Although the nickname “The Bay” is often employed (rather self-centeredly, I might add) is often used byNorth Californians in reference to the San Francisco Bay, California actually has many bays, includingAnchor Bay, Bodega Bay, Emerald Bay, Estero Bay, Granite Bay, Half Moon Bay, Meeks Bay, Morro Bay, Soda Bay, San Pedro Bay… you get the idea. And I’ll admit, in Starship‘s “We Built this City,” when the DJ says “the city by the bay, the city that rocks, the city that never sleeps,” as a naive teenager in Tampa I thought they were celebrating Tampa Bay… the city that was built by Death Metal – God‘s honest truth.
OK, I’m getting sidetracked. Los Angeles’s South Bay refers to the region bordering the Santa Monica Bay south of LA’s Westside. The Harbor borders to the southeast and north of thought, along most of the South Bay‘s easter edge is the Westside of South Los Angeles. It’s one of the most ethnically, economically and racially diverse regions in Los Angeles County. The population is roughly 40 % white (mostly Canadian, English, German, Irish and Persian), 27% Latino (mostly Mexican), 16% black and 14% Asian (mostly Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese).
Historically the vast sweep of rolling hills (which get more rolling on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in the southern end) was home to the sea-faring Tongva, whose Tovangar homeland included the Bay area villages of ‘Ongoova’nga, Kingkingqaranga, Toveemonga, Chowinga, Xarnah’nga, Ataavyanga, Kingkenga, Xoyuunga and Maasunnga… I may’ve spelled some of those incorrectly (the writing on the map is too small). After Europeans conquered the aborigines, the area was covered with fields of gold… barley. And people grazed sheep.
NTB: In a move that’s bound to be more controversial than it should, I’m excluding some communities sometimes considered to be part of the South Bay. I’ll be covering the land-locked Alondra Park, Del Aire,Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood and Lawndale in a future entry about South LA. They don’t border the bay… to me they’re South LA’s West Side but feel free to disagree… just don’t let it drive you crazy.
and now for the neighborhoods:
Much as NWA put Compton on the map, El Segundo reached global conscience when Tribe Called Questrapped about losing his wallet there. The city was named after Chevron‘s second refinery, “El Segundo” (obviously). Today the ‘Gundo’s economy is still centered around petroleum-related industries and aviation. The beach is a popular place to watch planes coming and going from adjacent LAX. El Segundo’s Dockweiler Beach is also one of the few area beaches on which you can enjoy a beach fire. It’s all veryLost Boys – minus the sweaty sax guy. The population is 78% white (mostly German, Irish and Canadian), 10% Latino and 7% Asian (mostly Indian).
Hermosa Beach is one of the South Bay‘s three “Beach Cities.” The Hermosa Beach pier, at the end ofPier Avenue, is one of the community’s main and shopping, eating and partying areas. In the late 1970s punk bands Black Flag and Descendents formed there. In the 1980s, Pennywise followed. The population is 85% white (mostly German, Irish, Canadian and English), 7% Latino and 5% Asian.
Lomita is Spanish for “little knoll”. It’s home to the Lomita Railroad Museum, which was opened in 1966 byIrene Lewis. The population is 54% white (mostly German), 26% Latino (mostly Mexican), 12% Asian (mostly Korean) and 4% black.
George H. Peck owned a lot of the land that became part of the north section of Manhattan Beach. Supposedly, a coin flip decided the town’s name. Around 1902, the beach suburb was named “Manhattan” after the developer’s home town, Manhattan Beach, New York. Residents have informally divided the city into several distinct neighborhoods, including “The Village,” “Sand Section,” “Hill Section,” “Tree Section,” “Gas Lamp Section,” Manhattan Heights,” “East Manhattan Beach,”Liberty Village,” “Poet’s Section” (Shelley, Tennyson and Longfellow), and El Porto (North Manhattan). It’s home of the wealthiest population of the beach cities. The populace are 86% white, 6% Asian and 5% Latino.
PALOS VERDES ESTATES
Palos Verdes Estates, on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, was master-planned by the noted American landscape architect and planner Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. One of the popular landmarks is La Venta Inn,built in 1923 and the first known building structure on the Palos Verdes Peninsula after the Tongva era. Today the population is 75% white (mostly English and German) and 17% Asian (mostly Taiwanese and Japanese).
PLAYA DEL REY
Playa del Rey‘s people are 73% white (german, Irish, Persian, English), 10% Latino, 8% Asian, 4% black. Playa del Rey lies beneath the Del Rey Hills, also known as the Westchester Bluffs on a flood plain (until 1824, the mouth of the Los Angeles River) which slopes gradually uphill north to the Santa Monica Mountains. The rolling hills are the result of ancient, wind-blown, compacted sand duneswhich rise up to 125 feet above sea level, with one prominent, steep dune running parallel to the coast, from Playa del Rey, all the way south to Palos Verdes. The northern part was originally wetlands, but the natural flooding was halted by the concrete channel which contains Ballona Creek.
RANCHO PALOS VERDES
Rancho Palos Verdes is an affluent suburb of Los Angeles. Sitting atop the Palos Verdes Hills and bluffs of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, it is known for expansive views of the Pacific Ocean. 63% white (English and German), 25% Asian (Korean and Japanese) and 6% Latino.
Redondo Beach is home of the the poorest average citizen of the three Beach Cities. The primary attractions include Municipal Pier and the sandy beach. The western terminus of the Metro Rail Green Line (the so-called “Train to nowhere”) is in Redondo Beach. The population is 70% white (mostly German and Irish), 13% Latino (mostly Mexican) and 10% Asian (mostly Japanese).
Rolling Hills is home to the wealthiest and oldest neighborhood population in the South Bay. It’s a gated community located on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. If you cruise down Vermont (one of the best drives in LA), it ends down there and gets dark at night. That’s because the city maintains a ranch character with no traffic lights. There are also wide equestrian paths along streets. The population is 76% white (English and German), 14% Asian (Korean) and 5% Latino (Mexican).
ROLLING HILLS ESTATES
Rolling Hills Estates is another bucolic and equine community on the Palos Verdes peninsula. The population is 70% white (mostly English and German), 20% Asian (mostly Japanese and Korean), 6% Latino.
Almost landlocked, T Town has a 1.5 mile long beach. The Del Amo Fashion Center, at 232,000 m², is one of the largest malls in the US. In the early 1900s, real estate developer Jared Sidney Torrance and other investors saw the value of creating a mixed industrial-residential community south of Los Angeles. They purchased part of an old Spanish land grant and hired landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. to design a new planned community. Historically the El Nido neighborhood was home to many European immigrants, mainly Dutch, German, Greek, Italian and Portuguese people. They were soon joined by Mexican immigrants and today the population is 52% white (mostly German), 29% Asian (mostly Japanese and Korean) and 13% Latino.
Westchester is home to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Loyola Marymount University (LMU), and Otis College of Art and Design. It’s located in the eastern part of the Del Rey Hills aka the Westchester Bluffs. The population is 52% white (mostly German and Irish), 17% black, 17% Latino (mostly Mexican) and 10% Asian (mostly Filipino). It’s the hometown (neighborhood) of folk-rock cult band, The Roosters.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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