Random Flicks in the Flats

Me and “the flats” have along history together (btw, that foto is from flickr). I lived there in the PJs for several periods of my life and had familia who stayed there as well until they tore down the projects, after we left I still came around to cause trouble, make money and pick up on girls as a “weekend warrior”. When they tore down the largest collection of projects on the west coast in the late 90s/early 2000s, they squeezed much of the barrio into the smaller more run down neigborhood between the Pico Gardens and Aliso Village complexes, helped push the existing gangs into other neighborhoods (which never disappeared) and made a lot of people angry and bitter. I have mixed feelings about this because the area was pretty rough and a concentration of trouble is a bad recipe, but for christ’s sakes they didnt even replace the new complexes with a competent number of low income housing units, opting instead to section 8 folks away so that their cholito kids can start up clickas in other complexes around LA, real smart. I believe they tore down 600 units from Aliso village alone and replaced it with 400 units, half of which were market rate.

A bit of history and info on this area: It was always a pocket of poverty since the pueblo days of LA. it was the low land between Boyle Hts and the LA River, and attracted poor immigrants, mexicans blacks and indios as the land flooded a lot, originally even the poorest farmers let their animals graze in the location. I didnt know until recently, but the flats actually was sort of L shaped and extended to the area where the Estrada Courts (VNE) projects lie, all at the foot of the hill starting boyle hts and east of the LA River. This area was carved up big time when the freeways, and specifically the East LA interchange, were built in the 50s, but in my world the flats went from the hollywood freeway (top of the Alisos) to the lower end of the Pico Gardens projectos (under the whittier blvd bridge). I read that back in the day molokkan russians also had a strong presence in the area, and up until the racial beefs of the late 80s/ early 90s, the projects were the only ones in East LA with a large black community (which had implanted a strong love for LA’s black culture and population in me that is sadly not present in a lot of Latinos).

So anyways, I took some flicks when I was down there recently checking out the goldline. I rarely stop by and say hi to the folks I knew, as that was the “bad me” part of my life and most of my maintained contacts were involving illicit activities or gang drama, things I now avoid as a soccer mommy. Here is the tip of my picture trove iceburg, maybe one day I’ll pull out my childhood project pics (which my mom had thought she destroyed years back out of the embarassment of the fact that we lived there, thats a whole nother story and therapy session).

The good old 98 cent store, commerical anchor of the communityThe 98 cent store has been the commercial anchor of the community for quite some time. It is also the frontline between TMC and PFlats (that used to occupy the Aliso Village PJs and now are spread out all over). It’s sad how much corporate America avoids minority communities, despite the massive amount of consumer crap minorities buy.

The area, despite its lack of commercial amenities, has a good amount of liquor stores for its small size. That ensures access to lunches of chili fritos. The kids stay obese and sugar addicted, the men stay drunk, and the women are ensured diabetes, yay! BTW, fuck you whole foods/trader joe’s; go to the locations of these asswipe stores within radius of a minority enclave and you will find local barrio residents who are health conscious shopping there, I hope fresh and easy mops the floor with you! And while Im on the corporate apartheid tip, screw In N’ Out and all the asshat restaraunts that need to be given the red carpet treatment to enter “markets” that have plenty of spending capital and need for them yet still act as if brown folks cannot eat like white folks, B effen s.

The flatas area was once mainly a residential shantytown, but policymakers with no concern for their poorer residents allowed much of the area to be checkered with industrial uses. The northwest end of Aliso Village (or vista del sol or whatever the hell they call it now) always smelled like vinegary el pato sauce from the factory across mission, I would also bet that this is the location of the bulk of low income units in the new development sitting on Aliso Village’s grave. Beyond deteriorating the fabric and aesthetic quality of the community, rezoning industrial crap next to a large concentration of poor neighborhoods and low income housing creates “dead zones” for half of the day. The combination of lots of idle children and large swaths of dead zones where there is no supervision is not a good thing, and you dont need to be a child psychologist to figure that out. Im sure that had a lot to do with why the area once housed the most dense concentration of gangs in LA (and there are still a lot in this tiny area), as well as the fact that they plunked down the largest collection of decrepit dense projects on the west coast; I recall Primera Flats, Cuatro Flats (pico stoners), AVKillers, Al Capone, Clarence St., TMC, East Coast Crips, Aliso Brims (thats old skool) and East LA 13 all in an area smaller than USC’s campus. The bottom pic is where a residential clump is surrounded by industrial buildings. The top pic is of the alley I was first robbed in when I was around 11, my black eye sealed my (and my abuelo’s) notion that I would basically live at my grandparents house in the much nicer maravilla area, as long as we still lived in the PJs. I rarely had trouble riding my bike from my abuelo’s to play street fighter 2 at the store on mednik, or the long haul to food city on Garfield where the action got heavy.

This is the new LAUSD highschool that is located on the north side of 1st as well as the goldline construction that will eventually run down the middle of the street. I am glad they are putting in a needed highschool in the area, and the rail line will be a great addition. But much is left to be said about the still heavy handed way public institutions just plunk down things in poorer area with little regard for the locals (see the giant cosco-esque new hollenbeck police station for further evidence). That school took out the last remaining street fronting commercial buildings on 1st street’s north side, many of which were really old and had significant architectural value. There was also a small lot on gless where there was a local open air swapmeet, after they locked the gate folks kind of made due selling stuff on the street but the whole activity is now gone, another example of “screw you” planning in the barrio and its negative effects. The school would have been much better suited placed on the south side of 1st (the bottom pic) which is all industrial deadspace, was much closer to the community’s center, has little local cultural significance, and would not have obliterated the informal commercial hub of the area, but I digress. This kind of whining is what happens when smart kids from ELA get into urban planning.

The area is quite dense, as a stat nerd I always wondered the true population of the area when those below the official radar would be counted. At a meeting i had in South Gate I was told reading water usage rates is the best way to calculate the population of a community with a lot of undocumented folks, they said South Gate’s pop is officially a little under 110,000, but with the meter reading it is actually above 150,000; I can just imagine the jump in areas like this one or South LA.

A mural in the old Pico Gardens.

This last pic is the cherry on top. Notice the lime green crocs, a mullet that would make any girl swoon, black cords, and the whole “fresh out the chower” vibe that would any narco bust out lineas? Vato was too proud to let me get a straight up pic of him, so I snapped this one as they entered the partay. That’s enough of the flatas. Hope you enjoyed!

41 thoughts on “Random Flicks in the Flats

  1. I was driving by the El Pato factory the other day and it still smells like harsh vinegar and chiles, that can’t be good for you. That little swap meet was a great place to buy stuff, and they even had food vendors with proper tables.

  2. That was a really good post. I’ve never been to the area that you describe (I don’t live in LA), but your comments really helped me imagine it. I especially appreciated everything you said about the messed up development patterns—that made a lot of sense to me and mirrored things that have happened in many places that I’ve lived. Nice work.

    One thing, though: you castigate Whole Foods and Trader Joes for not opening up shop in the neighborhood but, in my view, those stores don’t do anyone any favors when they open a store. Sure, I’d rather shop at a Whole Foods than a beer-cigarette-lottery ticket place, but I don’t think that those are our only choices. And I also believe that big corporate chains like Whole Foods undermine locally owned, smaller shops and, with that, the health of the residents.

    I would like to see more ecologically oriented, community-based forms of development. I’m draw to things like the South Central Farms and environmentally sound, inexpensive transportation programs. There’s got to be a way to bring people together, reduce expenses, and improve health without putting more money in the hands of the big (albeit health-oriented) capitalists!

    Anyway, thanks very much for the great post.

    (By the way, I’ve got to say this: mullets friggin’ rule!!!)

  3. Yeah, that El Pato factory reeks! I always rush to roll up the windows as I roll by. It only gets worse when it gets warm as it is now.

  4. Thanks for sharing ….I took a pix of my friends one night in front of that virgen mary alter/mural after the cops raided some warehouse party thing down the st…at night the candles makes it look kind of eerie…

  5. great post but i’ll have to take exception to the whole foods/trader joes bashing. jeeez, these places aren’t home depot or wallmart fer crissakes. there are way worse corporate evils than than these two grocery stores, especially trader joes as it has cheaper milk/bread/cheese than any local grocery store in my lincoln heights neighborhood. vons, ralphs etc. are MUCH worse and i avoid them like the plague.

  6. My bashing was based on the fact that these guys refuse to set up shop in minority neighborhoods, no matter how strong the buying power. And in a perfect world a normal mom n pop store would offer those goods, but this is not a perfect world.

  7. i wish they would too. i hate driving to south pas just for groceries. sometimes trader joes will ask for your zip code when you buy something, i’ve been telling all my friends to say 90031. tj’s is asking so they can ascertain where people are driving from in order to find where they might open the next branch. the vons in lincoln heights is a piece of shit, i refuse to go in there.

  8. hey art, i would love to see the project pics from your childhood if you feel like posting them.

  9. also just to chime in on the grocery front. sadly fresh and easy, though it has claimed to go into underserved areas, has only so far gone into glassell park and compton, which are not of direst need, and otherwise are going into hollywood, manhattan beach, etc., places that are FULL of grocery stores. and the jobs aren’t very great jobs either compared to union grocers or tjs/whole foods. 20 hours a week and expensive health care, not many skills because it’s all automated.

    but yeah…i want them or someone selling decent choices to come into underserved areas…especially with gas the way it is and obesity rates the way they are. same for unit replacement of affordable units! what the hell?! let’s get some more freaking units!

  10. Great article! I currently live in the new modified location, Pico Aliso. Crime activities are still active in the block I live in (perhaps not at a higher density like before) and it will never disappear untill the root of the problem is fixed. That starts at home and all the components that link the community. Targeting the needs to the spychological/financial/social dynamic matters of these citizens could have been a nice make over and great investment 🙂 Anyway, I can go on and on.

    Once again, great job. It is nice to know the history behind the place I call home. I had no idea it was so severe back then and unfortunate that the previous problems attacked elsewhere.

  11. great article!!!
    i am also a av teen. lived the first 12 yrs of my life in the aliso village housing projects. they moved me into the new pico gardens units. when u were describing the old pjs it took me back through fun, crazy, and sad memories.. but in the end made me who i am today! my family has 3 generations of living in them. its crazy when we get together and and go through old pictures. i have a myspace if your ever intrested to check them out.

  12. What’s up Homies ??? Remember Blazin in the Archways ??? Slanging all night on 5th street ?? Remember Ms King ?? Drinking a gang of Fuckin Beer ?? We smoked so much bud it was Crazy !!! Best time of my life !! Remember runnin from the Black and Whites ?? As one of the few White Boys to come to the Projects, I learned lifes lessons !!!Every time I blaze I think of My Homies in the Flats !! peace !!!

    White Boy Bob

  13. Im india From East Side Primera Flats. Stuck over here in Las Vergas. Im tring to get ahold of some of my people. I just got out of prison, i did a two year rip for some bull shit and lost track of everone. orale pues i hope i here from someone, anyone.

  14. India girl i’m not to sure if this is even the one i use to know, or if you even remember me my sister is Droopy, cousin, morena, chuy,dimples,guera,greeneyes, and so on, girl if i name every on for get it, my kids dad is listo TMS ESPF well go to myspace and you will locate the whole neighbor hood, well keep your head up, oh ya and about the drinking and smoking, and running from 1 time, all through out the pjs crazy times ha well take care;;Tiny

  15. To all,

    I hope everyone is doing well. I was THE white guy (9 years old) in Aliso back in the 70’s, but everyone always treated me like one of your own. Although I did hide when the Mexican Mafia would come through the alley or the Brims would be shooting dice where I had to walk past them. Anyway take care.

  16. Im one of many black men that grew up in the hood,right by moons market!Born and raised..Had childhood friends like(Mikey.nelson,Lamar and so many more..I miss the hood but it lives in me….

  17. I enjoyed your pictures very much. I grew up in the projects. I attended Utah St. Elementary and I lived on Clarence St. and later on Utah St. I lived on the TMC side and enjoyed (very much) checking out the guys on their cool rides. Ahh the memories.


  19. I lived in the aliso village in the late 70’s right across the street fro the el pato is a matter of fact and to be honest with you, my time there is something I will never forget, attended sheridan elementary utah elementary and hollenbech junior high, and would like even more pics feels good to see some old roots.

  20. Thank you so much for your posting. I lived on Mission across the street from Color Graphic. It was a great trip down memory lane. I am 41yrs old and I talk about my childhood days there as if it were yesterday. All my memories are good ones. When I try and express how thankful I am for living there and being raised not just by my parents, but also by the neighbors, who by the way also had a say so on what you did or didnt do. They just don’t get it. Aliso Village will always be in my heart.

  21. I now live in San Diego and have a good carrer and feel so lucky I take nothing for granted, my son is in a private high school and i often here his friends say that their ghetto trying to act tough I assume, and All I can do is smile and think of those good old days in Aliso Village.

  22. I was born and raised in Pico Gardens; attended Dolores Mission and Second Street School etc., and did lots of swimming at Pecan pool. I loved the “Projects.” Today I live in Nevada and go each Thanksgiving to get together with family and old friends- those of us who survived. What a terrible yet beautiful time of life; the excitement of playing in the factories as a child and running at or from cops and rivals as a teenager. Lots of pain and lots of joy and only the innocence of the mind of a ghetto child could see the beauty of those surroundings. The archways, the factories the Sixth Street tunnel, Gless Street, Fourth Street bridge, the flat roofs, the Flats stored away in the depths of my heart.

  23. I grew up from the early 80’s all the way till dey kicked us out(late 90’s). First we lived on Kearney (next door 2 Bubba from EastCoastC), Then we moved to Paseo el Rio(in between PF and ALCP, our backs 2 ELAX13) i went to Utah, Hollenbeck, Ect. The Mural you have there was painted by me and the Homie Spade at the time when they where destroying the last buildings in our hood(late 90’s early 2G’s). I feel blessed to have been part of the history of Aliso Village growing up, we had a Good’Ol~Bad Time and we survived,….I remember Ms. King, Fuck That B!#*%H!! Remember The clock Store up the hill, next to the olympic donuts? better be trucha con tu carrucha aye,.. Remember the Foca (Seal) in front of the Housing offices? I Remember those crazy summer nights, slanging dope, drinking forty’s and smoking chocolateThai, Nights full of gun fights, MonteCarlo drive-byes, Sherm smoke, the ghetto bird, one-time!!one-time!!… I Loved going 2 da LA River, that’s where i learned to paint, and get away from the pigs, i miss those days……..Rest In Power 2 all da dead homies that didn’t leave that earth we shared, we love you and miss you forever together in spirit,..we moving forward with strenght!

  24. calabasa pa la Raza, Elote pal calote tortia pa maria que es la madre todo el mexicano. Que dios Los Vendiga

  25. I too grew up in the PJ’s. But moved out when the Pico Stoners got too deep into Cuatro and the gangs got larger in our small hood. Don’t forget we did have a good corner store that sold fruit and tortas on credit, lol. Even though I do hesitate to say I grew up in the projects I never regret telling people. My mother did manage to get rid of our old pics, so please post any pics. Thanks

  26. What a great read indeed.

    I didn’t grow up in the AV projects but I spent a few times there visiting old friends.Back in my “affiliated days” I Had fun times just hanging out and avoiding Housing Authority police.

    In one of your alley pictures you showed the back of my back then home. I lived on 1st and Gless St. Right across the street from Pecan R/C. I also worked there for a few years… Murillos was a frequent stop for me as well as Moon’s Market. When the AV projects were torn down and the new Del sol or sol del pueblo pads were built, I was one of the “so -called lucky ones” to get accepted to move in. But after hearing their strict guide lines and realizing that I would be moving from a dangerous and violent home to a confined home. I said chale. One guest per week? Not in my book.

    I still go to Pecan once in a while, I was really close to the kids and the parents..

  27. There’s lots of old school pics ofthe Aliso projects on the public Library website.

    Besides EL Pato stinkin up a storm, what about Country eggs?

  28. I was raised in tha projects ya life wasnt easy but it was down,,”mi vida loca” cuatro flats,la primera flats,alcapone,38th st., and a few pyroos and cripos, it was down rough life we had no choice it was either to kill or be killed ,,the survival of the fittest, we joined not cause we had to but because we loved it,,gang banging was the way for the down ass vatos and only punks couldnt handle it,,i wont regret and wont deny it,,the niteowls from cuatro flats nothing was able to take over us and still cant..

  29. art. i love the first shot. would i be able to download a hi res copy? would love to frame this!

  30. Gracias Art, I attended Dolores Mission in the mid-50’s and spent M-F with my abuelita who lived @ 4th/Gless.

  31. I agree with some of the things u say but taking someones picture and acuse them of been someone they are not is wrong that MAN with the green shoes is dedicated to his family and makes his leaving the right way! u see my house is in one of ur pictures i was born and race there and is not bad how u make it sound to this point i still leave there. I have accomplish so many thing i want in life even by been around neighboor hoods going at it back to back.

  32. Lived on Gless St in Pico Gardens from 1975 till 1995. Moved in from Highland park when I was 13 yr old. For the first ten years ,I hated the area. But now that was the best time in my life. I was not in a gang. I remember that the CF Clique were the Termite,then Tiny Duke, next the nite owls, then the PGs after that i moved out. I spend my summers jumping on trains and kicking it in the LA river. I lived on the first playground where the headstart school was located. I attended Hollenbeck for two year. I remember crossing Hollenbeck lake every morning to get to school. on the way home i would sometimes come the backway using the tunnel beneath the 6th street bridge. It was dangerous outside because you never knew what would breakout, but once inside your house you were fairly safe, In 20 yrs our house was never burglarized, eventhough we went to Mexico for about a month on several occasions. Well I still drive by once in a while, but its not the same.

  33. Just passing by this web and reading through some of the messages I realized why after my family moved out of Aliso around ’82 I kept going back to visit again and again. The people and the hard lessons of life……….. the people in Aliso, surviving with the minimal resources has enriched my life and made me the person I am today. Every morning at 4:00am on my way to work on the west 91 freeway as I pass the 71o I look north and see downtown. I speak to God and ask for his blessing and I remember all my adopted aliso brothers with whom I spent many days and nights walking the fine line between life and death.
    I laugh when I remenber the only way we could find out the time was to dial the phone, I can’t remenber the number was it 233-5252? “at the tone the time will be…..BEEP”

    Laugh about how we moved out for every year to fumigate las cucrachas, we always blamed the roach problems on our neighbors and then picking up the poison spray cans at the office to keep fighting the war against the roaches, we only kept this up for a while and the damn roaches won.

    Ice Cups, nothing like sitting under one of the dirt road patio (my favorite,under Chachis) and sharing an ice cup with my girfriend, now my wife estela. When we finished the ice cup and she had to be home it was time for the stairs, yea!!!!!!!!!!!.
    If you never lived and loved in these projects you have missed something special. God Bless all the people who lost loved ones because we actually loved this neighborhood but will never why.

  34. In the late 70’s after a party at Leonard’s house I was kicking back with Michelle and Tweedy bird (they were still to young to be boyfriend and girlfriend) as we were sitting outside on the kitchen stairs waiting for the sun to come up I smelled something that caught my senses. One of Leonard’s brother (I think it was Dumbo) had a small pan and some coke on the stove. It looked like white cookie dough.
    This was the first time I had seen crack and did not realized that this substance will end some friendships, cause my family to separate in different ways violently end many lives.
    When this drug took over we no longer stayed out at all night or until 11 pm when we ran in the apartment to see ‘The Benny Hill Show’ or we could no longer play football against, La Cuatro, The Crips and anyone who could come up and challenge us, East LA-13 mota had lost its team, they were to busy looking for the next hit.
    Our group evolved to a gang, this was not our intention but to my supriseI could not sit under my patio with my cousins anymore because my cousins were from a new group called The Mob Crew. My little cousins, brothers were fighting each other for control of the dirt road.
    Guys I had never met before were calling me their homeboy and made it a point that my brothers, cousins and little brothers of my friends were our enemies. Bullshit, about 50 of my friends and I got lucky and our families moved out, we walked away and let this new breed have their ignorant beliefs justify their lifestyle.
    The Crackheads now ran the neighborhood and our beautiful girlfriends were living under the Mission road/Freeway bridge, making cardboard cubicles from Peck and Hills to keep their activities private, “I’ll give it up or give u a quickie” they would offer me if bought them a five, I would deny the offer, AIDS epidemic was just starting, they didn’t know. Maybe they were to out of touch or didn’t care.
    The gangs moved out of ‘Aliso aka Bedrock’ the land of your butt crack for some crack baby………. because it got to hot.

    All of them claimed to be the biggest, baddest, toughest gang in the hood. Not true the biggest baddest group that came out Aliso are the ones who made it out and now have conversations with their family and friends and can laugh and cry without any remorse.

  35. Love your story about the roaches and the fumigation, every yeear same drill take all your dishes down and cover everything,

    I can remember once this chanate stuck a knife to my throat and took my shoes in the stairwells that where at the ends of the three story project buildings. I guess if it would have been meant for me to bite the bullet it would of happend there, instead I’m writting all about it.

  36. THOUGH I WALKED THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH, I FEARD NO EVIL…Aliso Village/Pico Gardens. The baddest projects on the east side of los, thats why they got tore down, l.a.p.d. couldnt handle us, untouchable, lawlessnes, a straight war zone, you had to be one bad muther to survive the big AVG’s. As for the El Pato factory, that scent brings back memories of a war zone, scoping out the the l.a.p.d. hellicopters from the roof tops right in front of the factory on mission str. getting friod out on the stairs, dodging the housing units, having meetings at the circle by the dumpsters, partying 30 deep under the patios, walking from prospect park, pass the clock & down the middle of 1str. 50 deep, flats partys 75 – 150 deep… Well im a christian now and as much as I loved the hood & all the memories I gotta put it all behind me. I keep all my homeboys, especialy the residence troughout ALISO-PICO that put up with the nonsens and my enemys in prayer. Thank God almighty we survived, and those that didnt, may God have had mercy on your souls, the legends lives on…. And to all you new booty’s or any one that are still trying to claim the fame, give it up, gang banging is dead, its played out, cholos dont exsist. You cant bust a real mission all tweeked out anyways. Be smart, serve God while you still have a chance. To all the og EC 1streeters, much love, an ese hates to admit it but you fools are a big part of the AV history. I couldnt continue to serve the Lord with forgiveness. And with that said FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTEN SON & WHO SO EVER SHALL BELIEVE IN HIM WILL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE. AMEN. (taking prayer requests) sicghost@gmail.com

  37. I’m looking for a Mary aka Dimples from Primera Flats (back in the 70’s) she has a son named Raymond who might be related to me. If anyone knows her or her son please have her contact.

    Stina Marie

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