Chowinga, Xarnah'nga, Ataavyanga, Kingkenga, Xoyuunga and Maasunnga… I may've spelled some of those incorrectly (the writing on the map is too small). After Europeans conquered the aborigines, the area was covered with fields of gold… barley. And people grazed sheep.

NTB: In a move that's bound to be more controversial than it should, I'm excluding some communities sometimes considered to be part of the South Bay. I'll be covering the land-locked Alondra Park, Del Aire, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood and Lawndale in a future entry about South LA. They don't border the bay… to me they're South LA's West Side but feel free to disagree… just don't let it drive you crazy.

and now for the neighborhoods:

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EL SEGUNDO


Much as NWA put Compton on the map, El Segundo reached global conscience when Tribe Called Quest rapped about losing his wallet there. The city was named after Chevron's second refinery, "El Segundo" (obviously). Today the 'Gundo's economy is still centered around petroleum-related industries and aviation. The beach is a popular place to watch planes coming and going from adjacent LAX. El Segundo's Dockweiler Beach is also one of the few area beaches on which you can enjoy a beach fire. It's all very Lost Boys - minus the sweaty sax guy. The population is 78% white (mostly German, Irish and Canadian), 10% Latino and 7% Asian (mostly Indian).

HERMOSA BEACH


Hermosa Beach is one of the South Bay's three "Beach Cities." The Hermosa Beach pier, at the end of Pier Avenue, is one of the community's main and shopping, eating and partying areas. In the late 1970s punk bands Black Flag and Descendents formed there. In the 1980s, Pennywise followed. The population is 85% white (mostly German, Irish, Canadian and English), 7% Latino and 5% Asian.


LOMITA


Lomita is Spanish for "little knoll". It's home to the Lomita Railroad Museum, which was opened in 1966 by Irene Lewis. The population is 54% white (mostly German), 26% Latino (mostly Mexican), 12% Asian (mostly Korean) and 4% black.

MANHATTAN BEACH


George H. Peck owned a lot of the land that became part of the north section of Manhattan Beach. Supposedly, a coin flip decided the town's name. Around 1902, the beach suburb was named "Manhattan" after the developer's home town, Manhattan Beach, New York. Residents have informally divided the city into several distinct neighborhoods, including "The Village," "Sand Section," "Hill Section," "Tree Section," "Gas Lamp Section," Manhattan Heights," "East Manhattan Beach,"Liberty Village," "Poet's Section" (Shelley, Tennyson and Longfellow), and El Porto (North Manhattan). It's home of the wealthiest population of the beach cities. The populace are 86% white, 6% Asian and 5% Latino.


PALOS VERDES ESTATES


Palos Verdes Estates, on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, was master-planned by the noted American landscape architect and planner Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. One of the popular landmarks is La Venta Inn, built in 1923 and the first known building structure on the Palos Verdes Peninsula after the Tongva era. Today the population is 75% white (mostly English and German) and 17% Asian (mostly Taiwanese and Japanese).

PLAYA DEL REY


Playa del Rey's people are 73% white (german, Irish, Persian, English), 10% Latino, 8% Asian, 4% black. Playa del Rey lies beneath the Del Rey Hills, also known as the Westchester Bluffs on a flood plain (until 1824, the mouth of the Los Angeles River) which slopes gradually uphill north to the Santa Monica Mountains. The rolling hills are the result of ancient, wind-blown, compacted sand duneswhich rise up to 125 feet above sea level, with one prominent, steep dune running parallel to the coast, from Playa del Rey, all the way south to Palos Verdes. The northern part was originally wetlands, but the natural flooding was halted by the concrete channel which contains Ballona Creek.


RANCHO PALOS VERDES


Rancho Palos Verdes is an affluent suburb of Los Angeles. Sitting atop the Palos Verdes Hills and bluffs of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, it is known for expansive views of the Pacific Ocean. 63% white (English and German), 25% Asian (Korean and Japanese) and 6% Latino.


REDONDO BEACH


Redondo Beach is home of the the poorest average citizen of the three Beach Cities. The primary attractions include Municipal Pier and the sandy beach. The western terminus of the Metro Rail Green Line (the so-called "Train to nowhere") is in Redondo Beach. The population is 70% white (mostly German and Irish), 13% Latino (mostly Mexican) and 10% Asian (mostly Japanese).

ROLLING HILLS


Rolling Hills is home to the wealthiest and oldest neighborhood population in the South Bay. It's a gated community located on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. If you cruise down Vermont (one of the best drives in LA), it ends down there and gets dark at night. That's because the city maintains a ranch character with no traffic lights. There are also wide equestrian paths along streets. The population is 76% white (English and German), 14% Asian (Korean) and 5% Latino (Mexican).


ROLLING HILLS ESTATES


Rolling Hills Estates is another bucolic and equine community on the Palos Verdes peninsula. The population is 70% white (mostly English and German), 20% Asian (mostly Japanese and Korean), 6% Latino.


TORRANCE


Almost landlocked, T Town has a 1.5 mile long beach. The Del Amo Fashion Center, at 232,000 m², is one of the largest malls in the US. In the early 1900s, real estate developer Jared Sidney Torrance and other investors saw the value of creating a mixed industrial-residential community south of Los Angeles. They purchased part of an old Spanish land grant and hired landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. to design a new planned community. Historically the El Nido neighborhood was home to many European immigrants, mainly Dutch, German, Greek, Italian and Portuguese people. They were soon joined by Mexican immigrants and today the population is 52% white (mostly German), 29% Asian (mostly Japanese and Korean) and 13% Latino.


WESTCHESTER



Westchester is home to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Loyola Marymount University (LMU), and Otis College of Art and Design. It's located in the eastern part of the Del Rey Hills aka the Westchester Bluffs. The population is 52% white (mostly German and Irish), 17% black, 17% Latino (mostly Mexican) and 10% Asian (mostly Filipino). It's the hometown (neighborhood) of folk-rock cult band, The Roosters.


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And so South Bay fans, to vote for any towns in the South Bay or any other Los Angeles County communities to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here. Yea South Bay!


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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Hacienda Heights

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 19, 2011 02:00pm | Post a Comment
MY ADOBE HACIENDA NESTED IN THE WESTERN HILLS -- HACIENDA HEIGHTS


This blog entry is about the community of Hacienda Heights, which rocketed to the top (becoming the most voted for neighborhood yet) following efforts by the City of Hacienda Heights on Facebook. Initially I was looking forward to meeting some locals to play tour guide but by the time I came they weren't able. No worries, however, as I brought along Hacienda Heights native Brandi Shaver and recurring companion Will Fleming. To get in the mood I set the CARDIS's radio controls to KAZN, a Mandarin station broadcast out of Pasadena.

 
Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Maps of Hacienda Heights and the San Gabriel Valley

Hacienda Heights is a San Gabriel Valley city inthe located on the northern face of the Puente Hills and the floor of La Puente Valley. The highest point in the Heights is Workman Hill. Hacienda Heights is neighbored to the south by the SELACO communities of Whittier and La Habra Heights. To the west is North Whittier. North are Avocado Heights and the City of Industry. To the east is Rowland Heights which along with Hacienda Heights is sometimes referred to as The Heights


Like its neighbor, Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights is primarily a residential neighborhood, with wealthier residents residing in the hills, and more modest homes and businesses in the flats of the north.

The CARDIS arrived in the morning and under cloudy skies and the group was greeted by the purplicious sight of copious jacaranda trees.

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Prior to the Spanish Conquest, the Puente Valley (between the Puente Hills and South San Jose Hills to the north) was inhabited by the Tongva, who named the area "Awig-na," meaning "abiding place." The Spanish founded the nearby San Gabriel Mission in 1771 and the indigenous people were subjugated. Their land in what's now Hacienda Heights was used for ranching and grazing to support the mission.

   
             John Rowland                          William Workman                                         Rancho La Puente

After Mexico gained independence in 1822, the missions were secularized and the former Spanish holdings were sold and granted to private parties. Two such parties were John Rowland and his partner William Workman. In November 1841 they arrived in a wagon train from Taos with a group of settlers from Missouri and New Mexico. In the early part of the followingyear, the two applied for a land grant from governor Juan B. Alvarado. For $1,000 and pleading to employ Tongva, they obtained the 49,000 acre Rancho La Puente. They used the land to for cattle ranching, wheat production and wine and brandy distillation. The two partners amicably split their holdings in 1852.

Rowland prospered as did Workman for a time. However, Workman lost almost everything following the 1875 failure of the poorly managed Temple-Workman Bank he'd founded with his son-in-law, Francis Pliny Fisk Temple. Elias J. "Lucky" Baldwin issued a loan which allowed the bank to re-open but with conditions that were almost impossible to meet. The bank again failed in 1876 and a despondent Workman shot himself in the head at his home on May 17 of the same year.

After the competing Southern Pacific and Santa Fe Railroads arrived in the area, Lucky Baldwin began subdividing his possession although La Puente Valley remained primarily agricultural until the 20th century. Four years after Baldwin's death, his daughter Anita Baldwin sold 1,826 acres to developers Edwin Hart and Jed Torrance who established the community of North Whittier Heights.


Cattle and sheep ranching largely gave way to avocado, citrus and walnut groves and North Whittier Heights became well-known for its walnuts. The North Whittier Heights Citrus Association and opened a packing plant near Ninth and Clark avenues and the small community that grew up in the area became known as Hillgrove.

  
                            La Puente Valley in 1935                                                       Hacienda Heights in 1965

As with so much of Southern California, North Whittier heights grew into a large suburb of LA after World War II, with massive scale housing especially occurring in 1957. In 1961, the residents of North Whittier Heights successfully petitioned to change their town's name to Hacienda Heights (which, if you think about it, is kind of a silly name, no?) A master development plan was drawn up and over the next two decades the community saw a lot of housing construction. Several times citizens attempted to incorporate but, being primarily a bedroom community, its usually felt that the proposed city's sales tax base is too small to support a city.

For most of 20th Century, Hacienda Heights was primarily home to Anglo Angelenos. In the 1980s, Latinos, many from the Eastside and Midtown, began moving to the hilly suburb. By 1990, the Latino population was dominant and, up till the early 1990s, Hacienda Heights was regularly referred to as "The Chicano Beverly Hills."

In the 1990s and the decades since the area has seen another dramatic demographic shift with the arrival of many Taiwanese-Americans. Although there were Asian-Americans in the San Gabriel Valley for decades, real growth began in the late 1970s, when realtor Frederic Hsieh began promoting Monterey Park as the "Chinese Beverly Hills" in Hong Kong and Taiwan
 

In the years that followed, many Chinese businesspeople and their families moved to the area. By the mid-1980s, people were commonly referring to Monterey Park as Little Taipei. Even as more and more Chinese mainlanders and Hoa arrived Cantonese became the dominant language as many wealthy and by-then-established Taiwanese-American families began to relocate to classy communities like Arcadia and San Marino, nearby communities like Temple City, and less-developed communities like Walnut, Rowland Heights and Hacienda Heights, communities whose rolling hills practically begged to be covered by big, new-money/no-class McMansions.

Nowadays the community is mostly Latino and Asian-American - 46% Latino (mostly Mexican) of any race, 37% Asian (mostly Taiwanese and Chinese) and 5% non-Latino white. 
 


One of (if not the) main draws of Hacienda Heights is the food. Every year the community and Rowland Heights get together to host Taste of the Heights at Pathfinder Park. On the day of our visit we arrived in the morning and stopped at Four Sea Restaurant for a delicious breakfast of fried onion cake with egg, a rice roll with pickled vegetables and veggie pork, fried leek pockets and steaming hot soy milk.

Other well-represented cuisines include Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Mexican and are represented by Akasaka Restaurant, Boiling Point (smelly Tofu!), Boston Cafe, California Stonegrill, Casa Blanca Mexican Restaurant, Casa De Tacos, Casa Jimenez Mexican, China Gate, China Mandarin Restaurant, China Star, China Wok Fast Food, Cindy's Kitchen, Cindy Liu Deli, Da Bok Tofu Restaurant, Daikokuya, Deerfield Restaurant, Donut King, Dumpling Master Restaurant, E Mei Shan Chinese Restaurant, Earthen Restaurants, El Curtido, Flame Broiler, Foo Foo Tei, Fruity Deli-cious, Garden Fresh Vegetarian Food, Hacienda Grill, Hacienda Village Meat & Italian Deli, In-N-Out Burger, JJ Bakery, John's Kitchen, Katana Sushi and Ramen, Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot & Grill, Los Frijolitos, Malan Han Noodle, Montanos, Nini Bakery, Oh! Crab, Osaka Seafood Buffet, Ostioneria Colima, Pak Kai Market / Deli, Pauline's Chinese Kitchen, Run Taco Run, Senor Baja, Seoul Korea Restaurant, Shin Sen Gumi, Sokaku Sushi, Soo Ra Sang Korean BBQ, Sushi Umi, Taipan Kitchen, Taipei Ning Gi Hot Pot Restaurant, Taiwan Deli, Tamaya, Tasty Noodle House, Tiramisu Cafe, Tokyo Lobby Restaurant, Tony's Pizza & Pasta, Whimsical Frozen Yogurt Gelato, World's Best Pizza and Yunnan Garden.
 

Oh, and although I normally forgo mentioning international restaurant chains, Hacienda Heights is home to the first (only?) Feng Shui McDonald's.



Rivaling or perhaps even surpassing Hacienda Heights' eateries as a draw is the largest Buddhist temple complex in the Western Hemishpere, Hsi Lai Temple, which opened in 1988. It was founded by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, the 48th Patriarch of the Lin-chi line of Ch'an. He is also the founder of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order whose headquarters are in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.



The large Temple includes many sites of interest including the Bodhisattva Hall, the Arhat Garden, the Avalokitesvara Garden, the large Founder's Statue, the Main Shrine, the Requiem Pagoda, Meditation Hall, Translation and Publishing Center, Fo Guang Yuan Hsi Lai Art Gallery (where they sell Buddhist DVDs and CDs), the Tea Room and the Dining Hall.



Although not especially hungry we decided to eat again in keeping with Taiwanese customs. Since Humanistic Buddhists believe that food and drink should be consumed as vehicles for nourishment and nothing else, it's pretty bland. In fact, garlic and spices are seen as obstacles to achieving a pure and clear mind. It definitely was decently prepared and could even possibly serves as a culinary bridge to the East for bland-food-favoring Middlewesterners.
 

Schabarum Park

Events Hsi Lai hosts many of the events and observances in Hacienda Heights, including the Buddhist Sangha, Buddha's Birthday and Dharma Day. The St. John Vianney Church hosts the annual Early California Days. There's also and annual Fourth of July celebration. Schabarum Park (which mostly lies in Rowland Heights) hosts annual summer concerts.
 

The largest landfill in the United States, the 2.8 km2 Puente Hills Landfill, is partially located within Hacienda Heights. It was featured in the Penn and Teller series Bullshit! as part of their campaign against recycling. It also appeared in an episode of MegaStructures called "Garbage Mountain." Up to 13,200 tons of refuse are in by up to 1,600 trucks daily. The landfill rises up to a height of 150 meters but will close in 2013.
 

The biogas generated by the trash's decomposition produces enough electricity to service approximately 70,000 area homes and is sold to Southern California Edison. The Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Preservation Authority is a Joint Powers Authority with a Board of Directors consisting of the City of Whittier, County of Los Angeles, Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, and the Hacienda Heights Improvement Association. The Habitat Authority is acquires, restores and mangoes open space in the Puente Hills, with the primary purpose of protecting biological diversity. They also offer hikes and educational programs.

Other Parks of Hacienda Heights include the smaller Los Robles Park, Hacienda La Puente Park, Manzanita Park, Thomas Burton Park, County Wood Park, Pepperbrook Park and a small corner of Arroyo Pescadero Park
 
Retrieving a murder victim's body in Tunrbull Canyon

Turnbull Canyon, which passes through North Whittier and connects Hacienda Heights to Whittier, is a source of many local legends involving Satanic Cults, extraterrestrials, the KKK, a witch house, a hanging tree, murderous psychopaths, ghosts, an abandoned insane asylum and more. Some of the kookier stories involve X-Files style government cover-ups. It was supposedly (I can find no credible source) known to the Tongva as Hutukng-na, meaning "dark place." Not surprisingly, its a popular destination for thrill-seeking teenagers out for kicks and killers looking for a dumpsite. 

Bixby Plaza


Hacienda Center


Plaza Stimson

There are several shopping centers in Hacienda Heights like Gale Square Shopping Center, Plaza Stimson and Bixby Plaza but, to be honest, they're not the sorts of malls I see people going to just to hang out (well, not young ones. I remember going to a red egg party at Saka Seafood Buffet at the Hacienda Center years ago.


Revisiting it we popped into the local 99 Ranch Market to find that another observance was underway, the Shanghai Food Festival. There were numerous free samples being given out including lotion, golden kiwis, red bean ice cream, seaweed salad, asian pears and more.
 

In addition to the TV episodes filmed at the landfill, Hacienda Heights was featured in an eponymous English language novela. It's also the birthplace of The Spectacular Spider-man's Joshua Keaton and Caprice Bourret of The Surreal Life. It's also the birthplace of Brooklyn-based filmmaker/musician/photographer Tiffany Huang. Oh yeah, incontinence spokesperson Stacy Ann "Fergie" Ferguson is from there. Also, in music-related news, it's home to the Sound of China Guzheng Music Promotion Center.

Well, being a quiet, largely residential Taiwanese-American neighborhood, the nightlife options are few... with more tea houses than bars. The two bars, City Lights Cocktail Lounge and Sunset Room, compete against Boba Tea Hut, Guppy Tea HouseQuickly, Tea Station and Tenju Tea House for thirsty night owls. There are, however, a higher than average number of liquor stores suggesting that not everyone is a boba-teetotaler. Other nightlife options are Joy Karaoke and Empire Hookah Lounge.
 


Until next time when we head to Huntington Beach!
 
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To vote for more Los Angeles County communitiesclick here. To vote Los Angeles neighborhoods to be the subject of future blog entries, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

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California Fool's Gold -- A Santa Monica Mountains primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 1, 2011 04:00pm | Post a Comment

WEST OF THE WESTSIDE -- THE SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS

The Santa Monica Mountains are a traverse mountain range that stretches from the Pacific Ocean 64 kilometers east to the flood plain where the LA River is fed by the Verdugo Wash. The southern side of the eastern end of the range is almost always referred to as the Hollywood Hills. The central portion lies within LA's westside and the foothills are home to some of LA's most affluent neighborhoods (e.g. Bel Air, Beverly Hills and Pacific Palisades). To the north, separated by the mountains, is the San Fernando Valley. Technically, the Channel Islands are also part of the range, although they're separated from the mainland by water.


Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of the Santa Monica Mountains

The western portion of the Santa Monica Mountains separates the Conejo Valley from Malibu and the neighboring communities that make up the Los Angeles district known as the Santa Monica Mountains area. The district borders Ventura County to the west and north, the San Fernando Valley to the northeast and the Westside to the east. 


The chaparral covering the region is home to mountain lions, steelheads, Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes, various kingsnakes, Gopher snakes, Garter snakes, Western fence lizards, bobcats, mule deer, golden eagles and other less glamorous creatures. The area around the shore is home to dolphins, octopi, sea gulls, crabs, anemones, mussels, sharks, cormorants, seals, pelicans, sea lions and whales. For thousands of years, the land was shared by the Tongva in the east and the Chumash. The Chumash called the area along the Pacific "Humaliwo," meaning "the surf sounds loudly," and Malibu derives its name from this. There is some evidence that the two sea-going peoples had contact with the Polynesians. The natives were later conquered and displaced by the Spanish. Later, the land became part of Mexico. After that, it was conquered by the US. Today it is home to six separate communities and a large, unincorporated region in the middle. 

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