JUST ANOTHER DAY IN WEST SIDE LA — THE WESTSIDE
A view of the Westside from my dirigible
Around the world, the mere mention of the word “Westside“ prompts people to throw up a “W” hand sign, in imitation of many west coast and west coast-affiliated (Tupac was, after all, a native of East Harlem) pop-rappers of the 1990s (to his credit, Snoop Dogg has always repped his Eastside, as does ComptonEastsider The Game). Within LA, the Westside refers to a wealthy, largely white region of the county (or alternately to South Los Angeles’s Westside to much of Los Angeles’s black population). It is bordered by the Santa Monica Mountains region to the northwest, the Pacific Ocean to the West, the South Bay to the south, the aforementioned South Los Angeles Westside to the southeast, and Midtown and Hollywood to the east.
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography‘s Official Map of the Westside
Though the Westside is one of Los Angeles’s whitest regions, it’s still only 63% white with a high degree of ethnic (for those who can accept the radical notion that white people have ethnicities too) variety and origins including large numbers of Canadian, English, German, Iranian, Irish, Israelis, Polish, Russian, South African andSpanish-descended Americans. The remainder of the populate is 16% Latino, 12% Asian and 5% black. It’s also known for its wealth – Bel-Air, Beverly Hills and Holmby Hills (in Hollywood‘s Hollywood Hills) make up the ostentatiously-named Platinum Triangle.
It’s often said around the city that “Westsiders are different.” They’re often recognizable in their “Ugh” boots, conspicuous consumption, creepy fake tans and propensity for erroneously referring to Mideast side neighborhoods like Echo Park and Silver Lake as “The Eastside” whilst “slumming it” at a dive bar full of other Westsiders in the Mideast Side (but rarely if ever venturing east of the Los Angeles River to the actual Eastside). For these reasons, Westsiders are commonly stereotyped as shallow, clueless, celebrity-obsessed, label-whoring, FOBy, tasteless, uneducated, culture-less, blue-blooded toffs.. As with most stereotypes, especially Angeleno ones, the reality is much more interesting.
The Westside is home to unique ethnic enclaves, including Little Brazil, Little Osaka, Little Russia, and Tehrangeles. It’s the primary destination for those in search of delicious Brazilian, British, Indonesian, Jewish and Persian cuisine. It’s home to several great revival theaters including The Aero, The Nuart and The Silent Movie Theater as well as many of Los Angeles’s best museums. So I say to both ironic Westside-claiming wankstas and Eastside snobs alike, free your ass and your mind will follow.
And now for the neighborhoods:
The modest Bel Air home of the Beverly Hillbillies
The Fresh Prince‘s exhortation, “Yo holmes, to Bel Air!” on TV’s The Fresh Prince of Bel Air introduced many NBC viewers to another posh westside community synonymous with affluence on par with Beverly Hills and Brentwood although its median household income is much higher than both of them. In fact, the Beverly Hillbillies’ mansion is located in Bel Air. Part of its obscene opulence is preserved by a ban on multifamily housing. It includes the smaller neighborhoods of East Gate Old Bel Air, West Gate Bel Air and Upper Bel Air. It’s also home to The UCLA Hannah Carter Japanese Garden. The population is 83% white (mostly Persian, Russian and South African), 9% Asian and 5% Latino.
The Beverly Crest neighborhood sign
Beverly Crest is located in the southern face of the Santa Monica Mountains between Beverly Hills and Sherman Oaks. It’s home of the large Franklin Canyon Park and the Stone Canyon Reservoir. The mostly residential neighborhood’s population is 88% white (mostly Russian, Persian and British) and 4% Asian.
Beverly Grove is a newly designated Los Angeles neighborhood that’s often lumped in with the Fairfax District that it borders (and is still commonly felt to be part of by longtime residents who in most cases don’t seem to be fans of Rick Caruso). Indeed, as the home of the Silent Movie Theater and Canter’s Deli, it’s an intrinsic part of the so-called Kosher Canyon, Fairfax Boulevard. It’s also home to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and realtors often refer to it as “Beverly Hills Adjacent.”
Beverly Hills has long been, in the popular conscience, synonymous with wealth, a view perpetuated by its many appearances in film and TV including Beverly Hillbillies, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Slums of Beverly Hills, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills Ninja, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Beverly Hills Cop and Beverly Hills 90201 (to name a few). So symbolic is its name that other neighborhoods often employ it nicknames to reflect their own wealth, including the “Black Beverly Hills” (Baldwin Hills), the “Chicano Beverly Hills” (Hacienda Heights), the “Chinese Beverly Hills” (Monterey Park) as well as the Beverly Hills of Arizona, Las Vegas, England, Dubai, Mexico, The South, Chiwawa, Sydney, Singapore, Cewu and on and on. The population is 82% white (mostly Persian and Russian), 8% Asian (mostly Korean) and 5% Latino.
Largely residential Beverlywood is one of the main centers of Jewish residential life in Los Angeles. The population 80% white (Russian, Polish, Persian, Israeli), 7% Asian, 6% Latino and 4% black. It’s population is the wealthier than the better known symbol of wealth, Beverly Hills, (and Beverly Grove), but not as wealthy as Beverly Crest – the wealthiest of the Beverlies.
Now famous for its mostly wealthy residents, Brentwood was originally known for its avocado and soybean fields. It gained a higher profile and unwanted notoriety in 1994 when Nicole Brown Simpson, ex-wife ofAmerican Footballer/occasional actor OJ Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman were found stabbed to death outside her condo in a crime that was never solved. The population is 84% white (Russian, German, Persian and British), 7% Asian and 5% Latino.
Century City was formerly a western backlot for 20th Century Fox. After a series of box office bombs, most notably Cleopatra, the studio sold 0.73 km2 of their property to developer William Zeckendorf and the Aluminum Co. of America, (Alcoa). The new Century City, its name a nod to it’s former owners, was reimagined as a “city within a city.” The first building, Century City Gateway West, was erected in 1963 followed by Minoru Yamasaki‘s Century Plaza Hotel — two of the first skyscrapers erected in the area after the lifting of earthquake-related height restrictions. Today it’s mainly a business center with numerous law firms and entertainment industry offices. The small population of around 6,000 residents is 83% white (mostly Russian, Persian and Canadian), 9% Asian and 4% Latino.
The Ropers in front of their Cheviot Hills residence (maybe)
Tiny Cheviot Hills is dominated by residences and Cheviot Hills Park — the latter which includes the Cheviot Hills Recreation Center and the Cheviot Hills Tennis Courts. The population is 79% white (Russian and German), 9% Asian (mostly Japanese) and 8% Latino (mostly Mexican). It served as the location for the short-lived Three’s Company spin-off The Ropers.
Crestview is a neighborhood bounded by is bounded by La Cienega, Robertson, Sawyer and Pickford. Though mostly residential, it’s also home to the Foods of Nature, La Cienega Grill Cafe, St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, Seedling Organic Catering, Sikh Dharma, and the shopping center, La Cienega Plaza.
Since the 1920s, Culver City has been a significant center for motion picture and later television production — it was formerly home of MGM Studios. National Public RadioWest and Sony Pictures now have headquarters in the city. The population is 48% white (German), 24% Latino (Mexican), 12% Asian (mostlyFilipino) and 11% black. To read more about Culver City, click here.
Del Rey, situated on the banks of Ballona Creek, takes its name from the nearby Del Rey salt marshes. Del Rey is a largely residential area of 1950s single-story California bungalows. Del Rey has a notable but small Japanese-American population that moved to the area after the end of WWII internment as well as fromHawaii during the 1950s. Today it’s 44% Latino (mostly Mexican), 34% white (mostly German), 14% Asian (mostly Filipino) and 4% black.
A view of Ladera Heights – NB: gas prices may not be current
When Frank Robinson and other notable black sports heroes began moving to Ladera Heights in the 1970s, many other affluent blacks integrated into the neighborhood, which is adjacent to one of the wealthier parts of South LA, Baldwin Hills. In the early 1980s, the neighborhood became a mecca for wealthy black families, a rarity for the Westside. Today, even with LA’s black population declining dramatically, the neighborhood is still 71% black (mostly West African and Trinidadian) and 19% white (mostly English, German and Canadian).
An uncommonly calm street scene in Little Osaka
Little Osaka (小大阪) is a small district centered along Sawtelle Boulevard between Nebraska andTennesee in the Sawtelle neighborhood of Los Angeles. In the 1920s and 30s, what’s now Little Osaka was dominated by Japanese-owned nurseries. By 1941, there were 26 nurseries in the area. When Japanese-Americans were unjustly interred during World War II, the neighborhood went into decline. Today it retains a diminished but strong Japanese character (including several nurseries) and is a J-Town favored by trendy Japanese, foodies, otaku, hentai and nipponophiles. To read more, click here.
The view from atop Mar Vista Hill
Mar Vista is a westside neighborhood that includes the smaller neighborhoods of Westdale, Mar Vista Hill, the Gregory Ain Mar Vista Tract, McLaughlin and Culver West. The residents of Mar Vista are approximately 51% White (mostly Germanic), 29% Latino (mostly Mexican with a large number ofOaxaqueños in particular) and 13% Asian (mostly Korean). To read more about Mar Vista, click here.
MARINA DEL REY
Fisherman’s Village in Marina del Rey
Marina del Rey is dominated by the Fisherman’s Village boat harbor, which has nineteen marinas and room for 5,300 boats. The area was originally a salt marsh formed by Ballona Creek‘s flow into Santa Monica Bay. The population is 78% white (mostly English, German and Persian), 8% Asian (mostly Japanese), 5% Latino and 5% black.
Pacific Palisades stands out even in the mostly-white Westside with a population that’s 89% white (mostly English, German, Persian and Canadian) and 6% Asian, making it the least racially, if not ethnically, communities in the Westside. It’s population is generally quite wealthy and residential. Some of the most noteworthy homes include the Eames House and the Getty Villa. It was repped by Tom Hanks‘s rapping son, Chet Haze, in his song “West Side LA” (from whence the title of this blog entry is derived).
A view of my favorite Palms parking lot
Palms was founded as its own community in 1886 and annexed by LA in 1915. Palms is fairly atypical for the Westside with a population that’s both working class and very ethnically diverse — 38% white (mostly Irish), 23% Latino (mostly Mexican), 20% Asian (mostly Korean) and 12% black. It’s even home to multiple Brazilian and Indonesian restaurants. It’s also home of the great Museum of Jurassic Technology. To read more about Palms, click here.
A view of Playa Vista from the Ballona Wetlands
Between Playa Vista and the Santa Monica Bay lie the Ballona Wetlands. The neighborhood lies at the foot of the Westchester Bluffs that was once a sacred Tongva burial ground. Long after the Tongva themselves were removed, their ancestors’ remains were uncovered during development and relocated as well. Today the population is 35% Latino (mostly Mexican and Guatemalan), 32% white, 21% Asian (mostly Japanese) and 5% black.
The intersection of Pico and Robertson… in Pico-Robertson
Pico-Robertson is today the heart of LA’s Jewish community. The population is 74% white (mostly Persian, Russian and Israeli), 7% Latino, 6% Asian 6% black. It is home to more than 30 kosher restaurants including not just Jewish food, but kosher Chinese, Italian, Mexican and more. It’s also home to the largest women’s mikvah in LA as well as four men’s mikvahs and several Jewish schools. It’s sometimes referred to as “South Robertson” which has given rise to the Scooby-Doo-sounding “SoRo Rillage,” I mean, “SoRo Village.”
Tiny Rancho Park was named by Bill Heyler, a real estate broker who established his office in the area in 1927. The population is 58% white (mostly German and Persian), 18% Asian, 16% Latino (mostly Mexican), 4% black. Its northwest corner, the intersection of Pico and Sepulveda, was the subject of a song, “Pico and Sepulveda,” made popular in 1947 by Freddy Martin and his orchestra using the pseudonym, “Felix Figueroa.”
Sunny, coastal Santa Monica is the world’s number one destination for British expats, who flock to the un-England like city by the thousands and turn into rosy red lobsters. The population is 71% white (mostly English and Persian), 14% Latino (mostly Mexican), 7% Asian and 4% black. Known as a haven for rich lefties, it’s nicknamed the People’s Republic of Santa Monica. It was also the first city in California with a Green mayor… and it was the setting for TV’s Three’s Company.
A typical Sawtelle home with Japanese-inspired landscaping
Sawtelle was formerly recognized for its large Japanese-American population. After the forced internment of all Japanese, it lost most of that character although landscaping and sites here and there still reflect its Japanese past — nowhere more so than in the tiny Japanese shopping district of Little Osaka which is also home to several nurseries and eateries. However, today Sawtelle’s population is 50% white (mostly Persian), 23% Latino (mostly Mexican) and 20% Asian.
A row of Tehrangeles stores with signs in Farsi
Tehrangeles is a small neighborhood along Westwood Boulevard that straddles Westwood and West LA. It’s portmanteau name is a reflection of the many Persian-owned and targeted businesses along the commercial corridor as well as the large Persian residential population in the surrounding area.
Venice is a coastal neighborhood (and former municipality) famous for its canals, Muscle Beach, Venice Beach and Ocean Front Walk — “the Boardwalk.” Originally designed to attract tourists, it later became famous for its Bohemian music and arts scene. To read more, click here.
West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip at night
I know some people will take issue with my inclusion of WeHo with the Westside. Well the Beverly Hills adjacent city has to fit in somewhere and it feels a lot more Westside to me than the Hollywood region (which, unlike West Hollywood, is all part of Los Angeles). With a population that’s 81% white (mostly Russian, German and Ukrainian), 9% Latino, 4% Asian and 3% Black it also looks like the rest of the Westside. It’s also where the Sunset Strip begins, home to many famous venues including The House of Blues, The Key Club, The Viper Room, The Roxy, The Whiskey A Go Go… and The Troubadour just a few blocks south on Santa Monica Blvd. Finally, La Cienega (which passes through it) is most-identified by Angelenos as the being the border between the Westside and Central Los Angeles.
WEST LOS ANGELES
West Los Angeles, despite sounding like a large district of Los Angeles, is actually an officially recognized designation for a Westside neighborhood. The population is 77% white (mostly Persian, Russian and English), 11% Asian, 5% Latino. The large Jewish population is reflected in the restaurants. It’s also home to Lazer Blazer, which rivals even mighty Amoeba with its selection of Blu-Rays, DVDs and yes, Laser Discs.
One of Westside Village’s tree-lined streets
Westside Village is a small neighborhood that’s sometimes claimed by Mar Vista and sometimes by Palms. It’s home to one of the first housing tracts, developed in the 1930s and ’40s by Fritz B. Burns.
Westwood with the so-called Millionaire’s Mile in the background
Westwood is a neighborhood best known for being the home of UCLA. As such, it’s also one of LA County’s primary cultural centers with sites like Royce Hall, the Armand Hammer Museum, The Fowler Museumand numerous significant theaters. It also includes most of the small Tehrangeles neighborhood within it’s borders. The population is 63% white (mostly Persian and Russian), 23% Asian (mostly Taiwanese), 7% Latino and 2% black.
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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