No Enclave — Emerging and Unofficial Ethnic Enclaves of Los Angeles

No Enclave

The Los Angeles metropolitan area is widely recognized for its diversity, something which is reflected in its many ethnic enclaves. Those ethnic enclaves include ones that have been officially recognized, as well as ones which have only been colloquially recognized, and they’ve risen and fallen on waves of immigration and assimilation.

The earliest of Los Angeles’s enclaves — ChinatownFrenchtown, Greek Town, Little Italy, Little Tokyo, and Sonoratown — were all enclaves formed of restriction. All were enclaves for non-Protestant and/or non-white Angelenos, in most cases for Angelenos of European origin, who could legally own property, if not in most parts of the city. Over time, restrictions on Catholics and Orthodox Christians lessened and definitions of whiteness expanded. Inhabitants previously confined to enclaves by-and-large assimilated and in the post-World War II era began moving into the newly developed suburban sprawl. Of those old enclaves, only Chinatown (not in its original location) and Little Tokyo (originally Little Tokio) survive today. 

The second great wave of Los Angeles’s ethnic enclaves began following the 1968 enaction of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which removed preexisting racial quotas and thus opened the door for more African, Latino, and Asian to immigrants; so newer enclaves arose. Most of these were informally recognized long before they were officially recognized by any city council. If it weren’t for them, and the diversity of Los Angeles, I almost certainly wouldn’t have moved to Los Angeles in 1999. If I had the fortune, I’d happily spend my life navigating the planet. I don’t, however, and the next best thing seems to be living in a city which draws on every corner of the planet for its population. What’s more, I love the cultural interactions that arise here that would never happen anywhere else and I’d miss out on those if I was constantly traveling abroad.

Several of Metro Los Angeles’s ethnic enclaves have been granted official recognition since I moved here in 1999. Often, it seems to me, the official names bestowed upon them lack the elegance of their preexisting informal nicknames. Occasionally the city does the sensible thing and defers to the vox populi. Thai Town was granted official recognition in 1999, as Thai Town. The neighborhood known both as Little Phnom Penh and Little Cambodia was designated Cambodia Town in 2000, the same year that Little Armenia was recognized. Filipinotown, though, was officially rechristened Historic Filipinotown in 2002, which it seems to me implies that it was formerly Filipinotown (see also “Historic South Central”). The neighborhood variously known as Little Addis and Little Ethiopia officially was named Little Ethiopia in 2002, the same year Garden Grove‘s Little Seoul was blandly (if straightforwardly) rebranded “the Korean Business District.”

Developer Frank Jao originally promoted naming the Vietnamese community of North Orange County “Asiatown,” I suppose because there are a few Laotian, Hmong, and Hoa people (such as himself) who live and do business there although it may also have had something to do with the fact that many Americans still think of Vietnam as a disastrous war first, and a country in Asia second. Some of the thinnest-skinned Orange Countians protested at the existence of freeway signs for Little Saigon.  Although Westminster recognized Little Saigon’s existence in 1988, it took Garden Grove and Santa Ana until 2004 and 2005 to do so. Amusingly, Vietnamese people my age seem to prefer to refer to the community as “Bolsa,” or, less often, “Cho Bolsa” or “Khu Bolsa.”

Probably the most inelegant official designation has to Artesia’s “International Cultural District” — or Little India to you, me, and everyone else. The geographic and ethnic vagueness of “International Cultural District” (or ICD, as no knows it) was an attempt to placate non-Indian Artesians who live in the area and mistakenly think that ethnic enclaves are homogeneous ethnostates in which only those explicitly referenced in the name are allowed to live or do business. A similar misunderstanding of how nicknames arise too place in Little Osaka. For decades Angelenos referred to the Japanese enclave in Sawtelle thus because Osaka is Japan’s second city (sorry Kyoto) and Little Tokyo was already taken. It also helps that Little Osaka is a funkier, hipper, less touristy Japanese enclave located west of Little Tokyo — echoing the Japanese cities after which they’re nicknamed. “But what about residents without roots in Osaka?” the “whatabouts” asked and the city caved, officially saddling it in 2015 with the clunky “Sawtelle Japantown” (apparently the whatabouts are either not concerned that not everyone in Sawtelle Japantown is Japanese or that many people in Little Tokyo have ancestral origins from outside the Japanese capital).

At other times, it’s the demarcation of official boundaries that proves (for the easily bothered) “problematic.” When Little Bangladesh sought to obtain official recognition for their enclave along 3rd Street, a Korean developer claimed that 3rd Street was the heart of Koreatown (and, I assume, couldn’t fathom the existence of an enclave within an enclave). At the time, all of the “Koreatown” neighborhood signs were posted only on Olympic Boulevard, nine blocks south (Koreatown has a big heart). As a result, in 2010 Little Bangladesh’s boundaries were drawn to exclude several Bangla businesses and Koreatown’s were expanded with a strange spoke along Western that excludes all but the businesses along that street. As for what the reasoning was for singling out a section of Vermont Avenue to be proclaimed, “the El Salvador Community Corridor,” perhaps only City Council knows.

There are still several ethnic enclaves not officially recognized, either by their accepted vernacular names or graceless new ones cooked up within the bureaucratic kitchen. Criticisms aside, there are reasons for official recognition. With official recognition, it’s widely assumed, awareness of the community is increased which in turn, in theory, leads to increased business. What is provable is that official designation leads to recognition at the listicle mills, who then churn out listicles devoted to the neighborhood’s restaurants (and only restaurants — unless the enclave is Korean, in which case they might include a day spa).

Recognition is such a potential draw, in fact, that designations have been suggested for areas in which almost none of the corresponding people and sometimes a single business of that ethnicity operates (e.g. Guatemalan Mayan Village, Little Venezuela, Paseo Colombia, and Peru Village. Official designation never precedes the existence of an ethnic enclave, though, rather it inevitably lags far behind, because ethnic enclaves emerge slowly and organically, from the ground up, not the top down. They usually begin inconspicuously, with the opening of a single specialty market or restaurant, usually in a blighted neighborhood in which rents are low and properties cheap. Over time, businesses owned or oriented toward people of the same ethnicity spring up in the vicinity. Occasionally, but not always — those same people overcome the urge to live near a “good school” (in some distant, dull suburb with little to otherwise recommend it) and instead put down roots in the vicinity of the growing enclave.  Various nicknames appear and only years later does a city government grant recognition of these places they had no hand in creating and what, more than boring malls, commemorative sidewalks, and replica real estate signs — are what make Los Angeles a metropolis worth exploring.

 


LITTLE ARABIA – ليتل عربية

little-arabia-plaza-thumb-600x448-77124
Little Arabia Plaza (Little Arabia)

A stretch of unincorporated Anaheim known as “Anaheim Island” began to attract significant numbers of Arab homebuyers and entrepreneurs in the 1980s. They arrived from various corners of the Arab World; businessman Ahmad Alam, who established the Arab American Council and Arab World Newspaper, came from LebanonBelal “Bill” Dalati came from Syria, and the neighborhood’s first Arab restaurant, Kareem Mediterranean Restaurant, was opened in 1996 by a Palestinian couple from Nazareth.

littlearabiamap
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography’s oil paint map of Little Arabia

Another name for the unincorporated area of West Anaheim is Garza Island. Although the community’s Arabs came from various regions, the punability of “Garza” proved irresistible and people began referring to the area as the “Garza Strip.” Although the area was previously dominated by seedy strip clubs, hourly rate no-tell motels, and “adult” video rental shops, the concerned folks of Anaheim — surely motivated by morality, not post-9/11 anti-Arab hostility — took action in 2005 to make it more difficult for Arab-owned lounges to feature sinful activities like live music performance and belly dancing. Nevertheless, the area overcame such obstacles and is today utterly dominated by Arabic and other Middle Eastern businesses catering to a diverse clientele from throughout the Middle East and the broader Muslim world.

GETTING THERE

Little Arabia is served by several Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) transit lines including 35, 42, 42A, 46, and 50.

FURTHER READING (AND LISTENING)
“Little Arabia thrives in Anaheim, Garden Grove” by Art Marroquin
“California Fool’s Gold — Exploring Anaheim’s Little Arabia”
“Anaheim’s Little Arabia pushing for a higher profile” by Paloma Esquivel
“Little Arabia provides tastes, comforts of home” by Mona Shadia
“A day in the life of Anaheim’s Little Arabia” by R.H. Greene

LITTLE BRAZIL – PEQUENO BRASIL

An economic crisis in Brazil between 1986 and 1991 provided the incentive for many Brazilians to leave their country and pursue a better life abroad. Those that settled in the US most often chose New York City, Boston, and Miami. Far fewer settled in Los Angeles — estimates from the Brazilian Consulate say about 10,000. There are small Brazilian pockets, however, in the Harbor, South Bay, and Westside. The Brazilian Consulate estimates that about 30% of local Brazilians live in the adjacent Westside communities of Palms and Culver City, in an area nicknamed “Little Brazil.”

Café Brasil was likely the first Brazilian business to open in what became Little Brazil, having done so in January 1991. I remember trying to eat there when I first visited Los Angeles in 1998 but my friend and I at the last minute changed our and ate down the street at Zabumba, which opened in 1994. There we dug into a buffet, deafened by music and blinded by a throng of beautiful dancers as the venue’s focus underwent its nightly transformation from eatery to nightclub.

In 2000, entrepreneur Marcello Gomez rechristened a strip mall “Brazillian Mall” but the US was hit with a recession from 2007-2009, during which time several of the neighborhood’s Brazilian businesses closed. An arguably more serious (and certainly more tragic) blow to the neighborhood was the 2010 murder of Zabumba’s owner, Monica Burgos, by her husband. Afterward, Monica’s sister, Carla, renamed the restaurant Kikafulo, and attempted to carry on but ultimately closed the institution in 2012. More recently — just a few months ago — the first location of Café Brasil closed (although the Washington Boulevard location remains open).

GETTING THERE

Little Brazil is served by various transit lines including Metro lines 33 and 733; Big Blue Bus lines R12; and Culver City Bus lines 1 and 3. There are dedicated bicycle lanes along Brookhurst Street and portions of Ball Road.

FURTHER READING
“‘Little Brazil’,Culver City,CA-A gastronomic tour through a yet unnamed Brazilian enclave in LA” by Bill Esparza
“Brazilian enclave takes root in Culver City, boosted by World Cup” by Matt Stevens
No Enclave — Exploring Brazilian Los Angeles

LITTLE BRITAIN

Like Little Brazil, Little Britain is an ethnic enclave that sometimes feels likes its best days are behind it — although it’s far older than any of Los Angeles other unrecognized enclaves. The story, as usually told is that as living in Santa Monica became unaffordable for all but the most gilded toffs, its British population was been squeezed out with the rest of us rabble. However, though there may be some truth to that tale, the decline of Santa Monica’s British population began back long ago, when pockets of the city were still affordable. In 1969, for example, there were 3,923 British in Santa Monica. By 2000, however, when my working class friends were living on 17 Street, that number had dropped to 1,171. By 2011 it was down to 807. Furthermore, the British are still living in Los Angeles County, (mostly seaside) communities like Rolling Hills, Palos Verdes Estates, Westlake Village, Topanga, Sierra Madre, Manhattan Beach, Malibu, and the Hollywood Hills, none of which are exactly working class.

Whatever the reasons, then, Santa Monica has long seen it’s British population ebb and flow, like the ocean waves which lap Worthing — the West Sussex town to which it has occasionally been compared. The town wasn’t even twenty years old when The Santa Monica Cricket Club was founded back in 1893. Then, in 1913, the cricket field closed. After the conclusion of World War II, many British working in the aerospace and defense industries relocated to Los Angeles where, despite the end of military hostilities, the military-industrial complex continued to expand. Now that industry has mostly departed too — even though US military expenses continue to balloon to ridiculous levels.

Even if the residential British population has declined and even as businesses have closed, Little Britain remains the most recognizable British corners of the metropolis. For starters, Of course, a British enclave means British groceries. The Tudor House, a small market and teahouse, opened there in 1959. The Continental Shop, where rentable VHS copies of British soaps shared space with British food items, moved from Wilshire Center to Santa Monica in the 1980s. The former closed in 2012, the latter in 2017.

Ye Olde King's Head

British pubs seem to be better at weathering the British exodus from Santa Monica. Ye Olde King’s Head, having opened in 1974, is likely the oldest. There’s also the Britannia, the Daily Pint (est. 1987), and the Cock ‘n Bull (est. 1990). The King George V British Pub was felled not by a downturn in business but by the wrecking ball, in order to make way for a new library. Gone but not forgotten are the BrigadoonYe Olde Mucky Duck, and the ThistleThere are still British automobile service stations, a British newspaper office, and British residents in Santa Monica and perhaps Little Britain will hang on long enough to be recognized officially.

GETTING THERE

Little Britain is served by various transit lines including Metro Lines 20, 33, 534, 704, 720, 733, and the Expo Line; and Big Blue Bus lines 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8. There is a fairly vast network of dedicated bicycle lanes along most major streets.

FURTHER READING (AND VIEWING)
“British expats bring Santa Monica pubs to life”  by John Flinn
“Pouring on the British charm” by Tiffany Tsu
“Santa Monica business hurt by British expats departing” by Bridget Bodnar
“No Enclave — Exploring English Los Angeles”
“Little Los Angeles: Little Britain” starring Anthony Bourdain

LITTLE CENTRAL AMERICA – PEQUEÑO CENTROAMÉRICA

Westlake

Unlike most enclaves, the name “Little Central America” doesn’t refer to an enclave with just one ethnicity or country of origin. Nominally it refers to an enclave populated by people from across an entire multi-nation region (nominally at least, as there are relatively few Costa Ricans and Panamanians living in all of Los Angeles and most Belizeans live in South Los Angeles’s Westside. In Little Central America, however, you will find a handful of Honduran and Nicaraguan businesses as well as many Guatemalan and Salvadoran businesses — not to mention residents. 

LittleCentralAmerica
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography’s ink map of Little Central America

Los Angeles is home to the largest population of Salvadorans outside of El Salvador and besides Little Central America, located in Westlake and Pico-Union, substantial numbers can be found in the Crenshaw area, Watts, Arleta, Hyde Park, Highland Park, North Hills, Boyle Heights, Exposition Park, East Los Angeles, Whittier, South Gate, Echo Park, Adams-Normandie, Commerce, University Park, Leimert Park, Huntington Park, Athens, Pico Rivera, Walnut Park, Inglewood, East Hollywood, Mount Washington, Mid-City, La Puente, Montebello, Mission Hills, Jefferson Park, and Reseda. Los Angeles is also home to the largest population of Guatemalans outside of Guatemala and in addition to Little Central America, substantial populations live in Hollywood, Val Verde, Lennox, Wilmington, Manchester SquareParamount, Larchmont, Hawthorne, Playa Vista, and South Whittier.

Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and other Central Americans began arriving as refugees in larger numbers during the Central American Crisis of the late 1970s and ’80s. Back then, communist revolutions threatened to topple several US-backed, Central American puppet governments and the US, in part to protect its corporate interests, propped up anti-democratic regimes by providing weapons and training for counter-revolutionary right-wing death squads. Those death squads massacred peasants and working-class Central Americans and those who supported them, which fueled a mass exodus to Miami, San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles. Decades later, the dust has yet to settle in much of Central America and many of the refugees still live in the Mideast neighborhoods around MacArthur Park.

GETTING THERE

Little Central America is served by several transit lines including Metro’s Red line, Purple line, and lines 16, 17, 18, 20, 30, 33, 35, 38, 51, 52, 66, 200, 204, 316, 351, 487, 489, 603, 728 and 754; and LADOT‘s DASH Pico-Union/Echo Park line. There are dedicated bicycle lanes along 7th Street.

FURTHER READING (AND VIEWING)
“Little Central America LA – Pico Union/Westlake Area” by Frankie Frank
“One Little Central America” by Henry Cantor
“The Salvadoran Influence: The Fight for Cultural Space in Pico-Union”
“Guatemalans in Los Angeles: The Influence in the Westlake-Pico Union Area”
“Little Central America – Pico Union/Westlake Area” by Marvin Ortiz

LITTLE MONGOLIA – Бяцхан Монгол

Los Angeles is likely home to the largest Mongolian community in the United States. Its estimated to be around 5,000 and most Mongolians have thus far almost exclusively settled in Koreatown — a vibrant, densely-populated neighborhood which is naturally dominated, at least on the surface, by Koreans. The neighborhood is diverse, and Korean culture rich, even though local media coverage of Koreatown tends to be disappointingly shallow.

Most Mongolians arrived after the peaceful democratic revolution of 1990, which saw restrictions on travel and emigration eased. Although I’ve met and had interactions with a few Mongolians in the neighborhood, there are still few outward signs of their presence in the neighborhood — fewer since the apparent closure of the Mongolian School-Los Angeles. I know only of the Mongolian Association, a Mongolian Buddhist congregation, a Mongolian church congregation, and a single Mongolian Restaurant nearby, Golden Mongolian Restaurant. Designating anywhere Little Mongolia might still be premature then, but that didn’t stop a writer at the LA Weekly from asking if it will become the next enclave.

GETTING THERE 

Little Mongolia’s few physical sites are served by Metro lines 18, 20, 28, 51, 52, 207, 212, 312, 351, 728 as well as the Red and Purple line subways; and LADOT DASH’s Hollywood/Wilshire line. There are dedicated bicycle lanes along portions 7th Street.

FURTHER READING
L.A.’s Christian Mongolians Find Home at Church” by K. Connie Kang
“At The Mongolian School Of Los Angeles, Culture Is Preserved” by Raphael Rosen
“No Enclave — Exploring Mongolian Los Angeles”
“Could a ‘Little Mongolia’ Become L.A.’s Next Cultural Enclave?” by Lila Seidman

LITTLE ODESSA – Маленькая Одесса

West Hollywood has long been recognized for its thriving communities of gays and Sunset Strip rock ‘n’ rollers — but the eastern half of the small city has for decades hosted a Russian community, commonly known as Little Odessa. Although many Russian businesses line the sides of Santa Monica Boulevard and dot intersecting streets, its population of Russian residents is undergoing a long, decline. According to a city study, the Russian population fell nearly 30% from 2000 to 2010, to just 3,82 people. The majority are Jews from Russian and other former Soviet republics who came when the USSR collapsed, more Russians came to the US between the 1970s and ’90s. Others came to the neighborhood following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 2000, foreign-born residents of West Hollywood made up 35.9% of the population. 21.8% were from Russia, and 14.8% from Russia. Additionally, Russians made up 14.2% of the entire population, making them still the largest ethnic group in that city.

GETTING AROUND

Little Odessa is served by several transit lines including West Hollywood’s Cityline, Sunset Trip, and the Pick-Up Line; Metro’s 4 and 704 lines; and Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) line 786. There are dedicated bicycle lanes along Fairfax Avenue.

FURTHER READING
“Weho’s General Plan Could Drive Out Little Russia” by Mito Aviles
“West Hollywood’s Russian Population Is Rapidly Shrinking” by Olga Grigoryants (2017)

LITTLE TAIPEI – 小台北

brightwell_FarEastSide_095
Detail of Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography’s map of “the Far East Side”

As of 2010, California was home to 49% of all Taiwanese-Americans and 60,478 lived in Metro Los Angeles, the largest population of Taiwanese outside of Taiwan. Taiwanese immigrants have generally eschewed settling in enclaves for life in the suburbs, particularly the San Gabriel Valley. Large populations of Taiwanese live and work in Industry, San Marino, Walnut, Rowland Heights, Arcadia, Ramona, Hacienda Heights, Diamond Bar, and Temple City. Elsewhere there are substantial numbers of Taiwanese in Westwood, Claremont, Palos Verdes Estates, and Irvine.

HaciendaCenter

Much of the credit is owed to a Chinese-born American realtor and investor named Frederic Hsieh (1945–1999), who was the proprietor of Mandarin Realty. It was he, who in 1977, decided to begin promoting Monterey Park as the “Chinese Beverly Hills” to monied Taiwanese, Hong Kongers, and mainland Chinese. In 1983, Monterey Park elected a Taiwanese mayor, Lily Lee Chen. During that decade, the Asian population of Monterey Park became the majority and the city acquired the nicknames of “Little Taipei” and “Mandarin Park” (“Chinese Beverly Hills, sadly, never caught on). However, after Monterey Park’s city council passed an ordinance that all commercial signage be in English, many of the city’s Taiwanese population began to head to nearby cities like Alhambra, Arcadia, Rosemead, San Gabriel, and San Marino and more distant suburbs, at the other eastern end of the San Gabriel Valley. Meanwhile, the void created by Monterey Park’s departing Taiwanese was largely filled by generally less wealthy mainland Chinese and Hoa from Vietnam. Monterey Park currently has a population that is about two thirds Asian, but not significantly Taiwanese, and with them gone, the nickname left too.

HsiLaiEntrance

Today, the community of Rowland Heights is the most Taiwanese in Los Angeles County and the nickname “Little Taipei” is sometimes applied to it, although it could almost as easily be applied to the adjacent unincorporated community of Hacienda Heights (home to Hsi Lai Temple — the largest Buddhist temple in the Americas) and the Taiwanese businesses which dominate the neighboring section of City of Industry. It’s also been less often referred to as “New Little Taipei” although might I suggest “Little New Taipei”, as it more closely resembles Taipei’s suburban New Taipei City than it does Taiwan’s vibrant, bustling, capital.

GETTING AROUND

Little Taipei is served by various transit lines including Foothill Transit‘s 178, 185, 280, 281, 282, 289, 482, and 493. There are dedicated bicycle lanes along portions of Colima Road.

FURTHER READING
“Beyond ‘Little Taipei’: The Development of Taiwanese Immigrant Businesses in Los Angeles” by Yen-Fen Tseng
“No Enclave — Exploring Taiwanese Los Angeles”

OXACATOWN

Oaxaca — officially the “Free and Sovereign State of Oaxaca” (or Estado Libre y Soberano de Oaxaca) — is located on the Pacific Ocean and neighbored by the Mexican states of Guerrero, Puebla, Veracruz and, and Chiapas. As with all of the Americas, it is a multi-ethnic state with, in its case, sixteen officially recognized indigenous peoples, the most common of which are Zapotec and Mixtec. Largely spurred by lack of economic development many Oaxaqueños began to emigrate to places like Mexico City, Sinaloa, Baja California, Illinois, and California in the late 1970s and early ’80s. Estimates for how many Oaxacans live in Los Angeles range wildly — from 50,000 to 700,000. Most settled in Central Los Angeles and Oaxacan business are largely scattered across Midtown and East Hollywood.

img_3153

In 2012, a group of Oaxacans proposed designating the stretch of Pico Boulevard between Crenshaw Boulevard and Westmoreland Avenue “El Corredor Oaxaqueño de Los Ángeles.” In 2014, the Latino Economic Empowerment Round Table proposed designating a stretch of Olympic Boulevard rather than Pico, the “Oaxaca Corridor.” While Olympic has, since 1994, been home to one of the nation’s preeminent Oaxacan restaurants — Guelaguetza — I personally think that some part of the area between and including the two streets should be named Oaxacatown, as the region’s been known informally for years. Perhaps they wanted to avoid trouble with the Byzantines of the Byzantine-Latino Quarter (formerly Greek Town) but rest assured, that dromon has long since sailed.

GETTING AROUND

Oaxacatown is served by various Metro lines including 28, 30, 206, 207, 330, and 757.

FURTHER READING
“L.A.’s Oaxacatown and its Growing Mezcal Liquor Scene” by Zach Behrens
“Proponen ‘Oaxacatown’” by Isaias Alvarado

TEHRANGELES – تهرانجلس

Although various sources estimate a population of between 87,000 and 1 million, it’s generally accepted that Metro Los Angeles is home to more Iranians than any city outside of Iran. Iranians are a multi-ethnic people, with a population composed not just of Persians but Azeria, KurdsLurs, Mazandaranis and Gilakis, Arabs, Balochi, Turkmen, and others. It is also religiously diverse, as are Iranian-Americans, 31% of whom identify as Muslim followed by smaller percentages (in descending order) of Baha’i, Christian, and Jewish, and Zoroastrian

Tehrangeles.jpg

Few Iranians settled in the US before 1977. Most who came to the country before then did so to attend a university before returning to Iran. All that changed with the overthrow of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which saw a populist uprising hijacked by autocratic religious authorities. If further incentive were needed to leave Iran, a nearly decade-long war with neighboring Iraq provided that for most of Iran’s Jews, Armenians, and Assyrians. Many chose to settle in Los Angeles, a city blessed with universities and the not wholly dissimilar geography.

Most Iranians didn’t settle in one area of Los Angeles, though, with many instead making their homes in the Verdugos (Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta-Montrose, and Tujunga), the Westside (Sawtelle, West Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Rancho Park, Century City, Marina del Rey, Santa Monica, Bel-Air, Beverly Crest, Beverlwood, Beverly Grove, Pico-Robertson, and Brentwood), the Santa Monica Mountains (Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, and Calabasas), the South Bay (Playa del Rey), and the San Fernando Valley (Burbank, West Hills, Encino, Woodland Hills, Tarzana, Studio City, and Sherman Oaks). The entirety of the diaspora was sometimes affectionately referred to as Tehrangeles.

 

Although Iranians spread throughout the metropolitan area, a short, walkable commercial corridor along Westwood Boulevard in Westwood began to develop after the 1978 opening of Attari. Decades later it’s still dominated by Iranian-owned and oriented businesses. In the past, it was sometimes referred to as Little Persia. I love the wordplay of “Tehrangeles“, however, and around 2009 I mapped and labeled it thus despite never having heard it referred to as such. Although not the same as recognizing a neighborhood, in February 2010, Los Angeles City Council declared the intersection of Westwood Boulevard and Wilkins Avenue to be “Persian Square” (although it is not really a square). At some point, it got added to Google Maps and in 2012 Adrian Glick Kudler penned a piece for Curbed LA titled “Google Decides There’s an LA Neighborhood Called Tehrangeles.” Then it appeared in 2015’s City of Gold, using the same borders and purple color as my map. As far as I’m concerned, the late, great Jonathan Gold carried more weight on such matters than any city council.

GETTING AROUND

Tehrangeles is served by Big Blue Bus’s 1, 8, and R12 lines. The Purple Line’s Westwood/UCLA Station is expected to open nearby around 2026. There are dedicated bicycle lanes on Westwood and Santa Monica boulevards.

FURTHER READING (AND LISTENING)
Tehrangeles. A street redolent of saffron, kabobs, and rose water offers a window into Iranian culture” by Leila Bernstein
“Tehrangeles: How Iranians made part of LA their own” by Shoku Amirani
“Tehrangeles: Westwood’s Little Persia” by Sara S. Tabatabai
“The Tourist’s Guide to Tehrangeles: Exploring the Capital of the Iranian Diaspora” by Alex Shams
“No Direct Flights” by Alex MacInnis

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRWWhich Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of Brightwell’s maps are available from 1650 GalleryHe is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubiTwitter, and Weibo.
Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s