West of La Brea, East of the Moon: Where the Hell Is West L.A.?
An L.A. Times squib about a stolen-car chase caught our attention Saturday, but for all the wrong reasons. The L.A. Now blog focused on snarled traffic that resulted in a 16-block shutdown around the LAPD's bomb-squad's search of the vehicle, though both events seem to be part of L.A.'s everyday schedule. (Hey, traffic snarl? Tell me about it -- I was stuck in Culver City Friday evening when cops shut down Venice Boulevard after a shooting.)
What was so alarming about the blog was its description of the crime scene -- La Brea Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard -- as "west Los Angeles." Now, residents of Boyle Heights and Whittier quite rightly take umbrage when bloggers refer to Silver Lake and Echo Park as "the Eastside" or sometimes, even, as "East L.A." Just where, exactly, is West L.A.? Or at least, its eastern border? The Times' normally helpful Mapping L.A. project has West L.A. stretching all the way down to Westchester, to a point parallel with El Segundo and Hawthorne, so here it's useless.
The same can be said of Wikipedia's definition, which takes the opposite extreme:
"The district is bordered by Santa Monica on the west, Brentwood on
the northwest, the unincorporated Sawtelle Veterans Administration
grounds on the north, Westwood on the northeast, Rancho Park on the
east and southeast, and Mar Vista on the south and southeast. Its
generally accepted boundaries are the San Diego Freeway on the east,
the Santa Monica Freeway on the south, the city limits of Santa Monica
on the west, and Wilshire Boulevard on the north."
Naturally, something as important as this is not written down anywhere in City Hall. As always, anecdote, urban lore and neighborhood prejudices reliably fill in the knowledge vacuum.
When I arrived here in 1979, it seemed to me -- again, nothing
officially written in stone -- that you couldn't call anything east of
Robertson Boulevard "West L.A." I know there are some purists who will
say West L.A.'s easternmost boundary is where the shadows of UCLA's
Royce Hall falls at 7 p.m., midsummer's day, but I think that's
carrying it a bit far. (Or not far enough.) I'd go so far as to say
that Santa Monica Boulevard at Beverly Hills marks the easternmost
border. In my wildest dreams, however, I never imagined that the
marches to West L.A. could begin anywhere east of La Cienega Boulevard
because, back in '79, this seemed like a natural, meteorological
boundary -- it's where the temperature noticeably dropped as you drove
west in the summer.
Perhaps, when all's said and done, it's a
state of mind: I don't know where West L.A. begins, but I know it when
I'm there. If anyone has an opinion on this important matter, please
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