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Amoeba Muralist Michael Alvarez Debuts Paintings at MaRS April 30

Posted by Amoebite, April 26, 2016 06:40pm | Post a Comment

michael alvarez mural amoeba music

Have you ever seen the mural that surrounds the garage entrance to Amoeba Music in Hollywood? With musicians from soul, punk, hip hop and rock ‘n’ roll, it perfectly gets you into the mindset for crate diggin’. Here are some pictures to jog your memory.

mural amoebamural amoeba

 

The mural is the handy work of artists Tony Tee and Michael Alvarez, the latter of who is having his first solo exhibition, “Sorealism,” at Museum as Retail Space (MaRS) starting this Saturday, April 30. His 18 oil paintings will be on view through June 4.

Alvarez grew up in Northeast Los Angeles, an area currently facing a ton of changes as the gentrification wave heads east. The subjects of his paintings come from the area’s community spaces and domestic life, rendered in an unfiltered, true-to-life style. See some of his work below. (Some of it is NSFW; the raciest we'll post here just has a man mooning the viewer.)

michael alvarez painting

michael alvarez painting

michael alvarez painting take a hikeA public reception on Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. will feature a food pop-up by East Los Musubi, which brings new flavors to the classic Hawaiian snack of spam and rice wrapped in seaweed. Find out more here.

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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Glassell Park

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 5, 2014 03:42pm | Post a Comment

BREADBASKETS AND HEAD GASKETS -- GLASSELL PARK




This entry of California Fool's Gold is about the Los Angeles neighborhood of Glassell Park, a working class neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles. Glassell Park's neighbors are the neighborhoods of Eagle Rock to the east, Mount Washington to the southeast, Cypress Park to the south, Elysian Valley to the southwest, Atwater Village to the west, and the Glendale neighborhoods of Adams Hill, Somerset, and Tropico to the north. 
 



Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's maps (prints available from 1650 Gallery)

Sometime around the 1970s, a distinct Northeast Los Angeles began to emerge. Back then, the NELA 13 gang coined an acronym that their members couldn't have known would turn into a hip branding tool used to market luxury (yet freeway-adjacent) townhomes promising "modern living" in the form of a private dog park and two-car garages. Elsewhere in the neighborhood today, incongruous McMansions are improbably squeezed into tiny lots formerly occupied by tasteful Craftsman homes. 

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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Garvanza

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 15, 2014 12:57pm | Post a Comment
GARVANZA RAMBLE


Dooley striking a pose on the sidewalk in front of a Garvanza sign

In the fall of 2012 I had the opportunity to house-sit in El Sereno. During my stint in Los Angeles's easternmost neighborhood, I spent much of that time exploring that neighborhood with a good-natured dog named Dooley. This past fall I again returned to the Eastside to house-sit once again and Dooley and I resumed our epic explorations. This time around we explored more than just El Sereno, extending our rambles into the nearby neighborhoods of Arroyo View Estates, City Terrace, East Los Angeles, Happy Valley, Hermon, Highland Park, Hillside Village, Lincoln Heights, Montecito Heights, Monterey Hills, Rose Hill, University Hills, and on one warm autumn afternoon, Garvanza.


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map pf Garvamza

Garvanza is a small neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles often considered to be part of Highland Park. To its north are Arroyo View Estates and the city of Pasadena, to the northwest is Annadale (even more often considered to be part of Highland Park than Garvanza), to the west and south is Highland Park proper, to the southwest is Mount Angelus (yet another neighborhood almost always considered to be part of Highland Park), and across the Arroyo Seco to the east is the city of South Pasadena. The population is of Garvanza today is roughly 61% Latino, 24% white, 12% Asian, and 2% black.


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Northeast Los Angeles (Monterey Hills has been added since)

The original borders of the neighborhood were Crescent to the north Figueroa to the west, Arroyo Glen to the south, and the slope east of Avenue 66 to the east. Soon after its foundation, however, the northern border was moved to Meridian and other tracts, such as Cheviotdale, Eleanore, Garvanza Vista, Lindsay Olive Orchard, Morrison's Floral Glen, Nithsdale, Parkdale, Parkdale Heights, San Rafael Terrace, Singer, Lewis, and The Chites, Myers, and Kulli Tract soon expanded the community's borders.  


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EARLY HISTORY OF THE AREA

The earliest human inhabitants of the area were likely the ancestors of the Chumash people, who lived in the area at least as early as 13,000 years ago. A mere 10,000 years later a band of immigrants arrived from the Sonoran Desert to the east and either displaced or were absorbed into the indigenous population. These people, now usually referred to as the Tongva, established major villages nearby including Hahamongna, Otsungna, and Yangna.


SPANISH & MEXICAN ERA

The Tongva's 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. In 1771, the European conquerors constructed the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel -- first in what's now known as Whittier Narrows. In 1776 the mission was moved to its present location in San Gabriel, nine kilometers to the southeast of what's now Garvanza. A few years later, in 1781, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula was founded ten kilometers to the southwest. The land that now is part of Garvanza was part of a huge 36,000 acre territory granted in 1784 to Spanish soldier José María Verdugo, who named the land "Rancho San Rafael." Verdugo died in 1831, ten years after New Spain became part of the new nation of Mexico. After his death, Verdugo's land holdings passed to his son and daughter.


EARLY AMERICAN ERA


Sheep grazing near Frances Campbell-Johnston's Church of Angels ca. 1889

America conquering Alta California in 1848 didn't end the Verdugo's possession of San Rafael but a rather a defaulted loan did. In 1869, nineteen years after California became one of the United States, a portion of the rancho was purchased at a sheriff's auction by Albert B. Chapman and Andrew Glassell Jr. The two leased the land to sheepherders, whose animals must've grazed the supposedly-once-prevalent chickpeas rumored to have been planted by Verdugo (and from which Garvanza gets its name) out of existence.


BIRTH OF GARVANZA -- OR GARVANZO


Los Angeles and San Gabriel Railroad bridge under construction over the Arroyo Seco (1885)

In 1885, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway arrived in the area via an Arroyo Seco-spanning bridge built for the recently-acquired Los Angeles and San Gabriel Railroad, a move which at once both ended Southern Pacific's monopoly on the area and instigated a rate war which saw ticket prices from Kansas City, Missouri drop to just $1. That, in turn, helped fuel a housing boom and demand for land.


The Garvanza Hotel (1887)

Highland Park was established in 1886. That same year Ralph and Edward Rogers established "The Town of Garvanzo" because why not name your town after a legume with a rumored historical presence? The first home built in Garvanzo (or Garvanza -- early spelling variations seem to have quickly settled on the latter) was Andrew Glassell's, built in 1885 at the corner of Avenue 64 and Roble Street. After the subdivision of the land, a few more followed. The grandest new structure was the Garvanza Villa Hotel -- a grand Victorian lodge designed by Boring and Haas. The short-lived boom went bust in 1888 and residential development in the tiny village ground to a halt -- although Garvanza's handsome two-story schoolhouse was completed in 1889.


ANNEXATION


Detail of LA Travel and Hotel Bureau's Map of Los Angeles, California Rail Systems (1906)

Highland Park was annexed by Los Angeles in 1895. In 1898, the Garvanza Improvement Association formed to promote the paving of streets and planting of trees in community. Garvanza remained its own municipality until 1899, when it too was annexed. After that, Garvanza was the northeasternmost corner of Northeast Los Angeles until 1912, when the Arroyo Seco Addition added a small buffer to Garvanza's north and east. 

Detail of J.R. Prince's Territory Annexed to Los Angeles, 1781-1916 (source: Big Maps Blog)

In a sense, Garvanza was annexed for a second time in 1922. That year the community joined Annandale, Hermon, Sycamore Grove, and York Valley in joining the Greater Highland Park Association and therein surrendering their individual identities. Their efforts to advance their lot by banding together behind Highland Park came to little against the onslaught of the Great Depression.


View of the Arroyo Seco Park and Channel looking northeast after the construction of the Pasadena Freeway, ca.1941

Not all construction stopped during that era, however, as two major public works were completed in the 1930s. The Arroyo Seco below Devil's Gate Dam (built in 1920 by the Los Angeles County Flood Control District) was paved and channelized, between 1935 and 1940, by Works Progress Administration crews. At the same time, the adjacent Pasadena Freeway (now the Arroyo Seco Parkway) was being constructed and opened in 1940.

After the Depression and World War II ended, many of the original residents of Garvanza and their descendants moved away to newer suburbs -- particularly those in the San Fernando Valley and Orange County. With their departure, the Garvanza name seems to have almost vanished -- although it was kept alive by Garvanza Elementary, Garvanza Foursquare Church, Garvanza Hardware, Garvanza Park as well as by historians, who when writing about the area, sometimes included phrases like "in what was formerly Garvanza." Thanks to the efforts of The Highland Park Heritage Trust, Garvanza was officially recognized as a neighborhood once more by the City of Los Angeles in 1997.

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GARVANZA ART SCENE


A modern mural at Burbank Middle School

Northeast Los Angeles and the communities along the Arroyo Seco have long been known for their vibrant arts scene, which was in its early years dominated by plein air painters of California Impressionism and members of the California Arts & Crafts Movement. The Garvanza Circle included Carl Oscar Borg, Elmer Wachtel, Fernand Lungren, Granville Redmond, Hanson Puthuff, and Maynard Dixon. In 1906, a group of local artists organized The Painters' Club of Los Angeles. In 1909, that organization was disbanded and its members formed the California Art Club, which remains active today. From 1909 until 1915, Garvanza was home to The Arroyo Guild of Craftsman.


A mural created by several artists and the Hathaway Family Resource Center


JUDSON STUDIO and the LOS ANGELES SCHOOL OF FINE ARTS

A beautiful building standing near the intersection of Avenue 66 and Roble Avenue houses Judson Studios. The building and others associated with the Judson family business have a somewhat complicated history that I will attempt to delineate as clearly as possible. 


Professor Judson's College of Fine Arts building at the USC, ca.1910
In 1895, Mancunian-American painter William Lees Judson was chosen to head USC's art department. In 1901 he became dean of the College of Fine Arts which met in an Islamic-inspired building (pictured above) in Garvanza that unfortunately burned to the ground in 1910. Beginning in 1909, Judson had additionally headed the Arroyo Guild of Fellow Craftsmen, whose nearby guild hall survived the fire unscathed. After the fire until 1920, when USC moved to University Park in South Los Angeles, the building was home to the USC's School of Fine Arts


In 1897, after his father William Lees Judson convinced him to move west from St. Louis, Missouri, William Horace Judson founded The Colonial Glass Company in Downtown Los Angeles. In 1906 the company changed its name to the W.H. Judson Art Glass Company. In 1920, the glass company relocated to Garvanza, where it remains (although the company's name was shortened simply to "Judson Studios" in 1931). In 1969 the building faced possible demolition and saved by being named a Historic-Cultural Landmark (and later listed on the National Register of Historic Places). 

OTHER GARVANZA STRUCTURES OF NOTE


Though small, Garvanza is simply home to too much interesting architecture to mention it all here. The Highland Park-Garvanza Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (the largest in Los Angeles) includes examples of Mission Revival, Shingle, and Tudor Revival homes as well as quite a few Queen Anne and Craftsman structures as well. I will mention just  few of my favorites, then:


The Dr. Williams Residence - The folk Victorian known as the Dr. Williams Residence was apparently built as a "speculation house" in 1886. It's named after the doctor who purchased it in 1936. It was originally owned by a Dr. John Lawrence Smith, one of the founders of the Garvanza Improvement Association. Back in November, Una and I toured the renovated home and it was pretty cool.

The Dr. Franklin S. Whaley Residence - Franklin Whaley was the first physician in Garvanza. His Italianate home was built in 1887. The Dr. Franklin S. Whaley Residence (not pictured) was designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 528 in 1991.


The McClure House

The McClure House - The McClure House is, at least from the outside, one of the real gems of Garvanza. Its architect was James H. Bradbeer (of Bradbeer and Ferris). William F. McClure was a civil engineer and director of both a railway and the Garvanza Land Company. The home was completed in 1889.


Pisgah Home (image source: Wikipedia)

The Pisgah Faith Home - The Pisgah Home movement was a faith healing cult led by Finis E. Yoakum in the early 1900s. Yoakum was injured in a buggy accident in 1894 and the following year moved to Los Angeles to recuperate. In 1897 he claimed to have discovered a way to prospect for gold using x-rays and subsequently offered stock in his new mining company. After first speaking in tongues whilst pursuing mining interests in Mexico, Yoakum began referring to his Garvanza home as Yoakum's Sanatorium, where he purported to reform "drunkards and outcasts." In 2000, the Pisgah Home received a preservation grant from the Getty Trust and in 2007 was added to the National Register of Historic Places.


Abbey San EncinoClyde Browne was an Ohio-born printer/typographer. Around 1902, Browne and his wife moved to Los Angeles where he began working for the Los Angeles Examiner in 1904.After leaving the paper, he co-founded the printing firm of Browne and Cartwright in 1910. For more than thirty years they  printed USC's The Daily Trojan and The Occidental Weekly

In 1915 Browne began building the Abbey San Encino on his property out of found and scavenged materials. He even built a small-gauge rail to carry stones from the Arroyo Seco. It was mostly completed by 1921 but the family didn't move in until 1926.
Clyde Browne's son, Clyde Jack Browne, continued to work in the newspaper business -- although he developed an interest in jazz and was apparently a talented musician. Browne was stationed in Germany during the 1940s on a job assignment with the Stars and Stripes newspaper and it was there that his wife gave birth to their sons, Jackson and Edward Severin Browne. The two brothers, who grew up to be musicians of note, were raised alongside their sisters, Roberta and Gracie, in Abbey San Encino. The cover of Jackson Browne's second album, For Everyman, is a photo of the courtyard of the Abbey which, on the day of my most recent visit, appears to still be undergoing repairs. 

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Ruins of the Tower of Amon Sûl?


Typical Garvanza homes


GARVANZA CHURCHES


Church of the Angels (annexed by Pasadena)

As Dooley and I explored tiny Garvanza, we occasionally found that we'd strayed into other neighborhoods. First we crossed into Arroyo View Estates -- a neighborhood of 1960s ranch homes that looks quite unlike Garvanza. Thinking that we were back in Garvanza, I approached the Church of Angels as its bells chimed 3:00. The charming church was built in 1889, when the area was part of Garvanza. However, it was long ago annexed by Pasadena -- as part of the Cheviotdale Heights Annexation of 1923.


Good Shepherd Lutheran Church

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church - Dooley and I found ourselves standing in front of The Good Shepherd Lutheran Church when the bells chimed 3:30. Built in 1922, it's the oldest of the English District's (a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod thing) churches in California.



Hansammul Church 

Hansammul Church - When Dooley and I arrived at Hansammul Church it was 4:00 but no bells chimed. The church was built in 1940.


Garvanza Foursquare Church (image source: Floyd B. Bariscale)

Garvanza Foursquare Church - The Garvanza Foursquare Church, also known as "The Lighthouse," was was built in 1908.


PARKS


Garvanza Park sign


Another view of Garvanza Park

Garvanza Park - The main park in Garvanza is Garvanza Park, a fairly small park that's dominated by a baseball diamond and the old Garvanza Pumping Station and Highland Reservoir, which was designated Los Angeles Historic Cultural Momument #4112 in 1989. In 2007, a skate park opened within the park.


San Pascual Park

San Pascual Park - There's also San Pascual Park. Though located on the west bank of the Arroyo Seco, it's mostly located within South Pasadena. As Dooley and I explored the park, we passed a group of day-drinkers on the Garvanza side of the park and after crossing into South Pasadena, saw a group of people playing baseball. Closer to the Arroyo Seco, along which the park is situated, we encountered a seemingly friendly hermit living in a lean-to.

Highland Park Adult Senior Citizens Center -  There's also the Highland Park Adult Senior Citizens Center, the name of which begs the question -- are there senior citizens who aren't adults? A banner proclaims "seniors welcome" which I assume means that junior citizens are not so all I could do was stare through the fence at the rose garden, a sign reading "Shuffleboard Club," and an auditorium that hosts bingo.


MUSIC & FILM OF GARVANZA

Other than Jackson and Severin Browne, my research didn't turn up any Garvanza-associated musicians. Walking in Los Angeles one is constantly exposed to all sorts of music from Chinese Opera, to Armenian dance musicbanda, trival, and hip-hop. As I walked along I encountered a man sitting on a porch listening to La Ranchera 930 -- Los Angeles's only ranchera station (it's my belief that Los Angeles's AM band is vastly more interesting than the FM band). Other signs of music included a skater in an AC/DC T-shirt and a woman walking a bulldog rocking a Notorious B.I.G. T-shirt depicting the rapper wearing a golden crown. None of these talents are Garvanza natives, though. So as usual, if any readers know of and filmmakers, actors or musicians born in Garvanza, please let me know in the comment section. Same goes for films or television set in and/or filmed in Garvanza.

Update: Daniel J. W!shington (ne Daniel Joseph), Surprise Vacation, Stalefish's Daniel Wong, and Gimme Gimme Records owner Dan Cook are all based in Garvanza although I'm not sure if any, besides apparently Surprise Vacation, are actually from the neighborhood originally. 


GETTING THERE AND GETTING AROUND


A stairway connecting Lantana Drive and Avenue 64

Being as small as it is, Garvanza is easily walkable and bikeable. Walkscore gives the neighborhood a walk score of 75, a bike score of 68, and a transit score of 41. It's served by Metro's 81, 176, and 256 lines as well as LA DOT DASH Highland Park/Eagle Rock line. Exploring the neighborhood I spied some of the old Los Angeles Railway tracks that once brought Yellow Cars and their passengers to and from the area. Although today the Metro Gold Line passes through the neighborhood, its nearest stop is Highland Park Station (located less than a kilometer outside of Garvanza).


Hough Street Stairs in Garvanza

There are also public stairs, which have become popular destinations in and of themselves since the publication of Charles Fleming's book, Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles. I'm not sure if Garvanza is included in the book but there are plenty of public stairs in the vicinity. The Hough Street Stairs were long ago artistically tiled by students from San Pascual Elementary.


A view of the tiles of Hough Street Stairs (and Dooley's hind quarters)

There are also efforts by Caltrans and Metro to extend the 710 freeway north to either the 2 or 134 Freeways. In 1997 a group of activists prevented the 710 from extending beyond its northern terminus at the intersection of Alhambra, El Sereno and University Hills. Two of the options that are being considered would extend the 710 through Garvanza. As I walked around I counted 8 "Stop the 710" banners and none in its favor. 


One of the many Stop the 710 banners


GARVANZA EATS (AND DRINKS)


OK Chinese and the Dr. John Lawrence Smith Residence, visible in the background

Early in its history, Gavanza was promoted with (among other methods) all-you-can-eat BBQs. There's still BBQ today -- at Bro's BBQHighland Park Din Din a Go-Go is a rally of food trucks that takes place in the neighborhood. There's also Donut Star, Italiano's Pizza, La Perla Bakery, Mando's Family Restaurant, Martha's Mexican food truck, My Taco, OK Chinese Restaurant, Penny's Burgers, and Super Panda.

There are also a few markets including A's Market, Cali-Mex Family Market, Hi Ho Market, and Uno Produce Market No. 5. There's only one bar that I know of that's located in Garvanza -- Dusty's Sports Bar. There's also one liquor store, York Square Liquors.


GARVANZA SOCIETIES

For those eager to get involved in Garvanza, there are at least two neighborhood organizations: Highland Park Heritage Trust (established in 1982) and Garvanza Improvement Association (revived in 1985)


FURTHER READING

For those interested in reading more about Garvanza, a neighborhood newspaper called The Garvanzan debuted in 1887. After it was acquired by the improbably-named Winfield C. Hogaboom in 1888, it was renamed the Garvanza Gazette but ceased publication after just seven months, in February of 1889. 

More modern histories include several books in the Images of America series. They include Charles J. Fisher and the Highland Park Heritage Trust's Garvanza (2010) and Highland Park (2008). Rick Thomas's The Arroyo Seco (2008) also includes some interesting history and photography from Garvanza. 

Back in 2007, LAist undertook a series called The Neighborhood Project, which covered Angeleno HeightsBaldwin Hills, Chinatown, Franklin VillageMiracle Mile, NorthridgeSherman Oaks, Studio City, Watts, and Garvanza. Some of them are quite thorough for blogs -- far more than my own neighborhood pieces which I began at almost the same time. To read Lindsay William-Ross's piece, click here.

There's also a great Facebook page called Historic Garvanza, Rose Hills, & Highland Park in Northeast Los Angeles.


Ye Olde Trash Tree


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As always, I welcome corrections, additions, and personal accounts of Garvanza 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 Hermon

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 2, 2014 02:35pm | Post a Comment
FROM THE LIONS' DENS AND THE MOUNTAIN HAUNTS OF LEOPARDS --HERMON


Hermon and the deodars planted by the Arroyo Vista Woman's Club in memorium [sic] of Grace Ebey Reed

In the fall of 2012 I had a stint house-sitting in El SerenoI spent much of my time exploring that neighborhood with a dog named Dooley. This past fall I again returned to the Eastside and Dooley I resumed our epic walks. This time around we explored Arroyo View EstatesCity TerraceEast Los AngelesEl SerenoGarvanzaHappy Valley, Highland ParkHillside VillageLincoln HeightsMontecito HeightsMonterey HillsRose HillUniversity Hills, and on one late afternoon, Hermon.


More signs of Hermon


Hermon is a small neighborhood situated in a small valley between the neighborhood of Highland Park to the north and west, and the city of South Pasadena to the east. To the southeast is the neighborhood of Monterey Hills and to the southwest is the neighborhood of Montecito Heights. When the community of Hermon was just nine years old it was annexed by Los Angeles but more than a century later there are both Hermon residents and visitors who think of it as its own municipality. 


Detail of JR Prince's Territory Annexed to Los Angeles, 1781-1916 (source: Big Maps Blog)


The spirit of autonomy was supported even in the years after the community's absorption into a growing metropolis. A brochure from 1916 described Hermon as occupying “an ideal location, within the City of Los Angeles, but well removed from city vices and allurements.” In 1922 it formally joined Highland Park but its sense of separateness never seems to have vanished entirely. 

Hermon's small size, distance from "city vices and allurements," and independent streak seem to have kept it obscure. In fact, it's best known for being unknown. Take Kim Cooper and Richard Schave's podcast, You Can't Eat the Sunshine, for which the theme-song-singing Ukaladay caterwauls  of a “...long-lost neighborhood of Hermon between South Pas and Highland Park.” An LA Times article by Bob Pool referred to Hermon as “a corner of Los Angeles that time didn't forget but just about everyone else did.” Hermon doesn't even exist on Yelp or LA TimesMapping LA project. AOL doesn't have a Hermon Patch and there's no NextDoor page for it. Still, Hermon isn't exactly a lost civilization and its roughly 3,255 residents are hardly an uncontacted people.

As Dooley and I braved the streets of Hermon, we encountered no hostile natives (unless you count barking dogs). Quite the contrary, in fact -- as Dooley and I walked down Bushnell Way, our first encounter with one of the natives involved a pretty, smiling, Vietnamese woman clothed in the sort of exotic, stripy traditional garb one might get at H&M or Muji. When she said, "hello" (in English) it was with such disarming friendliness that for a split second I thought that she was either somehow expecting us or that we were already acquainted. 


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's Map of Hermon


It actually turned out to be our only interaction with anyone in Hermon and although it hardly felt like we'd entered some fabled land of the lost, the neighborhood does have a discernible air of distinctness. For one there are more pick-up trucks per capita than one finds in most neighborhoods on this side of Angeles Forest -- there were even a couple of monster trucks. Hermon also smells clean and cedar-y... something I associate more with National Forests more than suburban corners of Los Angeles. There are quite a few stately deodars and sycamores and the barriers formed by the Repetto Hills and Arroyo Seco but they alone couldn't account for the sensation that we'd traveled quite a bit further than we actually had. 


ARROYO SECO


The main physical barrier between the rest of Los Angeles and Hermon is the not-usually-very-imposing Arroyo Seco. Spanish for “dry stream,” the Arroyo Seco is a river with headwaters near Mount Wilson in Angeles Forest that passes between Altadena and La Cañada Flintridge before it becomes channelized, below Devil's Gate Dam and near the north end of Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena. After that it continues downward, sheathed in concrete, until it reaches the confluence with the Los Angeles River at the neighborhood confluences of Cypress Park, Elysian Park, Elysian Valley, and Lincoln Heights. A rather short stretch of the river is paralleled by the Arroyo Seco Bike Path, which currently begins in South Pasadena and continues south through Hermon to Debs Park where it ends. Hopefully that will someday be extended to entire the 40 kilometer length of the river (it's currently only about three kilometers long).



EARLY HISTORY


The earliest known inhabitants of the area that's now Hermon arrived there some 13,000 years ago. About 10,000 years later the ancestors of the Tongva arrived from the Sonoran Desert, ultimately establishing the villages of Otsungna nearby to the south and Hahamongna to the north. The Tongva reign ended shortly after Spaniard Gaspar de Portolà's overland expedition passed through the area in 1769, setting the stage for Spanish conquest. In 1771, the conquerors constructed Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, at first in Whittier Narrows. In 1776 the mission was moved to its present location in San Gabriel, eight kilometers to the east of what's now Hermon.  A few years later, in 1781, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles was founded the same distance away to the southwest. 

The area that now comprises Hermon was located just beyond the northeast corner of the land designated Los Angeles, in lands belonging to the nearby Mission. Spanish rule ended when Mexico achieved independence in 1821 and the mission holdings were subsequently secularized. 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. 

By the turn of the 20th Century, the land that would become Hermon was proving to be a hard sell for its then-owner, Ralph Rogers, who'd successfully overseen developments in Eagle Rock, Garvanza, and Highland Park but was unable to find a buy of the isolated property that became even more isolated when the seasonal Arroyo Seco flooded. 

FOUNDATION OF HERMON


Photo of the 1913 Arroyo Seco flood (image source: Hermon, Los Angeles)

The floodplain's isolation was something of a selling point to Charles Bond Ebey, who'd moved to Los Angeles from Illinois in 1888 with the hope of improving his wife's health. Ebey was a reverend in the stern Free Methodist sect who sought to found a colony of likeminded folks. Rogers gave Ebey fourteen acres of land to build a seminary and 100 lots to sell to other Free Methodists. The newly established community was named Hermon after Mount Hermon (Senir in the Amorite tongue), the highest peak in what's now Syria.


Hermon in 1904 (image source: Hermon, Los Angeles)


Undated photo (late 1930s?) of Hermon looking south (image source: Hermon, Los Angeles)

Today, streets including Coleman Avenue, Ebey Avenue, Redfield Avenue, and Terrill Avenue still serve as reminders of the community's early leaders (J. Emory Coleman, Ebey, John Wesley Redfield, and Joseph Goodwin Terrill, respectively) who though they undoubtedly preached humility, apparently weren't above being honored through thoroughfares.


HERMON COMMUNITY CHURCH 


Hermon Community Church

The original Hermon Community Church congregation organized in 1903. It wasn't until 1910 that they got around to building their first church. The current Hermon Church building dates back to 1949. 

The original Hermon Church in 1921 (image source: Hermon, Los Angeles)



THE SCHOOLS OF HERMON


Los Angeles Free Methodist Seminary in 1920 (image source: Hermon, Los Angeles)

Los Angeles Free Methodist Seminary opened in 1904. In 1911, curriculum was expanded with the addition of junior college courses. In 1934, the school became Los Angeles Pacific College, a four year university. In 1965, the struggling school was absorbed by Azusa Pacific University and the campus was turned over to Pacific Christian High School, which evolved into Pacific Christian on the Hill, which closed in 2004. The campus is now leased to Los Angeles International Charter High School (LAICHS), which may or may not be connected to Bethesda Christian University. Trying to sort it out was taking to long and frankly not that interesting to me but I did notice a sign at the base of a hill that said something about it being the future site of Bethesda. 


Bushnell Way Elementary School

The other school in the neighborhood is Bushnell Way Elementary. It was originally known as The American School and judging from historic photos it apparently was housed in at least two school buildings. An attractive "new" building was constructed in 1935. If I have the story correctly, Rose Bushnell was the school's first principal and folks wanted to name the school after her but there was a rule against naming schools after living people (and Rose Bushnell was a living principal). Instead of waiting for Bushnell to die, they instead named a street after her and then the school after the street. 


Undated picture of kids playing outside the American School (image source: Hermon, Los Angeles)


HODEL RESIDENCE & TEA HOUSE


The Hodel Residence (Tea House not in picture)


Hermon is full of charming homes including some of the modest kit homes that housed the community's first inhabitants. One of the more interesting and least modest houses in Hermon is the Hodel Residence. It was designed by Russian architect Alexander Zelenko in 1921 for two Ukrainian immigrants, banker George Hodel and his wife, Esther Leov. The two were notably also big supporters of the arts and friends with famed Romantic composer Sergei Rachmaninoff.

The couple's son, George Hill Hodel, Jr., was given the tea house in the back and later went on to be the suspect in several murders and of raping his daughter. In 2003, that Hodel's son, a former LAPD homicide detective published Black Dahlia Avenger; A Genius for Murder, alleging that his father wast the murderer of Elizabeth Short


I think it was around 2006 that I had the opportunity to poke around the whimsical mansion although I can't remember what the exact circumstances were. I seem to remember it needing a bit of love at the time but at some point around the same time it was designated a Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Monument.


MONTEREY TRAILER PARK 

Monterey Trailer Park


Just down the hill from the Hodel Residence is another residential development from the same era that's been designated a Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Monument -- the Monterey Trailer Park. The word "motel" (a portmanteau of "motor" and "hotel") was coined in 1925. Around 1923, Elmer Drummond (who operated a service station nearby) opened the Monterey Auto Camp in Hermon, a sort of motel precursor made possible as people were just beginning to undertake long road trips. Most if not all of the original ten cabins are gone -- replaced by mobile homes. 


HERMON BECOMES HIGHLAND PARK

In 1923, the Highland Park Branch of the Security Trust & Savings, Bank of Los Angeles published a short book titled The Five Friendly Valleys: The Story of Greater Highland Park. Hermon, the smallest of the "five friendly valleys," had forsaken its own identity (as had the communities of Annandale, Garvanza, Sycamore Grove, and York Valley) to band together as the Greater Highland Park Association (GHPA), hoping that in doing so the area would gain clout. Although as a result most people came to think of all of those neighborhoods as Highland Park, decades later some would be revived as growing numbers of Angelenos began increasingly rejecting anonymity and embracing history and community. 


HERMON CAR WALL 


Hermon Car Wall

Hermon's third Historic Cultural monument is an interesting piece of folk art, the so-called Hermon Car Wall. Iowa-born Albert Emmanuel Sederquist moved to Los Angeles in 1926, taking up residence in the Cadillac Hotel. He worked for Carmichael Traffic Corporation, the LA Traffic Bureau, and apparently owned six cars. In 1932 he bought a piece of property he called "The Dugout" in Hermon which he used as a campground and to go a little John Muir now and then. With the aid of a nephew, he built a rather tall retaining wall out of car parts, bricks takend from the rubble a schoolhouse felled by the Long Beach Earthquake, and regular old cement. The wall was completed in 1941 and Sederquist died in 1959. In recent years, gravity seems to have gotten the upper hand but it's still an interesting site and not entirely dissimilar to Simon Rodia's much better known Watts Towers -- built during the same period and the only other piece of folk art on the monument list. The address given, the intersection of Pullman and Lodge, is not especially helpful because both are only "paper streets" -- streets that exist only on maps but that no one got around to actually making happen. Therefore, the easiest way to find the wall is to head up what appears to be a shared driveway stretching uphill and southwest from Terrill Avenue.


ENDING ISOLATION


Avenue 60 Bridge

Hermon may've become part of Highland Park on paper in 1922 but in reality it remained largely isolated (except from South Pasadena) until the Avenue 60 bridge over the Arroyo Seco was constructed in 1926. The so-called Monterey Road Pass (also known as "The Great Wall of Hermon" or "The Cut" to some locals) was cut through the hills to the south in 1930 and is, in my mind, the most scenic way to enter the neighborhood. Hermon Avenue Bridge was constructed in 1939. 

Monterey Road Pass


CLAUDE WATSON

Around the same time, Hermon resident Claude Watson (a Free Methodist lawyer) ran for office on theClaude Watson Prohibition buttonProhibition ticket. The Prohibition Party (PRO) is the oldest third party in the US and is still trying to make alcohol illegal. In the 2012 presidential election, the PRO presidential candidate even received 519 votes. In 1935, two years after Prohibition's repeal, Watson ran as Vice President in support of D. Leigh Colvin and the two received 37,667 votes. He ran for president on the same party ticket in 1944 and '48, receiving 103,489 votes in the latter, more successful election -- only 24 million fewer votes than Truman. Although deed restrictions that kept the town dry for decades have been lifted for even more, there are still zero bars, nightclubs, taverns, or any other sorts of watering holes in Hermon so in a sense, it's still a dry town (although as far as I known you can buy alcohol at the market and possibly the 76 station).


LYONS GAS STATION


The old Lyons Gas Station


Lyons Gas Station back in the 1950s (image source: Hermon, Los Angeles)

It's not a recognized Historic Cultural Monument but I happen to be a fan of old service stations. Lyons Gas Station was built in 1953. It's currently home to A F Automotive Service



MONTEREY PLAZA


Monterey Plaza and "Downtown" Hermon

Hermon's business district, or downtown (if you can call it that), is dominated by Monterey Plaza -- a shopping center constructed in the 1960s. Monterey Plaza is dominated by Hermon's only market -- Fresco Community Market -- which like many markets of its size includes a bakery, kitchen and deli in addition to grocery section. The market is also a popular filming location and an ad starring a guy named Josh Duhamel and another with those Smothers Brothers-esque hipsters who hawk car insurance -- as well as a dozen others -- have been shot there.



RENAMING ROADS

In 1978, then-concilman Arthur "Art" Snyder renamed Hermon Avenue after his then-three-year-old daughter, Erin-Marisol. The freeway exit sign was changed to reflect the re-designation. Not everyone in Snyder's constituency was apparently happy and Caltrans responded by restoring the name to the traffic sign, although they ignominiously misspelled it "Herman Ave." Their mistake wouldn't be corrected until 2002! Snyder passed away in 2012 and some immediately seized on the opportunity to demand that Via Marisol be re-named Hermon Avenue. I have no problem with that although I'd simply like to point out that Monterey Road was formerly Walnut Hill Road but no one seems to be clamoring for its nomenclatural restoration.

La Due Way -- was this part of an abandoned development project?


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HERMON DEMOGRAPHICS

According to City Data, the population of Hermon is 61% Latino, 16% Asian-American, 15% white, 5% black, and 1% Native American


GETTING THERE AND GETTING AROUND


Leave your cars at home... or the daycare center


The only public transit serving the neighborhood directly are Metro's 176 and 256 bus lines. Metro's Gold Line light rail train also passes through the community but the nearest stop, Highland Park Station, is less than a kilometer away in Highland Park. Walkscore (one of the few online resources who recognizes Hermon's existence) gives Hermon a walkscore of 50, a transit score of 44, and a bike score of 38 – all relatively low but probably more a reflection of the fact that most “errands” (especially if said “errands” involve, say, going to a bar) require leaving the neighborhood and not that the community isn't easily walkable, bikeable, and close to public transit stops -- because it is. Most of Hermon is pretty flat although some of the residential streets around Santa Fe Hill (originally known as Sugar Loaf Hill) in the north end are slightly hilly. Charles Flemming's book, Secret Stairs, includes a walk through Hermon and Highland Park (Walk #6) which the author rates 2.5 out of 5 on a scale of difficulty. 
 

HERMON HIGHRISES


Villa Marisol

The tallest structures in Hermon, as near as I can tell, are the hills – which are usually ignored because acknowledging them would challenge the prevailing stereotypes of Los Angeles as a horizontal city. As far as human-made structures are concerned, none seem to rise above maybe six stories (incidentally the same number of stories as the first building to be labeled a skyscraper had), although a couple of complexes reach or approach that height. Those include Monterey Road Apartments, Monterey View Apartments, Villa Marisol, and Luxury Park View Apartments.


HERMON DINING SCENE

There are only a a handful of restaurants in Hermon: Aki Sushi & Roll, Monterey Donuts, Tasty Mama's, and Thai Fantasy Restaurant. Anyone who knows me know that at any hour I'm liable to go for Thai and I'm by no means an authenticity hound -- but when most of a Thai place's glowing reviews rave about orange chicken (a Chinese-American dish), I can't help but get a little warys. 

Monterey Donuts is a highly-rated donut establishment in a city full of donuts but unfortunately, there are far fewer occasions when I would seek out sweets so I passed on it too, despite the rave reviews (none of which mention items you wouldn't expect to find there -- like orange chicken). I didn't pop into Aki Sushi either, but as long as there are more vegetarian options than just tempura, I'm willing. 


Tiny Mama's 

Tasty Mama's is the latest tenant in a building that sees a lot of turnover -- it was recently home to Zosa Cafe, The Pantry, and Cycleway Cafe. The building was constructed in 1915 and has a nice ambiance and I'll try to check it out at another time, provided that it's still there.


HERMON VILLAGE GREENS


Hermon Park

Hermon is home to two parks (three if you count the city-owned median with deodars and the Nouveau font Hermon sign). Hermon Park is a decent-sized, unstaffed, dawn-to-dusk park with grills, a playground, picnic tables, and lit tennis courts.

Nearby is Hermon Dog Park – an off-leash, dawn-to-dusk dog park supported by the Friends of Hermon Dog Park, a group which seems to be the most active organizer of local events and observances in the the neighborhood, such as Howl-oween, in which human participants mark the ancient Celtic harvest festival by dressing their canine companions in strange garb and have a "peanut butter lick-off." The dog park includes two fenced areas: one for big dogs and one for small, disabled, shy, or elderly dogs. It should be pointed out here that Dog Fancy listed the Hermon Dog Park as the 7th best in the USA and it also got high marks from fellow urban explorer, Itty Bitty Gadabout.


HERMOND SOCIETIES 

In addition to Friends of Hermon Dog Park, there is (or at least was) a Hermon Neighborhood Association, a Hermon Clean Team, the Hermon Local Issues Committee of the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council, and a Hermon, Los Angeles Facebook page. There's also a HermonLA website from which I obtained all of this entry's historic photos and is a really great community resource.


HERMON HARMONIES


Art in the Park

I'm not aware of any musicians or composers born in Hermon. I'm similarly unaware of any live music venues, music festivals, independent music stores. If there are, please let me know in the comments and I'll add them. I did see a pot-smoking teen wearing a Motörhead T-Shirt and I heard an ice cream truck playing"Turkey in the Straw" but that was about as far as my musical experiences in Hermon went.

There is also Art in the Park, home to the Lalo Guerrero School of Music -- a non-profit organization that teaches music lessons to children (8 - 18 years old) in the Northeast Los Angeles area -- presumably including those from Hermon. A plaque outside the building says that it was constructed by the WPA in 1939. Eduardo "Lalo" Guerrero, for those that don't know, was a labor activist and musician and the Father of the Chicano Music


Another view of the Lalo Guerrero School of Music



CELLULOID HERMON

There've been many television commercials filmed at various locations but I'm not aware of too many films or or television series either set or shot in the neighborhood -- just In Time (2011) and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012), both of which featured the scenic Monterey Road Pass. I'm also not aware of any actors or filmmakers from Hermon nor any independent movie stores, historic theaters, or film festivals in Hermon. Once again, if you are, please let me know in the comments. 



OTHER SITES TO SEE & STUFF TO DO

As with much of Los Angeles, at night Hermon seems like a pretty sleepy place. Most of the sanctioned, public amusements are strictly daytime only. If there's even a grain of truth to internet hysteria, Hermon Park seems to attract cholos and homeless after night falls. Anyway, if I'm missing any art festivals, movies in the park, or farmers markets, &c, please let me know.


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As always, I welcome corrections, additions, and personal accounts of Hermon 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
RUNNING UP THAT HILL -- MONTEREY HILLS

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. 

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EARLY HISTORY OF THE AREA

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.

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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.


DEMOGRAPHICS

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



GETTING THERE AND AROUND

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.

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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

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).



COUNTERPUBLICS

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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