The 17th Central Avenue Jazz Festival

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 31, 2012 03:05pm | Post a Comment


Every year for the past 17 years, during the last weekend in JulyLA residents and visitors are treated to the preeminent jazz event on the West Coast with The Central Avenue Jazz Festival. It’s free and open to the public – last year, 35,000 attended. The focus, of course, is live music but there are also craft and food booths. I've been meaning to check it out in the past and this I year finally did.


The Dunbar in 2012 and Central Ave - A Community Album


          Intersection of Malcolm X Way and MLK                                A Jazzy mural at Alondra's Bakery

The event takes place at the historic Dunbar Hotel in South Central -- the actual neighborhood named after South Central Avenue and not the coded catch-all for “all neighborhoods south of the 10 Freeway assumed to be mostly black, impoverished and dangerous." I could be wrong but it's my guess that it's mostly due to the perceived, negative connotations of "South Central" that there seem to be almost no official uses of that name in reference to the area. Instead one get's the "Central Avenue Corridor" in its stead, or "Historic South Central" as a way of deflecting lingering associations -- much as Compton Boulevard was re-branded Marine Boulevard on South LA's Westside.

South Central historical markers for the corridor, Jack's Chicken Basket, California Eagle and Elk's Club

On the second day of the festival I took the Blue Line to Washington Boulevard, walked over to Central Avenue and headed south. I didn't realize how big South Central is, and how hot it was, until I'd begun walking 23 blocks, keeping my eyes open for historic markers and sites of interest along the way. One landmark that I passed and didn't see a marker for was the former headquarters of the Black Panthers' Southern California chapter (4115 S. Central Avenue).


the all black LAFD Station 30 now the African American Firefighter Museum (AAFFM)

Before the rise of the South Central neighborhood, most of Los Angeles’s black population lived in a small area around Skid Row colloquially known as “Brick Block,” where several black-owned businesses were established. Leapfrogging south over Skid Row, more black businesses and residences sprang up around the intersection of South Central Avenue and 12th Street in what's now the Downtown LA's The Wholesale District. By 1915, the black-owned California Eagle publication was referring to South Central as the LA's "Black Belt." Because it was centered along South Central Avenue, the neighborhood came to be known as South Central


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's Map of South Central and the Eastside

In 1917, famed New Orleanian ragtime and jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton made a new home in LA. Two years later, fellow Louisianan jazz musician Kid Ory followed. The so-called Black Belt began to move further south along Central Avenue Corridor and expanded to the surrounding area roughly hemmed in by Alameda, Main, Slauson and Washington (including what's now the Furniture & Decorative Arts District. To many inhabitants of the area, the region east of Main Street as "The Eastside" (not to be confused the  Eastside region east of the LA River). 


Dunbar Hotel postcard

The most important site of West Coast Jazz in South Central was the Dunbar Hotel. The hotel, which had an Art Deco lobby, was built in 1928 and was originally known as the Hotel Somerville. Its original owners, John and Vada Somerville, two prominent black Angelenos (John was the first black graduate of USC). There’s was one of the only hotels to allow black guests to stay there and many did. In 1928, delegates of the NAACP stayed there when in town. Somerville sold the hotel in 1929 to white owners who nonetheless renamed the hotel "Hotel Dunbar" after black Ohioan poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar.


Soon after, the hotel again sold in 1930, this time to a black owner, Lucius W. Lomax, Sr. In 1931 he obtained a cabaret license which allowed for live entertainment. Soon, black luminaries including Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, James Weldon Johnson, Joe Louis, John Coltrane, Josephine Baker, Langston Hughes, Lena Horne, Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong, Louis Jordan, Marian Anderson, Nat King Cole, Paul Robeson, Ralph Bunche, Ray Charles, Redd Foxx, Stepin Fetchit, Thurgood Marshall, W. E. B. Du Bois, and others congregated, performed and/or stayed there. Black Western star Herb Jeffries did as well, after he quit Earl Hines’s band and moved to LA.


The Lincoln Theater - nicknamed "The West Coast Apollo"

For a period during the Great Depression the hotel ceased operations as a hotel and served as a mission run by Reverend Mayor Jealous Divine, a cult leader who proclaimed to his followers in the Peace Mission movement that he was God. But the Dunbar (and attached Club Alabam) wasn’t the only hot spot in South Central. There was also Alex Lovejoy'sThe Avalon TheaterThe Casablanca, The Crystal Tea RoomThe Downbeat (4201 S. Central - demolished), Elk's Hall (3416 S. Central - demolished) The Hole in the Wall, Ivy's Chicken ShackJack's Chicken Basket (Jack Johnson's after hours - 3219 S. Central - now demolished), The Last Word (demolished), The Lincoln Theater (2300 S. Central - now a church), The Memo Club (demolished), The Ritz ClubThe Showboat, and Stuff Crouch's Backstage all operating nearby. In the 1940s, the Dunbar returned to its roots, again becoming a hotel with live music.


Street scene at 2012 Central Avenue Jazz Festival

As a result of 1948's Shelley v. Kraemer case, the Supreme Court banned the continued enforcement of racist restrictive covenants. As a result, the black population of South Central (and by then, Watts), began to fan out from their cramped neighborhoods. Visiting black musicians like Duke Ellington could suddenly stay in places like Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, closer to the venues where they were playing. At the same time, amongst jazz fans, West Coast Jazz’s popularity waned as new styles including Hard Bop, Modal Jazz and Free Jazz waxed. More damaging to jazz, Rock ‘n’ Roll stole Jazz's place in the spotlight.


A look inside the Dunbar today

The Dunbar struggled on until 1974, when it finally closed its doors (the same year it was designated as an Historic-Cultural Landmark (no. 131)). After it closed, Rudy Ray Moore filmed much of Dolemite (1974) and A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but a Sandwich (1976) on the premises. The former hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 but continued to suffer from neglect and vandalism. Closed and long vacant, it attracted squatters until, after renovations, it re-opened in 1990 as an apartment for low-income seniors. It also became the home of the Museum in Black, a museum of black history originally established by Brian Breye in Leimert Park in 1971. As of 2011 it was empty and began undergoing restoration. Although currently without a home, the MiB still has an online presence -- Preserve the Museum in Black.


Another scene at the 2012 Central Avenue Jazz Festival

Following the 1992 Riots and the introspection and dialogue that followed, several black cultural events arose including the Pan-African Film Festival (1992) and Central Avenue Jazz Festival (1996) and there seems to have been a general re-assessment of South LA's unique cultural and historic importance. Despite the fact that much of South LA and South Central’s black population moved in the wake of the riots, (today South Central is more than 87% Latino and only 10% black) the Central Avenue Jazz Festival offers attendees a chance to experience a bit of history and culture and maybe will serve as an example of why we should hold onto the sites of our city's rich history instead of, oh, tearing them down to make room for a KFC or police station.


There was a large art piece in the middle of the street with reproductions of photos from several generations. It was part of a project called Central Ave. It includes a mix of portraits taken by Sam Comen and family photos from Eastsiders of all generations. Since the website seems to be down, click here to check out the Facebook event page for the opening, or write to Comen at [email protected]


No sooner had I arrived than a woman asked me what I'd thought of Ernie Andrews. Everybody seemed to be buzzing about his performance. One gentleman joked that he'd missed the performance, which started shortly after 1:00, because he was just getting up then -- because he'd only gone home at 7:00! 

I did catch Phil Ranelin's set which I enjoyed quite a bit, as did the rest of the attendees, apparently. The band rumbled and swung through numbers that touched on modal jazz, hard bop and avant-garde jazz showing that West Coast Jazz fans can appreciate other styles. Other performers included Diana Holling Band, Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Jazz America, LAUSD Beyond The Bell All-City Jazz Big Band, Poncho Sanchez, Sons of Etta, The New Jump Blues, and The Ray Goren Band. If you missed it this year, make sure you come to next's!


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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Lincoln Heights, The Pueblo's Bedroom

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 8, 2012 09:09pm | Post a Comment

Lincoln Heights one of the main neighborhoods of LA's Eastside. Across the LA River it's neighbored by Downtown's Chinatown, North Industrial District (Dog Town), Civic Support, and the Mideast Side's Elysian Park and Elysian Valley to the west and northwest, respectively. It's neighbored the NELA's Cypress Park and Montecito Heights to the north; and fellow Eastside neighborhoods Boyle Heights, El Sereno, and Happy Valley, to the south, east, and north, respectively.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's maps of Lincoln Heights and The Eastside

For this blog, I was accompanied by Genevieve Liang, making her second appearance after her season 6 debut in "Pasadena - The Crown City of Roses."


Present day neighborhood of Lincoln Heights, like all of Los Angeles, was for thousands of years home to the 
Tongva, later conquered by the Spanish, part of Mexico
after its independence, and ultimately the USA.

For its first fifteen years, Lincoln Heights was merely known, along with it's east-of-the-river neighbors as East Los Angeles. In 1863 there was an outbreak of smallpox. Then city health inspector and county coroner Dr. John S. Griffin, was offered 2,000 acres of land at the reduced price of 50 cents an acre instead of his normal $3,000 salary by the cash-strapped city. In 1874, the Virginian doctor and his nephew, Hancock Johnston, began selling the land to LA's first suburbanites. 

The Albion Cottages were built in 1875 (the Milagro Market was added later) to serve workers on the Southern Pacific Railroad.


Along with Angeleno HeightsBunker Hill and Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights was one of LA's first suburbs. In its earliest years most of the residents were English and Irish-Americans, who nicknamed the budding community "The Garden Territory." The downtown was laid out along Broadway, which begins there and ultimately runs 28 kilometers south, finally terminating in Gardena.

Residence at 2054-2056 Griffin Avenue built in 1887 

Not pictured historic home of the era: Residence at 3110 N. Broadway built in 1880 (now HM 157) 



A portion purchased by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company was left undeveloped and instead set aside as a park in 1881. It was first named East Los Angeles Park and subsequently re-named Eastlake Park in 1901 as an Eastside counterpart to Westlake (now known as MacArthur Park). It quickly became one of the city's major attractions and, due to a petition, was renamed Lincoln Park in 1917. (Click here for KCET's excellent history of the park).

It was at the park that Charlie Chaplin filmed A Woman (1915), Harold Lloyd filmed Haunted Spooks(1920), and in 1921, Laurel and Hardy appeared, not yet as a team, in The Lucky Dog, their first cinematic appearance together.


The Church of the Epiphany was built in 1883. In 1913, it was expanded and a large window designed by Tiffany Studios was installed. Decades later, in the 1960s and '70s, it was an important center in the Chicano Rights movement. The Brown Berets routinely met there and the newspaper, La Raza, had its offices there.


The 1890s saw an influx of immigrants from Germany, many of whom worked as bakers. One such company, Mrs. Cubbinson's, still manufactures Cubbison's Croutons and other products today. The East Los Angeles Church of the Brethren was built on Broadway and opened its doors to mostly German-American worshippers in 1896. As Lincoln Heights filled up with more immigrants, some of the wealthy citizens of the neighborhood began to decamp to Arroyo Seco and Hollywood communities. 

Lemberger - Sigler Residence (2800 Manitou Ave.) built in 1897

Historic homes of the era (not pictured) include: Stoltenberg Residence (2901-2907 Manitou Ave.) built in 1890, Foyen Residence (2242 Workman St.) built in 1895, Clark-Doody Residence (2139-2141 Parkside Ave.) built in 1896, Schliebitz Residence (2063 Griffin Ave.) built in 1903, Binford Residence (2200-2212 Eastlake Ave. & 3201 Baldwin St.), Nicol Residence (2309 Hancock St.), Todd Residence (2808 Manitou Ave.), Olin Residence (2622-2624 Mozart St.), and Girard-Vai Residence (2113-2113½ Parkside Ave.) 



Around the turn of the 20th Century, the area of and around Lincoln Heights developed in an increasingly industrial direction. As land values decreased, an influx of Italian-Americans arrived from across the river, where a Little Italy had been established in the 1880s. Many of the Italians were involved in wine-making, which had first been established by French immigrants across the river in the 1830s. Wine-making would later peak with some 20 wineries operating in the area. 

One newly-arrived Sicilian-American family in Lincoln Heights was the Capras, who bought a home at 240 S. Ave 18 in 1904. Their son, Francesco Rosario, would late pursue a career as a film director, debuting with 1922's The Ballad of Fisher's Boarding House. Calling himself Frank Russell Capra, he later achieved fame with It happened one night, Mr. Deeds goes to town, Lost horizon, Mr. Smith goes to Washington, Arsenic and old lace, and especially It's a wonderful life.


The John B. Parkinson-designed Los Angeles No. 3 Steam Power Plant was built for the Edison Electric Company in 1903. The site later became a Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery. It's somewhat fitting that the place that once brewed the swill enjoyed ironically by hipsters is now a live-and-work artists' colony. The space itself is impressive but isn't without controversy. Unneighborly efforts have been made by some to distance the colony from the Lincoln Heights neighborhood and art scene and instead forge an association with the Downtown Arts District, located on the opposite side of the river and several kilometers away. 


Following the lead of America's first ostrich farm, Cawston Ostrich Farm, which opened in not-too-distant South Pasadena in 1886; the Los Angeles Ostrich Farm opened in Lincoln Heights in 1906. Located opposite Eastlake Park, the farms visitors gawked and posed with the large birds and rode in ostrich-drawn carriages. Ostrich Parks were quite the rage back then Rancho Los Feliz (now Griffith Park) was home to the Ostrich Farm and the Ostrich Farm Railroad.

Next door to the Ostrich Farm and operated by the same owners was the Los Angeles Alligator Farm, which opened in 1907. As with the ostrich farm, vistors gawked and posed with the large crocodilians... and yes, were pulled along in alligator-drawn carts! Both existed until 1953, at which point the alligators relocated to Buena Park. I'm not sure what happened to the ostriches -- leather and steaks?


Lincoln Heights' Neher & Skiling-designed Federal Bank Building was built in 1908 and is now (possibly) the nation's only Italian Renassance El Pollo Loco. The Broadway Street Clock was erected in 1910. Frieden's Department Store is possibly the oldest family-owned department store in Los Angeles.
Lincoln Heights Library (1916)

The Lincoln Heights Branch Library was built in 1916, inspired by Michelangelo's design for Rome's Villa Guilla, and is the second oldest library in LA.

The Art Deco Light and Power Building was built in the 1930s.


Selig and a chimpanzee sharing a smoke

In 1913, pioneering West Coast film director William Selig acquired 32 acres of land in Lincoln Heights, two years after his partner Francis Boggs was murdered by their janitor at their film studio in Edendale/Echo Park. The old studio was sold to William Fox, founder of Fox Film. At his new property, Selig erected a zoo for the use in his jungle serials at the former site of a previous tourist attraction, the Indian Village (which opened around 1909). The Lincoln Heights Carousel was added in 1914. It was designated an historic monument in 1976 but was gutted by fire and demolished the same year. In 1925 the zoo was sold and re-named Luna Park Zoo. Soon afterward it closed and the animals were sold to Los Angeles, which had opened a zoo in 1912.


Construction of Los Angeles County Hospital (formerly located on Marengo Street) began in 1913. Today the old administration building still stands and is the home to the LA County Coroner’s office. When the hospital still stood it served as a filming location for Charlie Chaplin’s Police (1916), Hank Mann’s The Janitor (1919), Stan Laurel’s Detained (1924), and Laurel & Hardy’s The Hoose-Gow (1929).


The most famous winery in Lincoln Heights is the San Antonio Winery, established in 1917 by Santo Cambianica, an immigrant from Lombardy. After Prohibition was enacted in 1920, other wineries sold "wine bricks", legal grape concentrates that helped fuel the bootlegging industry as well as alcohol with supposed health benefits like North Cucamonga Winery's "Padre's Wine Elixir Tonic" and "Padre's Bitter Wine." Lincoln Heights and Little Italy were notorious for their bootlegging and Avenue 19 was nicknamed "Shotgun Alley."

The San Antonio Winery, on the other hand, survived by producing communion wine. In 1966, it was listed as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. Nowadays the winery relies on grapes grown in in Monterey, Napa Valley and elsewhere.

Bank of Italy - Now Bank of America (1924)

At the turn of the century, large numbers of Mexican-Americans began to make their homes in Lincoln Heights, many having relocated from other Eastside neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights/Boyle Heights and East LA. Still more arrived as refugees from the Mexican Revolution. However, through the 1920s the predominant ethnic group continued to be Italian-Americans and some nicknamed Lincoln Heights "Little Sicily," a cross river neighbor to LA's Little Italy neighborhood (now the site of Chinatown). The combined Italian population of Little Italy and Little Sicily reached around 8,000 people at its height. 


Walter Collins (left) and Arthur Hutchins (right)

In 1928, a series of kidnappings and murders of young boys rocked Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. Then nine-year-old Walter Collins disappeared from his Lincoln Heights home (located at 217 N. Ave 23) on March 10, 1928. A twelve-year-old from Iowa, Arthur Hutchins Jr, pretended to be Collins, primarily motivated by his desire to come to LA and meet cowboy star Tom Mix. The events were retold (with the names changed to protect the innocent) in the 1951 Dragnet radio series episode, "The Big Imposter" and a 1952 TV episode of the same name. The events were also depicted in 2008's Clint Eastwood film, The Changeling. Eventually, Canadian serial killer Gordon Northcott was caught, confessed to the killing (and several others - although he was suspected of more) and hanged.


Fire Station No. 1 - a classic Streamline Moderne built in 1940

After the conclusion of World War II, many of Lincoln Heights' established Italian-American and Mexican-American residences moved east into the suburban San Gabriel Valley, particularly towns like Alhambra, Rosemead, San Gabriel and Temple City. Those that stayed behind were mostly less-wealthy and as a result Lincoln Heights grew increasingly working class.


Accounts of when gangs first appeared in Lincoln Heights vary, with dates routinely being pushed back decades further and further and are hard to verify. By some accounts, East Side Clover and Varrio Lincoln Heights date back to the first decade of the 20th century. Clicks include Parkside Locos, Calle Sichel Locos, Thomas Street, 28th Ave/Calle 28, and Workman Street. Other active Lincoln Heights gangs include East Lake Locos, and Happy Valley Rifa. Whenever they formed, it's generally accepted that most were active by the 1940s.


  Jalopy pit, 1951, Lincoln Park Stadium

I couldn't find the exact dates of Lincoln Park Stadium's operation but it at least existed between 1946 and 1952 (by which point it was renamed "The New Lincoln Speedway"), when it hosted both midget car and jalopy races. It was located on the grounds of the former Zoo, which closed in 1933 after damaging floods. 


The Lincoln Heights Jail that still stands opened in 1931. As early as the 1850s there had been jail buildings there. Charlie Chaplin’s Police (1916), Harold Lloyd’s Take a Chance (1918), and Laurel & Hardy’s The Second Hundred Years (1927) were all filmed at earlier incarnations of the jail.

In 1950, Chief William Parker was appointed Los Angeles's chief of police. One of his primary obsessions was with LA's gay community which he antagonized with raids of gay bars and entrapment -- paying aspiring Hollywood actors to serve as bait for cruisers. An entire wing of Lincoln Heights Jail was reserved for those guilty of being gay and was nicknamed "The Fruit Tank."

One such criminal, Nancy Valverde, was a Lincoln Heights barber who, due to her short hair and habit of wearing pants, was routinely dragged in on charges of "masquerading."

In 1951, a group of young Mexican-American men (Danny and Elias Rodela, Raymond Marquez, Manuel Hernandez, and Eddie Nora) were picked up at the Showboat Bar bar in nearby Frogtown, dragged back to the jail and severely beaten by a large group of drunk cops in an incident that came to be known "Bloody Christmas" and inspired the book and film LA Confidential. The cops were responding to a call about underage drinking. All of the victims were of legal age and produced valid ID. Unfortunately, LAPD had a tradition of getting rip-roaring drunk on Christmas and the victims suffered paralysis, ruptured and punctured organs, broken bones and in one case required three blood transfusions.

The jail was closed in 1959 but some businesses have operated in parts of it. The Bilingual Foundation of the Arts began operating out of it in 1979. Later portions of Nightmare on Elm Street and Night Train (as well as the Blink-182 video "Feeling This") were filmed there. In 1993 it became the home of the no longer-extant Aztlan Cultural Arts Foundation. It was closed to filming in 2010 but parts were reopened in 2012. 


Daniel Lewis James, was an Irish-American former Communist who grew up in Kansas CityMissouri. Though having left the party in '48, he was blacklisted in 1951 after being called before HUAC. He and his wife moved to Lincoln Heights where they became active in the formation of theater groups and youth activities. He died in 1988. For decades, beginning in the 1950s and employing the pseudonym "Danny Santiago," he wrote Eastside fiction that was widely praised for it's authenticity. 1983's Famous All Over Town, won the prestigious 1984 Rosenthal Award for literary achievement. After he failed to claim his $5,000 reward, James revealed the truth.


In 1953, the California Highway Commission proposed building the 5 Freeway through the Eastside. Not surprisingly, Eastsiders reacted with resistance. Then-city council member Edward R. Roybal chaired the Boyle-Hollenback Anti-Golden State Freeway Commission but in 1956, the freeway cut through, displacing families and encouraging the accelerating departure of many of their neighbors. By the 1960s, the middle class had departed, leaving Lincoln Heights a thoroughly working class, mostly Latino, barrio, albeit one with a significant Chinese-American minority, due to the neighborhood's location next to Chinatown, which had opened in the 1930s.


Lacy Street Studios occupies a former textile mill built in 1885 that became a shooting location in 1976. Nowadays it's a frequent stand-in for New York and other 19th century metropolises. One of the building's claims to fame is that the TV show Cagney and Lacey was shot here, as were the TV series Alien Nation, Mafiosa, and Scream Play. 

The films The Addams Family, Ballistic, Beethoven, Cage II, Cobb, Dark Wolf, Dead Presidents, Don't Look Up, A Gothic TaleThe Girl from the Naked Eye, Gridlock'd, Hollywood Kills, JadeLA Confidential, Little *ucker, Lord of Illusions, My Family, Out for JusticeRadio Free AlbemuthSaw, Sparks, Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her, Torture Room, Tumbleweeds, Twin Falls Idaho, and Winning London were also filmed there in part or in whole.

On the day of our visit, Genevieve and I walked into the sprawling, 88,000 square foot property and didn't see anyone for some for a bit -- turns out there are only five employees. After we were asked if we were scouting for locations, we were directed to an office. Operations Manager Tony Churchill kindly took time out of his day to talk with us about the history of the building, and the company. He also told us about his days as Tyne Daly back in the Cagney & Lacy days. He also showed us regaled us with humorous tales about his days in the 1970s funk band New Birth, whose roots go back to Kentucky's The Nite-Liters, which he co-founded in 1963.


Nowadays the population of Lincoln Heights is roughly 71% Latino (mostly Mexican), 25% Asian (largely Hoa Chinese) and 3% white. Subdistricts include the Auto Glass District, Clover Heights, The Hills, and Lincoln Heights Estates.


In addition to the aforementioned film and TV series Lincoln Heights has appeared in many others. For an in depth feature on silent films shot in Lincoln Heights, click here.


Sacred Heart Church

Albion Street School

Lincoln Heights, being as old as it is, is home to numerous, beautiful old buildings including many private residences. It's also home to the Sacred Heart Church (2210 Sichel St) and the Albion Street School - designed by T. Beverly Keim Jr. (322 South Avenue 18) and built in 1924 and 1936.


Los Angeles Baking Company

Lincoln Heights is home to numerous highly-regarded restaurants, especially Mexican ones. El Huarachito is rightfully famous for their breakfasts. Lanza Brothers Market is one of the few culinary vestiges of the neighborhood's Italian past. On the day of our visit we ate at LA Bakery which I thought was decent.

Other local establishments include Armex Kabob Restaurant, Ave 26 Taco Stand, Boda Restaurant, Cafe in the Heights, Cake Girl, Carnitas Michoacan, Champion Donuts, Chinatown Express, Corn Man, Dino's Burgers, Honey Donuts, Kacin's Tulip Cafe, King Taco, La Estrella Mexican Food, La Morenita Restaurant, La Naranja Taqueria Restaurant, La Playita, Lencho's Mexican Restaurant, Llamarada, Los Paisas Taco Truck, Los Tres Cochinitos Restaurant, Maracas Cafe, Maya's Restaurant, Mom's Tamales, Mr Steve Donuts, Natural Fruit Los Reyes, Pablo's Fruit Stand, Palace Bakery, Rancho Meat Market, Raspados Nayarit, Tacos Chapalita, Takoyaki Tanota Truck, Troy's Burgers No 10, and Wendy's Tortas.


Chicano Time Trip

Lincoln Heights has a vibrant art scene. There are purely artistic and commercial murals adorning many building walls. One of the best known is Chicano Time Trip, painted by Los Dos Streetscapers (Wayne Healy and David Botello) in 1977.

The Brewery includes the I-5 Gallery, the LA Artcore Brewery Annex, Arts Refoundry, Bruce Gray Gallery, Mia Gallery, RAID Projects, and Salerno Michael. It also hosts the Brewery Artwalk.

The Lincoln Lawyer

Statue of Florence Nightingale

In Lincoln Park, the Plaza de la Raza Cultural Center for Arts and Education has served the community since 1970. Also in the park is Julia Bracken Wendt's sculpture, The Lincoln Lawyer, made in 1926, and David P. Edstrom's statue of Florence Nightingale, done in 1937.


Nearby, at the Parque de Mexico, there are even more sculptures of figures associated with Mexican history, including Efren de los Rios's El Cura Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (1938), Ernesto E. Tamariz's Lazaro Cardenas del Rio (1970), an anonymous Benito Juarez (1976), an anonymous Pancho Villa (around 1980), Ignacio Asunsolo's Emiliano Zapata (1980), Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon's Julian Martinez (1980)...

...Victor Gutierrez's Venustiano Carranza (1980), Francisco Zuniga's General Ignacio Zaragoza (1981), an anonymous Emperor Cuauhtemoc (1981), Humberto Peraza's Agustin Lara (1984), Ayda's J. Jesus's Gonzales Ortega (1987), Francisco Zuniga's Ramon Lopez Velarde (1988), Velarco's Dona Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez (1994), and an anonymous Guadalupe Victoria (1997).

Pieter Performance Space

The Airliner

Other, newer cultural institutions include Lincoln Heights the Pieter Performance Space (since 2009) and HM157. The neighborhood also puts on an annual Christmas (or alternately "Community") parade. Another well-known local venue is The Airliner (which used put on the popular Low End Theory). 


Figuring out what the temple on Broadway is known is is surprisingly challenging.  The sign on the building next door says America Vietnam-Chinese Friendship Association. Other directories list the place's name as Kwan Ying Vietnamese Buddhist Association. Some of the confusion can probably be chalked up to the use of Vietnamese, Chinese, and romanized Chinese. The sign at the entrance says, "Chùa Quan Âm," Vietnamese for Quan Âm Pagoda. Quan Âm is one of the bodhisattva venerated in East Asian Buddhism. Look up "Chùa Quan Âm" and the nearest result is the temple of that name in Little Saigon (specifically Garden Grove. I've actually been the that temple, incidentally). Perhaps it's changed its name even though I believe it only opened in 2003. In front of the temple, I once encountered a guy selling barrel cacti, who assured me that they were the best I'd ever see. They looked fine.

There's also the Ultra Violet Social Club and The Office Club. One place that I've long been curious about but never seen the inside is the bunker-like California Nigth [sic] Club, the sign on which is constantly shedding more and more letters.


Aright! Until next time. Hope you enjoyed this one and check again for the next one (right now it's looking like El Monte). To vote for other Los Angeles neighborhoods to be the subject of future blog entries, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, vote here. To vote for Orange County communities and neighborhoods, vote here.


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

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 5, 2011 09:15pm | Post a Comment

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


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.


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.


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.


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. 

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. 


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).


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.


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.


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.


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:


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
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.


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 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, 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. 


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.


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.


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.


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


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.  


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.


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.


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
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.


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


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 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. 


's name comes from the willow-lined shallow brooks and springs that covered the area up through the 19th century. It was still largely rural until the 1980s. Today it is mostly developed although less than most of the region. The population is 53% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 44% black and 1% white. Willowbrook is locally notorious as the home of the troubled Martin Luther King Jr Harbor Hospital. It's also home to the well-known Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

And so Eastsidaz, to vote for any communities in the Eastside or any other Los Angeles County communities to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote for Eastside neighborhoods or any other Los Angeles neighborhoods, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here. Till next time, y'all know how we get down... 7 dizzles a wizzle, Bigg Bow Wiggle's, up in the hizzle, Fo' shizzle bizzle!


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California Fool's Gold -- An Eastside Primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 30, 2011 04:11pm | Post a Comment


People are weird about Los Angeles' Eastside/Westside thing. The same wannabes from Midtown, HollywoodSilver Lake and Echo Park that throw up "W" hand signs and exaggeratedly say, "West-side" when they're ironically enjoying rap music are the same jerks that claim, despite the fact that they live in Central Los Angeles, that they live on The Eastside. If you call them on it, they usually claim that the real Eastside (the communities east of the Los Angeles River) are all East Los Angeles -- which is incorrect but more likely a sign that they've never been to the region that they claim -- and not some willful act of subterfuge. 


To be fair to these noobs, ill-informed Westsiders, transplants, and weirdos who insist on dividing the entire city or county into just two regions (I count 20) -- there is more than one Eastside... sort of. The other Eastside is sometimes referred to as the Black Eastside (even though it's currently mostly Latino) and has a long claim to the Eastside name. To many black Angelenos and South Los Angeles residents,  the traditional division between the Eastside and Westside is the 110 freeway (and before that freeway's existence, Main Street).  However, when "The Eastside" is used in this respect, it's implied (and usually understood) that one is talking about the Eastside of South Los Angeles.


Outside of South LA, the communities east of the Los Angeles River have historically been considered The Eastside -- communities like Atwater Village, Boyle Heights, Brooklyn Heights, City Terrace, Cypress Park, El Sereno, Garvanza, Glassell Park, Happy Valley, Highland Park, Hillside Village, Montecito Heights, Mount Washington, Rose Hill, Tropico,  and yes, East Los Angeles (which, of course, isn't actually part of the City of Los Angeles). I'm not sure why, but Eagle Rock seems to be alone in Los Angeles neighborhoods ever considered to be part of the Eastside -- but I could be wrong. Maybe its because even long after its annexation by Los Angeles it still feels like its own municipality (perhaps because it still has its own city hall).


An Arroyo Seco regional affiliation distinct from that of the Eastsdie  first began to emerge in the 19th Century when the river and surrounding hills were home to a handful of later-annexed-by-Los-Angeles communities. It was only around the 1970s, however, that a separate Northeast Los Angeles (NELA) identity began to emerge that was referred to thus. It seems that eager to disassociate themselves with the negative associations of "the Eastside" (gangs, barrios, working class Latinos, &c), homeowners, real estate developers, and others jumped on board the NELA bandwagon in the 1980s and it NELA became a widely accepted and popular identity. In fact, I've found examples of people claiming every single Los Angeles neighborhood traditionally considered to be part of the Eastside to be part of NELA at some point or other -- leaving me wondering what they think that the Eastside is!


Jump ahead twenty years and a new crop of developers began to market the very things the previous generation had shunned (albeit with a different vocabulary) as selling points of a new Eastside -- albeit an Eastside now located on the west side of the river. As with the real Eastside, these neighborhoods were working class (authentic), gritty (less likely to receive city services), and primarily Latino... but also heavily (and historically) gay and more primed for gentrification than the real Eastside. Also, they didn't have a widely-recognized designation. Angeleno Heights, Echo Park, Elysian Heights, Elysian Park, Elysian Valley, Franklin Hills, Griffith Park, Historic Filipinotown, Los Feliz, Pico-Union, Silver Lake Solano Canyon, Victor Heights, and Westlake are located in Central Los Angeles along with Hollywood and Midtown but aren't really part of either. People will keep having East Side Mondays in Westlake, Taste of the Eastside in Hollywood, and call themselves Mr. Eastside Cool because they own venues in Silver Lake and Echo Park unless people inside and outside embrace an identifier. I favor the Mideast Side. If NELA can create an identity, so can the Mideast!


Justifiably annoyed that "the Eastside" was being pulled away first by NELA and then Central Los Angeles, many real Eastsiders continued to embrace The Eastside with a sense of pride. In the 2000s, some fought back by slapping up stickers around the west bank stating "THIS IS NOT THE EAST SIDE!." In my capacity as an explorer of Los Angeles neighborhoods I was asked, along with DJ Waldie, to speak on the issue on KCRW's Which Way, LA? (listen here). Someone from the station told us that we were to represent the Eastside. Waldie, a lifelong resident of Southeast Los Angeles who has famously written about Lakewoodand me, a longtime resident of the Mideast Side, both informed them that we weren't Eastsiders... which seemed to confuse the Westsiders on the other end.

Anyway, now that we're all clear...

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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring East Los Angeles

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 20, 2010 06:30pm | Post a Comment


Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of East Los Angeles

East Los Angeles is a neighborhood on Los Angeles' EastsidePlease click here to vote for other Los Angeles Neighborhoods to be the subjects of future blog entries. Please also click here to vote for Los Angeles County communities. And lastly, please vote for Orange County neighborhoods by clicking here

Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of The Eastside

East Los Angeles is the best known neighborhood on the Eastside and because of the similarity of their designations, some confuse "Eastside" and "East Los Angeles" as synonymous. However, whereas most of the Los Angeles's Eastside is part of the city of Los Angeles (e.g. Boyle Heights, Brooklyn Heights, El Sereno, Happy Valley, Hillside Village, Lincoln Heights, Rose Hill, and University Hills), East Los Angeles (confusingly, given its name) is an unincorporated Eastside community that is part of the County of Los Angeles but not the city. Efforts to incorporate as its own city have occurred several times but thus far been unsuccessful.

East Los Angeles is neighbored by El Sereno to the north, Alhambra to the northeast, Monterey Park to the east, Montebello to the southeast, Commerce to the south, Vernon to the southwest, and Boyle Heights to the west.

East Los Angeles includes within it several smaller neighborhoods including Belvedere Gardens (or just Belvedere), City Terrace, Eastmont, Maravilla Park (or just Maravilla), Palma Heights, Observation Heights, Occidental Heights, the Whittier Shopping District (not to be confused with the city of Whittier), and Wellington Heights.

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