Hipster Smackdown: Echo Park Lake vs. Silver Lake Reservoir
Echo Park Lake, in all its glory
Flickr user Bourbois
Whether you wish to join their ranks or avoid the nuisance, the precise location and behavior of the phenomenon known as "hipster" seems to be a matter of dire importance to all Angelenos. These gentrifying, culture-conscious creatures can be found preying on vintage purses, foraging for craft beers, avoiding basic bitches and Tindering for mates all across the city, but the largest herds are concentrated in Silver Lake and Echo Park. Here, two bodies of undrinkable and unswimmable water - the Silver Lake Reservoir and the Echo Park Lake - fight for supremacy as the region's most prized habitat for exercising, picnicking and people-watching.
Now that we are in the stride of summer, when the sun is setting well past happy hour and the heat lamps are falling into disuse, we must determine which spot is superior. After all, the clock is ticking on the match-up: next year the reservoir will begin 18 months of construction and transformation into a so-called "hipster beach," and everyone who lives here now will start sighing about how much better it used to be.
At L.A. Weekly, we strive to bring our readers highly scientific peer-reviewed data that successfully advances our understanding of how to be cool. Therefore, our crack team of researchers spent the past few months running controlled experiments and developing a robust equation to determine once and for all which territory is more
To solve for the function H(place), where H is hipness, we derived the following formula:
Reduced to its scientific notation, that formula looks a little more like this:
Let's define the variables, shall we?
Authenticity = ?
Above all, hipsters value whatever they deem "authentic," a slippery concept that has more to do with perceived vibe than veritable originality.
Echo Park Lake: 5 out of 10
Although Echo Park Lake is older than the reservoir, dating back to 1868, landscape architect Joseph Henry Tomlinson apparently modeled the design after another park back in his hometown, in England. Ugh, so derivative. It's like the Katy Perry of parks!
Then again, gentrifiers tend to count how many other gentrifiers are around when defining the authenticity of a place. (e.g.: our neighbor, who is 25, moved here a year ago, complains about how "bougie" EP has become since then, and speaks wistfully of moving to Boyle Heights.) So even though Echo Park's gangs have cut back to weekends-only, we'll throw in a few points for the neighborhood's slight economic-diversity advantage over Silver Lake.
Silver Lake Reservoir: 6 out of 10
The reservoir wasn't completed until 1907, but the gritty chain-link fence that surrounds the water is pretty much the definition of #realness. Not to mention the barbed wire on top. I mean, is this a recreation space or a prison?
"Let me ouuuut!!!" - the water.
Kitsch = ?
Kitsch is defined as "art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way." So... hipster catnip.
EPL: 8 out of 10
The gondolas? The pedal boats? The surfeit of lotus flowers? The checkered paper food containers at the Square One outpost in the boathouse? The frickin' footbridge?? Yeah, this place is kitsch central.
SLR: 3 out of 10
Although most of the reservoir is dusty and minimalist, the Silver Lake Recreation Center playground, at the southern edge of the reservoir, features a giant pirate ship. At least there's no mustache jungle gym.
Beards = ?
Soon after L.A. Weekly decided to count beards on a recent Sunday, we realized we could not simply ignore other types of facial hair. Thus, after consulting a few local barbers and PhD students, we derived the following formula:
? = ? + .5(?) + .5(?) + .25(?)
Where ? = full beards; ? = mustaches; ? = goatees and ? = scruffy and unshaven but not a full beard. Our findings were as follows:
EPL = 7 ? + .5(13 mustaches) + .5(8 goatees) + .25(9 scruff) = 19.75
SLR = 12 ? + .5(1 mustache) + .5(10 goatees) + .25(5 scruff) = 18.75
Note that although Silver Lake leads in real beards, Echo Park leads in facial hair overall.
According to research done by the trend studies department at UCLA, the epitome of hip is sipping an almond-milk latte while discussing some obscure literary / musical / architectural masterpiece. Therefore, we calculated the square root of the sum of the distances from the lake and the reservoir to the nearest concerts, coffee, books and renowned architecture.
EPL = ?[?mus: the Echoplex (.1 mi) + ?book: Stories (.2 mi) + ?caf: Square One (0 mi) + ?arch = Carroll Avenue homes (.4 mi)] = ?.7 = .83666
SL = ?[?mus: the Satellite (.2 mi) + ?book: Silver Lake Library (.2 mi) + ?caf: LA Mill (.3 mi) + ?arch: Neutra VDL Studio and Residences (0 mi)] = ?.7 = .83666
Effort = ?
Cool people should never be seen trying too hard.
EPL: 9 out of 10
In a totally basic move, the city recently invested $45 million into a two-year renovation of the lake. But the kicker is that several months after they finished, our local overlords dropped an additional $47,000 to change the color of the boathouse a second time, to make it more historically accurate. Come on, guys. Nearly 50k to get the boathouse back to its original "Navajo White"? That's basically the same as buying $250 torn jeans at Topshop.
SLR: 1 out of 10
In terms of effort to look or seem cool, the reservoir is basically Chandler Bing. Like, we're talking true normcore status. However, when the reservoir undergoes its own renovations beginning next year, this number may change dramatically.
See also: L.A.'s Best Beaches to Suit Your Mood
Capitalism = ?
To be truly hip is to hate money, rich people and business. I mean, damn the man, save Empire, amirite?
EPL: 5 out of 10
Two major fixtures of Echo Park Lake - the boathouse and the Lady of the Lake statue (Nuestra Reina de Los Angeles) - were constructed through Depression-era public works projects. "Socialism!" you might cry. "How trendy!" Plus, the unregulated market of the lake's pre-renovation illegal swap meet seems to have been shut down for good. However, these days the lake has a cafe run by the ultra-hip Los Feliz brunch spot, Square One, and smaller vendors with flavored ices in the summer and bacon-wrapped hot dogs in the fall. Not to mention that going for a ride in one of those plastic pedal boats will set you back ten bucks - per PERSON!
SLR: 9 out of 10
Although there are no vendors here, the Silver Lake reservoir oozes economic inequality and class division. Why? Because the best way to engage with this shimmering water and bypass the ungainly chain-link is to look down on the reservoir from your hillside home.
So much prettier from above!!
Flickr user Edmundv
Plus, the recreational areas are highly stratified, just like any market-based economy. At Echo Park Lake, humans and animals of all shapes and sizes mingle and sniff each other's butts. But at the reservoir, only humans can enter the meadow. Dogs are stuck to the dusty dog park, and even this space is further divided into gated areas for larger and smaller pups.
High-fructose corn syrup is the T-Pain of ingredients, the polar opposite of everything vegan, organic, raw and hip.
Although Square One's boathouse cafe sells gluten-free vegan bars, organic salted caramel corn and snacks from the Berkeley-based Annie's Homegrown product line, plenty of park-goers walk around with hot Cheetos and Powerade.
On a recent Sunday, picnickers at the meadow drank Perrier and beer whilst dipping crudité and pita chips in hummus and dip straight out of Trader Joe's bags. One guy did have a bag of Lays, though.
Selfie potential = ?
EPL: 9 out of 10
The plucky fountain, the soaring palm trees, the photo-bombing toddlers scampering about - it's like a beautiful set built just for taking photos of yourself! The city itself even encourages you to do so, going so far as to provide some sample hashtags.
SLR: 2 out of 10
The majestic San Gabriel mountains, the house-peppered hills, and the towers of Downtown all loom in the background as you circle the reservoir, but the landscape is best appreciated in person. For some reason, the beauty of being here has proven quite difficult to capture in the frame next to your face.
Now, to solve for hipness, we plugged in our findings:
And determined the following:
So that settles it! Echo Park Lake is a smidgen cooler than the Silver Lake Reservoir. Now feel free to use our research to plan your summer around either avoiding those goddam hipsters or patting yourself on the back for being oh-so-very cool.
Amanda Lewis on Twitter:
Public Spectacle, L.A. Weekly's arts & culture blog, on Facebook and Twitter:
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Los Angeles, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.