In a recent poll of Americans conducted by Public Policy Polling, only 33% of respondents said that they view Los Angeles favorably whereas 40% view it negatively. 27% stated that they’re not sure. Of America’s largest five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia), LA is the only one with a higher negative response than positive. As someone who lives in and loves Southern California, this disappoints but doesn’t surprise me.
Growing up in other parts of the country, pop culture sculpted and skewed my perception of the Southland more than anything else. Living here I consider it to be the most misrepresented too. I’ve never been to Philadelphia but my experiences in other large American cities haven’t produced the same sort of glaring dissonance between my expectations and experience that LA has. And with LA the center of America’s pop culture machine, I have to wonder why the city doesn’t do a better job of showcasing its positive attributes instead of its negative – mainly conspicuous consumption, movie stardom and gang culture.
The Southland region is a actually a patchwork of very diverse communities, peoples, culture, climates, cuisines that, in my opinion, surpasses that of anywhere else I’ve been. My personal feeling is that if LA did a better job of highlighting that with more accurate representations in film and TV, people would love it. Instead, TV (with the notable exception of commercials) remains whitewashed and films set here have almost no sense of place aside from a possible establishing shot of the Hollywood sign or perhaps a montage of low-riders, gangbangers, palm trees and luxury cards on Rodeo Drive (with notable exceptions – mostly in the past – in film noir and shows like Dragnet and Adam-12). TV news tends to focus on celebrity scandals and car chases and formerly good publications like the LA Weekly have devolved to running fluff pieces like covering the sexiest girls at a particular rave, ranking the top five peanut butter and jellies in the city or examining why some forgotten pop song from 20 years ago sucks.
As a non-native Angeleno, I find the reality to thankfully have almost NOTHING to do with dominant popular images. My view of the Southland is an amazing patchwork whose charms are sometimes not obvious, especially from behind a steering wheel or on a packaged tour. I started blogging for Amoeba about communities a few years ago, attempting to make it relevant to Amoeba by focusing not just on the unique histories of this massive jigsaw puzzle, but also the culture – yes, culture – of every corner, which has produced and supported filmmakers, architects, actors, musicians, comedians, writers, dancers and every other type of artist and artistic expression.
So far I’ve explored and blogged about (and completed maps of) Alhambra, Angeleno Heights, Arcadia, Arts District, Boyle Heights, Burbank, Cambodia Town, Canterbury Knolls, Chinatown, Claremont, Compton, Costa Mesa, Cypress Park, Eagle Rock, East Los Angeles, Echo Park, Elysian Valley, Fairfax District, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Glendale, Gardena, Granada Hills, Hacienda Heights, Highland Park, Historic Filipinotown, Huntington Beach, Industry, Koreatown, Laurel Canyon, Lincoln Heights, Little Armenia, Little Bangladesh, Little Ethiopia, Little India, Little Osaka, Little Tokyo, Long Beach, Longwood Highlands, Los Feliz, Mar Vista, Montebello, Monterey Park, Morningside Circle, Mount Washington, Orange, Pasadena, Rowland Heights, San Gabriel, San Marino, Santa Ana, Sherman Oaks, Silver Lake, Skid Row, South Pasadena, Thai Town, Tustin, Venice, Walnut, Wilshire Park, and Yucca Corridor. The next one will be Altadena (which I explored yesterday). The rest of the maps won’t be complete until I blog about the neighborhoods and make additions.
People often ask me how many more communities I have left to do. I haven’t counted and may’ve missed a few but the places currently on my list are Acton, Agoura, Agoura Hills, Agua Dulce, Alamitos Beach, Alamitos Heights, Aliso Viejo, Aliso Village, Alondra Park, Anaheim, Anaheim Colony, Anaheim Hills, Anaheim Island, Antelope Acres, Arleta, Arlington, Arlington Heights, Arlington Park, Arroyo Seco, Arroyo View Estates, Artcraft Manor, Artesia, Athens, Athens on the Hill, Atwater Village, Atwood, Avalon, Avocado Heights, Azusa, Balboa, Balboa Highlands, Balboa Island, Balboa Park, Balboa Peninsula, Baldwin Hills, Baldwin Hills Estates, Baldwin Park, Baldwin Village, Baldwin Vista, Bassett, Bay Harbor, Beachwood Canyon, Bel-Air, Bell, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Belmont Heights, Belmont Park, Belmont Shore, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Crest, Beverly Glen, Beverly Hills, Beverlywood, Big Canyon, Big Mountain Ridge, Big Pines, Big Rock, Bixby Hill, Bixby Knolls, Bixby Village, Bluff Heights, Bluff Park, Bouquet Canyon, Bradbury, Brea, Brea-Olinda, Brentwood, Brentwood Circle, Brentwood Glen, Brentwood Hills, Brentwood Park, Broadway Corridor, Brookside Park, Buena Park, Bundy Canyon, Bunker Hill, Byzantine-Latino Quarter, Cahuenga Pass, Calabasas, California Heights, Cameo Plaza, Cameron Woods, Canoga Park, Capistrano Beach, Carlton, Carroll Park, Carson, Carson Park, Carthay, Carthay Circle, Carthay Square, Castaic, Castaic Junction, Castellammare, Castle Heights, Central Area [Long Beach], Century City, Century Palms, Cerritos, Charter Oak, Chatsworth, Chesterfield Square, Cheviot Hills, Citrus, Civic Center, Civic Support, College Park, College Park West, Commerce, Cornell, Corona del Mar, Coto de Caza, Country Club Island, Country Club Park, Covenant Hills, Covina, Craftsman Village, Crenshaw, Crestview, Crestwood Hills, Cudahy, Culver City, Cypress, Dana Point, Del Aire, Del Lago, Del Rey, Del Sur, Del Valle, Desert View Highlands, Diamond Bar, Dove Canyon, Downey, Downtown Industrial District, Downtown Long Beach, Drake Park, Duarte, East Anaheim, East Compton, East Irvine, East La Mirada, East Lake, East Pasadena, East San Gabriel, East Village, Eastside/Circle Area, Eastside [Long Beach], El Dorado, El Dorado Park, El Dorado Park Estates, El Dorado South, El Modena, El Monte, El Pueblo, El Segundo, El Sereno, El Toro, Elysian Heights, Elysian Park, Emerald Bay, Encino, Exposition Park, Fashion District, Figueroa Corridor, Figueroa Terrace, Financial District, Fletcher Square, Floral Park, Florence-Graham, Flower District, Foothill Ranch, Fountain Valley, 4th Street Corridor, Franklin Hills, Freemont Place, French Park, Furniture & Decorative Arts District, Gallery Row, Garvanza, Glassell Park, Glendora, Gorman, Gramercy Park, Green Meadows, Hancock Park, Hansen Hills, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway, Harbor Pines, Harvard Heights, Hawaiian Gardens, Hawthorne, Hel-Mel, Hellman, Hermon, Hermosa Beach, Hidden Hills, Hillside Village, Historic Core, Hollywood Dell, Hollywood Heights, Holmby Hills, Home Junction, Huntington Harbour, Huntington Palisades, Huntington Park, Hyde Park, Imperial Estates, Inglewood, Irvine, Irwindale, Island Village, Jefferson Park, Jewelry District, Juniper Hills, Kagel Canyon, Kenter Canyon, King Estates, Kinneloa Mesa, Kinney Heights, Kite Hill, Knollwood, La Brea-Hancock, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta-Montrose, La Habra, La Habra Heights, La Marina Estates, La Mirada, La Palma, La Puente, La Tuna Canyon, La Verne, Ladera Heights, Ladera Ranch, Lafeyette Park, Lafeyette Square, Laguna, Laguna Beach, Laguna Canyon, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Laguna Woods Village, Lake Balboa, Lake Forest, Lake Hughes, Lake Los Angeles, Lake View Terrace, Lakewood, Lakewood Village, Lancaster, Larchmont Village, Las Flores, Lawndale, Leimert Park, Leisure World, Lennox, Leona Valley, Lido Isle, Little Arabia, Little Saigon, Little Seoul, Littlerock, Llano, Lomita, Long Beach Marina, Los Alamitos, Los Altos, Los Angeles International Airport, Los Cerritos – Virginia Country Club, Loyola Village, Lynwood, MacArthur Park, Magnolia Square, Malibu, Manchester Square, Mandeville Canyon, Manhattan Beach, Mar Vista, Marina Pacifica, Marina Peninsula, Marina del Rey, Marquez Knolls, Mayflower Village, Maywood, Melody Acres, Melrose District, Melrose Hill, Memorial Heights, Mesa Verde, Midway City, Miracle Mile, Mission Hills, Mission Viejo, Modjeska Canyon, Monarch Beach, Monrovia, Montecito Heights, Monterey Hills, Mount Olympus, Naples, Naples, Nelie Gail Ranch, Nelie Gail Ranch, Newport Beach, Newport Beach, Newport Coast, Newport Coast, Nichols Canyon, Nichols Canyon, North El Monte, North El Monte, North Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, North Hollywood, North Industrial District, North Industrial District, North Laguna Hills, North Laguna Hills, North Long Beach, North Long Beach, North University Park, North University Park, Northridge, Northridge, Northwood, Northwood, Norwalk, Norwalk, Oakwood, Old Bank District, Old Lakewood City, Olinda Village, Olive, Olive View, Olympic Park, Orange Hills, Orange Park Acres, Outpost Estates, Pacific Palisades, Pacoima, Palisades, Palisades Highlands, Palmdale, Palms, Palos Verdes Estates, Panorama City, Paramount, Park Estates, Park La Brea, Park Mile, Pasadena, Pasadena, Pearblossom, Penninsula, Picfair Village, Pico-Union, Pico Del Mar, Pico Park, Pico Rivera, Placentia, Platinum Triangle, Playa Vista, Playa del Rey, Plaza, Point Fermin, Poly High, Pomona, Porter Ranch, Port of LA, Portola Hills, Quail Hill, Quartz Hill, Rancho Estates, Rancho La Tuna Canyon, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rancho Park, Rancho Santa Margarita, Redondo Beach, Regent Square, Reseda, Reseda Ranch, Reynier Village, Ridgewood-Wilton, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, Rolling Hills Highlands, Roscomare Valley, Rose Park, Rossmoor, Rustic Canyon, Saint Mary’s, San Clemente, San Dimas, San Fernando, San Joaquin Hills, San Juan Capistrano, San Juan Hills, San Juan Hot Springs, San Pedro, Santa Ana Heights, Santa Clarita, Santa Fe Springs, Santa Monica, Santa Monica Canyon, Santiago Canyon, Santiago Hills, Sawtelle, Seal Beach, Sepulveda, Shadow Hills, Shady Canyon, Sherman Village, Shoreline Village, Sierra Madre, Sierra Vista, Signal Hill, Silverado Canyon, Solano Canyon, South Brentwood, South Carthay, South Central, South El Monte, South Gate, South Laguna, South Park, South Robertson, South San Gabriel, South San Jose Hills, South Shores, South Whittier, South of Conant, Spaulding Square, Spinnaker Bay, Spinnaker Cove, St. Andrews Square, Stanton, Stearns Park, Stevenson Ranch, Stonehurst, Stratford Square, Studio City, Sun Valley, Sunland, Sunny Hills, Sunrise, Sunset Beach, Sunset Heights, Sunset Hills, Sunset Junction, Surfside, Sylmar, Talega, Tarzana, Tehrangeles (Little Persia), Temple-Beaudry, Temple City, Terminal Island, The Gardens, The Village, Three Arch Bay, Toluca Lake, Toluca Woods, Tonner Canyon, Topanga, Torrance, Toy District, Trabuco Canyon, Trabuco Highlands, Traffic Circle, Tujunga, Turtle Rock, Tustin Foothills, Tustin Legacy, Tustin Ranch, Two Harbors, University Hills, University Park, University Park Estates, Val Verde, Valinda, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Valyermo, Van Nuys, Venice Canals, Ventura Business District, Vermont Knolls, Vermont Square, Vermont Vista, Vernon, View Heights, View Park-Windsor Hills, Villa Park, Village, Village Green, Vincent, Vinegar Hill, Virgil Village, Vista del Oro, Wagon Wheel, Walnut Park, Warner Center, Watts, Wellington Square, West Adams, West Alameda, West Athens, West Carson, West Compton, West Covina, West Garden Grove, West Hills, West Hollywood, West Long Beach, West Park Terrace, West Puente Valley, West Toluca, West Whittier-Los Nietos, Westchester, Westdale, Western Heights, Westgate, Westlake, Westlake Village, Westminster, Westmont, Westridge Heights, Westside Village, Westwood, Westwood, Westwood North Village, Whalers Cove, Whitley Heights, Whittier, Wholesale District, Willmore City, Willowbrook, Wilmington, Wilshire Center, Wilshire Highlands, Wilshire Vista, Windsor Square, Windsor Village, Winnetka, Woodbridge, Woodbury, Woodland Hills, Wrigley Heights, Wrigley North, Wrigley South, Yorba Linda, and Zaferia.
To encourage more voting and to honor the regional diversity of the region I wrote (except for Orange County and the Valley — yet) introductory blogs about the sub-regions of Angeles Forest, Antelope Valley, Hollywood, Midtown, Northeast Los Angeles, Northwest LA County, Orange County, South LA’s Eastside, South LA’s Westside, Southeast Los Angeles County, the Eastside, the Harbor, the Mideast Side, the Pomona Valley, the San Fernando Valley, the San Gabriel Valley, the Santa Monica Mountains, the South Bay, the Verdugos, and the Westside. Thus far, I’ve still yet to tackle any communities in Angeles Forest, Antelope Valley, Northwest County, the Santa Monica Mountains or the South Bay (although I’d very much like to).
Although the maps I draw and include in the blogs were originally created almost as an afterthought, they seem to have struck a chord with some readers and apparently helped people view communities in another way. I’m humbled and amazed at the attention, most recently in the Los Angeles Times and the 1650 Gallery – the art gallery that first gave me a sense of how much some people like the maps with my first art show last July, has decided to have another art opening on 23 June, 2012 from 7:30 – 10:30. I hope to see and meet some of you there. If you can’t make it, you can still help determine which neighborhoods get covered by voting on this blog. To vote for more Los Angeles neighborhoods, click on this link. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, click on this link. To vote for Orange County communities, click on this link.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. 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.
Click here to offer financial support and thank you!