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

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 29, 2011 08:54pm | Post a Comment
LETS SHOW THESE FOOLS HOW WE DO THIS ON THAT WESTSIDE

Just as Los Angeles has two Eastsides (one being the largely Latino enclave east of the LA River and the other being South Los Angeles east of the 110 and/or Main St) it also has two Westsides. One Westside is a collection of LA's westernmost neighborhoods (such as Bel Air, Brentwood and Venice) and the area's enclosed cities (like Culver CitySanta Monica and Beverly Hills).

The other Westside is the area of South Los Angeles (and the surrounding communities) that lie west of the 110, south of the 10 and east and north of the 405 (although some of those are can make the historical argument for being part of the South Bay, despite being separated from the Santa Monica Bay by miles of land and other cities). This westside, after white flight in the 1950s to the present, is also colloquially known as "The Black Westside" and indeed, it's still, as of 2011, home to most of Los Angeles's black residents and businesses despite changing demographics.

Pendersleigh & Sons' Map of South LA's Westside

The region of South LA's Westside is a large area bounded by South LA's Eastside to the east, The Harbor to the southeast, The South Bay to the west and south west, The Westside to the northwest and Midtown to the north. Definitions differ of exactly what communities constitute the region with several also claiming the South Bay and/or The Harbor. No doubt part of the reason these neighborhoods are in question are due to residents of and developers in those communities eager to disassociate themselves with South LA, which carries negative connotations for many.

Though the area is mostly Mexican-American, it's home to a large number of diverse black communities; working class, middle class and upper class. And though most of the black residents are of unspecified West African ancestry, there are large populations of Caribbeans, especially Belizeans and Jamaicans. In addition there are significant populations of Filipinos, GermansGuatemalans, Irish, ItalianJapanese, Koreans, Salvadorans and Vietnamese who all call the area home.


WESTSIDE (HIS)STORY

For thousands of years, the area that now makes up South LA's Westside, along with most of LA County, was part of the Tongva's 4,000 square mile homeland. It was later conquered by Spain. After Mexico's independence, it was part of Mexico. During the Rancho Period, most of what's now the Westside was set aside as public land, rather than state or privately-owned property. The area remained more agricultural for much of its history as LA and other communities developed around it. 


EARLY 20TH CENTURY

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South LA's Westside is home to the University of Southern California, founded in 1880. In 1906, the approval of the construction of the Port of Los Angeles and a change in state law allowed the city to annex the Shoestring, or Harbor Gateway, a narrow and crooked strip of land leading from Los Angeles south towards the port. As the wealthy were building stately mansions in West Adams and Jefferson Park, the white working class was establishing itself in Crenshaw and Hyde Park


DEVELOPMENT OF THE WESTSIDE


Development of South LA's Westside mostly began in the northern part of the region, around the turn of the 20th century. In the mid-1920s through the late 1930s, housing boomed in most of the areas north of Slauson.  During World War II, when LA turned into the major center for the production of aircraft, war supplies and ammunitions, thousands of immigrants, both black and white, moved to South Los Angeles from the Midwest and South to work in factory jobs. However, there were still large swathes of areas devoted to agriculture and oil extraction on the Westside up through the middle part of the century.

THE WESTSIDE POST DESEGREGATION

South LA's Eastside was home to two of LA's oldest black neighborhoods, South Central in the north and Watts in the south. Under racially restrictive covenants, blacks were only allowed to own property within the area hemmed in by Main, Slauson, Alameda and Washington; in Watts, and a few other small areas such as Oakwood in Venice. As a result of 1948's Shelley v. Kraemer, the Supreme Court banned used of racist restrictive covenants. As a result, the black population of both areas began to pour out of their overcrowded confines into the rest of South LA's Eastside, the southern parts (i.e. Mid-City) of Midtown Los Angeles, and the northern neighborhoods of South LA's Westside. According to Roy Porter and David Keller's There And Back, "During that time the west side was Vermont Avenue to Western, and there were very few black people living in the area. Where the Crenshaw Center is now was wilderness." Before long the area was predominantly black. 


THE HARBOR FREEWAY and THE SAN DIEGO FREEWAY


The Harbor Freeway (the 110) began construction in the 1950s. It wasn't completed until 1970. Running parallel to Main Street, it supplanted it was that traditional dividing line between the Eastside and Westside in South LA. Meanwhile, construction of the San Diego Freeway (the 405) began in 1957 and was complete by 1969. As a result, the inland communities of Alondra Park, Del Aire, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, and Lennox were in some sense separated from the South Bay which they'd previously been considered a part of - despite all being landlocked.  


THE "NEW" SOUTH CENTRAL - MIGRATION FROM THE EASTSIDE

Most of South LA's Westside remained overwhelmingly white until the 1960s, when upwardly mobile black residents began to make their homes in Baldwin Hills and Crenshaw in significant numbers. As blacks moved into new areas, the name "South Central" was no longer only applied to the tiny, historically black neighborhood centered on South Central Avenue, but became racially coded shorthand for any black neighborhood south of Pico Boulevard. "South Central" was ultimately embraced as a badge of honor by many residents of the region -- no matter how far they were from the actual, historical South Central.


The construction of the Santa Monica Freeway formed the northern boundary of the "new" South Central, providing a boundary beween the mostly upper-middle class blacks of Midtown Los Angeles from the mostly middle and working-class blacks to the south.

After the Watts Uprising in 1965, many remaining middle class blacks left South LA's Eastside for safer areas. In 1969, the Crips formed and in 1972, the Bloods followed - both in the Eastside. Carson, Inglewood, Ladera Heights, View Park and Windsor Hills became the most popular destinations for blacks leaving the Eastside.

Also in the 1970s, South LA's manufacturing base declined precipitously. The workforce had, till then, primarily been comprised of unionized black workers. After many of them left for the Westside, their void was largely filled by newly-arrived Mexicans and Central Americans. In the 1980s, the black population of South LA's Westside continued to grow.


1990s AFTER THE RIOTS

After the LA Riots of 1992, which began in the Westside intersection of Florence and Normandie, many black residents moved away from the most blighted areas of South Los Angeles. The Eastside was hit especially hard, with communities like Compton, South Central, Watts and most others losing their black majorities. The Westside, with the comparatively affluent communities in the greater Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw and West Adams districts remained desirable for blacks and most retained their black majorities. Today, South LA's Westside boasts the largest number of predominantly black neighborhoods in Los Angeles County although the poorer neighborhoods in core of the region have increasingly witnessed migration of Mexican, Guatemalan and Salvadoran immigrants in the last two decades.


NAMING NEIGHBORHOODS

For many years and for many residents of South Los Angeles, "South Central" or, alternately, "The Hood"... or even "The Ghetto" remain the preferred term, one despite its largely negative connotations in the media, that was embraced with affection and pride. In mainstream media, however, "South Central" became a blanket term for all black and Latino neighborhoods between the 10 freeway and the Harbor - one that lazily painted the many ethnically, economically, historically and culturally diverse communities in the area with the same brush. "South Central" was shorthand for gang violence, endemic poverty and urban blight. For the most part, the only time the local media bothers to venture into the area is when there's a car chase or if the LA Weekly is ranking Los Angeles's top ten Soul Food restaurants. Otherwise, for most Angelenos who don't live in it, it remains a place of the imagination and not reality -- an imagination has increasingly little to do with reality.

In the 2000s, the Eighth District Empowerment Congress began the "Naming Neighborhoods Project" began an effort to identify and celebrate South LA's varied neighborhoods with new designations that were meant to foster a sense of community pride and reflect local identity. The Westside neighborhoods that were born as a result include Angeles Mesa, Arlington Park, Baldwin Vista, Cameo Plaza, Crenshaw Manor, King Estates, Magnolia Square, Manchester Square, Morningside Circle, Vermont Vista, and Westpark Terrace.

and now for the neighborhoods:

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ADAMS-NORMANDIE


Whereas many of the neighborhoods of south LA have fanciful names seemingly designed to maximize their appeal, Adams-Normandie is one of those neighborhoods unimaginatively named after the intersection around which it is centered. It's home of the Loren Miller Recreation Center, several churches and Mexican restaurants. Part of the Historic West Adams District, Adams-Normandie's Van Buren Place Historic District is home to many beautiful old homes. It's the most densely populated neighborhood in South LA's Westside and the population is roughly 62% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 25% black, 6% white and 5% Asian. 


ALONDRA PARK (AKA EL CAMINO VILLAGE)


Alondra Park is also widely referred to as El Camino Village, as it's the site of El Camino College. The population is 35% Latino (mostly Mexican), 26% white, 19% black and 15% Asian (mostly Vietnamese). It's sometimes considered South LA and sometimes South Bay


ANGELUS MESA (AKA ANGELES MESA)


Angelus Mesa is a neighborhood in the Crenshaw area -- a product of the Eighth District Empowerment Congress's "Naming Neighborhoods Project." Its Angeles Mesa Branch Library was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. It's also home to the Angelus Mesa-name-incorporating Angeles Mesa Park and Angeles Mesa Elementary - although their names are spelled in keeping with the rest of Los Angeles. I'm not yet sure what accounts for Angelus Mesa's odd spelling, but at least as early as 1920 there was the Angelus Mesa Land Co. The neighborhood is home to the tallest structure in the region outside the USC campus -- the 12-story Good Shepherd Manor, built in 1971.



ARLINGTON PARK


Arlington Park is a narrow, Crenshaw area neighborhood between Leimert Park and King Estates. It's named after Arlington Ave and is a product of the Eighth District Empowerment Congress's "Naming Neighborhoods Project."


ATHENS


The population of Athens is 54% black (largely Belizean), 40% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 3% Asian and 1% white. I'm not sure what it's supposed association is the ancient, capital of Greece. Where that city has numerous ancient monuments, Athens, Los Angeles boasts Los Angeles Southwest College, Helen Keller Park, Chester Washington Golf Course and not a lot else - unless I'm missing something. The main destination for pilgrims to the neighborhood is the house at 1418 W 126th Street, which was Craig Jones's house in the film Friday.


BALDWIN HILLS


Baldwin Hills is sometimes referred to as "The Black Beverly Hills" for his long-established, rich, black population. Today the area is 71% black, 17% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran) and 5% Asian. It's the home to the first Olympic Village, built in 1932 for the LA games. In 2007, BET began airing a TV program called Baldwin Hills, about the lives of rich, black teenagers from the area.


BALDWIN HILLS ESTATES 


Within Baldwin Hills is subdistrict known as Baldwin Hills Estates. The mostly Modernist homes sit on streets like Don Felipe and Don Luis in the Baldwin Hills Estates subdivision, earning a portion the nickname "The Dons." 


BALDWIN VILLAGE


Baldwin Village was originally nicknamed "The Jungle" for its tropical trees and foliage. In 1969, a member of the Chicago Blackstone Rangers known as T. Rodgers moved to Los Angeles and started a chapter in the West Adams/Jefferson Park area known as Black P Stone Rangers. Eventually there were hundreds of that gang's members in The Jungle. As a crime-ridden area sullying the otherwise posh reputation of the Baldwin Hills area, "The Jungle" took on a different meaning - that of a wild, dangerous and untamed place -- one of the cuts even became known universally as "Sherm Alley." As a result, in the 1980s people began promoting the use of the Baldwin Village name, hoping to gain more association with nearby, wealthy Baldwin Hills (and the nearby, by-then renamed Baldwin Hills Village). It was famously featured in the climax of Training Day


BALDWIN VISTA


Baldwin Vista is a neighborhood in the Baldwin Hills area that lies north of Coliseum Street and west of La Brea Boulevard.  There are many mid-century Modernist homes built at the time of the neighborhood's development in the 1940s and '50s. It's designation is a result of the Eighth District Empowerment Congress's "Naming Neighborhoods Project."


CAMEO PLAZA


Cameo Plaza is a small neighborhood in the northwest corner of South LA, bordering the Westside. It's situated on the western edge of the Baldwin Hills range and is also known as Cameo Woods, after gated condominium complex within it's borders. It's another product of the Eighth District Empowerment Congress's "Naming Neighborhoods Project."


CANTERBURY KNOLLS


Canterbury Knolls is a primarily residential neighborhood. Although the name is not widely recognized, the near fatal beating of Reginald Denny by a group of six men took place there. It's also home of the Slauson Super Mall, featured in the Tupac video for "To Live and Die in LA." To read more, click here.


CHESTERFIELD SQUARE


Chesterfield Square is home to Chesterfield Square Park. The population is roughly 59% black, 37% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 2% white and 1% Asian. At the time of writing it suffers from the highest rate of violent crime in LA county. It was formerly the home of special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen, it's where Good Fred Hair Oil was invented, and is home to a stove restoration place called Antique Stove Heaven. To read more about it, click here!


CRENSHAW MANOR


Crenshaw Manor is a primarily residential westside neighborhood between West Adams to the north and the Baldwin Hills and Crenshaw areas to the south. The population is roughly 71% black, 17% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran) and 5% Asian. It's also a product of the Eighth District Empowerment Congress's "Naming Neighborhoods Project."


DEL AIRE


Del Aire is a South LA neighborhood that's sometimes considered part of the South Bay, although it's landlocked.  It lies at the interchange of the 105 and the 405. It has the lowest crime rate in the region and the population is 46% Latino (mostly Mexican), 34% white (mostly German), 9% Asian (mostly Filipino), 7% black. 


EXPOSITION PARK


Exposition Park (originally known as Agricultural Park as it was an agricultural fairground where people raced camels) is home to the the California Science Center, California African-American MuseumLos Angeles Memorial ColiseumLos Angeles Swimming Stadium, Natural History Museum and the Exposition Park Rose Garden, to name a few. As with University Park to the north, some business owners and organizations are essentially trying to rip one of South LA's main cultural centers from the region by refining the area as part of Downtown Los Angeles, even though nearly 3 km separate the regions at their closest points. 


GARDENA


Gardena is an inland city with a long-established and pronounced Japanese-American presence and character. The population is highly diverse - 32% Latino (mostly Mexican), 27% Asian (mostly Japanese and Korean), 25% black, and 12% white. There are several stores with large selections of Japanese books, music and movies as well as popular and highly-rated Japanese restaurants. To read more about it, click here.


GRAMERCY PARK


Gramercy Park is home to several churches, mini-markets, and auto shops. It's home to Jesse Owens Park, named after the famous black track and field athlete who famously annoyed Adolf Hitler by taking home four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, thereby calling into question some of the diminutive führer's theories about blacks' supposed physical inferiority. The neighborhood is 86% black (largely Jamaican), 12% Latino (mostly Mexican) and 1% white.


HAWTHORNE


Hawthorne is a diverse city lying south of Inglewood with a population that's 44% Latino (mostly Mexican and Guatemalan), 32% black, 13% white, 8% Asian (mostly Filipino). The entirely landlocked inland city tends to represent the South Bay or Harbor Area despite lying almost entirely east of the 405. The city is most famous for having been the hometown of The Beach Boysdios (malos), and Emitt Rhodes of The Merry-Go-Round.


HYDE PARK


Established in 1887 as a stop on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway's Harbor Subdivision, Hyde Park is one of the oldest neighborhoods in LA. It was finally incorporated as its own city in 1922, only to be annexed by LA in 1923. It's generally considered to be part of the larger Crenshaw area and is home to Crenshaw High School. The population is 66% black, 27% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 2% white and 1% Asian.

INGLEWOOD


Although Inglewood was, as with its southern neighbors, traditionally considered to be part of the South Bay, due to its mention in songs by Westside-representers like Damani, Dr. Dre, Mack 10 and (East Harlem native) Tupac Shakur, "The Wood" is probably the most widely internationally recognized community in South LA's Westside. What's more, many films that are set anywhere in South Los Angeles are often, in fact, filmed in Inglewood I suspect because -- despite its nickname of "Inglehood," it's actually quite safe, well-kept and middle-class and looks sort of like the poorer communities that it stands in for albeit with larger, better maintained yards and houses and a slightly more traditionally urban feel in part provided by a couple of not-especially-tall skyscrapers: Inglewood City Hall, Comerica Building, and the La Cienega Business Center. Occasionally films are actually set in Inglewood, like The Wood

Ironically, Inglewood was once a hotbed of white supremacism and, as late as 1931, the Klan still maintained a chapter there. In 1960, there were 63,390 residents of Inglewood, only 29 of whom were black. Embarrassingly recently (22 July , 1970) Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Max F. Deutz ordered Inglewood schools to desegregate. Large numbers of Inglewood's white population left as a result and the black population grew significantly. Beginning in the 1980s, the Inglewood's Latino population skyrocketed. Today Inglewood's population is 46% black, 46% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran) and 4% white. 


JEFFERSON PARK


The development of Jefferson Park began around the turn of the 20th century. Built on the hills, Craftsman and Neo-Georgian styles attracted wealthier Angelenos. After World War II, numerous creoles from Louisiana moved there and it was nicknamed "Little New Orleans." By the 1950s, the area attracted many black and Japanese-American families (who after their internment during World War II, often relocated to different parts of LA than where they had lived previously). Today the population is approximately 47% black, 45% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 3% Asian, and 3% white.


KING ESTATES


King Estates is bounded by Dr. Marting Luther King Jr. Boulevard on the south and Exposition Boulevard on the north. It's also home to the Frederick Douglass Academy High School, named afer another famous black civil rights activist. I couldn't find any demographic information for the neighborhood but the presence of Taqueria & Bakery Oaxaca suggest the likely presence of Latinos. It's existence as a neighborhood is a result of the Eighth District Empowerment Congress's "Naming Neighborhoods Project."


LAWNDALE


Lawndale is a highly diverse city (52% Latino (mostly Mexican), 22% white, 12% black, and 11% Asian (mostly Vietnamese)). It is usually considered part of the South Bay or The Harbor despite being separated from both bodies of water by other coastal cities and neighborhoods. It was subdivided in 1905 by Charles B. Hopper who named it after a Chicago suburb. Lots sold slowly and different promotions were tried such as promoting Lawndale as a chicken raising area. By the 1980s, it (like most of the inland cities traditionally lumped in with the South Bay) was mostly home to working class people involved in nearby industries rather than wealthy beachfront property owners.


LEIMERT PARK


Leimert Park is often said to be the "Soul of LA." It was originally developed in 1928 by Walter H. Leimert. For many years the neighborhood has been a major center of the LA's black arts scene. There are several jazz, blues and hip-hop venues (Project Blowed was begun there) and the area known as Leimert Park Village has a quaint, small town feel. The population is approximately 80% black, 11% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), and 5% Asian. It's also the birthplace of rapper Dom Kennedy.


LENNOX


Lennox is a a Westside neighborhood next to LAX sometimes considered part of the South Bay, sandwiched between the much larger Inglewood and Hawthorne. The businesses include, as is the case in most of South LA's Westside, numerous mini-markets and auto shops. The population is also more aligned with the Westside than the South Bay - 89% Latino (mostly Mexican and Guatemalan), 4% black, and 4% white (mostly Irish). 


MAGNOLIA SQUARE


Magnolia Square hemmed in by Century, the 110, the 105 and Vermont. I'm not sure what the name is derived from (It's home to Little Green Acres Square). In addition to the usual selection of fast food chains, liquor stores, mini markets, churches, auto shops there's also It's All Good K'afe and Outdoors Bar B Que Grill. It's a product of the Eighth District Empowerment Congress's "Naming Neighborhoods Project."


MANCHESTER SQUARE


Although the name doesn't ring many bells for most, (or makes people think of the LAX-adjacent neighborhood in Westchester of the same name), Manchester Square is the birthplace of Art’s Chili Dog Stand in 1939, the 8 Tray Crips in 1974, the LA riots in 1992 and was the home of notorious serial killer known as The Grim Sleeper. The population is roughly 79% black, 19% Latino (mostly Mexican and Guatemalan) and 1% white. It's a product of the Eighth District Empowerment Congress's "Naming Neighborhoods Project."


MORNINGSIDE CIRCLE


Morningside Circle was the first neighborhood I blogged about after instituting a poll to determine which communities I would explore and write about, back in Season 2 (2008).  The neighborhood officially came into being as a result of the the Eighth District Empowerment Congress's "Naming Neighborhoods Project." Some of the interesting spots include the Krst Unity Center of Afrakan Spiritual Science and Smokee Joe's Bar-B-Q Grill. It's a product of the Eighth District Empowerment Congress's "Naming Neighborhoods Project." To read more about Morningside Circle, click here.


UNIVERSITY PARK


University Park was established around USC, which (founded in 1880) is California's oldest private research university. Today USC enrolls more foreign students than any other school in the US. Diversity is reflected in local population as well, 48% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 26% white, 16% Asian, and 7% black. 

Sadly (to me) there has been a movement led by several organizations and businesses to redefine University Park (and  Exposition Park) as being part of Downtown, which is visible in the distance and separated from catercorner University Park by the 10 and 110 freeways. Such a move would rob South LA's Westside of its heart and soul by carving out the region's birthplace and most diverse neighborhood.

Aside from Angeles Mesa and Inglewood (if one considers that to be part of the Westside), it's home to all of the region's tallest buildings: Waite Phillips Hall of Education (1968), Fluor TowerWebb Tower (Webb Tower), Radisson Midcity Hotel (1975), and Seeley G. Mudd Building (1982).

Other attractions in the neighborhood include the Lab Gastropub, the Hoover Recreation Center, St. Mary's College, St. James Park, Estrella Park, Bacaro LA Wine Bar, the Estonian House, Bing Theatre, Eileen Norris Cinema, the Spielberg Stage, and the George Lucas Building.


UNIVERSITY EXPOSITION PARK WEST


University Exposition Park West is home to establishments like Denker Recreation Center and James A. Foshay Learning Center. Although there is a good variety of local restaurants, there's also a higher-than-average number of fast food chains represented, as well as liquor stores.


VERMONT KNOLLS


The population of Vermont Knolls is about 55% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 43% Black, 1% White, and 1% Asian. There are several mini-markets, schools, fast food joints and churches.  It's where Paul Ferrara grew up, the director of the Jim Morrison-starring HWY - An American Pastoral and Doors photographer.


VERMONT-SLAUSON


Vermont-Slauson is named after the intersection of Vermont and Slauson Avenues, the site of the Vermont-Slauson Shopping Center (established in 1981) and a Taco Bell. There are also several burger joints, auto shops and mini-markets, as is common with most of the region. The population is 61% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 37% black, and 1% white.


VERMONT SQUARE


Vermont Square is home to Vermont Square Park - as well as Julian C. Dixon Park, named after the late politician. The Vermont Square Library is one of LA's three remaining Carnegie libraries. There are also many barber shops, beauty salons, auto shops, burgers, mini markets, and donut shops. The population -- 57% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 39% Black, 1% white, and 1% Asian -- includes many Belizeans, a fact reflected in the presence of Caribbean Market and Pelican Belizean Market. It's also home to the progressive Streetlight Cinema.


VERMONT VISTA


Vermont Vista is part of the Shoestring Annex. It's home of the Algin Sutton Recreation Area (not sure who Algin Sutton is), and the Bret Harte Preperatory Middle School (named after the poet, not the wrestler). Alongside the usual assortment of auto shops, small markets, there are several BBQ places. The current population is 52% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 45 % black, 1% white, and 1% Asian. It's a product of the Eighth District Empowerment Congress's "Naming Neighborhoods Project."


VIEW PARK-WINDSOR HILLS


View Park-Windsor Hills is a wealthy, mostly black neighborhood -- approximately 87% black (including many Jamaicans), 5% white (mostly Italian), 3% Latino (mostly Mexican), and 2% Asian. It was originally developed in the 1920s and then largely redeveloped in the 1930s with many Modern, Spanish Colonial and Mediterranean homes (often with pools) constructed. Due to the large numbers of doctors, as with Los Feliz it was nicknamed "Pill Hill." The rich black Angelenos moved in after desegregation was finally enforced in today it's still the wealthiest neighborhood in South LA's Westside. It's also the oldest and most educated. It's home to several parks (View Park, Monteith Park, and Ladera Park). Adding to it's posh reputation is Windsor Hills Math-Science-Aerospace Magnet School. Adding to its desirability are Cafe Soul and Gospel and Gumbo.


VILLAGE GREEN


Village Green is a condo community (and surrounding neighborhood) between the Baldwin Hills and the West Adams neighborhood. It was originally known as "Baldwin Hills Village" and ground broke on construction in 1941. The lead architect of the apartments was Reginald D. Johnson. In 1972, the apartments were converted to condos and renamed Village Green.


WEST ADAMS


West Adams is a neighborhood with many art galleries and studios, boutiques and a busy commercial corridor. The West Adams neighborhood is located west of the larger Historic West Adams District (which includes several Westside and Mid-City neighborhoods). It's population is approximately 56% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 38% black, 2% white and 2% Asian. It's also home to the famous Club Fais Do-Do, which used to be a popular haunt for the likes of Billy Preston, John Coltrane, Sam Cooke, and yours truly.


WEST ADAMS TERRACE-KINNEY HEIGHTS-BERKELEY SQUARE


People apparently can't seem to come to a consensus about what to call this neighborhood in the Historic West Adams District jeand it's often lumped in with Jefferson Park to the south. It's home to Gramercy Park, 2nd Avenue Park, Johnny's Pastramiand the lengthily named Exceptional Childrens Foundation School for Retarded Children. Its William Andrews Clark Memorial Library was built around the collection of rare books left by the son of a railroad baron/banker/politician. There are many nice Victorian homes, including the beatiful Joseph Dupuy Residence (now the South Seas House, for its Polynesian influence). There's also the Wilfandel Club House, the oldest black women's clubhouse in the city.


WEST PARK TERRACE


West Park Terrace is sometimes lumped in with its southern neighbor, Gramercy Park. It's a product of the Eighth District Empowerment Congress's "Naming Neighborhoods Project." As far as my research shows, there's no Westpark there, although there is Saint Andrews Recreation and Park. Local businesses that caught my attention include Toffee Sensations, Happy Fish Market, Bottom Line Cocktail Lounge, El Papagallo Bar, Mary and Junior Breakfast and Soul, M&M Soul Food, and Sassy Celebrity Weaves. Soul food, breakfast and toffee? Sounds like heaven.


WESTMONT


Westmont is a neighborhood located just west of the Shoetring Annex, near the intersection of the 105 and 110. It's neighbored by Athens, Inglewood, Gramercy Park, Magnolia Square, Manchester Square, West Park Terrrace, and Magnolia Square. The population is roughly 58% black, 39% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 1% white and 1% Asian. It's home to many small markets, Kindle's Donuts, Ralph's Drive-In Liquor, Lucy's Drive In, Taco Vaquero, Factory, Monster Burger, and Salaam West Bakery

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And so Westsidaz, to vote for any communities in the Westside or any other Los Angeles County communities to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote for Westside neighborhoods or any other Los Angeles neighborhoods, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here. Till next time, keep bumpin' and grindin' like a slow jam, it's Westside!

*****


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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:
*****

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.

*****
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!
 

*****


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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Compton, Los Angeles County's Hub City

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 23, 2011 07:03pm | Post a Comment
***The following blog entry contains strong language and is intended for mature audiences***


This edition of Eric's Blog is all about the CPT.  Where? Compton. That's right. To vote for other Los Angeles County communities to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote for Orange County communities, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, vote here.



INTRO

Compton is an infamous city that is practically synonymous around the world with the South Los Angeles region in which it's located. Due in large part to the mythologizing and glamorization of N.W.A. 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" and the city has, naturally, changed a great deal in that time. Nevertheless, the media continues to exploit the aging and increasingly irrelevant image as if Compton is frozen in time. Recently, a program on The History Channel hilariously claimed that "going to Compton is a death sentence for non-blacks." Not only are most residents of Compton non-black Latinos, there are small but visible groups of Belizeans, Filipinos, Koreans, Samoans and Tongans.

Continue reading...

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Gardena, the South Bay's City of Opportunity

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 8, 2010 01:00pm | Post a Comment

A typical street in Gardena with strong Japanese character

This here entry’s about Gardena. To vote for other Los Angeles County communities to be the subject of future entries, click here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

 

Gardena (in Japanese, ガーデナ; in Korean, 가데나 ) is located in the South Bay or South LA region, depending on your definition. It's a bit odd to consider it South Bay, since it's not on the water. However, there's a perception that it's unlike the rest of South LA, which is erroneously thought of as being much more homogenous than it is.



Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Gardena

surrounded by the slender Harbor Gateway to the east and south, Torrance to the southwest, Hawthorne to the northwest, West Athens to the north, and Alondra Park to the west. In recognition of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (and on account of it being voted for by readers), I took the CARDIS on a trip, joined by first time traveling companions Matt and Cheryl. We got some eats (‘n’ drinks) at Azuma and Furaibo, some groceries and goods at Marukai, and deeply inhaled the strawberry scented (and hot) air in Sanrio Surprises.

  
                                    Rancho San Pedro                                                          William Starke Rosecrans

In 1784, a Spaniard, Juan José Dominguez, was given a portion of land in reward for his military service which was named Rancho San Pedro in what was formerly a Tongva hunting and fishing area. Anyway, it passed into the hands of the Mexicans afterward, and ultimately was taken by the US. The first Anglo settler was mostly a Civil War veteran, Ohioan William Starke Rosecrans, who established Rosecrans Rancho there in 1869. In 1887, he was followed by another veteran, Kentuckian Spencer R. Thorpe. The name "Gardena" is said to have been proposed by Thorpe's daugher, Nettie.

  

That year, a railway line to Gardena was established and over the next couple of years, many more Anglos came to ranch and farm in the area.


Los Angeles and Redondo Railway

In 1904, Englishman John Bodger established Sweet Pea Farm in the town, then home to 1,000 residents. Another large portion of the farmers and gardeners were Japanese who'd mostly arrived from Hawaii.


Due to the acres of berry farms, the city was nicknamed "Berryland" and there used to be an annual Strawberry Day Festival and Parade. Although the Laguna Dominguez slough and channel fed the area and gave it its green character, it was filled in in the 1920s. Nonetheless, Gardena today still boasts several nurseries and parks that reflect its past. Gardena [along with the neighboring communities of Strawberry Park (to the northwest) and Moneta (to the south)] was incorporated into the City of Gardena in 1930.


Japanese-Americans have long been integral to the fabric of Los Angeles. J-Towns have sprung up around the Southland in Torrance, Boyle Heights, Monterey ParkPasadena, San Pedro, Terminal Island, Compton, Long Beach and Sawtelle, and Gardena (although, as far as I know, only two have acquired nicknames that reflect their Japanese-ness, Little Tokyo and Little Ōsaka).


Gardena Buddhist Church

In 1911, the Japanese Association founded the Moneta Japanese Institute. After the end of Japanese internment, many J-towns disappeared, but in Gardena, many Japanese-Americans returned to their former home after regaining their freedom. In the 1970s and '80s, Gardena saw a massive influx of even more Japanese. Today, at over 60,000 residents, Gardena still has a strong Japanese and Pacific Islander presence, making up roughly 27% of the population. Gardena is also approximately 25% black, 12% white and 32% Latino. Mexican and Japanese are the main ethnicities.


Tozai Shopping Center

Gardena is widely known for its Japanese food but, as this list of Gardena eateries suggests, there is a variety to be found at joints and there are a lot of Korean eateries, Hawaiian joints and BBQ places. Some of the better known restaurants and other food-related places include Azuma, Hakata Ramen Shinsengumi, Ahsah, Ana's La Gran Fonda, California Fish Grill, Jay-Bee's House of Fine Bar-B-Que, Kanpachi, Rascals Teriyaki Grill, Kau Kau Korner, Sushi Boy, Kiraku Ramen, El Rocoto, California 90, Pho Gardena, Pho So 1, Pho Long, Sakuraya, Meiji Tofu, Chikara Mochi, Giuliano's, Sakae Sushi, Polla a la Brasa, MamMoth Bakery, Jade's Bakery, La Villa, Bruddah's, Spoonhouse Bakery, Otafuku, Sea Empress, California Rice Center, Umemura, Daruma Izakaya, Akane Chaya, Kotohira, Classic Burger, Old Time Noodle House, Furaibo, Burnt Tortilla, Rainbow Donuts, A Taste of Jamaica, Fish City, Big Star Cafe, Tokyo Grill, Tottino's, La Perla and the Murakai Supermarket.


Pacific Garden Mall  


...and yes, the Pacific Garden Hotel for the overnight shopper

Today, much of Gardena's character remains, not surprisingly, green and Japanese, as evinced by Sanrio Surprise, Hide's Shiatsu, Pacific Square Shopping Center, Tozai Shopping Center, Masfukai Park and the Gardena Buddhist Church (established in 1926).

Nightlife in evidence takes place mostly at bars like Club Momo, Gaku, Moa, Wild Card, Yes, The Desert Room, Club Diva, The Aloha Room, Celeb, Ray's Place, Marty's and A Sung. Of course, there's karaoke at 501 Music Studio, Suzuran, Donna's, Fantasia, Daruma Izakaya and Sing Sing, for those interested in checking out the local music scene.


The most famous musician born in Gardena is not an aspiring karaoke singer, but rather noted jazz saxophonist Art Pepper. In other Jazz-in-Gardena news, in August the city hosts The Gardena Jazz Festival. The only rock band that I know of from Gardena is The Pretty Kittens, an all-girl rock band in the 1960s.


And although Bookoff is mostly about books (with a huge Manga section), they also had a pretty impressive selection of Japanese Dramas and film, as well as a bafflingly organized music selection. Even Matt, a librarian by trade, could not figure out the system, but we did eventually find the Judy and Mary CD we were looking for. As Cheryl was rung up, the cashier put her money in bowl and said something in Japanese. Cheryl nodded although none of us understood what was going on.






Amoeba Hollywood boasts a pretty impressive collection of Japanese Cinema but nothing compared to the rental store Video Japan. As Cheryl perused the horror films (note to Cheryl: High School Killer), Matt waxed philosophical about Japanese actress Sora Aoi.


Gardena’s been a shooting location for several films. For the years it existed, The Ascot Park Speedway was featured in films quite often, appearing in Roar of the Crowd; the Bowery Boys film, Jalopy; the Elvis film, Spinout; as well as the Jack Hill film, Pit Stop; Gone in 60 Seconds; A Very Brady Christmas; and an episode of CHiPs. Ascot was also the site of the annual USAC Turkey Night Grand Prix midget race on Thanksgiving. It was closed in the 1990s and fewer films have been shot in Gardena ever since.


Gardena Boulevard back in the day

Other film locations include the Marine/Redondo Green Line station, which was seen in Heat, and The Pet Haven Cemetary & Crematory served as The Happier Hunting Grounds in The Loved One. H.B. Halicki was obviously a fan of Gardena. He premiered Gone in 60 Seconds and also filmed portions of The Junkman there. Gardena was also featured in Ed Wood, Mulholland Dr., Run if You Can, Money to Burn, The Abominable..., Fragments (aka Winged Creatures), the Deborah Gibson vehicle Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, The Grind, Flossin and Palmer Chandler's Kitchen Catastrophes. Actor Toby Holguin was born in Gardena. Gardena has been featured on TV a couple of times, once an episode of Hot Rod TV and once on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, which featured Jay-Bee's in the episode "Real Deal BBQ." One of the radio station call-ins in CB4 was from a listener in Gardena too.



*****


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Calfornia Fool's Gold -- Exploring Canterbury Knolls

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 1, 2009 06:13pm | Post a Comment

Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Canterbury Knolls



Canterbury Knolls
is a South LA neighborhood bordered by Manchester Square, Morningside Circle and Vermont Knolls to the south, Hyde Park to the west, Chesterfield Square to the north, Vermont Square to the northeast, and Vermont-Slauson to the east.



Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of South Los Angeles

For the estimated two dozen or so semi-regular readers of this blog, the way this works is clear. People vote for a Los Angeles neighborhoodor an LA County community (vote here). To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

Then I go there -- often with my trusty sidekick, Shimbles. Then I attempt to explore the connections the area has to movies and music to keep it Amoeblog-relevant. And so, faced with more than two votes for Canterbury Knolls, Shimbles and I set out at the crack of noon to see what we could see in the fabled neighborhood. Preliminary internet research had proved mostly fruitless. Aside from a flame war between some internet gangstas on a 50 Cent message board and some girl’s Livejournal, I could find few firsthand acknowledgements of the neighborhood.

Artistic Welding, one of several iron works in the neighborhood

The way neighborhood names work in LA is this: the more ghetto the neighborhood, the more quaintly English sounding its name. Therefore, I had some notion of what to expect of Canterbury Knolls. Not surprisingly, when we arrived, there were neither knolls nor Kentish people to be seen. (The name "Canterbury" is derived from the Olde Englishe Cantwareburh, meaning "Kent people's stronghold.") In fact, when the Eighth District Empowerment Congress officially nicknamed every neighborhood in the area in 2002, no one in Canterbury Knolls seemed to get the news… or be consulted for the Naming Neighborhoods Project. Further research yielded two claims that the area is more commonly referred to simply as “da hood.” The LA Times even wrote an article, "Asphalt Jungle or Green Meadows?," which addresses the incongruity of the South LA's new neighborhood names and people's ignorance of Canterbury Knolls specifically.

 
Amazing art on a van belonging to Eric's Blog fan, Jesus Cruz!

I couldn’t find any musicians associated with the neighborhood, nor any actors. Although the neighborhood shares initials with Citizen Kane, the only film I could find that was shot in the neighborhood the brutal, senseless beating of Reginald Denny at the hands of Damian Williams, Henry Watson, Antoine Miller, Gary Williams, Anthony Brown and Lance Parker during the LA Riots of ’92, filmed at the intersection of Florence and Normandie. There’s not much along that patch of Florence aside from Gabe Motors, which was packed with restored and waiting-to-be-restored vochos. I’m sure that there are aspiring and possibly practicing musicians, actors or filmmakers in the neighborhood, so if you live in Canterbury Knolls and have a connection to the entertainment business, make yourself heard.


The decidedly deco Green Dog & Cat Hospital, built in 1934

As I mentioned earlier, there are no Kentish people in CK. In fact, nearly everyone we encountered  was black, Latino or Korean. Shimbles and I were the only "people-not-of-color" (to employ the politically correct Anglo-exclusion). Perhaps this is why a kindly old woman asked me if we were brothers as she bade me “good afternoon” and handed me a copy of Watchtower. In fact, Shimbles and I were continually greeted with almost pleasant but almost wearying regularity, making Canterbury Knolls the friendliest neighborhood blogging experience I’ve had to date (in stark contrast to the scowling yoga-pants-horde we encountered in Laurel Canyon the day before).


The gargantuan Slauson Super Mall

Physically, most of Canterbury Knolls is -- like most of South LA -- comprised of small, single story homes, box apartments and tiny stores arranged in grids. There are many churches, auto shops, small markets, discount stores, party suppliers, laundromats and carpet houses. There's a conspicuous absence of chains, for the most part, but they do have an Autozone and a 76. There are few restaurants, just a sprinkling of Burger, Chinese, Mexican and Salvadoran joints.

The northern portion of the neighborhood, along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad, is much more industrialized and mostly comprised of large, aging warehouses. Many of the businesses around Slauson, which forms the northern edge of the neighborhood, are furniture manufacturers. In fact, it was either in or near Canterbury Knolls that I procured one of my couches.

The largest of the warehouses is the awesome, sprawling Slauson Super Mall – an enormous, 177,129 square foot swap meet where one can get their nails done, get one’s shine on, buy rainbow-colored everything, eat pupusas and Icees, and pick up a memorial tee of a recently passed black celebrity. Last time I came here I saw one for 60 Minutes' Ed Bradley. Not surprisingly, Michael Jackson is the favored subject for airbrush artists of the moment. It was shown in the video for Tupac's "To Live and Die in LA."

Inside the Super Mall -- my photography doesn't begin to reflect the scope of this place




Well, that's about all I could figure out about Canterbury Knolls. If you have any corrections or additions, by all means let me know. Thanks.



*****


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