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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Echo Park

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 22, 2010 05:44pm | Post a Comment


Cloudy skies over the bottomless Echo Park Lake

This blog entry is about the Los Angeles neighborhood of Echo Park. Please vote for more neighborhoods by clicking here. Also, please vote for more Los Angeles County communities by clicking here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.


INTRO TO EP


Echo Park
is a Mideast Side neighborhood located north of Downtown Los Angeles in the Elysian hills west of the LA River. Echo Park has long associations with several arts, most notably literature and film. It's one of the city's oldest neighborhoods and is full of many old (by Angeleno standards) Craftsman, Spanish, and Victorian homes built between the 1880s and 1930s.



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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Boyle Heights

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 28, 2010 09:11pm | Post a Comment

This neighborhood blog is about Boyle Heights. To vote for more Los Angeles neighborhoods, go here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, vote here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.


The area now known as Boyle Heights was originally inhabited by the Tongva, who lived there for centuries until their displacement by the Spaniards. When the area was still part of Mexico, it was known as Paredón Blanco. Prominent families in Paredón Blanco included the Lopez and Rubio households.

  
Pendersleigh & Sons' official maps of Boyle Heights and The Eastside

In the 1830s, a cemetery near Soto and Breed was removed and bodies displaced in order to make room for a new elementary school. Though the bodies were relocated to Evergreen Cemetery, there have been reports of various paranormal activities within the walls of Breed Street Elementary School, presumably the work of the lost souls who once rested there.

  
         Andrew Boyle                                        The Boyle House                                     William A. Workman

The neighborhood acquired its current name when Irishman Andrew Boyle moved to the area in 1858. His son-in-law, William H. Workman, was the mayor of Los Angeles and was largely responsible for developing Boyle Heights.

1941 The Flats


FROM SLUMS TO PROJECTS

Boyle Heights was traditionally viewed as being divisible into two sections, the more affluent section, The Heights, and the more downscale section, The Flats. Until the 1930s, The Flats were covered with slums that noted reformer Jacob Riis compared unfavorably to those in New York. In fact, the slums around Utah Street were widely considered to be the "most abominable in the country."

  
                      Aliso Village                                         Estrada Courts                                           Pico Gardens

In the 1940s, the slums were razed and replaced with the Aliso Village, Estrada Courts and Pico Gardens projects. By the 1970s, the neglected projects had been allowed to fall into disrepair and served as the breeding grounds for local gangs including Primera Flats, AV Fellas, AV Rockers, Varrio Nuevo Estrada and Alcapone. Village and Pico Gardens were, in turn, razed in the 1990s and replaced with the New Urbanist and Pueblo del Sol projects. The Estrada Courts project still stands and today is more recognized for its many murals and preservation efforts than gang violence. 


CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS OF BOYLE HEIGHTS 

First Annual Boyle Heights Block Party

As of 2000, Boyle Heights was 94% Latino with a very small (2.3%) Asian minority. However, in a world where the movements of even a few white people are attacked either as "white flight" or gentrification (depending on the direction of their movement), the existence of a 1.6 % white minority is threatening to nearly complete homogeneity.

As I walked along the sidewalk on behalf of this blog, a cholo bitched "Too many f---ing weddos around!" as he passed, presumably for my benefit. What this hater probably didn't know is that, in the first half of the 20th century, Boyle Heights was historically one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city, home to large numbers of Croatian, JewishJapaneseMexican and Russian immigrants. It is only in recent decades that it has become one of the least ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the city.

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JAPANESE IN BOYLE HEIGHTS

 

After the 1882 passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, many Japanese immigrated to California to fill the resultant void in the labor force. After the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, many Japanese citizens moved away from the bay, often to Boyle Heights. Faced with growing numbers of non-Chinese Asian immigrants, the Asian Exclusion Act was signed in 1924 to broaden discrimination to other Asian-Americans. By then, however, Little Tokyo (just across the river) and Boyle Heights were already home to about 30,000 Japanese-Americans, including famed artist Isamu Noguchi.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, hundreds of Japanese residents of the Japanese fishing village on Terminal Island were given 48 hours notice to evacuate their homes so that a new military base could be built there. Many of the displaced moved to the Forsythe Hostel in Boyle Heights. Not long after, however, they along with almost all Japanese-Americans were rounded up and shipped to concentration camps.

After World War II ended, few Japanese returned to the neighborhood, preferring, in many cases, to move to Gardena, Monterey Park, Torrance, Pasadena, San Pedro, Compton and Long Beach (rather than back to Boyle Heights, Little Tokyo or Little Osaka). The highly acclaimed restaurant, Otomisan, established in 1956, is one of the few reminders of a more diverse era. Other Japanese vestiges include Haru Florist, Hayashi Realty, and Tenrikyo Mission.


RUSSIANS IN BOYLE HEIGHTS


The next major wave of immigrants to Boyle Heights came with the arrival of large numbers of Russians, many whom immigrated to avoid czarist persecution. A large number were Molokans, a religious sect that refused to follow orthodox practices. By the 1930s, there were six Molokan churches in Boyle Heights. Later many Russian Jews fled to Los Angeles. In the 1940s, the nexus of Russians in Los Angeles shifted to West Hollywood, although there are today large numbers of Russians in Agoura Hills, Beverly Hills, Calabasas and Sherman Oaks.


MEXICANS IN BOYLE HEIGHTS


Texas-born pachuco Don Tosti moved to Boyle Heights

As previously mentioned, Boyle Heights used to be in Mexico. However, after the US took over, many more Mexican began to move to Boyle Heights in the 1910s, often fleeing the violence of the Mexican Revolution. In the 1930s, large numbers of Mexican-Americans were, regardless of their country of origin, deported to Mexico. When the Japanese were interred in the 1940s, however, Mexicans were actively encouraged to return to fill the void in the labor force. 

An uncharacteristically calm scene along Cesar Chavez Ave

Whereas most of the other early groups left the neighborhood, Boyle Heights' Latino population has steadily increased over the years. Reflecting the continuing Latinization of the neighborhood, in 1994, Brooklyn Avenue was renamed Cesar E. Chavez Avenue, which most nights is a bustling street, and not just by Los Angeles standards.



For many years, one prominent Mexican-American resident, Ross Valencia, was known as "Mr. Boyle Heights." Since his death last year, a small park has been dedicated to his memory.


JEWS IN BOYLE HEIGHTS


The Vladek Center (1950)


By the 1920s, Boyle Heights had the largest Jewish population west of the Mississippi. Today, one of the few visible vestiges of Boyle Heights' (particularly the Brooklyn Heights tract's) historic Jewish population is the Breed Street Shul, which, when it opened;in 1923, was the first synagogue on the west coast.

At the time, the Jewish population was centered around Brooklyn and Soto, where there were many Jewish-owned businesses. Few Angelenos likely know that the famed deli Canter's was actually started in Boyle Heights (as Canter Brother's Delicatessen) in 1931. In 1941 it moved, with much of the city's Jewish population, to the Fairfax District 


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CULTURE IN MODERN BOYLE HIGHTS


image source: KCET


Proyecto Jardín is a unique community garden and art and cultural space created in 1999 in the shadow of White Memorial Hospital. It includes a performance space, art and garden plots. It's also closely associated with Ovarian-Psycos, an all-female Eastside bicycle crew.


CAINE'S ARCADE

 
Nestled in the northwesternmost corner of Boyle Heights is Caine's Arcade. Because I still run into people who've never heard of it, Caine Monroy built this amazing, elaborate arcade out of discarded cardboard boxes in the back of his father's auto parts store. In 2012 filmmaker Nirvan Mullick made a short film about the arcade which he shared on Hidden Los Angeles and the whole, heartwarming thing went viral in a huge way.

MUSIC IN BOYLE HEIGHTS

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring the City of Industry

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 25, 2010 11:31am | Post a Comment

This Los Angeles County community blog is about City of Industry. To vote for more LA County Communites, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles Neighborhoods, vote here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

 
Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of City of Industry

Industry, as with Commerce (which is often referred to as "City of Commerce"), is often referred to as "City of Industry" to distinguish if from the common noun, "industry." Perhaps too it has the subtle effect of arguing for Industry's legitimacy as a municipality (and thus to hopefully disassociate it from "phantom cities" like Bradbury, Hidden Hills, Rolling Hills, Vernon, and the City of Commerce.) 

Industry is a strangely shaped "city" in the south end of the San Gabriel Valley surrounded by the communities of Whittier Narrows, South El Monte, El Monte, Baldwin Park, West Puente Valley, La Puente, Valinda, South San Jose Hills, Walnut, Diamond Bar, Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights and North Whittier. It almost completely surrounds Avocado Heights.


As with most all of the San Gabriel Valley, Industry was inhabited by the Tongva, who were then displaced by the Spaniards, which was followed by the region becoming part of Mexico. One of the few vestiges from that era is the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, an historical landmark and the burial sight of Pío Pico, the last Mexican governor of Alta California. Industry was incorporated in 1957 in a move in part designed to prevent surrounding cities from annexing the land for tax revenue and as a shelter for those wishing to operate without the strict zoning laws of a typical city. It also allows a very small group of people -- in many cases related to one another -- to operate a municipality more like a corporation than a typical city. 


Most recently, Industry has been designated the sight of the future Los Angeles Stadium, which if built would mean return American football to the Los Angeles County. Above is an artist's conception. Apparently the artist also conceives of the surrounding warehouses being obliterated and replaced with large, well maintained lawns.

Befitting its name, Industry is almost entirely industrial (92%) and just a little commercial (8%). The last census found that only 219 people even call Industry home -- it's not called "The City of Residents," after all. Most are members of city council or their friends living in city-owned properties and rented below market rate (but off-limits to outsiders). Elections for city council are almost never held. The tiny population of Industrians are roughly 62% Latino (mostly Mexican), 24% white (mostly Danish) and 9% Asian. On paper Industry's political situation might resemble that of North Korea but it is an open city, welcoming visitors and explorers, so explore it I did.

*****

Interestingly, Industry produces about 35,000 to 50,000 tons of pre-consumer food waste daily, mostly cheese by-products and imperfect tortillas. In a novel solution, the city's garbage trucks run on cheese by-products. They could call it, therefore, "City of Cheese Waste," but there's more to Industry than curds and whey. 

For starters, there's an exposed area of rock that locals call Fossil Hill, located behind the Colima Road McDonald's in Stoner Creek. I have no pictures of it, unfortunately, as I haven't yet visited it.

There are quite a few bars and gentleman's clubs in Industry. In one tiny shopping center one can find a tavern, a gentlemen's club, a "bar * lounge," and a pijiu wu (Taiwanese pub). Popular drinking holes include Opium Pub ($25 all you can drink), Dream Lounge and Vip Lounge.


For those who venture to Industry and need to spend the night (perhaps having drunk all one can drink), there's The Pacific Palms ResortThe golf course at the resort was featured in a memorable scene in the cult classic Joel "sexual outlaw" Schumacher film, Falling Down.


Popular restaurants in the area tend to reflect the surrounding areas more than the local population but with over fifty in the city, there's considerable variety. Some of the more popular places to eat are Roda Viva, King's Palace, Curry House, Frisco's Carhop, Jurassic, Iguanas Ranas, La Kaffa, Little Tokyo, Shabu Shabu, Sakura, and Smile Express.

The headquarters for Newegg.com, Emtek Products, and Engineering Model Associates/Plastruct are all located in Industry. The most Amoeba-relevant business (since it has something to do with music culture) is Hot Topic
 

The aging Puente Hills Mall, built in 1974, appeared as Twin Pines Mall (and later Lone Pine Mall) in the film, Back to the Future.


Nowadays, the mall is pretty empty except for the AMC theater, so the mall's owners ensure people have to pass by the remaining stores by not allowing entrance directly into the theater. Nearby, Speed Zone was featured in Kevin Smith's Clerks II, Summer School, and 1979's Van Nuys Blvd. The final fight scene was filmed there, in a now demolished Ikea.


One of the most interesting businesses in Industry is the McDonald's that's only used for commercials and films, such as Mac & Me.


Industry is also home of Vineland Drive-In, one of two remaining drive-in theaters in the Southland.


A phone booth (no longer there) at Brea Canyon and Old Ranch Road was featured in the film, Halloween.


Kern's of California

The factory showdown in the film Terminator was shot at Kern's Of California. It was there that Linda Hamilton's character uttered one of the most squirm inducing, corny one-liners in film history...


Industry has  also been a filming location for NWA and AWS matches, Raspberry & Lavender, Street Fury: Inferno, Suicide Kings, Bye Bye Love, Fun with Dick and Jane and American Pie. On a final note, As far as mom & pop video stores, there's John's Video Place.

 

*****


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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Longwood Highlands, a Neighborhood of Pride

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 20, 2010 01:17pm | Post a Comment



This installment of the Los Angeles neighborhood blog is about Longwood Highlands. To vote for a different Los Angeles neighborhood(s), click here. To vote for a Los Angeles County community, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.




The romantically-named Longwood Highlands is a neighborhood in Los Angeles'  Midtown (Mid-Wilshire) area.



Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Midtown


The borders of Midtown neighborhoods are often hazily defined but Longwood Highlands seems to be hemmed in by West Olympic Boulevard to the north, South Rimpau Boulevard to the east, West Pico Boulevard (and maybe South San Vicente Boulevard) to the south, and South La Brea Avenue to the West.



Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Longwood Highlands


There is only one sign at the northeast corner of the neighborhood that I could locate so it’s difficult to be sure. However, if I’m correct in my assumptions then Longwood Highlands is neighbors with Brookside, Park Mile, Country Club Park, Miracle MileRedondo-SycamoreVictoria Park, Vineyard and Wilshire Highlands.




As with the rest of the Midtown area, what’s now Longwood Highlands was for centuries Tongva land until the arrival of the Spaniards. After the area passed from Mexico to the US, it remained primarily farmland until the 1890s, when surrounding areas began to develop. It wasn't until after the opening of the Port of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Aqueduct (in 1907 and 1913 respectively) that the formerly pastoral region was rapidly developed.

Most of the homes in the neighborhood were built in the 1920s in a variety of styles, often in the mock-Tudor and Spanish Colonial styles. The homes tend sit back fairly far from the streets on relatively large lots. Longwood Highlands is still a primarily a quiet, gently hilly residential neighborhood surrounded by loud, busy commercial corridors.


It’s a rather lush, green neighborhood, the streets of which are lined with mature magnolias, oaks and sycamores. The stately residences suggest that the neighborhood’s residents are rather well off. However, as I strolled along the quiet streets I was confronted with many greetings and smiles from the mostly black, Latino and white residents -- a dead giveaway that a neighborhood isn’t as posh as it first seems. In fact, closer examination reveals that nearly every home in the neighborhood is a duplex or, in fewer cases, a quadraplex. The varied and asymmetrical designs, however, give the impression that the multi-residence homes are single-family mansions. Thankfully, and in contrast to most of Los Angeles, there are no dingbats to be found.




There aren't a lot in the way of mom and pop eateries in the area… two donut places [Lee’s (aka Bee's) and Magee’s], El Burrito Jr, I Love Teriyaki and a BBQ place whose name I couldn't sort out. Rosemead's El Chato Taco Truck frequently posts up there too. Otherwise, mega-chains like Burger King, KFC and Starbucks are located along the neighborhood’s edge. Nearby to the west is Little Ethiopia, which is full of good eats. Along the southern edge of the neighborhood are a goodly number of auto shops.




Given the age, location and charm of the neighborhood, undoubtedly some early Hollywood figures lived in the neighborhood although my research turned up nothing. Raymond Chandler (creator of Philip Marlowe) lived in the area (among many others in the city) in 1929 somewhere along Highland.



However, the most impressive cinematic connection in Longwood Highlands is the presence of a life size model of Gort (the robot from The Day the Earth Stood Still), which stands in the window of Grey Goose Custom Picture Framing. I took a picture but it didn’t turn out. Luckily, the Grey Goose Gort is the favorite Los Angeles landmark of former Amoeba employee Will Keightly.



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