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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Hillside Village

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 26, 2013 10:44pm | Post a Comment
RUN TO THE HILLSIDE -- HILLSIDE VILLAGE



Last fall I had a stint house-sitting in El SerenoI spent much of my time exploring that neighborhood with a dog named Dooley who belongs to the owners of the home I was... sitting. This fall I again returned to the Eastside and Dooley I resumed our epic walks. This time we explored Arroyo View EstatesCity Terrace, East Los AngelesEl SerenoGarvanza, Happy Valley, HermonHighland ParkLincoln HeightsMontecito HeightsMonterey HillsRose Hill, University Hills, and on one afternoon and early evening, a neighborhood considered by many to be part of El Sereno -- Hillside Village.


HILLSIDE VILLAGE

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Hillside Village


Hillside Village is a small neighborhood surrounded by the rest of El Sereno to the north and east, University Hills to the east, East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights to the south, and Lincoln Heights to the west. For what appears to this nonpartisan outsider to be nothing more than a tempest in a teapot, the argument over whether or not Hillside Village is part of El Sereno is surprisingly heated -- at least between a few zealous parties in LA-32 in one corner and the El Sereno Historical Society in the other.

I can understand some of the arguments of both sides. Ever since Valley Village split from North Hollywood back in '39 other Los Angeles neighborhoods have followed suit whenever a group of residents decide that changing their name will at least distance them from perceived negative associations -- if not actually change anything about where their neighborhood is. On the other hand, elevating or reviving a forgotten tract name to neighborhood status -- or coming up with a new neighborhood name (as will the Empowerment Congress's Naming Neighborhoods Project) seems like it could be an expression of something more positive. Whatever the case may be, the "Hillside Village" designation has been around for at least five decades and doesn't show any signs of going away so without further adieu, here's a brief history of the area...


EARLY HISTORY OF THE AREA

13,000 years ago, roughly the time when the first people began living in the area, there was no El Sereno and no Hillside Village. We don't know what these people called the area, if anything, nor what they even what they called themselves. Spring ahead about 10,000 years and the ancestors of the Tongva arrived from the Sonoran Desert, ultimately establishing the villages of Otsungna to the east and Yaangna to the west. 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, first in Whittier Narrows. In 1776 the mission was moved to its present location in San Gabriel, nine kilometers east of what's now Hillside Village. A few years later, in 1781, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles was founded about five kilometers to the west of the neighborhood's location. 


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

The area that now comprises Hillside Village straddled Mission lands to the east and Pueblo lands of the west. Spanish rule ended when Mexico achieved independence in 1821 and the mission holdings were 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 and neighboring Lincoln Heights was one of the city's first suburbs. The rest of what what's now Hillside Village was annexed as part of the Bairdstown Addition of 10 June, 1915, which also included most of the rest of El Sereno and what's now University Hills.


UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD & HILLSIDE VILLAGE'S INDUSTRIAL SECTION


The southern border of the Hillside Village is generally formed by a Union Pacific freight train line. Los Angeles's borders extend just a bit to the south to include a small, rail-adjacent industrial area north of East Los Angeles along Worth Street between Indiana Street and Miller Avenue that's home to the beguiling Roscoe Moss property. The Roscoe Moss facility is a red brick building that was constructed in 1925 and (more than any pretentious bar) looks like it should be lit with Edison bulbs. 

Anyway, this industrial corridor is situated along a Union Pacific freight line which that company acquired with its acquisition of Southern Pacific in 1996. Southern Pacific was the first transcontinental railway to reach Los Angeles, back in 1876. I don't believe (but I'm not sure) that this section of the rail was part of the original route connecting the city to San Francisco although I believe that I read that it was installed in the 1880s. Back then the train also carried passengers to Los Angeles and in 1885, when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad broke their rival's monopoly, a rate war saw trips from Kansas City,Missouri drop to just $1 per passenger. As I write that last sentence, I heard it whistle blowing although, as I said, it's a freight train now so there are probably rich folks eating in fancy dining cars. 

USC HEALTH SCIENCES CAMPUS


The Edmondson Building


On the other side of the tracks are some other older buildings, including several properties owned by the expanding USC Empire, whose massive and ever-expanding LAC+USC Medical Center is located just south of the tracks in Boyle Heights. The first of the USC Health Sciences Campus buildings was the Burrell O. Raulston Memorial Research Building, which opened in Boyle Heights in 1952. Over the decades that followed, USC's medical campus expanded greatly -- in some cases acquiring already extant buildings and repurposing them and in other cases building new ones. The University of Southern California Dorothy and Hugh Edmondson Research Building was built in 1961. Looking at it from the outside it looks like it's mostly used as a storage warehouse these days. To the east of that is the Valley Boulevard Building (which was built by the County for some other purpose). East of that is another group of buildings with USC signage dating from 1930. I can't tell what they're used for.


USC-owned building from 1930


ASCOT SPEEDWAY


New Ascot Speedway in 1924 (image source: LincolnHeightsLA)

After the arrival of the rail, the next big noise in the area was a midget car track that opened on 24 January, 1924 -- New Ascot Speedway. It was so named because the first Ascot Speedway had opened in the Florence neighborhood in 1907. For four years it struggled to draw sufficient crowds when the Glendale American Legion stepped in and subsequently convinced AAA to get behind the operation, at which point it became the Legion Ascot Speedway. In 1936, after a total of 24 race car drivers had died on the track, the Glendale Legion decided to withdraw from the deadly operation. It was then finally rebranded the Ascot Motor Speedway and soldiered on until one final, deadly accident on 25 January of that year that took the lives of Al Gordon and Spider Matlock. After that the speedway was closed. Eight months later the grandstand burned to the ground, conflagrating that chapter in one fiery swoop.


Place your bets -- in the Beverly Hills of the Eastside (aka the Beverly Hills of El Sereno)

A few years passed before most of what's now Hillside Village was subdivided. Most of the homes were constructed between 1940 and 1942 in tracts with unglamorous names like "Tract No. 23799," "Tract No. 6837," and my favorite, "Tract No. 12323." I'm not sure when folks started calling what was originally part of the El Sereno neighborhood "Hillside Village." At least as early as the 1950s The El Sereno Star listed Hillside Village as being one of the communities that it covered alongside West Alhambra, Emery Park, and Rose Hill (although spelled "Rose Hills)". There was also formerly a Hillside Village Market at least as early as the early-1970s (anyone?) but it does have a fairly distinct World War II-era suburban vibe -- not that homogeneous sameness does a neighborhood make.


Lawn jockeys and Zumba


It's just that most of it looks like like it stepped out of an episode of The Wonder Years -- although it seems that many Hillside Villagers are converting their thirsty and boring carpets of grass into xeriscaped lawns or other more interesting options.


Beautiful, drought tolerant, no-mow Zoysia -- aka Korean Velvet Grass aka Temple Grass


Still, I'm never going to refer to it as "The Beverly Hills of the Eastside" unless I want to illustrate why some are rubbed the wrong way by the neighborhood's reputation as an oasis of pretense in an otherwise pretty unpretentious area.


Air Raid Siren Number: 192 and a late Art Deco/vaguely Streamline Moderne apartment building from 1948

Get this and get it straight -- Hillside Village has a lot in common with the rest of the Eastside and comparatively little with the Westside. There are seemingly as many angry dogs as people (78% Latino, 16% Asian, 5% white, and 1% black) and I saw none being carried in Coach handbags. As I walked down Valley, a lowrider bounced past me -- hardly a typical site in Beverly Hills or even laid back Palms. School was out for a winter break so it was probably quieter than usual but that heavy silence was broken by an ice cream truck bumping that 1820s jam, "Turkey in the Straw" as well as both crowing roosters and squawking parrots. Actually, it was so quiet for the most part that at one point I thought that I hear crickets breaking into song even though it was still light out. That noise turned out, after investigation, to be the sound of a loose belt in the machinery at a small strip mall that, along with the rest of Valley Boulevard, serves as the neighborhood's primary commercial corridor.


Hillside Village storefronts on Valley


Downtown Hillside Village -- the mall

Although none of it made me think that I was magically transported into the Westside, there were a few signs that this neighborhood was unlike the others. I smelled no weed being smoked (although it was surely taking place) and instead of  hearing banda or rap coming from passing cars I only heard Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" and The Cars' "Just What I Needed." Coincidentally, both songs were released in 1978 and in researching the neighborhood I found a map that someone made of Eastside gang territories from that year. It showed most of "The Village" being claimed by an organization known as "Hillside." Although as Eastside barrios go Hillside Village is relatively un-scarred by placas, I did see numerous ones from El Sereno Rifa and none from Hillside suggesting that Hillside are no more and that the Locke Street clika doesn't recognize Hillside Village as being distinct from El Sereno. Neither, then, did the media who when President Carter visited, referred to the area (erroneously and ignominiously) as "East L.A."


 
        Map showing gang territories of 1978           Modern placa in Hillside Village suggesting borders have changed


There are LA DOT neighborhood signs designating the area "Hillside Village" that went up in 1998. However,  the El Sereno Historical Society alleges in one of the least-subscribed-to conspiracy theories (on their GeoCities-esque website) that they are counterfeit. Not exactly through the looking glass but there you have it.


Ascot Hills Park behind Hillside Village homes



ASCOT HILLS PARK


Ascot Hills from Woodrow Wilson High School

Although located just north of Hillside Village, the 93 acre Ascot Hills Park is practically the community's backyard. Plans to turn the space into a park began in 1930 but it instead was used as an LADWP training center for many years -- visible to people not part of that utility mafia through bars and fences (much like Los Feliz's tantalizing-but-off-limits-to-the-public Rowena Reservoir). Before it opened as a park, the largest park on the Eastside was a cemetery -- that is, if one conveniently excludes the much larger Ernest E. Debs Regional Park in Montecito Heights from one's definition of the Eastside for the sake of a good quote (e.g. "Until the groundbreaking for the park in 2005, the largest open space in East Los Angeles was Evergreen Cemetery. This sent the wrong message to our children. If you want open space, you have to die first.")



SCHOOLS


The main school in the neighborhood is Woodrow Wilson High School. The high school first began in 1937 at what's now El Sereno Middle School. After outgrowing that location, it relocated to the present campus in 1970. The school's architecture was designed by the great local architect Paul Revere Williams. Twice a year, at homecoming and graduation, the school puts on a fireworks show. There's also Multnomah Elementary School. I don't have any other information about it but it didn't look that interesting from the street and probably shouldn't be to anyone who's not enrolled there are related to someone who is. 


HOUSES OF WORSHIP

Los Angeles Christian Presbyterian Church (나성한인교회)


There's a huge worship hall on Druid Street. From that fact alone you might expect the high priest to be Julian Cope but because it's actually a Presbyterian church -- a denomination with roots in decidedly un-druidic Calvinism. The Los Angeles Christian Presbyterian Church (나성한인교회) congregation moved into this mega-church in 1984.

Ming Ya Buddhist Temple (明月居士林)

Ming Ya (明月居士林)


Behind the gates


Yet another view of the temple 

The building that Ming Ya (明月居士林) is located in was constructed in 1951 and was once the home of the aforementioned Roscoe Moss Company (now located across the boulevard). The last tenants before the Buddhists was Electronics Division of the Thomas & Betts Corp. Ming Ya acquired the building around twenty years ago and even though it seemed to be all locked up and empty, the smell of joss sticks still hung heavy in the surrounding air. I've still yet to go inside but in my experience, most Buddhist temples are worth a peek -- and maybe more.



VILLAGE EATS

Cha Cha Chili


Valeria Market

There are a few restaurants and markets located in Hillside Village, most on or near Valley Boulevard. They include Big Panda, Cha Cha Chili, Johnnie's Market, King Torta, Olympic Donut, Roong-Fah Thai Chinese Food, Tony's Subs & Salads, and Valeria's Market. Cha Cha Chili began in 2009 as Red Hot Kitchen and I've eaten there on another occasion. It's a tiny Korean/Mexican place and the tacos are good. The tortas are cheap and delicious at King Torta -- in my opinion it's a real gem of the area. Johnnie's Market also sells sandwiches although I've only bought water for Dooley there (after I thought I'd broken her with an epic walk). It was established in the 1950s by Johnnie Costentino. Last year I asked the man behind the counter how long it's been run by current owners -- Kim and Winnie Kong -- and he guessed 38 years or so. Valeria's Market also sells its own food, including at least tamales.


King Torta -- not much from the outside but try the food


Johnnie's -- with some nice, commercial mural work


GETTING THERE AND AROUND

The small neighborhood is served well by public transit, including the DASH El Sereno/City Terrace line and Metro's 76, 251/252, and 256 lines. Although Walkscore has separate date for neighboring University Hills, they lump Hillside Village in with the rest of El Sereno, to which they only give a walk score of 53. Their transit score for the neighborhood is 41 and the bike score is 39. Nowhere within Hillside Village is more than half a kilometer from a bus line and although there might not be many bike lines, it's all quite easily biked and only Eastern AvenueSoto Street, and Valley Boulevard see any significant automobile traffic. I suppose though that due to the limited number of businesses one might have to leave the neighborhood to accomplish many errands.



HILLSIDE VILLAGE ARTS SCENE

Although there was a band called a skate punk band called Hillside Village I have doubts about them being from the neighborhood or their name being a reference to it. I'm certain, however, that there are musicians from the neighborhood because I heard someone practicing drums somewhere and on a walk through Ascot Hills Park on a previous occasion, Dooley was entranced by a high schooler playing the saxophone at a bus stop.

As far as film, there are no movie shops, no theaters, no films shot in part or whole there, nor any filmmakers or actors from there that I know of. If I'm missing something, please let me know in the comments! Same goes for games, literature, theater, dance, and the other arts.


Fire Station No. 16

Dooley investigates the Dalmatian

There is a little bit of public art in the neighborhood. In front of Los Angeles Fire Department 16, there's one statue of a firefighter and statue or figurine of a dalmatian (that Dooley took an entirely wholesome interest in). One plaque on the stations wall is dedicated to Everett H. Young, who died in the line of duty on 12 November, 1947 (the same day that the Spruce Goose made its only flight). Another informs us that the fire station was built in 1962.

 
Two Hillside Village examples of Jose Antonio Aguirre's A Luminarias Journey

There's also José Antonio Aguirre's A Luminaries Journey, a collection of public art pieces installed near the Valley Boulevard Bridge honoring significant figures in Chicano history. And wherever there's freight rail, there's invariably street art (or at least graffiti) although I've never really explored along the rails in the area.




*****


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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring City Terrace

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 19, 2013 02:22pm | Post a Comment
BEEN UP TO CITY TERRACE TO SEE WHAT'S A-HAPPENING 

Welcome to City Terrace - East Los Angeles 

Last year I had a stint house-sitting in El Sereno and spent the better part of my stay exploring with a dog named Dooley that I was also charged with the care of. She and I mostly explored the greater El Sereno area, including Hillside Village and University Hills. This time I set about exploring more of the Los Angeles's Eastside -- and Dooley and I managed to unturn stones in the Eastside neighborhoods of Arroyo View EstatesEast Los AngelesEl SerenoGarvanza, Happy ValleyHermonHighland ParkLincoln HeightsMontecito HeightsMonterey HillsRose Hill, and on one warm morning, City Terrace.

Map-like Mural of City Terrace at Robert F Kennedy Elementary

*****

City Terrace is an Eastside neighborhood located within unincorporated East Los Angeles. Definitions of its borders vary but nearby are Monterey Park to the east; University Hills, El Sereno, and Hillside Village to the north; Boyle Heights to the west; and the rest of East Los Angeles to the south. The neighborhood is also situated in the Repetto Hills that stretch from the Arroyo Seco, Elysian Hills and San Rafael Hills in the northwest down to Whittier Narrows and the Rio Hondo in the east and form one of the borders of the San Gabriel Valley. Because of its hilly topography and long-dominant ethnicity, one of its nicknames is "The Mexican Alps." 


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's Map of City Terrace


Like most of East Los Angeles, City Terrace is a mostly residential neighborhood. However, it's located four kilometers north of and across the 60 Freeway from busy Whittier Boulevard -- the main commercial center of East Los Angeles and therefore feels rather separate. The main commercial strip of City Terrace is City Terrace Drive. The other main streets: Gage, Hazard and Eastern Avenues, are all well-traveled but are lined primarily with homes. The decidedly relaxed nature of the neighborhood was at one point underscored by the echoes of a toddler methodically whacking a plastic bat on a balcony which echoed throughout the hills and seemed to provide the only sound within earshot. In fact, the most chaotic moment in the course of my exploration was a mini traffic jam created when a brood of chickens decided to do their scratching in the middle of Hazard.


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. The hills in which City Terrace now lies then separated their villages of Yaangna to the west and Otsungna to the east. 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, first in Whittier Narrows. In 1776 the mission was moved to its present location in San Gabriel, nine kilometers northeast of what's now City Terrace. A few years later, in 1781, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles was founded about 6 kilometers to the west.

The area that became City Terrace was located on Mission lands just east the four Spanish leagues given to the pueblo 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 and neighboring Boyle Heights was one of the city's first suburbs. The area just east, on the other hand, would be dominated by oil extraction and agriculture for another half a century or so.


MODERN HISTORY OF EAST LOS ANGELES

Before 1917, "East Los Angeles" referred to the bustling suburb that became known as Lincoln Heights after a unanimous vote to change its name following the opening of its Abraham Lincoln High School. The "East Los Angeles" designation quickly vanished from maps and ultimately, I suppose, the public consciousness. In 1921, Belvedere Gardens became the first suburb in what's today known as East Los Angeles. As more suburbs popped up -- including Eastmont, Maravilla Park, Observation Heights, Occidental Heights, Palma Heights, Wellington Heights, and City Terrace -- they were increasingly lumped together under the collective "East Los Angeles" which came to stick to the new area by the 1930s.


WALTER LEIMERT

 

City Terrace was developed in the 1920s by Oakland native Walter H. Leimert, born to German parents in 1877. In 1902, when still a young man, he founded the Walter H. Leimert Company which in turn developed several transit-oriented developments in Oakland including Lakeshore Highlands and Oakmore Highlands. Leimert and his family relocated to Los Angeles in the early 1920s and he continued developing, first creating Bellhurst Park in Glendale. By then Los Angeles had expanded north into the San Fernando Valley, west to Santa Monica Bay, and south to San Pedro Bay. The newly-arrived Angeleno bet that Los Angeles would naturally next expand eastward and his next development, City Terrace, was thus planted less than a mile east of the city (which had expanded, it should be noted, slightly eastward with the annexation of Bairdstown and part of the Arroyo Seco Addition). 

In 1923 Leimert placed an advertorial piece titled "Los Angeles Pendulum Swings East" in the Los Angeles Times which the Leimert Company claimed that the only reason Los Angeles hadn't already expanded east was because of inadequate bridges over the Los Angeles River. In 1925, invitations to see City Terrace were sent out which promised only "moderate building restrictions" but "strict race restrictions" -- then, quite embarrassingly, entirely par for the course. Several streets: Fowler Street, Miller Avenue, Fishburn Avenue, Rogers Street, and Van Pelt Avenue, were named after investors Edward M. Fowler, John B. Miller, John E. Fishburn, R.I. Rogers, and Walter G. Van Pelt.

Leimert ultimately proved wrong about the city swinging east and more than a century later, the eastern border between Los Angeles's Boyle Heights neighborhood and unincorporated East Los Angeles hasn't budged an inch. Perhaps there was more to Los Angeles's direction of growth than rickety bridges -- namely the appeal of beachfront property and shipping ports. Leimert's next development, Leimert Park, seemed to concede to this reality and was placed in what was then Southwest Los Angeles.


Big house, small vocho

Although it remained unincorporated county land, there was significant residential construction in City Terrace. Along Woolwine Drive in particular, there are some beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival homes that were constructed in the 1930s -- and this is a style I'm not normally especially fond of. Although nowadays City Terrace is almost exclusively Latino (96% -- with roughly 1% Asian-American, 1% black, and 1% white minorities), this wasn't always the case.

In the beginning, most of the new suburb's homeowners were Jews -- often ones who owned businesses or had roots in nearby Brooklyn Heights -- a then fifty-year-old suburb which was home to the largest Jewish community west of the Mississippi River. Brooklyn Heights and the larger Boyle Heights communities were also then home to large numbers of Russians (both Jewish and Molokan), Mexicans, Irish, and Japanese.


Spanish Colonial Revival homes from the 1930s on Woolwine Drive


JAPANESE IN CITY TERRACE

Many Japanese came to California to fill the void in the labor force created by the 1882 passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act. After the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, many Japanese moved from Northern California to Southern California. In 1924 the Asian Exclusion Act broadened racial discrimination from the Chinese to all Asians. By then Japanese were already established in the area and Yamaizumi Miso Shoyu Seizo-sho was locally manufacturing chop suey sauce, koji (Aspergillus oryzae), and pickles at a facility on Fishburn Street. However, after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the US government forcibly relocated over 110,000 Japanese to concentration camps. After 1946, when the last of the camps was closed, a smaller number of Japanese-Americans returned to the Eastside -- in many cases into homes previously owned by the neighborhood's till-then-dominant Jews.


JEWS IN CITY TERRACE

The Jewish character of the neighborhood was dominant and between the neighborhoods of Boyle Heights, Brooklyn Heights, and City Terrace there were thirty synagogues. By 1940 City Terrace was almost exclusively Jewish. City Terrace was also home to City Terrace Folk Shul Minyan, a chapter of the Jewish People's Fraternal Order (JPFO-IWO), the Emma Lazarus Jewish Women's Club of City Terrace, and a Jewish Cultural Center in City Terrace -- demolished in the 1960s to accommodate the widening of the 10 Freeway. After the end of World War II in 1945, many of Los Angeles's Jews began migrating to areas newly available to them: chiefly Midtown, the Westside, and the San Fernando Valley.


MEXICANS IN CITY TERRACE

There have been Mexicans living in Los Angeles since the birth of Mexico, when Los Angeles was a pueblo within it. In the 1910s, their numbers in Los Angeles increased dramatically as many refugees fled the bloodshed of the Mexican Revolution. Among the first Mexican barrios established were SonoratownDogtown, the Flats of Boyle Heights, Alpine in Victor Heights, Happy Valley above Lincoln Heights, and Belvedere Gardens and Maravilla Park in East Los Angeles (or East Los came to often be shortened, especially by Latinos).

Between 1929 and 1939, in racist response to the Great Depression, the US government expelled millions of Americans of Mexican ancestry to Mexico as part of the so-called "Mexican Repatriation" (which I place in quotes because many of those deported were born in the US and had never even seen Mexico). The government had a change of heart after the internment of Japanese-Americans created a void in agricultural labor and Mexican-Americans were actively courted to return to the US.





By the 1950s, City Terrace was mostly home to upwardly mobile Chicanos such as Don Tosti, who a few years after buying a home in the neighborhood composed "Pachuco Boogie," the first million-selling single in the US released by a Latino artist (recorded by Don Ramon Sr. y su Orquesta). It was also where future mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (né Antonio Ramón Villar, Jr.), who was raised in City Terrace after moving there from Boyle Heights. In a symbolic reflection of the the demographic shift, in 1961 The Menorah Center (built in the 1920s) was transferred to a Catholic institution, The Salesians of Don Bosco -- today the Salesian Boys and Girls Club of Los Angeles.

Rev. Dr. Vernon McCombs and Ms. Katherine Higgins founded the Plaza Community Center in 1905 in order to offer leadership training, education and welfare assistance to those in need. In 1932, the non-profit opened a school explicitly focused on educating and training Mexican-Americans. The organization relocated to City Terrace in the mid-1950s and still operates as Plaza Community Services.


Federación de Clubes Zacatecanos del Sur de California and City Terrace Sheriff's Office


INCORPORATION EFFORTS

Residents of the all of the communities of East Los Angeles banded together as the East Los Angeles Residents Association and first attempted to incorporate as a city in 1960. Similar efforts followed and failed in 1963, 1971, and 2012. Then as now, attempts have failed that an incorporated East Los Angeles wouldn't be financially viable. The worry then as now is that the collection of mom-and-pop stores and residences couldn't possibly generate enough revenue to exist as a municipality.


LOS ANGELES COUNTY CIVIC COMPLEX

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department is the largest sheriff department in the county, and the nation's fourth largest local law enforcement agency (after  the police departments of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles). The first substation was opened in unincorporated Florence, on South Los Angeles's Eastside. The second was opened in City Terrace. Both opened in 1924. The Florence station outgrew its location and moved nearby before closing in 1993.


 
Trailer for Volcano, a spiritual prequel to Crash, and featuring the County Emergency Operation Center in City Terrace



The City Terrace facility, however, grew into a massive complex shared by a prison, the County Fire Department headquarters, Los Angeles County Emergency Operation Center (as seen in 1997's Volcano), Internal Services, and a place known as "Laser Village." The sheriff's headquarters moved to City Terrace in 1993, relocating from the Hall of Justice in Downtown's Civic Center





Big Snoop rules the Eastide (of Long Beach, not Los Angeles) in this film, shot at Sybil Brand

In 1963 the Sheriff's Department opened two new jails -- Men's Central Jail in Downtown Los Angeles and the Sybil Brand Institute, a jail for female inmates, in City Terrace. Although designed to hold 900 inmates, at its peak it housed 2,800.

It was closed in 1997 (inmates were transferred to the then-new Twin Towers facilities) and it has since then been used primarily as a filming location for films and television series including America's Most Wanted, Arrest & Trial, Blow (2001), CSI, Desperate Housewives, The Eastsidaz (2005), Gangland, K-11 (2012), Legally Blonde (2001), A Love Denied (2011), Reno 911!: Miami (2007), and The X-Files.

Pine forest and "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires" sign

Today the area is buffered by hillsides along Eastern Avenue landscaped with large pine trees which area a pleasant smell if not necessarily the most inviting air. I'm not sure if there's anything open to the public in the complex. I didn't venture up there to investigate.

Palm and Pine Forest beneath Emercency Services

CHICANISMO

Although the Mexican-American civil rights struggle began at least as early as the 1920s (the League of United Latin American Citizens formed in 1929), it wasn't until the 1960s that the Chicano Movement (or El Movimiento) got underway, with Los Angeles's Eastside occupying center stage. It was in 1966 that high school students formed the Young Citizens for Community Action (which quickly evolved into the Brown Berets), in part to protest the Vietnam War and police brutality. The East Los Angeles Walkouts (or Chicano Blowouts) --a series of protests of educational inequalities -- took place in 1968.


RAZA UNIDA PARTY

The Partido Nacional de La Raza Unida -- or Raza Unida Party (RUP) formed in Texas early in 1970. The Chicano political party successfully ran candidates in Texas elections before expanding into other states. The City Terrace chapter was especially active in California and one of the chapter's organizers, Raul Ruiz, ran as a candidate for the 48th Assembly District in 1971. Ruiz was also one of the editors of a local Chicano newspaper established a few years earlier (1967) in City Terrace, La Raza.


CITY TERRACE ARTS


City Terrace is saturated with art. There's a great deal of religious art depicting Biblical characters. In some ways, although their representations often look more Nordic than Semitic, these thousands of paintings and figurines maintaining the neighborhood's old Jewish character. 

Christ on a cross mural and shadow

Sam the Olympic Eagle and Olympic Athletes mural (from the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984)

There are also these leafy vine murals that cover numerous walls, garage doors, alleyways throughout the area. It's my understanding that they are designed to discourage placas and tags, which become difficult to decipher amongst the painted branches and foliage. 


Leafy vine mural and Dooley (selfie by Dooley)


There are paintings on the exterior walls of markets, depicting cleaning products and junk food sold inside. There's also graffiti and -- if your definition of art extends far enough -- tags and placas all over the place. The most celebrated art in the area are the murals painted by well known Chicano arts collectives like Los Four and Self Help as well as some local artists and organizations.


City Terrace Library (and to the right, Mercado Hidalgo)

In 1969, City Terrace resident David Rivas Botello co-founded Goez Art Studio with Jose-Luis Gonzalez and Juan Gonzalez. Botello went on to co-found Los Dos Streetscapers with Wayne Alaniz Healy in 1975. With the addition of Charles Solares, Fabian Debora, George Yepes, Paul Botello, Ricardo Duffy, Rich Raya, and Rudy Calderon they renamed themselves East Los Streetscapers. Goez Studios' Jose Luis Gonzalez created the ceramic mural, Ofrenda Maya 1, in 1978 at City Terrace Branch Library.

 
Two Herrón murals (source: LA Eastside and unknown)

Muralist Willie Herrón III was born in 1951 in a church in City Terrace to parents who lived in Pico-Rivera but largely raised by grandparents and later his mother in various neighborhoods of East Los Angeles. In 1972, Herrón formed an artists collective called Asco with fellow artists Gronk (ne Glugio Nicandro), Harry Gamboa, Jr., and Patssi Valdez, all of whom attended Garfield Senior High School together. Herrón painted a mural, Quetzalcoatl-Plumed Serpent, on the back of Mercado Hidalgo. Nearby, in the alley behind City Terrace Drive connecting Miller Avenue and Carmelita Avenue he painted The Wall that Crack'd Open on the wall of a business owned by his uncle. His La Doliente de Hidalgo was added to another of Mercado Hidalgo's walls in 1976. 


City Terrace Elementary

George Yepes was born in 1955 and raised in City Terrace. In 1992 he founded Academia de Arte Yepes, the first free mural academy for young painters in Los Angeles. From 1979 till 1985 he was a member of East Los Streetscapers. One of his most widely-seen pieces was the cover art for Los Lobos' 1988 album, La Pistola y El Corazón. Yepes's 1994 mural, Los Niños del Este Los Angeles, graces one of the walls of City Terrace Elementary.


St. Lucy's and El Tepeyac de Los Angeles mural

Yepes's mural, El Tepeyac de Los Angeles, was completed in 1995 and adorns the front of St. Lucy's Catholic Church.


Coyolxauhqui Plaza replica of the Coyolxauhqui Stone

Coyolxauhqui Plaza features an exact replica of the Coyolxauqui stone, sculpted circa 1472 and 1479, during the reign of Axayacatl. Coyolxauhqui Plaza is the moon goddess in the Mexica religion whose name in Nahuatl translates to something like "ornate bells." I couldn't find any information about when this replica was installed or who created it, but suffice to say it was almost certainly after the stone's rediscovery in Mexico City in 1978.


GANGS OF CITY TERRACE

The location of Willie Herrón's mural, the Wall That Crack'd Open, was chosen because it was near the site where the artist's then 15-year-old brother was nearly stabbed to death in an assault by members of Big Hazard -- a Boyle Heights gang whose territory includes the north-of-the-10 section of East Los Angeles. Herrón's previous mural, Quetzalcoatl-Plumed Serpent, had been dedicated to Geraghty Loma, one of the City Terrace's gangs, and the artist invited gang members to contribute their placas into its design.

Latino street gangs have on the Eastside at least as early as the 1930s, the era of the zoot-suited pachucos. The Vietnam era saw the dawn of the stoner era, and groups (some pre-dating the era) like the City Terrace Rifa, Geraghty Loma, Hicks Street, Lott Stoners and their many clikas were organized primarily around partying, listening to hard rock, and getting stoned (albeit not just on weed but pills and PCP). By the 1980s, many stoner groups either morphed into or were absorbed by the cholo gangs that came to characterize that more violent era. However, despite the mainstream media's sensationalization and implication that nearly every Eastsider was in a gang, by the estimates of some community leaders, fewer than 10% of boys were ever associated with gangs even back then. 


BACKYARD PARTY SCENE

Perhaps far more popular than the gang scene but much less-documented was the Backyard Party Scene, which flourished throughout the Eastside in the late 1970s and '80s. (Click here to read a an account by Gerard Meraz, a former DJ with Highland Park's Wild Boyz crew). Often finding themselves shunned by the Anglo-dominated Hollywood punk scene (and their venues), Eastside Punk groups often played in the backyards of Eastside homes (and the nearby venue, Vex). One of the local bands, Los Illegals, featured muralist Willie Herrón as well as Jesus “Xiuy” Velo, Bill Reyes, and brothers Manuel and Tony Valdez.


 
Los Illegales performing "We Don't Need a Tan"

In the late '80s, Party Crews and daytime Ditch Parties offered alternatives to gangs as well as school and sobriety. In the end, in the early 1990s, violence and media sensationalism both crept into that scene and it seems to have moved out of the spotlight. However, there's still a Backyard Scene. Here's an article from the LA Weekly.


Fairmount Terrace - six story senior residences constructed in 1979 and the tallest buildings in the neighborhood


CITY TERRACE TODAY

It's interesting to me that of all the combined barrios of East Los Angeles, City Terrace seems to maintain a distinct semiautonomy. Being part of Los Angeles County, there are of course none of the blue LA DOT neighborhood signs that one sees around the city. On the street signs, above the names of the streets it simply says "East Los Angeles." The LA Times' Mapping LA project doesn't show its borders.


KTLA covering a shooting in City Terrace

Nonetheless, on local news it seems that traffic congestion or crimes committed there are almost always identified as taking place not just in East Los Angeles, but in City Terrace specifically. If similar incidents take place anywhere else in East Los Angeles, I've never seen the neighborhood more specifically identified. The census doesn't seem to differentiate the neighborhood from the rest of East Los Angeles either but the demographics seemed, from my limited experience, to be similar to those of East Los Angeles as a whole: 97% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 2% Anglo (mostly Italian), 1% Native American, 1% Asian, and less than 1% black.

Although not counted by the census, being in the Eastside, City Terrace is not surprisingly home to a lot of seemingly miserable, angry dogs so walking with one through the neighborhood can result in some raised hackles on both sides of the fence. The people of City Terrace that I interacted with were more friendly on the whole than their canine companions and I was stopped by both a giddy little girl in a stroller and a blunt-smoking veterano who both just wanted to give Dooley a rub. Parts of the neighborhood's hilly terrain are quite steep and Walkscore's map shows City Terrace to be the least walkable part of East Los Angeles but nearly everything that would interest a casual explorer or visitor is located near easily walkable of bikeable City Terrace Drive, which is also served by public transit.


GETTING THERE/STAYING THERE

There are several public transit options for would-be tourists to City Terrace. LA DOT's DASH El Sereno/City Terrace and Boyle Heights lines both serve the area. Metro's 70, 71, 256, and 665 bus lines traverse the area as well. The Gold Line has stops located a moderate distance south of the neighborhood. The Silver Line/El Monte Busway and Metrolink's San Bernardino Line stop nearer to the neighborhood, just across the 10 Freeway at Cal State LA Station. Locally, the City Terrace/ELAC line of East Los Angeles's El Sol service also serves the area.


View from atop City Terrace

The only lodging in the area seems to be the Vista Motel, which has the fact that it's the only lodging in the neighborhood working in its favor. However, according to its website, its main selling point seems to be that it's located twenty minutes from Long Beach and 35 from LAX.


CITY TERRACE PARKS

City Terrace Park Swimming Pool

One of City Terrace's main attractions, albeit probably more for residents than visitors, is City Terrace Park. A fairly small park was first developed there by WPA crews back in 1933. In 1957, soil removed during the construction of Los Angeles's Civic Center was transported there, used to fill a ravine, and triple the park's size. There's a basketball court, a community room, a computer center, a gymnasium, a playground, a swimming pool, tennis courts and a field. The west wall of the gym is decorated by a mural painted by Paul Bortello (of East Los Streetscapers) and neighborhood kids in 2000 called Inner Resources.

City Terrace Park and the Inner Resources mural
City Terrace Park and the Inner Resources mural


CITY TERRACE EATS


Lonchera parking lot

Probably an even greater draw to East Los Angeles than the murals are the restaurants, which feature some of the best Mexican food in the city. City Terrace, even being a small neighborhood, is home to surprisingly few of East Los Angeles's celebrated eateries but there is Alvarez Bakery, El Guarachito (not to be confused with El Huarachito in Lincoln Heights), Juanito's Tamales, Negrete's Ice Cream, and Raspados Zacatecas. If you find yourself in Fairmount Terrace, there's a cafeteria there listed on Foursquare. If you're up in the county complex there's a Lunch Stop -- familiar to anyone whose dined in a government facility in the area -- and much better than you'd rightfully expect. 


King's Market Liquor with it's depiction of the Mexica Sun Stone

Linda Market with paintings of products for sale inside

Apparently most people in City Terrace must dine elsewhere, hit up loncheras, or dine in. If you're up for doing your own cooking there are far more neighborhood markets (some little more than liquor or convenience stores) than restaurants including Amigos Market, Diane's Market, East LA Market #3, Eva's Liquor Store, Family Market, Fauzia Market, Floral Market, Garcia's Meat Market, Guadalupana Carniceria, King's Market Liquor, Linda MarketLittle Super Market, Mercado Hidalgo, and Sportsman Liquor Store. Much of the neighborhood's litter seems to emanate from these establishments in the form of small chip bags. However, whereas most of my Eastside neighborhood explorations were dominated by evidence of consumption of various flavors of Cheetos, in City Terrace, Tapatío-flavored Doritos and Ruffles seemed to predominate. Tapatío, for those unfamiliar, is an American hot sauce manufactured in nearby Vernon that many incorrectly assume to be Mexican.


Dolores Canning on Eastern Avenue

City Terrace's most famous culinary export is probably Dolores Canning. Dolores Canning's origins stretch back to 1954, when Basilio Muñoz formed the company as a distributor of cow and pig products. They introduced the Dolores Chili Brick in 1973. They also produced chili sauce, pickled pork products and menudo. I assumed that the company logo was a depiction of Dolores del Río, a glamorous Mexican matinee idol from the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, but in fact it depicts Dolores Muñoz, the late Basilio's wife who passed away in 2008 and whose menudo recipe the company's canned version is based upon.


CITY TERRACE CELLULOID


Aside from the aforementioned films shot in part or in whole at Sybil Brand, I couldn't find any films either set or filmed in City Terrace. It was, however, the birthplace of Good Morning America's long-serving film critic Joel Siegel, who wrote about his childhood and the concurrent demographic shifts of City Terrace in his book, Lessons for Dylan: On Life, Love, the Movies, and Me.


The 2 Line in front of the City Terrace Cinema in 1963 (source: Pacific Electric Railway Historical Society)


Where St. Lucy's has stood since 1970, formerly stood the City Terrace Cinema, also known as the Terrace Theatre. Although I couldn't find a construction date or architect, the old movie theater existed at least as early as the late 1940s and seated 811 patrons. It also included a glass-enclosed balcony for mothers with crying children.

OTHER STUFF TO DO

A reader has brought to my attention a private museum located in City Terrace (on City Terrace Drive) called The Institute for the Scientific Study of Human and Non-Human Phenomena. I'm intrigued and will try to check it out!


If you'd like to read more about City Terrace, look for Beyond Alliances: The Jewish Role in Reshaping the Racial Landscape of Southern California edited by George J. SanchezCity Terrace Field Manual bySesshu FosterMexican American Mojo: Popular Music, Dance, and Urban Culture in Los Angeles, 1935-1968 by Anthony MacíasEast Los Angeles: History of a Barrio by Ricardo Romo, and The history of La Raza newspaper and magazine, and its role in the Chicano community from 1967 to 1977by Francisco Manuel Andrade. 

As always, I welcome corrections, additions for consideration, personal accounts, pictures you'd like to share (I'll link to you or your website), &c. Just let me know in the comments!

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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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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Happy Valley

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 5, 2013 10:56am | Post a Comment
BETWEEN OLYMPUS AND PARADISE

There are at least four places in California named Happy Valley. This blog entry is about the small neighborhood on Los Angeles’s EastsideTo vote for other Los Angeles neighborhoods, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, vote here. To vote for Orange County communities and neighborhoods, vote here






The first time I became aware of a place in Los Angeles called Happy Valley was after glancing at an online map. I ascertained that it was apparently located somewhere in the vicinity of Montecito Heights, an area of Los Angeles that strikes me as one of the most obscure areas of the city. One day whilst driving down the Arroyo Seco Parkway (when it was still the Pasadena Freeway) I caught sight of a couple of Victorian structures which I turned off the road to see -- only to find that it was Heritage Square, a sort of living history museum in Montecito Heights. Another time, passing through a scenic cut and cresting a hill along Monterey Road I entered a small, secluded village... but that turned out to be Hermon.

It wasn’t until I was house (and dog and cat) sitting in El Sereno last year that I caught site of a Happy Valley neighborhood sign on Lincoln Park Avenue, just north of Broadway. When I found myself resuming my responsibilities in El Sereno last month, I decided to explore as many neighborhoods of the Eastside as I could. Together, Dooley (the dog) and I rambled through Arroyo View Estates, East Los Angeles, El Sereno, City Terrace, Garvanza, Hermon, Highland Park, Hillside Village, Lincoln Heights, Montecito Heights, Monterey Hills, Rose Hill, University Hills, and on the final day, Happy Valley


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Happy Valley -- my first water color and bird's eye... go easy on me



Most Angelenos have likely never heard of Happy Valley. Not being in the Westside, Central Los Angeles, or Downtown it’s completely off the radar of most Los Angeles media. If people have heard of Happy Valley, there’s a good chance that they’re either associated with the neighborhood gang’s enemies (i.e. Eastlake Locos, East Side Clover, 18 Street, or El Sereno Rifa) or fans of Charles Fleming’s book, Secret Stairs.


Mural of Mary in Happy Valley dating from the 1970s (at least) -- The Jesus is newer


Walk #10 of that book involves walking along the public stairways and stair streets of Montecito Heights and Happy Valley (difficulty rating 5 out of 5) and it seems that numerous bloggers have undertaken it (e.g. Climbing LA, Postcards from Beverly, stairwalkinginla, and probably others). The story of a couple of Happy Valley murals was also told by LA Bloga in a piece that includes some great photos.


HAPPY VALLEY CHARACTER

Looking down Happy Valley along Lincoln Park Avenue from the hillside

Happy Valley emerges from the southern face of Montecito Heights around the north end of Sierra Street, just north of Glen Alta Elementary. From there it continues south between Paradise Hill on the east and Mount Olympus II (locally known as Flattop or Flat Top) on the west before opening up into a flat area at Broadway.


Paradise Hill from Happy Valley

To the south is Lincoln Heights proper – specifically the Lincoln Heights Business District. Happy Valley is often considered to be a barrio of Lincoln Heights yet on many maps it’s included within Montecito Heights.


Montecito Heights neighborhood sign at Happy Valley's north end


View of Downtown Los Angeles from Happy Valley


The population of Happy Valley today is 79% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 13% white, and 6% Asian (mostly Chinese). In the hours that I spent walking around, nearly everyone that I encountered appeared to be part of one of those populations and the languages that I heard, in addition to English, were Spanish and Chinese. There were some white Anglos in the north end of the valley.


EARLY HISTORY

Southern California was inhabited by humans as many as 13,000 years ago. Roughly 3,500 years ago the ancestors of the Tongva arrived in the Los Angeles Basin. The area that includes Happy Valley is located between the sites of two Tongva villages, Yaanga to the west and Otsunga to the east. In 1769, the first Europeans passed through the area, led by Gaspar de Portolà on behalf of Spanish Conquest. In 1771 they established Mission San Gabriel Arcángel ten kilometers east. In 1781 the Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles was established four kilometers to the west. Per the Laws of the Indies, the Pueblo’s lands included four square leagues of land, including what’s now Happy Valley.


MEXICAN AND EARLY AMERICAN ERA

Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821. Los Angeles was thus a Mexican city until 1848, when the US conquered California. In 1850, Los Angeles incorporated. The lands east of the Los Angeles River that now include Happy Valley remained relatively undeveloped until 1874, when then city health inspector and county coroner Dr. John S. Griffin and his nephew, Hancock Johnston, began selling lots to new homeowners in what was then called East Los Angeles.

Detail of Pierce’s Los Angeles Birdseye View showing Lincoln Heights and Happy Valley (1894)*


In 1886, most of what’s now known as Happy Valley was developed as the Ela Hills tract. The sale of new lots was announced in the 14 March edition of the Los Angeles Herald. The small, folk Victorian homes from that era still dominate the neighborhood, although they’re joined today by not-as-old crackerboxes and the expected assortment of stuccoed houses and apartments. The lots and homes situated on them are quite small. Many of the first inhabitants of them were immigrants from Germany.


Lincoln Heights was renamed Eastlake in 1901 and Lincoln Park in 1917. There’s still a small park nearby on Eastlake Avenue called Ela Park as a reminder of its earlier identity. During that period, many Italian and Mexican-Americans moved to the neighborhood. However, as business flourished along Downey Avenue (now Broadway), Happy Valley seems to have remained a fairly isolated, mostly residential neighborhood.

Victorian home behind a home that appears to have been a shop


Happy Valley apartment complex



HAPPY VALLEY TRANSIT

detail of Electric car and bus routes in L.A. (1934)*

From 1901 until 1963, the Los Angeles Railway’s yellow cars traveled down Downey and Lincoln Park Avenue (originally Prichard Street). Today the area is served by Metro 252 and the DASH Lincoln Heights/Chinatown lines.


ABRAHAM LINCOLN HIGH SCHOOL




In the 1910s, a department store, library, bank, movie studio, and hospital all operated nearby in Lincoln Heights. In 1913, Avenue 21 Grammar School moved to the current site of Abraham Lincoln High School at the mouth of Happy Valley. Before the completion of the new building, the students and faculties met across the street and up the hill on the former mansion property of Charles Woolwine.

Lincoln High has a long list of famous and locally notable alumni. The great architect Gregory Ain, who designed Silver Lake’s Avenel Homes and Mar Vista's Mar Vista Housing went there. Another alumnus is Gaylord Carter,an organist who accompanied silent films in at Inglewood’s Seville Theatre, Downtown Los Angeles’s Million Dollar Theatre, Grauman's Metropolitan, and others. He also played organ on old time radio shows including Suspense and The Whistler. Former Black Panther leader and author Eldrige Cleaver attended Lincoln too. In 1978’s Soul on Fire he referred to Happy Valley as “one of these old, proud Chicano communities.” Lincoln was also attended by modern dancer José Limón as well as several film folks including directors John Huston and Moctesuma Esparza; and actors Jeanette Nolan, John Conte, John Doucette, Robert Preston, and Robert Young.


HAPPY VALLEY RIFA

From 1910 until 1920, many Mexican refugees from the Mexican Revolution moved to Los Angeles, joining those who already settled in barrios like SonoratownDogtown, the Flats (in Boyle Heights), Alpine (in Victor Heights), Belvedere Gardens and Maravilla Park (in East Los Angeles), and Happy Valley. Some of the young pachucos of these neighborhoods coalesced into neighborhood clubs, including Happy Valley.

Happy Valley Rifa tagged pay phone!

When the US entered World War II in 1941, many men of fighting age went off to war – in many cases never to return. Not coincidentally, the barrio cliques comprised of young teenagers morphed into street gangs. Around the same time, many Italian-Americans moved east to San Gabriel Valley towns including Rosemead, San Gabriel, and Temple City. In 1946, Beatrice Griffith referred to Happy Valley in her novel American Me, when it first appeared in serialized form in Louis Adamic’s magazine Common Ground two years before it was published as a book. 


Happy Valley Rifa 1975

Whatever you think of gangs, it does seem to me that in the decades when many Angelenos seemed to aspire to suburban anonymity, disassociation, and interchangeable placelessness, street gangs were probably the most visible expressions of neighborhood identity. I’m not suggesting that would-be community boosters join gangs – I can think of better ways of showing your neighborhood pride than warring with rival gang members – but they do historically keep the flame of neighborhood pride burning when others turn their backs. While not exactly an ancient pictograph, seeing a Happy Valley placa dated “1975” on a sidewalk is kind of cool (and way more permanent and less ugly than a spraypaint tag, I might add).


RETURN TO HAPPY VALLEY

Los Angeles was torn apart by riots in 1992. It seems that afterwards one of the ways people sought to heal the wounds was to re-embrace the notion of community. In 1993, the LA DOT began installing the now-familiar neighborhood signs around the city, in many cases reviving forgotten identities on what had become huge, faceless swathes of land (often in South Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, and Midtown). In 1995 Happy Valley was officially recognized when the blue sign went up amid fears that it would trigger a negative response from Happy Valley Rifa’s enemies but nothing of the sort seems to have happened. Instead, it just put Happy Valley back on the map… even if it is still hard to find.


VISITING HAPPY VALLEY

Happy Valley today is overwhelmingly residential, possibly more so now than ever. In fact, there are several residences that appear to have formerly served as stores. There are very few non-residential buildings in the neighborhood today. 


Pomona Market


Apparently the building that houses Pomona Market was constructed in 1922. It is one of several liquor stores in Los Angeles with a sign claiming that it sells the coldest beer in the city. While good beers taste best at a range of temperatures, macroswills are less disgusting the closer they are to freezing. 

Fernando Auto Repair doesn’t even show up in any directories that I saw. I can assure you, however, that it’s there if you need it, housed in a structure constructed in 1946.


Iglesia en el Valle


Iglesia en la Valle seems to have become the current inhabitant of this church (constructed in 1939) much more recently, in 1984.

Near the north end of the neighborhood is Glen Alta Elementary, which opened in 1965.

There was business taking place elsewhere – it was Small Business Saturday after all. A man in a football (soccer) jersey played salsa music from his van and presided over an listless sidewalk sale. Down the street, at a house flying the flag of Texas, a group of women set up some tables and chairs. Having recently dined in the garage of a private residence in El Sereno that sells Mexican food on Sundays I thought that maybe something similar was going to happen here but no food was served during the time of my visit. There were other sidewalk and yard sales too but for the most part it was a pretty relaxed valley.

At one point Dooley and I just stopped, looked, smelled and listened. Ranchera music seemed to drift from a house to the south. A car passed us playing the Young Rascals’ 1967 hit “Groovin’.”

 




In the other direction (in more sense than one), another vehicle passed bumping merengue. A cloud of weed smoke floated in from the east. Meanwhile, the crowing of roosters echoed throughout the valley – as did the barking of dogs. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Happy Valley is the doggiest neighborhood in Los Angeles – perhaps five times doggier than even El Sereno (which I’d previously thought was the doggiest neighborhood).


Looking up the staircase at the north end of Lincoln Park Avenue

The people of Happy Valley may be friendly (I counted four “hellos,” one “buenos dias, and one “good morning”) but the dogs almost invariably seem insane. Nearly every small yard seemed to either be patrolled by a Pitbull and Chihuahua combination or the five small dogs variety pack. Dooley and I had pretty tense confrontations with three dogs (two of them rather large) that simply squeezed through the gates of their yards to nip and bark at us. None of them actually bit us, however. 

Not all of the homes were being used as minimum security dog kennels. There was also quite a lot of front and back yard gardening too. Especially prominent and surprising to me were the many banana trees, which provide shade, privacy, and best of all, bananas with actual flavor (unlike the supermarket ones suitable only as smoothie filler). Besides getting your hands dirty doing something besides maintaining a silly, thirsty, green grass carpet, gardening can yield unexpected rewards. It was on the side of Flat Top above Happy Valley in 1984 that a whale skeleton was discovered when one Mr. F. W. Maley uncovered vertebrae whilst digging in irrigation trench on for Ms. L.W. Blevins’s orchard.

*****

If you know of any musicians, filmmakers or other creative individuals from Happy Valley, please let me know in the comments. And please share your stories, knowledge, and experiences involving Happy Valley. There’s so little official history of this neighborhood so I’m relying on readers to help flesh it out. There is no Wikipedia article and it’s not even included as a neighborhood in the LA TimesMapping LA project.

*image source for both map detail: The Big Map Blog

*****


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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring El Sereno, The Last of the Independent

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 12, 2012 09:41pm | Post a Comment

INTRODUCTION

Normally for my LA and OC neighborhood blogs, I spend a day (two in the case of Highland Park) exploring and seeing as much as I can and then write about it. For El Sereno, however, I had two whole weeks to explore.

I was house-sitting for a couple, staying in their 1959 mid-century home and taking care of a dog and two cats. Before this excursion I was fairly unfamiliar with El Sereno, having once visited the couple I was house-sitting for, twice visited musician Johann Bogeli (Moving Units), passed through on my bike, eaten at King Torta a few times, and just once purposelessly peregrinating (during which time I came across the Mazatlan).


A hawk seen from the window

The first night I spent in El Sereno, one of my hosts and I attended a mescal party in Eagle Rock. Aterward, joined by the other host, we all relaxed in their yard, absorbing the sounds of banda music and partying taking place nearby.

After my hosts embarked on their road trip I would almost always be accompanied in my rambles by their trusty dog, Dooley. I’m not sure if people were especially friendly because I was walking a dog and not just a suspicious guy walking around taking pictures or if people in El Sereno are just generally amongst the city’s most friendly. Whatever the reason, the average day involved so many exchanges of “good morning,” “buenos dias” and hand-waves with complete strangers (and one unintelligible between Dooley and a woman that seemed to have something to do with her ankle monitor and maybe a lighter). As a result, El Sereno has for me deposed Compton as the friendliest community to strangers. (For those wondering, Laurel Canyon and Cambodia Town seemed the coldest).
 

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