Update: Zooey Deschanel's publicist reached out to us for a correction, insisting that she lives on the “east side.” When we said we weren't budging unless we were given a specific neighborhood — as what's Eastside is so often misunderstood (see below) — she told us Deschanel lives in … Studio City! Orale, Eastside to the bone, homegirl.
Our coverage of actress Zooey Deschanel's apparent diss of downtown and her subsequent argument that she's not a Westsider has renewed some debate about where the Westside begins in L.A. There's been a long-simmering argument, often centered around claims by (newer) Silver Lake and Echo Park residents that theirs is an Eastside community.
But we were called out for claiming (sort of, but we'll own it) that Deschanel's last known address, much further west, in Hancock Park, isn't exactly not the Westside, and that if you're west of downtown, you're technically on the city's west side.
So we phoned an expert, UCLA urban and cultural historian Eric Avila:
Main Street was called the Calle Principal by the Spanish settlers in the 18th century. Most Southwestern cities have a Calle Principal. It defines the historic spine of urban development. I would agree that, technically, everything west of Main Street I would call the Westside.
(We're paraphrasing our questions). And the hallmark of the Westside?
It “goes back to the naming of Western Avenue in the early decades of the 20th century,” Avila says. “The presence of that street indicates that people were thinking Western was west.”
So in the course of the 20th century people settled on the Westside and it became a center of wealth. Public discourse seems to migrate to where the wealth is and suddenly people tend to think the Eastside is west of those areas, which is historically totally inaccurate.
Where's Hancock Park?
Hancock Park I think of as contiguous with Westside wealth. I think of it as a suburban outpost of the '20s and '30s. In that time Hancock Park was very much on the Westside proper.
Do Latinos and white Angelenos have different views about what's “Westside?”
I suspect that yes, you would most likely have answers that would fall on one of two sides. The majorities are along (one side or another of) this brown-white axis.
I do get bothered when I hear people refer to Silver Lake and Echo Park as the Eastside. It's such a myopic point of view. That's a geography that's ignorant of the conception of L.A.
The Westside — Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, the Golden Triangle — is often a socioeconomic concept rather than a geographic one. Culver City extends to Fairfax Avenue. West Hollywood bleeds past La Brea Avenue. Inglewood is considered by many African Americans to be a Westside city., Gangs just west of Main Street have been using the prefix “WS” for decades. Are they wrong? Do white, more moneyed folks control the boundaries and the discourse here?
A lot of people who live in those areas tend to define public discourse. Because of that power to define public discourse people think the Eastside is Echo Park and Silver Lake. And that's inaccurate according to the city's history.
I live downtown. My own location in the city shapes my understanding. To me Eastside is Boyle Heights, East L.A., Montebello, Whittier, Lincoln Heights.
People are arguing from a very Westside viewpoint.
First posted at 3:31 p.m. on July 12.