Before the year 2000, what was considered the "Eastside" of Los Angeles?
July 10, 2019 11:42 AM   Subscribe

During the 20 years that I've known Los Angeles, it has become steadily more common to call parts of LA west of downtown "the Eastside"--Silver Lake, Echo Park, Koreatown, Pico-Union, MacArthur Park, and so forth. (There's even a website about these neighborhoods called "The Eastsider.") I have always assumed this is a linguistic discontinuity related to gentrification, and without an understanding of the actual East LA, but am I wrong?

I would love, in particular, to hear from people who lived in LA before 2000 about what these neighborhoods were called by folks in those years. Some related questions:

* Did Westsiders specifically call everything east of Western "The Eastside?"

* Was there a distinction between "East LA," i.e east of the river, and "The Eastside" being neighborhoods west of the river? Or were both of these terms in use but referring synonymously to Boyle Heights, unincorporated East LA, and nearby cities, but not to the west of downtown neighborhoods?

* Or did "The Eastside" as a concept simply not exist until recently?

Disclosure: I've always been a bit peavish about "The Eastside" nomenclature, because East LA is actually a real place, east of the River, in the East addresses, and with an important cultural heritage that has nothing to do with these other neighborhoods. I tend to get the sense that "Eastside" is a reference that assumes that the Westside is the center of gravity and East LA more or less doesn't exist. (Now that it's gentrifying, perhaps Boyle Heights joins the ranks of "Eastside" neighborhoods to its west.)

But mainly just want to know when people started using "Eastside" as distinct from "East LA," or whether they are even distinct terms at all to people that use them both.
posted by kensington314 to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Anecdatum - I lived in Sliver Lake (north, near the river) from 74 to 83. Never heard it called Eastside.
posted by Glomar response at 11:44 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]

This LA Times article from 2014 pins this change to about mid-2000s and talks about some pushback to the usage.

I do think it's related to both gentrification and also ignorance of the history of the city from people who moved to the Silverlake area from outside LA.
posted by muddgirl at 12:11 PM on July 10 [4 favorites]

I've lived in that area for a long time (Silver Lake starting in '92) and can say pretty confidently that it wasn't called the Eastside until very very recently. Around the mid-'90s the hipsters of that era* started moving into Echo Park, Angelino Heights, Atwater, Frogtown, etc. but I still never heard it referred to as the Eastside.

I think it's a recent construct, like past 10 years?, created in part because there was some backlash from people not from the area starting to call the mega-neighborhood (now including Highland Park, Boyle Heights, Cypress Park, Glassell Park, El Sereno and the like) "East LA" when as you noted there already was an East LA. I had always heard that "Eastside" was a preferable alternative. I now hear Eastside as well as NELA.

I haven't heard K-Town, MacArthur Park and Pico-Union being lumped in with that group, but I'm not WeWe (west of Western - ha, that's about as real a thing as HaFoSaFo). I'm hearing that area referred to as Mid City.

I'd love to hear a Westsider's perspective.

*As an aside, I'll point out that Silver Lake was infiltrated/gentrified by young counterculture types in the '60s as well as the '90s. Not sure if Echo Park was. Current crop of kids seem to be way richer than previous eras, and lots from NY. Does this affect any of the above? I don't know.
posted by queensissy at 12:13 PM on July 10 [3 favorites]

I lived in Southern Cal between 1987 - 1994, in Highland Park, Hermosa Beach and Santa Monica, and I never knew of any East side - I'd think of Silver Lake, Echo Park and Koreatown as just being downtown, and East LA beyond that, somewhere south of Pasadena. But clearly your usage isn't new: Randy Newman wrote I Love LA in 1983:
From the South Bay to the Valley
From the West Side to the East Side
Everybody's very happy
'Cause the sun is shining all the time
Looks like another perfect day

I love L.A. (We Love It!)
posted by Rash at 12:15 PM on July 10

queensissy HaFoSaFo is deep insider stuff. Thanks you.
posted by kensington314 at 12:19 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]

Ha - thank you for linking that article, muddgirl. I actually know Al Guerrero and his wife Dorit. Totally misremembered that gripe - I thought they were okay with the "Eastside" distinction as opposed to East LA. Turns out I'm wrong.
posted by queensissy at 12:24 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]

If you consider that Westlake was called as such because it used to be the far west side of Los Angeles, a city that has drastically expanded westward is going to have confusing geographic naming.

Much like Northwestern not being in the northwest United States. Anymore.
posted by hwyengr at 12:45 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]

hwyengr - definitely! LA is renowned to have no center, and to be a place where people without prior context are constantly arriving. I'm just trying to ID the when and if of the specific question I have.
posted by kensington314 at 12:48 PM on July 10

Former "westsider" here (I lived in Culver City for about ten years until about 4 years ago, before that in Redondo Beach, and in the valley now.)

I haven't heard K-Town, MacArthur Park and Pico-Union being lumped in with that group, but I'm not WeWe (west of Western - ha, that's about as real a thing as HaFoSaFo). I'm hearing that area referred to as Mid City. This is what I hear too.

I attended USC's med school campus in East LA, so to me East LA was exactly that area, and then East LA plus Boyle Heights, El Sereno, Lincoln Heights was the Eastside. Everyone my age (cusp Gen X/millennial) used that convention, from what I can tell. I don't think my perspective was impacted by spending a large chunk of my 20s in East LA, because many of my friends who still lived on the Westside or Downtown had similar notions. That was about a decade ago, so sometime between then and now, the "Eastside" has expanded to include Silver Lake and Echo Park.
posted by Everydayville at 2:03 PM on July 10

This is common in Chicago where I grew up, and here in LA, and so I assume everywhere else where undervalued (from the perspective of gentrifiers) property is growing in appeal and value; realtors invent a new baggage-less term that sounds less like the well-known (undervalued) name and more like hyped-up properties in the area (e.g., eastside vs westside) or other areas (e.g., noho vs soho.)
posted by davejay at 2:26 PM on July 10

I heard Silverlake called the Eastside by native Angelinos (from the Westside) in 2002. These were people I worked with in downtown LA who also said "East LA" for East LA.
posted by pinochiette at 2:29 PM on July 10

Side note: I still appreciate the realtor who let me in on some of the things they do; she found out where I grew up, said essentially "we all just collectively bought a ton of housing and commercial property there, and over the next year we're going to make it a hot neighborhood, keep an eye out for newspaper articles that say this and that and the other" and sure enough within three months the articles started showing up, and now it is an expensive and hip neighborhood with lots of commercial amenities that didn't exist prior.
posted by davejay at 2:32 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]

I lived in the arts district downtown in the early 90’s, then Lincoln Heights until about 4 years ago. I don’t believe anyone ever used Eastside to self reference. (I can’t say what people west of the 110 called it. Their viewpoint of the area was different.)
posted by MountainDaisy at 2:52 PM on July 10

I was wondering this myself, having been a west side person for most of my life and recently relocating to Covina.

The usage I’ve been encountering seems to reserve East L.A. for East L.A.proper and some of the close-in incorporated cities extending to roughly Boyle heights, Montebello, Monterey Park.

Then “Eastside” is more nebulous, I’ve definitely heard it used to include Montecito, City Terrace, San Gabriel, etc. But maybe not as far as I am, which seems to be firmly “SGV.” I would agree that it crops up as much or more in promotional material or reporting than actual conversation.

And before “Eastside,” East L.A. if nothing else meant east of downtown.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:15 PM on July 10

I’ve lived in and around the LA area for about twenty years, most of it Santa Monica and Culver City.

I definitely distinguish between “east la” and “Eastside”; like snuffleupafus the latter is certainly more nebulous. Like “Westside”, really. I’ve heard the eastern boundary being anywhere from Lincoln to the 405 to various more eastern streets

I don’t think anyone would consider western the west side, ironically.
posted by flaterik at 8:43 PM on July 10

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