Westlake, Los Angeles facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
Neighborhood of Los Angeles
Alvarado and Sixth Street intersection, 2006
Westlake, as delineated by the Los Angeles Times
Westlake is a residential and commercial neighborhood in Central Los Angeles, California. It was developed in the 1920s, but many of its elegant mansions have been turned into apartments, and many new multiple-occupancy buildings have been constructed.
Westlake is a high-density area, with a young and heavily Latino population. It has a score of primary and secondary schools.
The 2000 U.S. census counted 108,839 residents in the 2.72-square-mile neighborhood—an average of 38,214 people per square mile, the second-highest density of any community in Los Angeles County, after Koreatown. In 2008 the city estimated that the population had increased to 117,756. It was estimated in 1993 that 85,000 people lived within a mile of the Alvarado/MacArthur Park Red Line station and that the density of this neighborhood rivaled that of Manhattan in New York City. Another report the same year said that at 147 people per acre Westlake had four times the average density of Manhattan and that "The vast majority of units are occupied by more than one family. Firefighters often find babies sleeping in dresser drawers, and children in closets that serve as their bedrooms." Nevertheless, census takers found that the average household size of three people was about the same as the rest of the city. Renters occupied 94.9% of the housing units, and house or apartment owners just 5.1%
Heavily Latino, Westlake was considered "not especially diverse" ethnically. The breakdown was Latinos, 73.4%; Asians, 16.5%; whites, 4.5%; blacks, 3.9%, and others, 1.7%. Mexico (36.8%) and El Salvador (17.2%) were the most common places of birth for the 67.6% of the residents who were born abroad, a figure that was considered high compared to the city as a whole. The median age for residents was 27, considered young for both the city and the county.
The median household income in 2008 dollars was $26,757, a low figure for Los Angeles, and a high percentage of households earned $20,000 or less.
The percentages of never-married men and women, 47% and 36.4%, respectively, were among the county's highest. The 2000 census found 5,325 families headed by single parents, a high rate for both the city and the county. There were 2,591 military veterans in 2000, or 3.5%, a low figure for Los Angeles.
These were the ten neighborhoods or cities in Los Angeles County with the highest population densities, according to the 2000 census, with the population per square mile:
- Koreatown, Los Angeles, 42,611
- Westlake, Los Angeles, 38,214
- East Hollywood, Los Angeles, 31,095
- Pico-Union, Los Angeles, 25,352
- Maywood, California, 23,638
- Harvard Heights, Los Angeles, 23,473
- Hollywood, Los Angeles, 22,193
- Walnut Park, California, 22,028
- Palms, Los Angeles, 21,870
- Adams-Normandie, Los Angeles, 21,848
Westlake is flanked by Silver Lake to the north, Echo Park to the northeast and east, Downtown to the southeast, Pico-Union to the south and southwest and Koreatown to the west. Westlake touches East Hollywood on the northwest.
The street boundaries on Mapping L.A. are the Hollywood Freeway on the north, Glendale Boulevard and Second Street on the east, Beaudry Avenue and the Harbor Freeway on the southeast, West Olympic Boulevard on the southeast and south, Westmoreland Avenue, Wilshire Place and Virgil Avenue on the west, and Temple Street and Hoover Street on the northwest.
The boundaries of the Westlake Community Plan of Los Angeles City are Temple Street on the northeast, the Harbor Freeway on the southeast, the Santa Monica Freeway on the south, Washington Boulevard on the southwest and an irregular line that includes Hoover Street on the west.
Relation of Westlake to other communities:
|East Hollywood||Silver Lake||Echo Park|
In 1887, Westlake was referred to as the "southwest quarter" of Los Angeles. The Westlake hills were already "dotted with fine residences, and it is plainly to be seen that the development of this quarter is in its infancy. The Bonnie Brae, Westlake Park and other tracts in the neighborhood have been almost wholly disposed of by the subdividers, and many of the lots have passed into second and third hands, at advancing prices. The Baptist College, now well under way, looms up to the northward."
The neighborhood was named for Westlake Park, the land for which had been donated by Henricus Wallace Westlake, a Canadian physician who moved to Los Angeles around 1888. He built his house on Burlington Avenue in the district that later bore his name; the residence was the first to rise in the rolling hills west of the more settled and built-up part of the town.
One of the first areas of Los Angeles west of Figueroa Street to see residential development, Westlake came to have a significant Jewish population). Wealthy businessmen commuted to downtown, Wilshire Center (now Koreatown), Hollywood, and the Miracle Mile from the district's Spanish Revival and Art Deco mansions. Around the 1940s the district's northwestern blocks fringed the home of Los Angeles' early working class Filipino population who were shifted from what is today Little Tokyo and Bunker Hill, some of which remain in parts of Westlake and nearby neighborhoods like Echo Park, Silver Lake, and East Hollywood.
In 1899 newly drilled oil wells in the area, with their unsightly derricks, were said to cause pollution and runoff in the streets "at every hard rain," and residents of the neighborhood were "indignant that nothing was done for their relief." The city had declared a 1,600-foot zone around Westlake Park where drilling was forbidden (later modified to 1,000 feet), but the legality of that ordinance was under attack by oilmen such as W.E. de Groot. Even City Attorney Walter F. Haas thought the law was invalid, although he had to defend it as part of his duty. Nevertheless, a Superior Court judge, in the case of People v. Richard Green and others, held the city law to be valid. By 1900, however, it was found that oil production in Westlake had been, in effect, "pumped dry," and the situation ceased to make news.
Proposed factory district
Residents were alarmed in May 1919 by a petition being circulated by entrepreneur Arthur Evans to build a "high-class," six-story building on the southwest corner of Westlake Avenue and Orange Street "for the manufacture of women's apparel."
Supposedly having the backing of 85% of property owners adjoining the site in the affected Lazard tract, the promoters said they wanted to build in the Lakewood District because they could not get the kind of women workers they sought if they built in the city's industrial district, with its associated smoke and dust. They promised the employment of 1,000 workers, mostly women, as well as a school to teach "the finer grades of needlework" and a permanent exhibition space devoted to showing how garments are made. A "mammoth petition of protest" was presented to a City Council committee on June 12 by a throng of opponents and the applicant, identified and the Brownstein-Lewis Company, withdrew the plan and never resubmitted it.
- Hotel, 1901. A five-story hotel was planned for the southeastern corner of Sixth and Alvarado, across from Westlake Park, with John Parkinson as the architect. There were to be 300 guest rooms, as well as "public and private dining-rooms, kitchen, ladies' billiard room, office, ball-room and the many business accessories of a first-class tourist hotel."
- Hotel, 1902. Ground was broken at Sixth and San Joaquin (today's Lake Street) for a four-story hotel with Mission architecture designed by A.L. Haley and George Black on the northwest corner, opposite the park. "The house will be so arranged that all guests' rooms will be outside, and it will have hydraulic elevators, a ballroom with stage, and the usual billiard-rooms, bathrooms, dining-rooms, kitchens and servants' quarters. For the latter there will also be provided a separate, detached building that will contain forty-eight rooms."
- Apartment building, 1915. A seven-story structure at Sixth and Lake was designed by John Parkinson for owner James H. Edmonds and featured a ladies' parlor, a billiard and card room and a 40-by-70-foot ballroom. There were 32 four-room and eight three-room suites. "All bedrooms will be arranged for open beds instead of the customary wall beds. . . . A refrigeration system designed to cool all the ice boxes in the various apartments from a central plant in the basement will be a feature." It later became the Hotel Ansonia.
- Hotel Californian, 1925. The spacious hotel on the northwest corner of Sixth and Bonnie Brae, with its "baths and showers, double closets and radio communications," was opened with elaborate entertainment and ceremonies on April 1. "A novel arrangements of doors can operate to divide the building into quarters, as an extra precaution against fires. . . . The main lobby itself is done in antique wood effect, polychromed and picked in with dulled-off primary colors, and carefully highlighted with gold leaf. The fixture are hand-wrought ornamental iron, while beautiful tapestries and pictures on the walls add the finishing touches." The hotel was destroyed by fire in 1961 (see Notable fires, below).
- Hotel Arcady and Wilshire Royale, 1927. The 12-story hotel was launched in January 1927 on the northeast corner of Wilshire and Rampart boulevards at a cost of $2.25 million, of which bonds of $1.325 million were purchased by S.W. Strauss and Company. Designed by architects Walter & Elsen, the building, constructed for Olive Phillips, housed two- to four-room suites. The completed hotel was to be operated by Fletcher & Lilly, who were already running the nearby Gaylord Apartments. In 1953 the hotel was bought by Fifield Manor, a nonprofit corporation, to become a senior residence. Mrs. Helen Ramsay Fifield was listed as the president. The name of the 193-unit Beaux-Arts building was changed to Wilshire Royale, and it was purchased in 2015 by MWest Holdings for $32.5 million in 2015.
- Apartment project, 2010. The MacArthur Park Metro Apartments, a $45 million joint venture between Metro and the Los Angeles Housing Partnership, among others. broke ground. It was to include affordable-housing units and some 30,000 square feet of retail space.
- Masonic Lodge, 1914. Oliver F. Dennis and Henry Harwood Hewitt were the architects for a $30,000 building erected on the southwest corner of Eighth and Burlington by the Westlake Masonic Association, with the ground floor given over to space for seven or eight retail shops and the second floor for the lodge headquarters, lodge hall finished in Philippine mahogany and banquet hall finished in white enamel.
- Elks Lodge, 1924. Plans for a magnificent, $1.5 million. seven-story Elks Lodge on the southwest corner of Sixth and Park View streets, with an entrance on Carondelet Street, were announced in March 1924. It was to consist of a lodge room with seating capacity for 1,500 people, a ballroom with a stage area for presentations and a gymnasium. On the fourth floor were to be a grill, billiard and card rooms, seven private dining rooms, directors' rooms and a band and glee club hall. There were to be 175 hotel rooms, and in the basement were planned six bowling alleys and a swimming pool. There was a 350-car garage with ten handball courts on the roof. Two roof gardens were planned. Architects were Curlett & Beelman. The structure was sold by the Elks and is now the Park Plaza Hotel (Los Angeles) at 607 South Park View.
Economy and lifestyle
In its early years, Westlake was considered one of the most desirable residential areas in the city – "the new gathering place for the city's carriage trade," as one observer recalled in 1997. With time, though, as another put it, "The white gentry fled to Encino and Westwood, leaving their ghost buildings behind them."
In the 1980s the neighborhood was infused with refugees from Central American countries like El Salvador, where a civil war had displaced a million people. In time, young Salvadorans formed a gang called Mara Salvatrucha, meaning, roughly, Gang of the Salvadoran Guy; for short, it was labeled MS-13. In time, the gang had spread to 33 other states and five countries.
By 1990 Westlake had become a grim area.
Just 17 years later, though, crime had dropped and Westlake was on a road to gentrification. As rentals and property values in Downtown Los Angeles and nearby Koreatown rose, artists and other creative people moved into Westlake. "Swanky nightclubs, organic tamale co-ops and art galleries" followed. The change was traced to intensive anti-crime and cleanup efforts in MacArthur Park, particularly since the installation of surveillance cameras in 2004. A business improvement district was formed.
In January 2012, the city launched a campaign under a new city ordinance dealing with illegal street vendors throughout Los Angeles, but with principal effect in Westlake and the Venice neighborhood. The ordinance outlawed the sale of items with "utilitarian value," like socks and T-shirts but allowed vendors to sell art objects. A city-sponsored weekend market was set up, which required vendors to undergo training and licensing.
|“||Everyone knows the area suffers from overcrowded housing conditions and absentee landlords.||”|
—Roberto Lovato, executive director of the Central American Refugee Center, who paid a visit to the temporary shelter for Burlington Avenue fire victims (below)
Substandard housing has been a problem in Westlake, and government has attempted to remedy the situation.
In 1990 a jury convicted a landlord of 23 counts of having slum conditions at a building he owned at 737 S. Westlake Ave. in Los Angeles. Devanand Sharma failed to provide tenants with heat, did not repair broken windows, fire doors and smoke detectors, and kept walls, ceilings and plumbing in a deteriorated condition. His brother was dubbed the city's "worst slumlord" after a 1987 conviction for slum conditions and had been a fugitive for two years.
In 1993, in the wake of a deadly fire on Burlington Avenue (see Notable fires, below), major reforms proposed to help avert similar tragedies had not been implemented, and serious fire safety violations persisted in the Westlake and Pico-Union areas. Plans for new fees, a fire-inspection task force and a computerized record-keeping system were stalled. But fire officials said that budget constraints and the city bureaucracy thwarted their plans. Nevertheless, in that year an appeals court said that a trial could go ahead against Highland Federal Bank, even though it was not an actual owner; it was accused of operating a network of slum buildings in Los Angeles, for one of which, the Cameo Hotel at 504 South Bonnie Brae Street in Westlake, the owner was listed as "Teluce Black," a Labrador retriever. That decision set a statewide precedent. Authorities alleged the bank knowingly helped finance purchases in Westlake, Echo Park, Hollywood, South-Central, Koreatown and Pico-Union by buyers who had no means and no intention of keeping the structures in repair. Slum conditions were cleaned up after the suit was filed, and, in a 1996 settlement, the bank agreed to pay $1.4 million to tenants, to the city and to public-interest attorneys.
In 1999 a judge sentenced another landlord to live in a room on the fifth floor of the man's six-story, 96-unit building at 744 S. Beacon Ave. The owner had to remain there from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. for 45 consecutive days. During the other hours he was allowed to supervise repairs to the building. The landlord had been found guilty of 12 code violations, including broken fire doors, fire escape drop-ladders that did not work, blocked fire-sprinkler controls, broken windows, broken and missing smoke detectors and exposed live electrical wiring. He had to pay $1,774 in fines and perform 100 hours of community service. Other legal action followed against other slum building owners.
Public transportation in Westlake was first proposed in 1887 by railroad entrepreneurs Herman Silver and J.F.Crank as a double-track street cable railroad with the western terminus at Seventh and Alvarado streets and the eastern at "the proposed union depot of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company near the western extremity of the First Street Bridge," later amended to continue the road along First Street to Aliso Avenue and Chicago Street. In return for the franchise, the two men offered to donate $10,000 to the city. The railway ran to the southeastern corner of Westlake Park. There is now a Westlake/MacArthur Park station of the Los Angeles County Metro Rail System whose entrance is across Alvarado Street from MacArthur Park.
Existing historic places
Built as residences
- 757-767 Garland Avenue. Queen Anne mansion for executive Charles C.L. Leslie
- 826 South Coronado Street residence
- David J. Witmer Family Houses and Compound,1422 West Second Street and 208-2101⁄2 Witmer Street
- Frederick Mitchell Mooers House, 818 South Bonnie Brae Street, named for its owner, who discovered the Yellow Aster gold mine after years of prospecting in the Mojave Deser
- Grieri-Musser House, 403 S. Bonnie Brae Street.
- Lewis House, 1425 Miramar Street, is a Queen Anne-style Victorian built in 1889 and attributed to Joseph Cather Newsom.
- Mary Andrews Clark Memorial Home, 306-336 South Loma Drive, is a large French colonial chateau-style structure built in 1913 as a YWCA home for young working women. In 1987 it was damaged by an earthquake and was sold. In October 1995 it was reopened with 152 bachelor units as a home to single, low-income workers. Each floor has a communal kitchen and lounge, and shower enclosures were built into the hallways because most of the rooms have only half-baths.
- Susana Machado Bernard House and Barn, 845 Lake Street
- Alvarado Theatre, located on Alvarado at 7th Street, was built during the silent era. It became the Park Theatre in the 1960s and showed gay films. The building is now a swap meet.
- Belmont Tunnel / Toluca Substation and Yard, 1304 West Second Street
- Elks Lodge No. 99 / Park Plaza Hotel, West 6th Street at Park View Street. Done in a Neo Gothic style, the building still sports a brass sculpture of a set of elk antlers embedded in the clock above the entry. The Elks sold the building because of shrinking attendance, and it is now a luxury hotel.
- Felipe de Neve Branch Library, 2820 West Sixth Street
- Filipino Christian Church, 301 North Union Avenue
- First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, 540 South Commonwealth Avenue. Designed by Allison & Allison, built of reinforced concrete in 1932. Church founded 1867, oldest Protestant congregation in Los Angeles
- Hayworth Theatre, 2501-9 Wilshire Boulevard. Designed in the 1920s by Stiles O. Clements, this theater was designated a historical cultural monument in 1983. It was used by the Vagabond Theatre for 10 years ending in 1985.
- Lake Theatre, located on 7th Street across from the park, was a movie theatre from the silent era until the 1970s. The building is now a phone store.
- MacArthur Park. Land acquired on January 6, 1886. Lake enlarged in 1890 and bandstand erected in 1896. Renamed MacArthur Park from Westlake Park in 1942.
- Mother Trust Superet Center, 2506-2522 W. Third Street
- Park Wilshire Building, 2424 Wilshire Boulevard. Built in 1923, designed by Clarence H. Russell and Norman W. Alpaugh.
- Westlake Theatre, 634 South Alvarado Street
- Wilshire-Westlake Professional Building, 2001-2015 Wilshire Blvd.; 639 S. Westlake Avenue
- Young's Market Company Building, 1610 West 7th Street, built in the 1920s as a market and office building, with marble columns and terra cotta frieze; converted into lofts
- The Mexican fast-food chain El Pollo Loco opened its first restaurant in the United States in Westlake.
- Langer's Delicatessen was an "iconic presence" on the southeast corner of 7th and Alvarado streets, which intersection was in 2008 officially named "Langer's Square" by the city. The Jewish deli was founded by Al Langer in 1947 when the neighborhood had a large number of Jewish residents.
- Original Tommy's was opened on May 15, 1946, by Tom Koulax, the son of Greek immigrants, on the northeast corner of Beverly and Rampart boulevards.
- Ruth St. Denis and her husband, Ted Shawn, opened their dance studio, Denishawn, in 1915 at Sixth Street and St. Paul Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles but moved in 1917 to a building fronting Westlake Park. The structure had been vacated by the Westlake School for Girls, which had been founded in the Westlake neighborhood in 1904. The school moved to Holmby Hills in 1927.
- The Westlake Theatre was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. Opened in 1926, the theater had seating for 1,949 patrons and was used for both motion pictures and vaudeville shows. It is now used as a swap meet and is being renovated.
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