Westside or Eastside?

(This post was submitted by a reader of the site, some text dealing with the whole Eastside/Westside “debate”. It might have already been said, but it’s good to remember this info.)

Recently, I received an email posting about a new magazine set to launch soon. What’s wrong with that you ask? The magazine is going to cover the new “eastside”…..say what?!

Traditionally, Angelenos have referred to Los Angeles by two major halves: Westside and Eastside. In recent years during the process of gentrification, demographic shifts, and social trends, there have been some efforts in renaming geographic areas from its traditional identifiers.

As the areas of Echo Park and Silverlake began to emerge in the 90’s as hip and trendy neighborhoods, some people have been on a quest to rename these locations and its surrounding areas as the new “eastside.”

The “trend” of referring to this part of the westside as the new “eastside” began to emerge and take root during the early 90’s when trendy folks, artists, Westside liberals started to move into the areas of Silverlake and Echo Park. They wanted to differentiate themselves from their counterparts in West Hollywood, Santa Monica, West LA and Beverly Hills. They began to refer to this section of town as the “eastside” with disregard to the traditional boundaries that has deep defining meaning to the people that live in these areas.

Living on the East and West has deep traditional and cultural history to this city. The original divide came during the early formation of our city, when your race and financial status determined where you were going to live. This meant entire ethnic races and laborers where herded to the cheapest and most unfavorable parts of the city.

The dividing line which separates the Westside and the Eastside has historically been Broadway in downtown LA. The Westside is the geographic area west of Broadway all the way to the coast, and the Eastside is the area east of Broadway. About a mile east of Broadway, The LA River – which flows north and south – has always served as a strong environmental marker that reinforces the distinction between the East and West.

If these trendy folks don’t realize this, all they have to do is read the writings on the walls. The homeboys and homegirls in these barrios, have lived with the banner of the local geography with their blood, sweat and tears.


Post written by:
Ben Higa
Urban Journalist / photojournalist

28 thoughts on “Westside or Eastside?

  1. While I agree with your general point, I think that the pointless labels of these stupid trendy folks are just that – labels.

    The real east-siders, Boyle Heights and East LA (Unincorporated) area residents don’t give a flip who calls it what. I know gentrification is a touchy issue around here, but ultimately, real estate prices don’t make neighborhoods – people do.

  2. The problem is it’s not JUST a label. In LA the people in charge made those labels, they may not have called them by the neighborhood that you and I call them, but they had labels. LA has a very prejudice history.

    The Eastside is where Latinos had to live.
    South Central is where black people had to live.

    There was no choice. Those communities didn’t get to decide when they got here if they should buy a house in Santa Monica or if they should go to Pasadena, that was not an option even if you had money.

    And then for people’s who parents had WAY more options in regards to where they got to live and grow up decide to come and claim it, like it’s no big deal with no understanding of the levity of what eastside means, it’s not some trendy bs, it’s something way deeper than that. It’s something that has to do with class, culture and race in Los Angeles.

    For example African-American Paul Williams was a great architect. He built the Ambassador Hotel. He built many lovely homes in Pasadena, but he was not allowed to live in the neighborhoods that he built in.

    People in LA who were raised here remember LA whether it meant Eastside, South Central or just LA, LA meant ethnic, it meant black or latino, that was the code.

    People would ask, do you live in LA, LA, (that’s the way people in LA calls LA city proper with an LA zip, sans the hollywood area…lol..) because LA, LA is scary. I still remember that. That’s why all of the people who are our parents age around 50 or 60 who grew up here are so obsessed with the Westside, because there was no way anyone with anything going for them would live out in LA,LA with all the ethnics.


  3. So let some trendy freak use Eastside for his/her mag. Its not like the mag will be around a year from now anyway.

    and Browne, i grew up in Santa Monica (60′-70’s)and I can tell you about 1/4 of the kids in my school were Mexican and most of their families owned their own homes (the renters were mostly white transplants with money, one of the reasons SM has such a liberal rent control system) and about 1/3 of the kide were black (during WWII a lot of blacks came to work in the defense plants, at that time SM was a cheap place to live.)

  4. dorit,

    i’m not using personal anecdote, but documented facts. i am not saying that you are not telling the truth, i am saying my own personal history in la from the stories i heard from ethnic minorities is very different than what you expressed.

    i was not aware of sm’s diverse history, venice yes, but sm no and i am going to guess the minorities were probably isolated in one neighborhood.

    i have never met a black person who came of age in la in the 60s from sm, but that is just my experience. i would very much like to hear of that experience.


  5. and i would like to add i am referring to homeownership. something you build on and pass down to your kids. la would only let minorities buy in certain areas and there is a lot of levity in that, real estate for awhile was how you built wealth in la, those who were limited in where they could live and but had a limit put on their earning potential and child’s future.

    which is why it was much easier for working class whites to become middle class than it was for everyone else.

  6. Didn’t Santa Monica have it’s own clika? I remember when there was still a Mexican neighborhood in Santa Monica, a long time ago when working class people could own a home near the beach. It’s crazy how California coastal cities have become so thoroughly yuppified. I heard even Oxnard was experiencing gentrification. And it seems the trend has moved beyond the border, down the Baja coast. Last time I was there, I was shocked how many American retirees had snapped up beach front real estate. They even have their own newspaper, The Gringo Gazette.

  7. Chimatli

    Santa Monica does have a clika SM13 was one of them but they have been pushed out for the most part or a lot of them are in prison since it’s mostly an older generation there might be a sprinkle here and there but it is not the same like the early to mid 90s.
    A Hispanic friend who lived there during that era said most of the gente got pushed out because of the sky rocketing rent prices they could not afford anymore, but that has been like that for a while now.

  8. I think that there are some individuals out there who deep down, secretly wish they could reconfigure L.A. so that they could live their fantasy of having as few minorities and poor people in their line of vision as possible. (Except in the kitchens and parking lots). they’d never admit to it publicly, but it’s got to be a fantasy to some. Drawing an pseudo Eastern border at Echo Park-Silver Lake, might be a subliminal manifestation of that.

  9. “Drawing an pseudo Eastern border at Echo Park-Silver Lake, might be a subliminal manifestation of that.” sodomite.

    I think that maybe the key. If Hollywood is the Eastside and Santa Monica is the Westside and Culver City is downtown then no one outside of that area actually exists (of course they view people in the island of downtown as people, as long as they paid too much for a studio that the people in their country say is a loft. downtown LA is like Hawaii for people from the land of Hollywood and Silver Lake is the Eastside).

    It’s like a new country or something. It’s a way of saying, “This is the Eastside and the Westside of the people who matter just a little bit more.”

    It’s like reverse manifest destiny or something.


  10. And remember that now they’re building up Century City to be like a second Downtown? Recentralizing the city would suit those who’d love to feel urbanized without the getting their shoes dirty. It’s Designer Urban Living. I recall that post
    WW2, the USA did that to China. Taiwan was as far east as they recognized. It seems like a typical marginalization process. I guess if you can’t get away with putting people in the back of the bus anymore, the next best thing is to put their entire neighborhood there.

  11. I think the Vision is:
    Santa Monica is the Westside
    Century City is Downtown
    Silver Lake/Echo Park is the Eastside
    …and everywhere else is where the Maids live.

  12. Wow, that chic’s reasoning for calling Hollywood the Eastside is so persuasive:
    “and I have a more fluid definition of Eastside… this coming from a girl who has previously identified anything west of La Brea as Westside”
    Oh, okay.
    Well, she grew up in Florida and maybe she hasn’t had time to learn the history of the city or maybe she doesn’t care. I do wonder if she’d move to New York City and start being “fluid” with the neighborhoods there. “Let’s see, Upper Westside is now East Village!”
    Why do folks move here and think Los Angeles is some fantasy land that they can recreate at their whim? How is it that millions of other people that share the city with them don’t matter? As a fourth generation Angelina, it makes me kinda sad that the “blood, sweat and tears” of my Boyle Heights family heritage can be so easily dismissed.

  13. “Why do folks move here and think Los Angeles is some fantasy land that they can recreate at their whim? How is it that millions of other people that share the city with them don’t matter? As a fourth generation Angelina, it makes me kinda sad that the “blood, sweat and tears” of my Boyle Heights family heritage can be so easily dismissed.”

    CHIMATLI FTW!!!!!!

  14. from “Ask the Dust” by John Fante p.45-47, 1939

    “The old folk from Indiana and Iowa and Illinois, from Boston and Kansas City and Des Moines, they sold their homes and their stores, and they came here by train and by automobile to the land of sunshine, to die in the sun, with just enough money to live until the sun killed them, tore themselves out by the roots in their last days, deserted the smug prosperity of Kansas City and Chicago and Peoria to find a place in the sun. And when they got here they found that other and greater thieves had already taken possession, that even the sun belonged to the others; Smith and Jones and Parker, druggist, banker, baker, dust of Chicago and Cincinnati and Cleveland on their shoes, doomed to die in the sun, a few dollars in the bank, enough to subscribe to the Los Angeles Times, enough to keep alive the illusion that this was paradise, that their little papier-mache homes were castles. The uprooted ones, the empty sad folks, the old and young folks, the folks from back home. These were my countrymen, these were the new Californians. With their bright polo shirts and sunglasses, they were in paradise, they belonged.
    But down on Main Street, down on Towne and San Pedro, and for a mile on lower Fifth Street were the tens of thousands of others; they couldn’t afford sunglasses or a four-bit polo shirt and they hid in the alleys by day and slunk off to flop houses by night. A cop won’t pick you up for vagrancy in Los Angeles if you weear a fancy polo shirt and a pair of sunglasses… So get yourselves a polo shirt, and a pair of sunglasses, and white shoes, if you can. Be collegiate. It’ll get you anyway. After a while, after big doses of the Times and the Examiner, you too will whoop it up for the sunny south. You’ll eat hamburgers year after year and live in dusty, vermin-infested apartments and hotels, but every morning you’ll see the mighty sun, the eternal blue of the sky, and the streets will be full of sleek women you never will possess, and the hot semi-tropical nights will reek of romance you’ll never have, but you’ll still be in paradise, boys, in the land of sunshine…
    …I have seen them stagger out of their movie palaces and blink their empty eyes in the face of reality once more, and stagger home, to read the Times, to find out what’s going on in the world. I have vomited at their newspapers, read their literature, observed their customs, eaten their food, desired their women, gaped at their art. But I am poor, an my name ends with a soft vowel, and they hate me and my father, and my father’s father, and they would have my blood and put me down…

  15. I grew up on the westside, in Venice, and (in the 1980’s and 1990’s) just about every kid in school was Mexican, either a paisa or a multi-generation Chicano/a.

    Every other kid was black (from Oakwood) or mixed, like me, and there were a few scrappy working class white kids mixed in there too.

    After living in North East L.A. for most of my adult life, it is pretty annoying to explain to people where downtown is in relation to the L.A. River (a river most of them don’t even know exists).

    Don’t worry though, those suburban louts will get theirs. Gas prices have dipped a little bit, but they’ll bounce right back up again in the fall and winter. The “westside” will look a lot less prosperous without all the cheap labor and goods that get imported into it from the rest of L.A.

  16. The line is the river. It’s Eastside, as in to the “East of Downtown.” Not “East of anywhere I feel safe in my Prius.”

  17. segregation in l.a. is defacto, and it existed from the 40s into the 60s. the repercussions are huge because that was also a time of explosive growth in l.a.

    before 1950, it was enforced by CCRs or contracts covenants and restrictions, on who could rent where, and who could buy land. this stuff was outlawed. during the 50s, developments still discriminated against some groups. in the 60s, there was more mixing allowed, but communities tended to develop in a segregated way, due, I suspect, to inertia and police support.

    also, white flight was enabled by suburbanization, and fueled by access to loans. many POCs didn’t qualify for the kind of credit white folks got.

    one thing the black conservatives like tony brown have right, is that access to capital is crucial to a community’s progress. access to capital means access to banking and credit, to public services (tax money), to land (to own land), and all that these things imply. that’s why early communists agreed – they called for “land and freedom” for peasants, to escape the burden of serfdom.

    see my link for a recent article about CCRs.

  18. I was born and raised in LA (Elay). When I hear the word eastside I automatically think of the LA river and the bridge. You cross the bridge…you’re on the eastside of LA. BUT in South Central we call anything between Washington Blvd and Main St. “the eastside.” The “eastside” of South Central. That is where non-natives get confused. Those that say a label is just a label most likely (i’d put money on it) don’t have a strong emotional connection to their neighborhood. Which is probably why it’s so easy for them to move into our city and try to rearrange and rename our neighborhoods.

    Example: According to the city of Los Angeles the name “South Central” had a bad rep, so they erased us of the map and renamed us (Not lol). Now I live in “South LA” and a plaque says my house is in “Menlo Park.” But I still say “on the eastside of south central.” And no one gets lost because even if we’re not on a map people from eLay don’t need maps anyway…

    My points: 1)The eastside doesn’t mean “any city east of wherever you’re at.” If you didn’t pass the river you’re not on the eastside. 2)You can call Hollywood, silverlake, and any other part of the city “the eastside”, but no one will know what you’re talking about. 3)”The eastside” & “South Central” & all other neighborhoods don’t have to be on a map and everyone still knows exactly where we’re at. And we’re not anywhere close to Hollywood lol.

  19. “segregation in l.a. is defacto, and it existed from the 40s into the 60s. the repercussions are huge because that was also a time of explosive growth in l.a.”


    Exactly. I don’t like this revisionist history of LA. Things in LA were bad, it wasn’t some happy little integrated world. We can look at it right now and tell if everything was so diverse and integrated then what’s going on now.

    Why when in social and work setting is everything still VERY segregated, if it was diverse and happy in the 60s, 70s and 80s, then what happened?

    I was sitting at Pete’s Cafe in downtown LA, which is a great place. I love it there, the food, the people, the servers, but I went in there and I was the only person of color in there not serving people. It’s not always like that, but at 3pm on this particular weekday it was.

    How is that possible for even five minutes in this so-called diverse place that it would be like that anywhere for even one second.

    What happened is that it’s not true.

    LA has serious issues in regards to race and class, from the internment of Japanese Americans to the CCRs on all people of color.


    “In Los Angeles Investment Company v. Gary, the appellant argued that the California Supreme Court should uphold his racially restrictive covenant, which prevented a black family from moving into a white neighborhood. The appellant conveyed his lot to a third party with a deed provision stating that the third party could not sell, lease, or rent to anyone other than whites. However, the appellee, an African-American family, argued that the racial covenant restricted alienation and should be considered void. The family argued that the general long-standing rule regarding prohibition of alienation was based upon the public policy preference to eliminate impediments to the alienability of land.

    The Gary court claimed to have understood the concept that restraints on alienation are void. Nevertheless, the court upheld the legitimacy of the racially restrictive covenant by sidestepping the traditional doctrine against restrictions on alienation.”

    This isn’t some things that people who are “bitter” are just pulling out their ass. Of course we need to move forward, but people shouldn’t try to act like these things didn’t happen or a certain mindset didn’t exist. Because they did happen and these mindsets still exist.

    I remember when I was apartment hunting as a college student in Los Angeles in the late 90s and people didn’t open the door. In the West Hollywood, West LA and Brentwood area people wouldn’t open the door for me. They would talk to me on the phone and be completely friendly, but when I got there—I wished I sounded more like what people think an ethnic person sounds like on the phone, I could have saved years of wasted time—

    People were always like you should sue, but you know I really don’t have time to sue people every time something happens. I would get nothing done. And things happen all the freakin’ time.

    I still get nervous looking for places to stay. I’ve never felt that it was ok if I saw a for rent sign to just go up and talk to the person without calling first and explaining that I have money and no kids and I’m a good tenant.

    I would even offer to pay three months in advance upfront just so I wouldn’t have to go through that once over look.

    This seriously bothers me, but if you need a place to say you just have to suck up.

    You have to live somewhere, preferably close to where you do things like go to school and work and buy things, so I just can’t imagine what it was like to be a person of color, poor, from the south or another country in the 1960s.


  20. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/h?ammem/gmd:@field(NUMBER+@band(g4364l+ct001800))


    It makes me very happy to see others defending the traditional boundaries of our City. For too long these transplants have dictated and rearranged the traditional boundaires, regions and names of our communities with no regard to those of us who have lived here for generations. It’s about time they hear our voices telling them in unison, “You’re WRONG!”. As a third generation Chicano from the “real” Eastside (Boyle Heights) it really annoys me when these jokers from other parts of the Country try to dictate to me what side of the City I live in or which side of the City is which. Especially when they are dead wrong! So thanks again for all of you who have come out to support the “real” Eastside and to show these transplants that they don’t have a monopoly on Blogs! (Please click the links I pasted at the top I hope you enjoy them). Robert90033

  21. Chimatli,

    Yes. Santa Monica did have its own clika. During the
    90’s it was SM17st. As coastal real estate began to rise, many apartment owners wanted section 8 and low income families to relocate. The major set back was rent control. Then, in ’94 the major earthquake rocked LA, including the coastline.

    The earthquake was able to achieve what landlords tried to do for many years – move out the low income renters.
    I remember driving through SM shortly after the EQ and seeing the rubbles of numerous storefronts and apartments. A couple years later, this gave way for all the new tenants to move into the rebuilt or remodeled units, paying double the rent of course.

    During the early 90’s, a strange thing began to happen in the neighboring community of Venice. Once, a peaceful community of white, Black, and Latinos gave way to a violent racial gang feud. Numerous adults and children lost their lives. Even innocent school kids became victims of mistaken identity (remember the two boys sitting in a car in front of Venice High, that got murked?)The activists in the community believed that there had to be more to what people were seeing on the surface. With a little research, they discovered a major gentrification plan was in the works.

    It seems that its an ongoing struggle of claiming one’s own community. Labels are not superficial – it’s one’s name. And with their name, follows their history.

  22. By the way, the new monthly magazine that LA City Beat started up is called, “New Angeles.” A publication they state is dedicated to the “New Eastside.”

    The only problem is – the magazine covers Echo Park and the Silverlake area.

    Check it.


  23. Yes, it’s the “eastside” from “their perspective and their convenience” with little regard to regional accuracy. And their perspective is the far westside with Century City, Westwood, Brentwood and even the City of Santa Monica as it’s heart. Everything east of that is the eastside to them, and they will say it, shout it and scream it in their magazines, newspapers and other forms of media that they control. Fortunately Native Angelenos are fighting back! = ) Robert90033

  24. Robert,
    Thank you for bringing to our attention that new “publication” of recycled crap (30% post-consumer, I’m sure). Now that Manifest Destiny has been fulfilled, they gotta look at what exists and turn it into what they want. This is new “Manifest Destiny.”

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