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California Fool's Gold -- A Far Eastside Primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 13, 2013 05:47pm | Post a Comment
EAST OF THE EASTSIDE


Last vestiges of Old Chinatown (image: Los Angeles Times)

All around the world large, multicultural cities often contain recognized, small, distinct ethnic enclaves. Los Angeles, by some measures the most diverse city in the universe, is no exception. These neighborhoods are often more ephemeral than others -- coming and going in a reflection of changing patterns of immigration, marginalization, assimilation and development. In the past, for example, Los Angeles had areas widely known as French TownGreek Town, Little Italy, Little Mexico, Old ChinatownFurusato, and Sonoratown -- to name a few. All are now gone with few physical reminders of their ever having existed.


Runners in front of the Italian Hall in Los Angeles's old Little Italy

In the Southland, where Asian-Americans are currently both the largest and fastest growing racial minority, most of the existing enclaves are predictably Asian. There’s Cambodia Town, Chinatown, Koreatown, Historic Filipinotown, Little Bangladesh, Little India, Little Osaka, Little Saigon, Little Seoul, Little Tokyo, and Thai TownOfficially-recognized non-Asian enclaves include only Little ArabiaLittle Armenia and Little Ethiopia. Unofficial but widely-recognized non-Asian enclaves include Little Central America and Tehrangeles. Are there others? 


 
                                Chinatown                                                                         Little Tokyo

 
                                Little India                                                                          Thai Town

 
                           Cambodia Town                                                              Historic Filipinotown


Interestingly, in most of these commercial districts, the titular Asian-American population doesn’t constitute the majority of the population (which is non-Asian Latino in most communities and overall). In all cases, however, they make up a sizable minority with a long-established presence and numerous corresponding services and businesses. The proposed “Peru Village” of South Vine in Hollywood boasts a whole two Peruvian restaurants – separated by a mile – which seems completely absurd to me. Imagine the head scratching that will understandably occur if one business fails or moves away at a restaurant getting its own neighborhood designation. Maybe one of our KFCs can get a Little Lexington or Hillbilly Village neighborhood designation.


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of The Far Eastside


Anyway, far from these commercial districts is a collection of communities where Asian-Americans make up the plurality of the population and many cases, the majority. They’re all located in the San Gabriel Valley which overall has a non-Asian Latino plurality and followed by an Asian-American population of about 30%. The SGV communities with Asian pluralities and/or majorities include Alhambra, Arcadia, Diamond Bar, East San Gabriel, Hacienda Heights, Monterey Park, Rosemead, Rowland Heights (nicknamed by some “Little Taipei”), San Gabriel, San Marino, South San Gabriel, Temple City, and Walnut. I've explored and blogged about a few -- to vote for any others, click here. Tongue firmly in cheek (and in reference to The Eastside) I refer to this region as The Far Eastside*.

A crowded night market in Pasadena
Monterey Park was the first city in the world with an ethnically Chinese-American majority. Though all the communities of The Far East Side are dominated by ethnically-Chinese populations, this population includes Cantonese, mainland Chinese, Taiwanese, overseas Chinese and others. There are also large numbers of Filipinos, Indians, Indonesians, Koreans, Vietnamese as well as non-Asian Mexican-Americans, blacks, English-Americans, and people of other ethnicities and countries of ancestral origin.

*I’m aware that the term “Far East” is a concept loaded with cultural and geographical relativism and worse, exotification. To people living in these communities they’re not “far” anything. It should also be noted that – to an extent – the concept has been adopted by those countries to which it refers. 遠東 literally translates to “Far East” and is used by numerous Chinese and Taiwanese institutions. On a similar note, the wonton typeface (also known as the ching-chong font, chopstick font or chop-suey font), whilst understandably sometimes seen as offensive, is used by countless Asian-American as well as non-Asian-American business owners to convey “Asian-ness.” My aim is to acknowledge and respect that and to cheekily play with the stereotype rather than unthinkingly and cluelessly uphold it. By no means is my intention to offend.

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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring San Gabriel, A City with a Mission

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 10, 2011 09:00am | Post a Comment

INTRODUCTION TO SAN GABRIEL


For this blog entry, I ventured to the city of San Gabriel. Accompanying me were veteran three traveling companions. Cheryl Anne, a designer, hadn't appeared since her Season 4, episode 10 debut, "Gardena - The South Bay's city of opportunity." Artist Chris Urias made his debut appearance and regular audiences are well acquainted with Club Underground's DJ Modernbrit, aka Tim Shimbles, who has appeared in numerous episodes, debuting back in Season 2, episode 4, "Morningside Circle" in which we first discovered South LA's Westside.

To vote for other Los Angeles County communities to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote forLos Angeles neighborhoods, vote here. To vote vote for Orange County neighborhoods and communities, vote here.

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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Hacienda Heights

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 19, 2011 02:00pm | Post a Comment
MY ADOBE HACIENDA NESTED IN THE WESTERN HILLS -- HACIENDA HEIGHTS


This blog entry is about the community of Hacienda Heights, which rocketed to the top (becoming the most voted for neighborhood yet) following efforts by the City of Hacienda Heights on Facebook. Initially I was looking forward to meeting some locals to play tour guide but by the time I came they weren't able. No worries, however, as I brought along Hacienda Heights native Brandi Shaver and recurring companion Will Fleming. To get in the mood I set the CARDIS's radio controls to KAZN, a Mandarin station broadcast out of Pasadena.

 
Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Maps of Hacienda Heights and the San Gabriel Valley

Hacienda Heights is a San Gabriel Valley city inthe located on the northern face of the Puente Hills and the floor of La Puente Valley. The highest point in the Heights is Workman Hill. Hacienda Heights is neighbored to the south by the SELACO communities of Whittier and La Habra Heights. To the west is North Whittier. North are Avocado Heights and the City of Industry. To the east is Rowland Heights which along with Hacienda Heights is sometimes referred to as The Heights


Like its neighbor, Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights is primarily a residential neighborhood, with wealthier residents residing in the hills, and more modest homes and businesses in the flats of the north.

The CARDIS arrived in the morning and under cloudy skies and the group was greeted by the purplicious sight of copious jacaranda trees.

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Prior to the Spanish Conquest, the Puente Valley (between the Puente Hills and South San Jose Hills to the north) was inhabited by the Tongva, who named the area "Awig-na," meaning "abiding place." The Spanish founded the nearby San Gabriel Mission in 1771 and the indigenous people were subjugated. Their land in what's now Hacienda Heights was used for ranching and grazing to support the mission.

   
             John Rowland                          William Workman                                         Rancho La Puente

After Mexico gained independence in 1822, the missions were secularized and the former Spanish holdings were sold and granted to private parties. Two such parties were John Rowland and his partner William Workman. In November 1841 they arrived in a wagon train from Taos with a group of settlers from Missouri and New Mexico. In the early part of the followingyear, the two applied for a land grant from governor Juan B. Alvarado. For $1,000 and pleading to employ Tongva, they obtained the 49,000 acre Rancho La Puente. They used the land to for cattle ranching, wheat production and wine and brandy distillation. The two partners amicably split their holdings in 1852.

Rowland prospered as did Workman for a time. However, Workman lost almost everything following the 1875 failure of the poorly managed Temple-Workman Bank he'd founded with his son-in-law, Francis Pliny Fisk Temple. Elias J. "Lucky" Baldwin issued a loan which allowed the bank to re-open but with conditions that were almost impossible to meet. The bank again failed in 1876 and a despondent Workman shot himself in the head at his home on May 17 of the same year.

After the competing Southern Pacific and Santa Fe Railroads arrived in the area, Lucky Baldwin began subdividing his possession although La Puente Valley remained primarily agricultural until the 20th century. Four years after Baldwin's death, his daughter Anita Baldwin sold 1,826 acres to developers Edwin Hart and Jed Torrance who established the community of North Whittier Heights.


Cattle and sheep ranching largely gave way to avocado, citrus and walnut groves and North Whittier Heights became well-known for its walnuts. The North Whittier Heights Citrus Association and opened a packing plant near Ninth and Clark avenues and the small community that grew up in the area became known as Hillgrove.

  
                            La Puente Valley in 1935                                                       Hacienda Heights in 1965

As with so much of Southern California, North Whittier heights grew into a large suburb of LA after World War II, with massive scale housing especially occurring in 1957. In 1961, the residents of North Whittier Heights successfully petitioned to change their town's name to Hacienda Heights (which, if you think about it, is kind of a silly name, no?) A master development plan was drawn up and over the next two decades the community saw a lot of housing construction. Several times citizens attempted to incorporate but, being primarily a bedroom community, its usually felt that the proposed city's sales tax base is too small to support a city.

For most of 20th Century, Hacienda Heights was primarily home to Anglo Angelenos. In the 1980s, Latinos, many from the Eastside and Midtown, began moving to the hilly suburb. By 1990, the Latino population was dominant and, up till the early 1990s, Hacienda Heights was regularly referred to as "The Chicano Beverly Hills."

In the 1990s and the decades since the area has seen another dramatic demographic shift with the arrival of many Taiwanese-Americans. Although there were Asian-Americans in the San Gabriel Valley for decades, real growth began in the late 1970s, when realtor Frederic Hsieh began promoting Monterey Park as the "Chinese Beverly Hills" in Hong Kong and Taiwan
 

In the years that followed, many Chinese businesspeople and their families moved to the area. By the mid-1980s, people were commonly referring to Monterey Park as Little Taipei. Even as more and more Chinese mainlanders and Hoa arrived Cantonese became the dominant language as many wealthy and by-then-established Taiwanese-American families began to relocate to classy communities like Arcadia and San Marino, nearby communities like Temple City, and less-developed communities like Walnut, Rowland Heights and Hacienda Heights, communities whose rolling hills practically begged to be covered by big, new-money/no-class McMansions.

Nowadays the community is mostly Latino and Asian-American - 46% Latino (mostly Mexican) of any race, 37% Asian (mostly Taiwanese and Chinese) and 5% non-Latino white. 
 


One of (if not the) main draws of Hacienda Heights is the food. Every year the community and Rowland Heights get together to host Taste of the Heights at Pathfinder Park. On the day of our visit we arrived in the morning and stopped at Four Sea Restaurant for a delicious breakfast of fried onion cake with egg, a rice roll with pickled vegetables and veggie pork, fried leek pockets and steaming hot soy milk.

Other well-represented cuisines include Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Mexican and are represented by Akasaka Restaurant, Boiling Point (smelly Tofu!), Boston Cafe, California Stonegrill, Casa Blanca Mexican Restaurant, Casa De Tacos, Casa Jimenez Mexican, China Gate, China Mandarin Restaurant, China Star, China Wok Fast Food, Cindy's Kitchen, Cindy Liu Deli, Da Bok Tofu Restaurant, Daikokuya, Deerfield Restaurant, Donut King, Dumpling Master Restaurant, E Mei Shan Chinese Restaurant, Earthen Restaurants, El Curtido, Flame Broiler, Foo Foo Tei, Fruity Deli-cious, Garden Fresh Vegetarian Food, Hacienda Grill, Hacienda Village Meat & Italian Deli, In-N-Out Burger, JJ Bakery, John's Kitchen, Katana Sushi and Ramen, Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot & Grill, Los Frijolitos, Malan Han Noodle, Montanos, Nini Bakery, Oh! Crab, Osaka Seafood Buffet, Ostioneria Colima, Pak Kai Market / Deli, Pauline's Chinese Kitchen, Run Taco Run, Senor Baja, Seoul Korea Restaurant, Shin Sen Gumi, Sokaku Sushi, Soo Ra Sang Korean BBQ, Sushi Umi, Taipan Kitchen, Taipei Ning Gi Hot Pot Restaurant, Taiwan Deli, Tamaya, Tasty Noodle House, Tiramisu Cafe, Tokyo Lobby Restaurant, Tony's Pizza & Pasta, Whimsical Frozen Yogurt Gelato, World's Best Pizza and Yunnan Garden.
 

Oh, and although I normally forgo mentioning international restaurant chains, Hacienda Heights is home to the first (only?) Feng Shui McDonald's.



Rivaling or perhaps even surpassing Hacienda Heights' eateries as a draw is the largest Buddhist temple complex in the Western Hemishpere, Hsi Lai Temple, which opened in 1988. It was founded by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, the 48th Patriarch of the Lin-chi line of Ch'an. He is also the founder of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order whose headquarters are in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.



The large Temple includes many sites of interest including the Bodhisattva Hall, the Arhat Garden, the Avalokitesvara Garden, the large Founder's Statue, the Main Shrine, the Requiem Pagoda, Meditation Hall, Translation and Publishing Center, Fo Guang Yuan Hsi Lai Art Gallery (where they sell Buddhist DVDs and CDs), the Tea Room and the Dining Hall.



Although not especially hungry we decided to eat again in keeping with Taiwanese customs. Since Humanistic Buddhists believe that food and drink should be consumed as vehicles for nourishment and nothing else, it's pretty bland. In fact, garlic and spices are seen as obstacles to achieving a pure and clear mind. It definitely was decently prepared and could even possibly serves as a culinary bridge to the East for bland-food-favoring Middlewesterners.
 

Schabarum Park

Events Hsi Lai hosts many of the events and observances in Hacienda Heights, including the Buddhist Sangha, Buddha's Birthday and Dharma Day. The St. John Vianney Church hosts the annual Early California Days. There's also and annual Fourth of July celebration. Schabarum Park (which mostly lies in Rowland Heights) hosts annual summer concerts.
 

The largest landfill in the United States, the 2.8 km2 Puente Hills Landfill, is partially located within Hacienda Heights. It was featured in the Penn and Teller series Bullshit! as part of their campaign against recycling. It also appeared in an episode of MegaStructures called "Garbage Mountain." Up to 13,200 tons of refuse are in by up to 1,600 trucks daily. The landfill rises up to a height of 150 meters but will close in 2013.
 

The biogas generated by the trash's decomposition produces enough electricity to service approximately 70,000 area homes and is sold to Southern California Edison. The Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Preservation Authority is a Joint Powers Authority with a Board of Directors consisting of the City of Whittier, County of Los Angeles, Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, and the Hacienda Heights Improvement Association. The Habitat Authority is acquires, restores and mangoes open space in the Puente Hills, with the primary purpose of protecting biological diversity. They also offer hikes and educational programs.

Other Parks of Hacienda Heights include the smaller Los Robles Park, Hacienda La Puente Park, Manzanita Park, Thomas Burton Park, County Wood Park, Pepperbrook Park and a small corner of Arroyo Pescadero Park
 
Retrieving a murder victim's body in Tunrbull Canyon

Turnbull Canyon, which passes through North Whittier and connects Hacienda Heights to Whittier, is a source of many local legends involving Satanic Cults, extraterrestrials, the KKK, a witch house, a hanging tree, murderous psychopaths, ghosts, an abandoned insane asylum and more. Some of the kookier stories involve X-Files style government cover-ups. It was supposedly (I can find no credible source) known to the Tongva as Hutukng-na, meaning "dark place." Not surprisingly, its a popular destination for thrill-seeking teenagers out for kicks and killers looking for a dumpsite. 

Bixby Plaza


Hacienda Center


Plaza Stimson

There are several shopping centers in Hacienda Heights like Gale Square Shopping Center, Plaza Stimson and Bixby Plaza but, to be honest, they're not the sorts of malls I see people going to just to hang out (well, not young ones. I remember going to a red egg party at Saka Seafood Buffet at the Hacienda Center years ago.


Revisiting it we popped into the local 99 Ranch Market to find that another observance was underway, the Shanghai Food Festival. There were numerous free samples being given out including lotion, golden kiwis, red bean ice cream, seaweed salad, asian pears and more.
 

In addition to the TV episodes filmed at the landfill, Hacienda Heights was featured in an eponymous English language novela. It's also the birthplace of The Spectacular Spider-man's Joshua Keaton and Caprice Bourret of The Surreal Life. It's also the birthplace of Brooklyn-based filmmaker/musician/photographer Tiffany Huang. Oh yeah, incontinence spokesperson Stacy Ann "Fergie" Ferguson is from there. Also, in music-related news, it's home to the Sound of China Guzheng Music Promotion Center.

Well, being a quiet, largely residential Taiwanese-American neighborhood, the nightlife options are few... with more tea houses than bars. The two bars, City Lights Cocktail Lounge and Sunset Room, compete against Boba Tea Hut, Guppy Tea HouseQuickly, Tea Station and Tenju Tea House for thirsty night owls. There are, however, a higher than average number of liquor stores suggesting that not everyone is a boba-teetotaler. Other nightlife options are Joy Karaoke and Empire Hookah Lounge.
 


Until next time when we head to Huntington Beach!
 
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To vote for more Los Angeles County communitiesclick here. To vote Los Angeles neighborhoods to be the subject of future blog entries, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Arcadia, The San Gabriel Valley's Community of Homes

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 4, 2011 11:30am | Post a Comment

ARCADIA

 


Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Arcadia

Arcadia is a Los Angeles County community in the northern part of the San Gabriel Valley surrounded by Sierra Madre, Monrovia, Mayflower Village, Irwindale, El Monte, North El Monte, Temple City, East San Gabriel, East Pasadena and Pasadena. To vote for other Los Angeles neighborhoods to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, vote here. To vote for Orange County communities, vote here.

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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Monterey Park

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 23, 2010 07:00pm | Post a Comment

PRIDE IN THE PAST, FAITH IN THE FUTURE -- MONTEREY PARK 


This blog entry is about the Los Angeles County community of Monterey Park. To vote for more Los Angeles County communities to be the subject of future blog entries, click here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, click here. To vote for Orange County communities, click here.

Monterey Park is located on the western edge of the San Gabriel Valley at the junction of the Eastside and SELACO. It is surrounded by Alhambra to the north, San Gabriel to the northeast, Rosemead to the east, South San Gabriel to the southeast, Montebello to the south, East L.A. to the southwest, and Lincoln Heights to the west.

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