California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Rose Hill

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 21, 2014 06:11pm | Post a Comment

Back in 2012 I had an opportunity to house-and-pet-sit for friends in El Sereno. Pulled along by the homeowners' dog, Dooley, I explored much of that neighborhood – the easternmost in the city – on a series of long, daily strolls. In the fall of 2013 I returned once more to the Eastside and again we resumed our explorations, only this time we branched out, exploring the communities of Arroyo View Estates, East Los Angeles, City Terrace, Garvanza, Happy Valley, Highland Park, Hillside Village, Lincoln Heights, Monterey Hills, University Hills, and on one drizzly, late autumn morning, Rose Hill.


Rose Hill should not to be confused with Rose Hills – a small community in the Puente Hills north of Whittier. Rose Hill (almost always singular although occasionally and confoundingly plural) is in Los Angeles's Eastside and is bordered by Lincoln Heights to the southwest, Happy Valley to the west, El Sereno to the east, and Montecito Heights and Monterey Hills to the north. An obscure neighborhood, Rose Hill is often lumped in with Montecito Heights, less often with El Sereno, and still-less-often with Lincoln Heights. It is occasionally (but absolutely incorrectly) referred to as being in East Los Angeles -- an unincorporated area that is not synonymous with the Eastside (which refers to the Los Angeles neighborhoods east of the Los Angeles River).

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Rose Hill

Rose Hill is a mostly residential neighborhood with Hungtington Drive serving as its high street since its development as a streetcar suburb over 100 years ago. Rose Hill may surprise visitors unfamiliar with the city services-neglected Eastside with just how rural and undeveloped so much of it is. The often trash-strewn hillsides are traversed with crumbling or simply dirt (or mud after an overnight rain) roads and modest homes routinely guarded by insanely aggressive dogs. That being said, there are also attractive, well-kept homes, interesting buildings, friendly residents, murals, and thanks to a largely-ignored history, a sense that there's much to discover throughout the community.



The Rose Hill community is nestled in the low, rolling hills at the northwest end of the Repetto Hills, which stretch from the vicinity of the San Rafael Hills, Elysian Hills, and Arroyo Seco to the Whittier Narrows and San Gabriel River at the other end and in doing so delineate the San Gabriel Valley. The cluster of hills in Monterey Park on one end and the Monterey Hills neighborhood on the other. The earliest known human inhabitants of the area were likely the ancestors to today's Chumash people. They lived in the area at least 13,000 years ago.

Some 10,000 years later, a Shoshonean language-speaking people arrived from the Sonoran Desert to the east and eventually became the Tongva nation. Near the present location of Rose Hill, the Tongva established the village of Otsungna, meaning “Place of roses.” In the other direction was the village of Yaangna, meaning "Place of poison oak."


The Tongva reign ended shortly after Spaniard Gaspar de Portolà's overland expedition passed through the area in 1769, an event which set the stage for the Spanish Conquest and the subjugation of the Native American population. The conquerors first constructed their Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in 1771, in the Whittier Narrows region. To remove it from the threat of flooding, they relocate the mission to its present location in San Gabriel in 1776 – roughly nine kilometers east of what is now Rose Hill.

In 1781, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula was founded eight kilometers to the southwest of Rose Hill's location. The easternmost boundary of the pueblo's historic holdings is formed by Boundary Avenue, which runs straight into Rose Hill Park. To the east were lands that after conquest became controlled by the Mission. Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821. The Spanish missions were secularized and the land containing modern day Rose Hill was granted to Juan Ballesteros in 1831. Ballesteros named his acquisition Rancho Rosa Castilla.


The United States conquered Alta California in 1848 but the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo required that pre-existing land grants would be honored. In the case of Rosa Castilla, the grant was rejected and in 1852 the land thus became the property of Basque sheep herders Jean-Baptiste and Catalina Batz. In 1882, after both had died, the Batz's holdings were divided among six of their children.


Detail of a Pacific Electric map of Los Angeles map (1920) 

Although Los Angeles is often inaccurately characterized as having primarily developed around the automobile, it did in fact developed around the train. In 1901 Henry E. Huntington (nephew and heir to Southern Pacific Railroad founder Collis P. Huntington) launched the Pacific Electric Railway, which at its peak became the world's largest network of interurban rail. Beginning in 1920, the red cars of its Sierra Vista Line traveled up Huntington Drive to Sierra Vista Junction, at the edge of what's now El Sereno and Alhambra. The Rose Hill stop was located at the intersection of Huntington and Monterey Road where a local bus then departed north up that street.


Advertisements for Grider & Hamilton's Rose Hill subdivision

The site of the Rose Hill Tract was chosen due to its accessibility to and by public transit. The primary developer responsible for it was Leroy M. Grider. In 1857, Grider had moved to Los Angeles with his family. He began his foray into real estate with the establishment of L. M. Grider & Co. in Downey in 1886. He changed partners and locations over the years, forming Grider & Hamilton in 1902. On 3 October, 1904, Grider & Hamilton put up 132 lots of their streetcar suburb for sale, advertising it as being just twelve minutes to Downtown via Red Car. In Grider's obituary he was described as being the first developer to sell neighborhoods via the “excursion method,” in which saw he transported potential homeowners via streetcar to then-new toonervilles where they would additionally plied with free BBQ. Grider also served on Los Angeles City Council and after retiring from both politics and real estate, opened a pet store called Birdland.


Huntington Drive School -- fka Rose Hill School

Grider & Hamilton's lots sold quickly and the first community school, known as Rose Hill School, opened in 1909. In 1928, some years after Rose Hill was annexed by Los Angeles, it was renamed Huntington Drive School, and later, Huntington Drive Elementary School.


That just-mentioned annexation of the then-young Rose Hill took place on 9 February, 1912, when the Los Angeles expanded northeasterly with its Arroyo Seco Addition. That annexation moved the city's easternmost edge to its present location. A few years later, in 1915, The Bairdstown Addition – which includes the bulk of modern day El Sereno – followed, and proved to be the city's final eastern annexation.


Our Lady of Guadalupe – Rose Hill

The roots of Rose Hill's Our Lady of Guadalupe – Rose Hill church were in the Sacred Heart Parish, which was established in 1921. In 1924 that congregation changed its name to Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission. In 1957 a school, Our Lady of Guadalupe School – Rose Hill, was added to the church.


Rose Hill Pharmacy

Rose Hill Pharmacy used to stand at 4543 Huntington Drive (at the intersection with Monterey Road -- where a self-cleaning restroom labeled "Rose Hills/El Sereno" now stands). On Christmas Eve of 1926, William Edward Hickman and his accomplice Welby L. Hunt attempted a hold-up of the pharmacy that was interrupted by a cop walking in. A shoot-put ensued in which the store proprietor, 24-year-old Clarence Ivy Toms, was shot in the chest and killed. Hickman would go on to commit one of Los Angeles's most well-known and heinous crimes, the kidnapping and murder of young Marion Baker. He was hanged in 1928. I'm not sure when the pharmacy was demolished.


The transformation of Sacred Heart Parish into Our Lady of Guadalupe just a few years later is probably a reflection of an early, significant demographic shift. Beginning in 1910, the Mexican Revolution provided ample reason for many Mexicans to immigrate to Los Angeles. Before Sonoratown transformed into Little Italy, many of Los Angeles's Mexican-Americans lived around Downtown and Boyle Heights. After the advent of the revolution, new barrios were established in places like Belvedere and later other pockets of the Eastside beyond Boyle Heights.

In 1928, the Pacific Electric Railway chose Rose Hill Park as the site of the annual work party for its Mexican-American employees (Anglo workers' party was thrown in Redondo Beach). It's no coincidence that the dates of the Mexican Repatriation correspond almost exactly to those of the Great Depression, which both increased Mexicans' impetus for leaving Mexico and for American hostility towards immigrants. From 1929 until 1939 (not coincidentally when the US entered World War II), around 2 million Mexican-Americans (in many cases US citizens) were forcibly deported to Mexico – thousands from the US. Photos of Rose Hill in the 1940s and '50s suggest that the population was then home to both large percentages of Anglos and Latinos.


Rose Hill Courts

The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) formed in 1938 seemingly with the admirable goal of providing safe, affordable housing to Los Angeles's poorest inhabitants. Soon after, in the name of “slum clearance,” several (invariably minority) communities were leveled and replaced with new housing projects. The first such housing project was Ramona Gardens in Boyle Heights. During World War II, more project construction continued with Aliso Village, Estrada Courts, and Pico Gardens (all in Boyle Heights), Avalon Gardens (in Green Meadows), Hacienda Village (in Watts), Pueblo del Rio (in Central-Alameda), Rancho San Pedro (in San Pedro), and Rose Hill Courts, built in Rose Hill in 1942.

Rose Hill Courts landscape

Rose Hill Courts were designed by architects W.F. Ruck and Claud Beelman. The design of the garden apartments also involved the input of landscape architects, in Rose Hill's case, London-born Hammond Sadler. After starting with the Olmsted Brothers, Hammond went on to establish his own firm and in addition to designing the grounds at Rose Hill was responsible for those at Estrada Courts and Wyvernwood in Boyle Heights, and the Jordan Downs renovation in Watts.

A view of Rose Hill Courts from above

After the passage of the 1949 Federal Housing Act, there was a second wave of public housing construction which saw the opening of Mar Vista Gardens in Culver City, Nickerson Gardens in Watts, and San Fernando Gardens in Pacoima. Tiny Rose Hill Courts, built with just 100 units, were planned to be part of a massive expansion into the mostly uninhabited area to the north then known as Monterey Woods, creating 2,100 additional units of affordable housing.  The Rose Hill Courts expansion was scuppered (along with the better-known Elysian Park Heights in Chavez Ravine) when right wing forces successfully convinced those in power that affordable housing (often for war vets) was a "socialistic" attack on the American Way.

Two residences that look to me as if they were at one time stores 

Brick building on Huntington from 1922


After World War II, most of the non-Latino residents of the Eastside began to move elsewhere. Most Jews moved west, most Italians moved east, and most blacks moved south. As with Happy Valley, Rose Hill had acquired a reputation as a Mexican-American barrio.

As early as 1939 there was already a record of a Happy Valley-Rose Hill pachuco gang. A 1941 picture of the so-called slum on Rose Hill's Victorine Street (taken to lend support for slum clearance and the construction of the projects) depicts a well-dressed, smiling, young Latino cradling a child in his arms and bears the caption, “gang leader.”

According to one source, the Rose Hill Boys split into their own club over a high school football rivalry with kids involved in Lincoln Heights' Eastlake Locos. As they battled Anglo servicemen and gangs from El Sereno they evolved into a street gang.


In 1946, the most famous resident of Rose Hill moved to the neighborhood with his family – future author and Black Panther Eldrige Cleaver. Among other subjects, Cleaver often documented his childhood in Rose Hill, which he described in 1978's Soul on Fire as “one of these old, proud Chicano communities, like Mara, Happy Valley, Alpine, and so on” that “boasted one of the fiercest gangs in Los Angeles.” In Target Zero: A Life in Writing, however, Cleaver painted a gentler image of the neighborhood with an untitled poem that includes the lines, “No smog in Rose Hill/ Far from the industrial heart of Los Angeles/ A forgotten hamlet/ A peaceful spot/ site of home.” For those playing at home, the title of this blog entry is taken from that same poem.


Although Eldridge Cleaver wrote of Rose Hill's then-growing black population and their efforts to establish a local church, today black Angelenos make up only about 3% of Rose Hill's neighborhood population. The white Anglo population is only about 8%, the Asian population is roughly 12%, and the Latino population about 77%. Although almost entirely residential although there are a few businesses situated mostly along Hungtington Drive.


El Palenque and the sleeping Mexican

As far as I know there is currently only one restaurant in Rose Hill, El Palenque. Judging by the décor and reviews, it serves Northern Mexican food. If Yelp reviews are anything to go by (and they're usually but not always not), it's pretty decent food at that. A mural on one of it's walls depicts the dated-but-still-popular image of a Mexican peasant improbably enjoying  siesta against a saguaro.

La Milpa by Los Diego's 

The mural on the back of the restaurant is far more unique. Attributed to “Los Diego's," La Milpa is a cosmic-Mesoamerican educational mural that covers the entire wall.

In addition to El Palenque, there's also a market called Fresco Foods Super Mercado that seems to be unrelated to the newer, Fresco Community Market that opened up the street and over the hill in nearby Hermon.


Pretty sad Metro stop at the base of Buffalo Gourd and Cheddar Jalapeño Cheetos Hill

Pacific Electric train service to Rose Hill ended in 1951 but the Metro 78/79/378 line serves pretty much the same route. Rose Hill is also served by Metro lines 252 and 256.

Rose Hill proved to be one of the least-easily-walked neighborhoods that I've yet explored – made more difficult by rain that had fallen the night before. Firstly, there are numerous "paper streets" – streets that exist only on maps (both paper and online). Secondly, existing streets are often in extremely poor condition -- in many cases nothing more than dirt roads. Parts of Rose Hill Drive make Bolivia's Camino de las Yungas look positively well-maintained.

A muddy trail that leads to the narrowest gate at the end of a cul-de-sac

Rose Hill Drive -- held together by a soggy carpet patch

There are several public staircases which, since the publication of Charles Flemming's book Secret Stairs, have seemingly catalyzed a real revival in their usage. His book includes a walk, Walk #10, titled “Happy Valley and Montecito Heights” that includes stairs in Rose Hill (and is rated 5 out of 5 in difficulty). The most impressive stairway in Rose Hill is the 223-stair Tourmaline Stairway, which connects Tourmaline Street below to Rose Hill Drive above.

The bottom of Tourmaline Street Stairs 

The top of the Tourmaline Street Stairs

Other stairs are not so great. Dooley and I trudged up a rain-and-mud slickened stairwell that Google Maps showed connecting to a street, but which in fact dead ended behind someone's back yard. Facing no alternative but to return down the slippery steps, I did so as Dooley eagerly pulled downward. After losing my footing I might very well have added my own spilled brains to the garbage-covered hillside were it not for my anorak's hood getting caught on a rusty stair rail. 

Stairway to Heaven (or Hell)


Unfortunately I wasn't able to determine exactly when Rose Hill Park opened although train maps from the 1930s include it. Around the time that the expansion of Rose Hill Courts was shot down, the former Monterey Woods area broke ground as Rose Hill Regional Park.

Rose Hill Regional Park was renamed Ernest E. Debs Regional Park (described by various sources as Los Angeles's second or third largest park although it's certainly smaller than Griffith Park, Elysian Park, and O'Melveny Park). Today it seems to be more often associated with Montecito Heights than Rose Hill. Nonetheless it blends almost seemlessly into Rose Hill Park and is easily accessed from the neighborhood.

Rose Hill graffiti on a tree? A trail in Debs Park

Native American Terraced Garden

The Native American Terraced Garden
, in fact, is more easily accessed from Rose Hill than any other neighborhood. It's located just east of Rose Hill Court. 

Rose Hill Recreation Center

Rose Hill is also home to Rose Hill Recreation Center. I'm not sure when it was constructed or the park on which its built opened. Anyone?


My research was unable to locate any filmmakers or actors from Rose Hill. I was, however, able to find one filming location at the neighorhood's edge. Soto Street Bridge, constructed for the old rails that formerly traveled up Huntington Drive, is where the 1958 Plymouth Fury known as “Christine” hung out before killing Moochie in the John Carpenter film, Christine (1983).

Rock N Roll (crossed out) and Dooley

I also wasn't able to find any musicians from the neighborhood, although someone on Street Gangs mentioned a local rapper known as 2 Real who apparently has a song “The Outta Towners.” Even though in a square of the sidewalk in front of Rose Hill Rec Center someone wrote “Rock N Roll” and crossed it out – or had it crossed out – there are undoubtedly some rockers in the neighborhood too so please let me know of them in the comment section.


I wasn't able to find any great histories of just Rose Hill. The Los Angeles Public Library has a pretty great collection of historical photos from Rose Hill. To see them, click here. If you know of any other sources, please share them in the comment section.


As always, I welcome corrections, additions, and personal accounts of Rose Hill experiences. To vote for other Los Angeles neighborhoods to be the subject of a future piece, 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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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Monterey Hills

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 11, 2013 09:43am | Post a Comment

Monterey Hills sign on Via Mia

In Los Angeles, the Monterey Hills can refer to more than one thing. One is a landform known as The Monterey Hills that is technically part of the Repetto Hills, a chain of hills which runs from between the San Rafael Hills and Elysian Park Hills at one end  to the Whittier Narrows at the other (and in doing so forms one of the borders of the San Gabriel Valley). The hills are especially associated with the city of Monterey Park and there's a subdivision of that community that's also called Monterey Hills.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Monterey Hills

Another Monterey Hills refers to a small residential neighborhood between El Sereno, Hermon, Montecito Heights, Rose Hill, and South Pasadena. I recently explored that neighborhood with Dooley (a dog) whilst house, dog, and cat-sitting in El Sereno. During my stint on the Eastside, Dooley and I visited all the aforementioned communities and additionally explored Arroyo View Estates, East Los Angeles, City Terrace, Garvanza, Happy Valley, Highland Park, Hillside Village, Lincoln Heights, and University Hills. Our first excursion was of Monterey Hills on a cool, clear day that followed a light, overnight rain.

Via Marisol on a road diet

We approached Monterey Hills via Monterey Road, which runs along the western edge of the neighborhood. We then entered the neighborhood via Via Marisol – a ridiculously wide (even on a road diet) street that's an extension of what was formerly Hermon Avenue. Hermon Avenue was renamed Via Marisol in 1978, when then Councilman Arthur Snyder renamed it, attempting to pander to his mostly Latino constituency by explaining that allowing a street to continue to be named "Hermon" in a neighborhood traversed mostly by Spanish-named avenues would have a "jarring influence" on the residents. That the councilman had a then three-year-old daughter named Erin-Marisol Snyder was surely a happy coincidence. 



At least as early as 13,000 years ago people were living in Southern California. The ancestors of the Tongva arrived from the Sonoran Desert much later -- only about 3,500 years ago. After that they were the dominant people in the area for thousands of years and the Monterey Hills area lay between their villages of Hahamongna to the north, Otsungna to the southeast, and Yaangna to the southwest.

The Tongva reign ended shortly after Spaniard Gaspar de Portolà's overland expedition passed through the area in 1769, setting the stage for conquest. The Spanish first constructed Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in Whittier Narrows in 1771. In 1776 the mission was moved to its present location in San Gabriel, nine-and-a-half kilometers east of what's now Monterey Hills. A few years later, in 1781, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles was founded 8-and-a-half kilometers to the southwest.

The area that became Monterey Hills was located just outside the four Spanish leagues given to the pueblo and was on Mission lands but Spanish rule ended in 1821, when Mexico gained independence and subsequently secularized the church's holdings. Mexico's rule would prove even shorter than Spain's and ended in 1848 when California was conquered by the US. In 1850, California entered the union and Los Angeles incorporated as a city.


The land containing what would become Monterey Hills was subdivided in 1902 along a grid system that ignored the hills' steep topography. The area was annexed by the City of Los Angeles on 9 February, 1912, as part of the Arroyo Seco Addition. The three hills that now make up Monterey Hills neighborhood remained mostly empty for the decades that followed largely because the gridded street and lot patterns made the development of streets and installation of utilities rather difficult. Nonetheless, there were a few residents and structures in the 1960s, when the idea for the Monterey Hills Development Project was first dreamed up by the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA).

The Monterey Hills Redevelopment Project was adopted by Los Angeles City Council in 1971. The idea was to slap a master-planned community on top of three of the Repetto Hills. To deal with the forbidding terrain, the developers brought in engineering and geological consultants who assured them they they need only remove soil from the hills and dump it into the canyons. Once the dust -- and hopefully landfills -- had settled, large condominiums and town homes could be built that would be affordable to middle and working class first time home buyers drawn to the development by its proximity to the Pasadena Freeway (now the Arroyo Seco Parkway) and thus to Downtown Los Angeles.

Construction began in 1973 and over the years that followed, 21 residential complexes were ultimately built which contain a total of 1,781 units. The complexes include Austin Terrace, Bradley Court, Cabrillo Villas, Catalina Terrace, Chadwick Terrace, Chapman Townhouses, Drake Terrace, Eaton Crest, Fremont Villas, Harte Terrace, Hudson Terrace, Huntington Terrace, Linden Heights, Marshall Villas, Muir Terrace, Portola Terrace, Stanford Terrace, Temple Terrace, Vallejo Villas, and Wilson Summit [I seem to be missing one]. I was pleasantly surprised to find that not one them has been rebranded in that silly, trite "The such-and-such at so-and-so" manner (e.g. Fremont Villas have escaped being renamed "The Villas at Fremont.")

Problems with some of the complexes began to arise in the 1980s, however, when the experimental landfills that they were built upon continued to settle, bringing some of the residential complexes with them and creating significant structural damages in the process. Understandably incensed, the homeowners banded together and instigated the longest civil jury trial in Los Angeles County history.

Hillside in Monterey Hills with El Sereno below

At the end of the trial, $21,634,466 were awarded in damages and the fund created with the money is still used to remedy damages. Since the end of the trail, only the sixteen-unit Bradley Court townhouses have been constructed in the neighborhood. However, Monterey Hills Investors proposed a similar development -- albeit one targeting wealthy homebuyers -- in the adjacent Elephant Hills of El Sereno in 1984. In 2009, however, the city took control of the land and decided to preserve it as open space.


The ethnic breakdown of Monterey Hills, according to information gleaned from City Data, is roughly 36% Asian-American, 34% white, 24% Latino, and 10% black


Dooley and I walked to Monterey Hills from El Sereno. Monterey Hills isn't particularly well served by public transit. Only Metro's 256 line accesses the area. The route winds along Collis Avenue and Avenue 60 near the neighborhood's edges. Although it's been on the chopping block before due to low ridership, the 256 has its share of fans -- mostly due to the fact that its route manages to visit Altadena, City Terrace, Commerce, East Los Angeles, El Sereno, Hermon, Highland Park, Pasadena, and University Hills.

A man walking on the sidewalk heading toward Hermon

Although hilly, the neighborhood is small and both easily walkable and bikeable for the able bodied. Presumably its relatively low walk score (28) on Walkscore is due to the fact that getting coffee, picking up groceries, eating out, shopping, and enjoying more forms of entertainment all require leaving the neighborhood (although walking to both El Sereno and Hermon where those things can be found is quite easy). It's transit score is 23 and its bike score only 11.


Euclyptus trees in the forbidden zone

There's little if any native vegetation in Monterey Hills. Most of it was grazed out of existence during the Spanish era and today most of the landscape architecture is pretty inconspicuous and, although the hill tops are covered with groves of eucalyptus that have a certain allure and the leaves of some of the trees were changing color -- which is apparently one of the only way that some people raised in temperate climates can recognize the arrival of autumn.

Obvious signs of autumn at Drake Terrace

Someone's been guerrilla gardening... kale in the landscape at Stanford Terrace

Via Marisol is lined with magnolia trees. Sometimes a seed pod would fall from one, shattering the silence and startling both Dooley and I. The crisp air smelled wonderful, carrying as it did, the mixed scent of eucalyptus and walnuts. All aound us we could hear the cawing of crows, the cooing of morning doves and the calls of various other birds -- in stark contrast to the neighborhoods beneath it, which are generally dominated by a Cain-raising canine cacophony.

Fortress Monterey Hills -- actually Huntington Terrace

In my research I had read that each of Monterey Hills' large residential complexes were built in what were supposed to be a variety of styles and judging from the directories, their layouts vary. Yet somehow all of them are variations on a particular sort of residential architecture that I'm still struggling to make peace with. Regardless of their variations, to me they invariably all resemble business parks or newish college campuses and -- encountering almost no one in our walk -- it felt a bit like exploring those after business hours or during a long break.

Eaton Crest

In the course of our constitutional, Dooley and I did encounter a few women and men strolling, -- walking with weights or dogs, or jogging without either -- but the overall lack of people and the heavy autumnal ambiance gave the neighborhood a forlorn air, although I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way. Everything has its unique charm and almost before I realized it I found myself quietly singing "The Power" by Suede, a band who along with several of their early '90s contemporaries (e.g. The Auteurs, Blur, Denim, Pulp) famously celebrated (or at least expertly chronicled) the discreet charm of suburban life and the great indoors.

Someone pushed a cart a ways and then parked it under a tree in Muir Terrace

Monterey Hills' near complete rejection of public space is part of the master-community plan, which includes no theaters, no art centers, no community gardens, no restaurants, no shops, no cinemas, and no houses of worship. The original development plan contained four categories: "Residential," "Residential/Alternate Hillside Preserve," "Residential/Alternate Institutional," and "Residential/Alternate Commercial."

Music Lessons in Monterey Hills -- let me know what musicians and film figures, if any, are from the Hill

The "alternate commercial" area was the at one point the proposed site of a 7-Eleven but residents successfully fought against that and it became the neighborhood's only park. One of the "Alternate Institutional" areas was developed with homes. The other is home of the Los Angeles International Charter High School -- formerly the site of Pacific Christian High School -- a site more often associated with the Hermon neighborhood than "The Hill" (as Monterey Hills is nicknamed). There are shared private spaces in the form of designated seating areas, swimming pools, and tennis courts -- all of which were invariably empty -- as were the guest parking lots.

The pool area at Stanford Terrace

A guest parking lot


Budd Wiener Park

As Monterey Hills' only official public space (unless one counts the sidewalks), Budd Wiener Park not surprisingly hosts the neighborhood's official community activities. The best known event that takes place there is the Monterey Hills Jazz Festival has taken place since 1993. In the past it's featured performers including the Angie Whitney Group, BluesMen, Bobbie Rodriguez and the HMA Orchestra, City Beat, Jimmy McConnell, Lori Andrews JazzHarp Quartet, Luis Conte, Nocy, the Pasadena Jazz Institute Youth All Stars, Ron McCurdy Collective, and Susie Hansen Latin Band, among others.

Another view of Budd Wiener Park

Budd Wiener has also hosted Movies in the Park, in which family friendly fare is screened outdoors. When there aren't organized events taking place in the park, it's not exactly the most inviting place. There are no no pedestal grills, no jungle gyms, no spring riders, no basketball courts… just a couple of empty benches and a poop bag dispenser or receptacle (I can't remember which -- maybe it's both).


Official seating area

Monterey Hills is blessed with quite a bit of mostly undeveloped space as well. It's separated from Hermon below by a steep, woody hillside. The hillside separating Monterey Hills from El Sereno (an "alternate hillside preserve") is less steep but terraced and lined with anti-erosion drainage ditches and a chain link fence. The earthen slope appears to have been built up considerably, almost as if it's meant to serve as a defensive wall to protect this modern Masada in the unlikely event of a siege.

Neighborhood fortifications agains the Eastsiders below

Ditch-lined hillside above El Sereno

Some of the concrete ditches are heavily tagged. If I'm correct that the goal of tagging is to place one's handiwork in highly visible yet inaccessible places then spraying ones tag on the bottom of easily accessed and little-seen ditches must be the equivalent of mere scent marking.

De facto dog park

There's also a large open area next to Fremont Villa that seems to serve as an unofficial park… or possibly dog park as it was the one spot in the otherwise decidedly clean neighborhood that was littered with dog defecation, garbage, and more. Dooley and I walked a well-worn trail and encountered signs of a small fire (or at least a burned log). The area affords a spectacular view and an empty case of Bud Light, an empty box of Patron, an empty case of Modelo Especial, and an empty case of something called Straw-ber-ita suggest that it's a popular site to do some outdoor drinking, relaxing -- and sadly, littering. There was also the expected litter from Del Taco and McDonald's. More surprising was a midden where the shells of various animals seemed to have been dumped.  

A shell heap in Monterey Hills

Apparently Max was here... and Dooley's hindquarters

Feeling a bit confined I decided to ignore the clearly-posted prohibitions against trespassing and scale the tallest hill in the neighborhood. Perhaps it's officially known as Wilson Summit as that's the name of both a condo and street on it. In my imagination, however, it felt like I'd scaled Weathertop (or "Amon Sûl" as it's known in Sindarin).

Atop "The Hill"

After catching my breath I found that I was not the first Rudi Matt to bound up that barrow. Although a faded Hello Kitty ribbon was possibly carried to the hilltop grove of trees by a nearby and deflated mylar balloon, there was also a 20 oz glass Pepsi bottle (c. 1990) and a single tennis shoe that were presumably carried there by fellow explorers. The abandoned footwear, Dooley's continued interest in sniffing underneath concrete ditch covers, and the darkening skies found me changing my tune, suddenly humming songs from the moody movie Memories of Murder (살인의 추억). Thankfully Dooley and I didn't find any bodies but after a bit more exploration I decided that Dooley and I should head back down the hill to the street.

Marshall Villas pool and clubhouse

Back in the neighborhood we encountered a couple more people out for their perambulations but most seemed to be safely indoors. We did spy some younger people towards the end of our visit. Two girls sat in a parked car -- both on their smartphones. Not long after, a group of school kids jogged up the sidewalk along Via Marisol as Dooley and I made our way back towards El Sereno. One said, "I like your dog" which seemed to signal to Dooley that it was time to cheerfully gallop the rest of the way to Monterey Road -- pulling me along with her.

Monterey Hills sign on Via Marisol

The distinction between Monterey Hills and El Sereno below felt more pronounced upon our return. On every curb Dooley and I seemed to pass discarded, rain-soaked furniture, enraged dogs and people apparently walking to or from somewhere (rather than speed walking in loops). Banda music blasted at a deafening level from a passing Chevy Tahoe, a brood of chickens and a rooster scratched at the street, ice cream trucks played their century old rags, and there was a freshly-painted gang tag on the wall of the home in which I was staying.  

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