Will L.A.’s “Westsiders” Take the Train?

Posted on March 13, 2013 by

A few years ago, the Los Angeles Times solicited readers input in mapping the region’s neighborhoods.  Defining the so-called “Westside” became very contentious, particularly in determining the eastern border.  Some residents insisted that La Cienega was the dividing line, though the winner, by popular demand, was the “405.”

When I moved to Southern California in 1981, I had to accept that people here position themselves – by location and even class – in relation to the freeways.  And though I wanted to live near the coast with easy access to downtown, I couldn’t quite see myself as a “Westsider.”

Finally settling in the Mar Vista, Palms, Culver City cluster (CC is its own “municipality”), my ties to the neighborhood grew stronger when my kids went to the local schools and played at nearby parks and little league fields.  The parental connection made me feel more at home but – like many other areas in sprawling L.A. – my part of town was also developing its own pedestrian-friendly boutique business district.

Culver City’s hippified restaurant row followed this trend toward more intact and compact communities in suburban Southern California.  But neighborhood identity requires more than just a few well-placed coffee shops – and now there’s a new geographic designation in the making.

Just up the road at Venice and Robertson is a soon-to-open train station.  A bridge under construction across the eight lane boulevard will connect to Phase II of the Expo Line from downtown to Santa Monica.

Sure, it’s only “light rail” but it’s West L.A.’s first trolley since the Red Car shut down in 1950.

Having a local train station recalls for me the old BMT line through Bensonhurst which stopped every few minutes above 86th Street at Bay Parkway to deliver thousands of workers to and from “the city.”  In intensely compressed Brooklyn, New York’s subway system – sometimes elevated, sometimes subterranean – divided and defined the borough’s neighborhoods.

If you’ve lived in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco or anyplace in the states or abroad with big-time mass rail transit, you might – as you pass these new bridges or crossings – wonder whether Expo and the other L.A. Metro train lines have a real shot at attracting riders.

We won’t know this for a while.  In the meantime, enjoy the fact that West L.A. (or whatever it’s called) is getting a train.  It will give us at least one more way – besides which freeway ramp to get off – to describe where we live.

Comments (3)

 

  1. Eamon Davern says:

    Lou,
    Marlen and I and her two young daughters took the train from Culver City (on Venice) down down last weekend, for the first time, and it was great. We got off at Union Station, and ambled through Olvera street, before having lunch (pho) in China Town. On the way we were planning other day trips based on the other stations we passed on the way. All I can say is it’s about time

    Eamon

  2. Michael Chesler says:

    Historically the “westside” was any turf west of Central Avenue downtown. African Americans were barred from the “Westside” and could only live east of Central.
    In fact if you pick up any of the local Los Angeles Black newspapers and read the classified section for real estate and rentals you still will see addresses that many would not at all consider “west”..but they who were at one time redlined, still do.

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