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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!
 

*****


Follow me at ericbrightwell.com

California Fool's Gold -- A Downtown Los Angeles Primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 15, 2011 11:00am | Post a Comment
BEAT CITY DOWNTOWN 


As regular (and probably irregular) readers of Eric's Blog know, I'm a bit of a Southern California wonk and a big part of my focus is writing about the culture, character and history of the many diverse communities of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Although so far there have been around 800 votes from readers I thought it would be fun (and hopefully entertaining) to focus on the regions and provide a brief summary of the districts within with the hope of encouraging informed voting. First I'd like to focus on the center of the southland, Downtown Los Angeles.


DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES

Before I moved to Los Angeles, a Chicagoan told me that LA had no downtown. I could see the cluster of buildings although it wasn't that much different from the many others that rise above the sprawl. Having visited it in the late '90s I disagreed with my acquaintance but could see her point. During the day the western portion was a commotion of be-suited bankers and accountants. The middle was absolutely bustling with Latino businesses and I found a great source for white denim and pupusas. The eastern portion was covered with tents and I saw people performing acts in exchange for crack that should only be done in private... and not for crack. When the sun set, metal doors and gates closed and it was desolate. I was occasionally threatened although I never was robbed or assaulted and to me it seemed that most visitors were from safe middle or upper class backgrounds who needed a bit of danger and prescribed, structured, punk rock rebellion to feel alive.  
 


Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Downtown Los Angeles 
 

A decade later it's greatly changed, with a large influx of residents and businesses returning to the city's core. Downtown Los Angeles is home to 21 (or 22) distinct districts and now home to around 64,000 Angelenos. It's a highly diverse region with a 44% Asian (mainly Chinese, Korean and Japanese with large numbers of Cambodian, Vietnamese and Thai) plurality with the remainder breaking down as 31% Latino (mostly Mexican), 13% black and 10% white (based on 2008 estimates by the L.A. Department of City Planning).
 
 
 
 

None of this is meant to suggest that all is now well and functioning at its peak potential. Downtown is still the epicenter of homelessness, has a lack of sufficient green space (why aren't green roofs more popular?) and I probably wouldn't suggest raising children there just yet. It is, however, coming up, with LA Live bringing entertainment, abandoned buildings being repurposed as beautiful lofts and the imminent return of trolleys all drawing visitors and new residents. Here's a short history.
*****
El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles was founded by the Spanish in 1781 in a small neighborhood colloquially known as "El Pueblo," between Chinatown and the Civic Center. In the 19th Century the area around it evolved into Sonoratown and later Little Italy, Dogtown and (old) Chinatown

In 1894, architect John Parkinson moved to Los Angeles and opened an architecture office on Sprint Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets. In 1896 he began designing many of the buildings in what's now known as the Historic Core. In 1904 he designed the city's first skyscraper, the Braly Block. In 1905 his new firm, Parkinson and Bergstrom, became the dominant architectural firm in the city. In 1920 he was joined by his son, Donald B. Parkinson and Parkinson & Parkinson designed many of the structures of the era. Numerous banking institutions moved into the new digs around Spring which came to be known as the "Wall Street of the West." At the same time, many grand hotels also sprang up, as did the entertainment districts along Main and then Broadway. Just a little east, nearer the LA River, several railroads encouraged the development of Downtown's industrial core.

By 1920, Los Angeles's extensive rail lines encouraged early suburban flight, connecting at the time four counties with over 1,100 miles of track. By 1925 Los Angeles had the highest rate of car ownership, further encouraging outward sprawl from the old Victorian Downtown suburbs like Angeleno Heights, Boyle Heights, Bunker HillCrown Hill, Lincoln Heights, and Victor Heights. Although marginalized by the WASP establishment, Jewish Angelenos owned and operated many department stores and businesses in the Jewelry District. When Hollywood, Midtown and the Westside opened their doors to their dollars, many of them took their business, culture and clout with them and Downtown went into a steep decline. 

Efforts were made by the downtown establishment to bring life back to the region. In 1930 Olvera Street in El Pueblo was redeveloped as a sort of Mexican theme park. A similarly touristy Chinatown opened in 1938. Where Chinatown had been, Union Station opened in 1939. Many of the older, increasingly non-white neighborhoods like Dogtown and Bunker Hill were razed in the name of slum clearance and the latter was redeveloped with skyscrapers to entice financial institutions to return (height restrictions were lifted in 1957). Partially successful, the "New Downtown" became home to a new Bunker Hill and Financial District. Meanwhile in the rest of downtown, the region evolved more organically. Broadway became a bustling Latino shopping and theater district. The gay scene found a degree of sanctuary around main and east of Skid Row, artists squatted in then-empty warehouses in what came to be known as The Artists' District.

In the 1960s, several high culture institutions were added to downtown. The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was completed in 1964. The Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum both opened in 1967. MOCA's new home on Grand was built in 1986. The helped make Grand Avenue a somewhere that visitors would head after work. The Los Angeles Mall and Triforium, installed nearby in 1975, were less successful in attracting tourists. 

It wasn't really until 1999, when the Los Angeles City Council passed an adaptive reuse ordinance which allowed for empty commercial and office buildings to be repurposed as luxury lofts and condo complexes, that Downtown really began to feel truly alive again. Staples Center opened the same year. Construction of the Walt Disney Concert Hall also began in 1999. The first lofts in the Old Bank District opened in 2000 and were followed by many more. The first phase of LA Live opened in 2005. Yuppie gentrifiers poured in and although many cranky old haters still characterize downtown as a no man's land full of pimps and crackheads, the reality today is -- for better or for worse -- almost completely unlike their dated characterizations suggest. 
*****


Now for the neighborhoods:

ARTS DISTRICT


The Downtown Los Angeles Arts District was previously just another corner of the large, old Warehouse District. After much of the industry left the area, in the 1970s it began to attract artists and became known as the Artists District. Venues like the now-gone Al's Bar and parties held in abandoned buildings coexisted with drug abuse, homelessness and prostitution. Around the turn of the 21st century, real estate developers began to convert many of the old buildings to attractive (and expensive) residences that commodified a slightly gritty, artist lifestyle whilst pricing out many of the area's resident artists. To read more about The Arts District, click here.


BROADWAY THEATER DISTRICT


The Broadway Theater and Commercial District is located in downtown's Historic Core region. Within six blocks there are twelve former nickelodeons, vaudeville theaters and picture palaces, making it the first and largest historic theater district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today most of old theaters operate as churches, swap meets and flea markets, although several of the theaters participate in special movie programs and are open to the public as part of LA Conservancy's walking tours.


BUNKER HILL


Bunker Hill is a small hill that was originally covered with lavish Victorian homes in the 19th century. After most of the neighborhood's wealthy moved further from LA's center, the homes were subdivided and rented by large numbers of Native Americans, Filipinos and other disenfranchised Angelenos. In the 1940s the hillside slum was a frequent setting for many film noirs. In 1955, the neighborhood was demolished and replaced with skyscrapers. Today it's an important center of LA's fine arts scene, home to the Ahmanson Theatre, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, LA Opera, Los Angeles Philharmonic, MOCA, Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County, Walt Disney Concert Hall and Redcat.


CHINATOWN


Modern Day Chinatown is located at the former site of LA's Little Italy. The first Chinatown was demolished to allow for the construction of Union Station and the new one opened in 1938. Although most of LA's Chinese-Americans now live in the sprawling San Gabriel Valley, Chinatown is still the cultural heart of the Chinese-American community where several Chinese festivals take place throughout the year. It's also notable for the large number of art galleries. To read more about Chinatown, click here.


CIVIC CENTER


The fancifully named Civic Center is LA's administrative core and beaurcratic core; a complex of city, state, and federal government offices, buildings, and courthouses. Civic Center has the distinction of containing the largest concentration of government employees in the United States outside of Washington, DC. Nestled amongst the large buildings are a number of public art pieces and… I guess you'd call them office gardens or something.


CIVIC SUPPORT


Civic Support is a district north of the Arts District… It's kind of the Roger Clinton to Civic Center's Bill, the Lore to the latter's Data, the Evan to yours truly. Although it's home to beautiful Union Station (and lots of train tracks), it's also where visitors can find the less glamorous Twin Towers Correctional Facility, Housing Authority of the City of LA, the LA Recycling Center, the LA County Public Defender, the Los Angeles County Jail and the art gallery, Jail Gallery. Oh yeah, there are lots of bail bonds places for some reason.



DOWNTOWN AUTO DISTRICT


source: Daily News


The Downtown Auto District was officially designated in 2010. It refers to a stretch of Figueroa that's home to a whopping five car dealerships. This wasn't the result of a grassroots effort or organic development. Rather, the fact that auto sales are the city's top sales tax revenue generator ( $3.3 billion in revenue in 2009 -- netting $271 million for public coffers) convinced Mayor Villaraigosa and First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner to play booster for big car companies.



DOWNTOWN INDUSTRIAL DISTRICT



The Downtown Industrial District is, along with Skid Row, part of what the city officially refers to a Central City East. Bordering Skid Row, Little Tokyo, The Arts District, The Wholesale District, The Produce District and The Fashion District, its character is predictably a hybrid of wholesale, lofts, homeless and Japanese-owned businesses.


FASHION DISTRICT


The design, distribution and warehouse center of the clothing, accessories and fabric industries used to be known variously as the Textile District, the Fabric District and the Garment District. In a bit of clever re-branding it became known as The Fashion District. While counterfeit goods, bootleg DVDs and the illegal trade of animals that happen around Santee Alley seemingly have little to do with fashion, events like Unique LA at the LA Fashion Market reflect the other end of the spectrum. Still, it's not exactly Milan or Paris.


FINANCIAL DISTRICT


The Financial District is a gleaming neighborhood to the south of Bunker Hill that's dominated by upscale corporate office skyscrapers and grand hotels. It's also home to the Los Angeles Central Library. The 73 story US Bank Tower is the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.


FLOWER DISTRICT


The Flower District is the country's largest wholesale flower district; a six block area consisting of nearly 200 wholesale flower dealers. In 1910, 54 Issei organized a flower market that was incorporated in 1912. It usually opens around two in the morning with flowers arriving from around the world and is a site of hectic activity until the later hours of the morning, usually winding down around 10:00 am.


GALLERY ROW


Gallery Row is a district in the historic core that began with the existence of three art galleries in the area: Inshallah Gallery, bank and 727 Gallery. Artists Nic Cha Kim and Kjell Hagen as well as members of the Arts, Aesthetics, and Culture Committee of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC) lobbied for the official establishment of Gallery Row, which was designated as such in 2003 by City Council. Today there are many more art spaces in the area and frequent Downtown Art Walks attract art and wine enthusiasts.


HISTORIC CORE


The Historic Core was the original center of downtown LA. After World War II, the center shifted west. Within the Historic Core's borders are the more specific neighborhoods of The Old Bank District, Gallery Row, Broadway Theater District and the Jewelry District. In the 1950s it was a center of Latino business and entertainment. Since 2000, it's undergone significant redevelopment, reuse, revitalization and restoration although there are still millions of square feet of unused property in the upper floors of many buildings.


JEWELRY DISTRICT


The Jewelry District is a neighborhood of downtown that, according to the Los Angeles Convention Center and Visitor's Bureau, is the largest jewelry district in the US. Nearly 5,000 businesses report a combined annual sales of almost $3 billion. In the middle of the bling is the hokey and charming St. Vincent Court, an almost hidden block of Middle Eastern and Persian shops and patrons in a Disney-like simulacrum of an old European street.


LITTLE TOKYO


Little Tokyo is one of only three official Japantowns in the US (all in California and with several unofficial ones in SoCal). Beginning around the turn of the 20th century, it was a large neighborhood and home to thousands of Japanese-Americans. During World War II, the residents were relocated to concentration camps and the vacated area became home to many black Angelenos and was known as Bronzeville. After the internment of Japanese-Americans ended, they returned in much reduced numbers to Little Tokyo. Even though most Japanese-Americans moved elsewhere, its status as the cultural heart of Japanese Los Angeles was restored and in 1995 it was declared a National Historic Landmark District. In more recent years, many of the businesses and residences have become increasingly Korean-American although they've, for the most part, preserved and even restored much of the neighborhood's Japanese charm and character. To read more about Little Tokyo, click here.


NORTH INDUSTRIAL DISTRICT


North Industrial District is also known as Naud Junction and Mission Junction after two railroad intersections in the area. It's also known as Dogtown for its proximity to LA's first dog pound. The Chinatown-adjacent North Industrial District is a district of old, mostly Chinese-owned warehouses. What few residents there are mostly reside in the William Mead Housing Projects. With just one elementary school, Ann Street, it's one of the most obscure corners of downtown. To read more about Dogtown, click here.


OLD BANK DISTRICT


The Old Bank District is an Historic Core neighborhood of early 20th century commercial buildings, most of which have been or are in the process of being converted to residential lofts. The bottom floors often boast fashionable eateries and boutiques. The 1999 passage of the city's adaptive reuse ordinance was followed by the 2000 opening of the first repurposed lofts, which sent ripples throughout downtown and spurred much of the area's revival.



PINATA DISTRICT


source: The Chocolate of Meats 



The Piñata District is an informally recognized area centered around the intersection of Olympic Boulevard and Central Avenue that is known for the preponderance of candy-filled papier-mâché containers. It's neighbored by the Electronics, Fashion and Produce Districts.



PRODUCE DISTRICT


The Produce District centers around the massive 482,258 sq. ft. 7th Street Produce Market. One of the largest produce markets in the US, numerous vendors and markets within provide most of the fruits and vegetables for Southern California's restaurants and stores.


EL PUEBLO


El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, centered on Olvera Street, is the oldest part of Downtown and is often referred to as "La Placita Olvera." There are 27 historic buildings including the Avila Adobe, the Pelanconi House and the Sepulveda House. In 1930, the area was opened as a tourist-targeting Mexican marketplace, much in the manner that nearby Chinatown was eight years later. It's the setting for many Mexican and Mexican-American holiday celebrations and observances.


SEAFOOD DISTRICT


This small but smelly Seafood District is home to several Asian fish markets, canneries and commercial fishing warehouses near Little Tokyo. When the wind is right, the fishy smell carries to the expensive lofts of the Arts District.


SKID ROW


The area contains one of the largest stable populations of homeless persons in the US, estimated to be around 7,000 to 8,000. It's long been a nexus of poverty and, despite the squalor, is full of small, beautiful residential hotels built around the turn of the 20th century that contrast with the numerous tents and cardboard boxes on the sidewalk. There are also many missions and other services targeted toward the homeless population. To read more about Skid Row, click here.


(NEW) SOUTH PARK


Old South Park is a district in South LA centered near the intersection of 51st Street and Avalon Boulevard. However, since 2003 the area around Los Angeles Convention Center, the Staples Center, L.A. LiveFashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) and the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall has for some reason co-opted the South Park name. The city is also mulling over dropping an American football stadium into the mix in an area already choked by some of the city's worst traffic in a bid to draw more tourists and money to downtown.


TOY DISTRICT


The Toy District emerged in the 1970s, thanks to the four Woo brothers. Shu Woo (who started ABC Toys), Charlie Woo, (who started Mega Toys Inc) and their two brothers established the neighborhood's character when they began importing cheap novelties and electronics, mostly from China. In the decades that have followed, more toy stores have joined them but the neighborhood's not exactly a whimsical world overseen by an improbably named and dressed eccentric.


WHOLESALE DISTRICT

The Wholesale District is a group of warehouses (and strip clubs) located in the southeast part of Downtown Los Angeles. Most of the warehouses within it are industrial in nature and serve the greater Los Angeles area. Few people live in this neighborhood now although it historically had a large black population. It stretches south to the industrial city of Vernon. Recently, the expansion of the Arts District from the north had encroached on its old borders. [I forgot to take a picture. :( ]
 
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(In which Job is a commercial.)

Posted by Job O Brother, May 1, 2007 11:08am | Post a Comment
I’m always on the lookout for two things: hilarious TV and a man with an African-shaped birthmark on his right shoulder. Hilarious TV because it lowers my stress level and inspires me; the man with the birthmark because he orphaned me at age eight and burned my farm down.

Both are equally difficult to find.

Thanks to today’s plethora of cable TV stations (Hot Glue & Margarine Channel, anyone?) there has been an outcropping of novel shows. I tend to enjoy comedy that pushes the boundaries of acceptable (South Park, Strangers With Candy) or are chock full of non-sequiturs (Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Aqua Teen Hunger Force). You get me, right? We’re all on the same page here.

One show that many of you don’t seem to have seen/noticed is “Upright Citizens Brigade”. It’s not brand new. It ran for three seasons on Comedy Central (1998-2000). One star of the show many of you will know is Amy Poehler, who my friends tell me is on something called Saturday Night Live? I dunno, I’ve never heard of it.

Anyway, the premise is that a team of four people, the Upright Citizens Brigade, are waging a secret battle against all-things-average and mundane in the world. They bring chaos to conformity. (In this respect, they mirror the customers who shop the DVD section of Amoeba Music Hollywood.)

It’s sketch comedy. The material is garnered from the troupe’s live shows, originally based in Chicago, now in NYC. In this respect, the show is similar to The Kids in the Hall, though the style of it – the way it ebbs and flows – feels more like Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

If you like any of the titles I’ve dropped above, I would expect you to also adore this too-overlooked gem. Unfortunately, only season one is available on DVD.

Do yourself a favor and snag a copy. Then do me a favor and, if you see the man with the birthmark, shoot a tranquilizer dart in his neck, restrain him, and give me a ring-a-ding. Thanks!