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A People's Guide to Los Angeles

Read the Introduction

Chapter One

North Los Angeles

An Introduction to North Los Angeles

For hundreds of years the region we will call North L.A. in this book has been the historic core of Los Angeles. When the Tongva, the local indigenous people, dominated the region, one of their largest settlements was Yang-Na (near the current L.A. City Hall). Spanish and Mexican settlers also concentrated nearby, at the plaza. In the U.S. period, the central business district and political infrastructure, too, developed in this area. Starting in the 1900s, however, following the rail, Los Angeles grew in a leapfrog fashion, with multiple urban centers spread across the landscape. Since then, many observers have claimed that L.A. has no "real" downtown. This claim, however, is untrue. This part of the metropolis continues to be crucially important in structuring relationships of power and inequality that affect life not only here but also across the entire Los Angeles metropolitan area and beyond.

The linked processes of urban development, displacement, and resistance have fundamentally shaped life and landscape in North L.A. These dynamics began when Yang-Na was sold to a German investor who evicted the native residents. During the twentieth century, city leaders and capitalists consistently tried to lure people and investors downtown through a range of cultural, political, and economic inducements. Often they used eminent domain and other techniques to eradicate "blighted" areas (and their inhabitants), thereby making way for development projects. Episodes of displacement include the eviction of Chinese residents from Chinatown in the early 1930s to accommodate Union Station; the forced evacuation of Japanese Americans from Little Tokyo during World War II; the eviction of Mexican residents from Chavez Ravine in the early 1950s to acquire land for public housing that was never constructed, land on which Dodger Stadium was later built; and the complete destruction of Bunker Hill, beginning in the 1950s and continuing in the present (thus constituting the longest redevelopment project in L.A. history), to make way for upscale office buildings as well as a music and performance complex intended, according to city boosters, to turn Los Angeles into a "world class city."

Nowadays, it is in North L.A. that the most concrete efforts to reinvent the central city as an engine of growth, an investment opportunity, and a playground for the rich and upwardly mobile are occurring; all of these processes are part of a neoliberal economic regime that rests on largely unregulated (and therefore often exploitative) private market forces to generate urban growth and provide services. The development projects that have been changing the southern edge of downtown in recent years-for example, the Staples Center, the L.A. Live entertainment complex, and countless loft apartments-continue the linked trends of urban development and displacement into the twenty-first century. Although the area is experiencing higher and higher densities, there is less and less space for the poor and working class, who struggle to make a life amid the visions and decisions of the metropolis's political and social elite. These conflicts are apparent in the area's contemporary landscapes. Here are the governmental buildings and informal social settings where political and economic leaders plan the region's future. The sleek, postmodern skyscrapers where they work cast a shadow on tenement buildings owned by absentee landlords who refuse to make repairs while anxiously awaiting the condemnation of their properties for urban redevelopment. Garment factories-cum-sweatshops, which constitute a major part of L.A.'s manufacturing economy, are clustered in downtown industrial buildings, discreet except for the telltale clatter of sewing machines emanating from small windows. Skid Row and Pershing Square, two (forced) gathering places of the homeless, are also in this area.

Yet the tradition of resistance to displacement and exploitation is as strong and old in this part of the city as the history of urban development. This region's neighborhoods have long been a cultural and political crossroads, where people from different backgrounds have converged, shared, and created new ideas and movements. Some of the region's most vital and groundbreaking progressive social movements were formed in North L.A.'s neighborhoods, often led by immigrants and oriented to the needs and demands of the working class and poor. Among other things, a revitalized labor movement, led by Justice for Janitors and the former Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, has demanded workers' right to unionize and to be paid a living wage; the Bus Riders Union has mobilized for an efficient, clean, and affordable mass transit system; and immigrants, homeless people, and LGBT people have organized against harassment and police brutality. Indeed, the very diversity of North L.A., as well as the leftist traditions that have developed within it, have made this part of the city particularly attractive to all kinds of marginalized people. Notably, in this part of the city there has always been a large cluster of sites important to LGBT people, who have found in the bookstores, bars, and clubs a safe place for the expression of their identities and the formation of queer communities. In these same places, people have often developed politicized gay identities and worked collectively for sexual justice. Through all of these struggles, marginalized people have consistently demanded their "right to the city" while articulating alternative visions of urban life and community that we find inspiring.

As any Angeleno knows, there is no such place actually called "North L.A." Instead, mainstream tour guides and other purveyors of cultural representation, as well as many inhabitants, identify and celebrate the area's distinct neighborhoods associated with past and present immigrant ethnic groups-Koreatown, Thai Town, Little Tokyo, Chinatown, the Greek-Byzantine Corridor, Olvera Street-oftenpresenting these neighborhoods as worthwhile places to consume food, art, and other cultural artifacts of "exotic" people and distant lands. Absent a structural analysis, such patterns of geographic representation feed into dominant ideologies of immigrant upward mobility, including the "model minority" myth, while pathologizing Black people and the poor. Furthermore, such representations reinforce damaging stereotypes of immigrants (particularly Asians) as "perpetually foreign." Since one of our goals in the People's Guide is to encourage reflection on the power of place-names and the ideological "work" they do, we felt it was useful to name this broad area "North L.A.," partly in recognition of the shared structural and ideological processes that have shaped all of these neighborhoods precisely because of their immigrant and ethnic origins, and partly as a response to the highly politicized and racialized place-name "South L.A.," which glosses over and ignores the distinctiveness of individual neighborhoods as well as the diversity of the people who live there.

The other reason we felt the need to name this collection of places in broader terms is the tremendous influence this area has on the larger metropolitan region. This is where the power of the state-local and national-is wielded: L.A. City Hall, L.A. County Hall of Administration, and numerous federal buildings, courthouses, and jails are located in this sector. In addition, many corporations and key cultural and political institutions have their headquarters here. And just as power is not distributed equally among people, the same is true of places. North L.A. exercises a disproportionate influence over the entire region. In sum, it is here where the aspirations of the city's power brokers meet and collide most visibly with its laborers, poor, and homeless.

North Los Angeles Sites

1.1 Biddy Mason Park

333 S. Spring St., Los Angeles 90013 (between W. 3rd St. and W. 4th St.)


Bridget "Biddy" Mason was born a slave in Georgia in 1818. In 1836, she was purchased by Robert and Rebecca Smith, who later became Mormons and moved to Utah. In 1851, the Smiths relocated to San Bernardino, California, to start a new Mormon community. Fortunately for Mason, California had been admitted to the union as a free state in 1850. Technically speaking, this meant that all the Smith slaves were free. However, a few years later, when Mason's owner tried to convince her and the other slaves that moving to Texas-a slave state-would not imperil their freedom, she sought assistance from free African Americans. A lawsuit ensued, and the judge affirmed that Mason was a free person. The ruling was just in time, because the very next year, in 1857, the Dred Scott decision would have affirmed her status as property.

Mason was a skilled midwife, and as a free woman, she invested all her savings in real estate, beginning with her first house at 331 Spring Street. Her home eventually became the site of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, which she helped found, as well as Los Angeles' first child care center. Mason used much of her wealth to assist other African Americans, particularly recent arrivals, and the poor of all races. Mason died in 1891 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

Biddy Mason Park features a mural dedicated to Mason and a time line tracing key events in her life. The park itself was developed in 1989 as part of a project called The Power of Place, spearheaded by Dolores Hayden, which was an effort to begin documenting and preserving important sites in Los Angeles that were not associated with great white men and their buildings.

Personal reflection by Dolores Hayden, urban historian and author of The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History

Biddy Mason's life and work inspired many Los Angeles residents in the nineteenth century. Researching and writing her story in the 1980s, presenting a public history workshop about her, and organizing the subsequent artists' projects all provided a strong focus for the downtown itinerary of The Power of Place, which I based on the lives of working women, men, and children. Ultimately my 1995 book, The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History, brought Biddy Mason's life to people far from Southern California as part of a commitment to urban history. More than two decades later, the project lives on in many forms and many places.

Nearby Site of Interest

Bradbury Building

304 S. Broadway, Los Angeles 90013 (213) 626-1893

Architecturally significant office building designed by George Wyman and built in 1893. Featured in many films, including Blade Runner. Visitors welcome.

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurants

Homegirl Café

130 W. Bruno St., Los Angeles 90012 (213) 617-0380 ( and

A project of Father Greg Boyle's Homeboy Industries, which provides youth with an alternative to gangs, the Homegirl Café is staffed by young women who receive training in the food service industry. Boasting "Latina flavors with a contemporary twist," the café's menu includes roasted pineapple guacamole and carne asada tacos with peanut chipotle sauce. Recipes are made with ingredients grown in Homegirl's own organic garden.

Philippe's the Original

1001 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles 90012 (213) 628-3781 (

Established in 1908, Philippe's is an L.A. landmark and the original home of the French-dip sandwich, which remains the house specialty.

1.2 Black Cat Bar

3909 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles 90029 (between Sanborn Ave. and Hyperion Ave.)

(Silver Lake)

In 1967, a police conflict at the Black Cat Bar led to Los Angeles' first known public protest for LGBT rights-two years before New York's better-known Stonewall Riot. A few minutes into New Year's Day 1967, after seeing customers kiss at midnight, undercover LAPD officers began beating patrons of two gay bars on Sunset Boulevard. Raiding first the Black Cat and then New Faces, police severely injured several people and arrested sixteen (for more on police abuse of LGBT folk, see entry 1.28 Pershing Square). Officers charged thirteen people with lewd conduct, two with drunkenness, and one with assault on an officer. Six weeks later, on February 11, approximately 200 people gathered in front of the Black Cat to protest police harassment of queer people. The event helped to mark Silver Lake as a gay neighborhood and establish connections between the emerging gay liberation movement and other radical movements at the time, including the antiwar, Black liberation, and Chicana/o movements. It was coordinated to coincide with similar protests planned in Watts by African American activists, in East Los Angeles and Pacoima by Chicana/o activists, and in Venice and on the Sunset Strip by hippies. Collectively, these protests challenged police abuse and drew links between racial and sexual oppression and the development of radical activism. Unfortunately, the Black Cat's proposed alliances between Black, Chicana/o, and gay liberation implicitly designated "gay" as white. Subsequently, neighborhood activists attempted to counter this assumption, for example by organizing the Sunset Junction street festival and forming Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos. This address is currently the site of Le Barcito, a gay bar. (Courtesy of Emily Hobson)

Nearby Site of Interest

Metropolitan Community Church

4953 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles 90027 (323) 669-3434 (

The founding MCC church, which explicitly welcomes LGBT people.

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurants

Alegria on Sunset

3510 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles 90026 (323) 913-1422 (

Popular Mexican restaurant in a Silver Lake strip mall. Try the dobladitas de mole (corn tortillas folded around melted cheese and smothered in rich mole sauce) or pollo en mole.

Café Tropical

2900 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles 90026 (323) 661-8391

Cuban bakery. Customer favorites include fresh-pressed café con leche and guava cheese pie.

To Learn More

Moira Kenney, Mapping Gay L.A.: The Intersection of Place and Politics (Temple University Press, 2001).

1.3 Bus Riders Union and Labor/Community Strategy Center

3780 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200, Los Angeles 90010 (at Western Avenue) (213) 387-2800 (


Despite Los Angeles' reputation as an autopia, it also has the largest mass transit system in the United States and therefore has become a prime site for struggles over transit equity. During the 1980s and 1990s, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) became locked in a fierce battle over how best to meet the city's public transportation needs-should it expand and empower its old, run-down bus fleet, or build a new light rail system? Political and transit leaders clearly favored rail, and their decisions to fund massive, expensive light rail projects that catered to suburbanites ignited protests among working-class bus riders, who saw the issue as a matter of transportation equity. At the time, 88 percent of Los Angeles bus riders were people of color, more than 50 percent had annual family incomes under $12,000, and 57 percent were women. Although buses carried 94 percent of the system's ridership, they received only 30 percent of MTA subsidies. Conversely, MTA rail projects served only about 6 percent of all riders (a disproportionate percentage of whom were white), but received more than 70 percent of public transit dollars.

The Bus Riders Union (BRU), a project of the Labor/Community Strategy Center, emerged in the early 1990s to challenge these conditions (for more on the origins of the Labor/Community Strategy Center, see entry 6.4 General Motors Van Nuys). The BRU is a good example of what has been called the "new organizing" in Los Angeles. Unlike traditional labor unions that organize workers within a specific workplace or industry, the Bus Riders Union organizes literally on the city's buses, where a broad spectrum of the working class converges daily. The Bus Riders Union embraces an explicitly multicultural, multilingual approach, bringing together Black, white, Latina/o, and Asian (especially Korean) transit users. The BRU recognizes that, despite their ethnic, linguistic, and national differences, bus riders are linked by their dependence on a public transit system that is inadequate, undependable, and expensive.

Pairing up with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the BRU charged the MTA with establishing a separate and unequal mass transit system in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits agencies that receive federal funds from spending those funds in a racially discriminatory way. In 1996, the BRU won a consent decree that obligated the MTA to reduce overcrowding, maintain equitable fares, expand bus service, replace old diesel buses with cleaner ones, and generate a plan to dismantle the city's two-tier system of transit segregation. During the next ten years, implementation of the decree was uneven and the BRU had to fight the MTA at every step. The consent decree was not renewed when it expired in 2006, even though the MTA had not carried out the court's mandates. However, the BRU has continued its organizing work on the buses, leading people in resisting the MTA's persistent proposals to cut bus service and increase fares even while it approves millions of dollars for light rail. The BRU is now the nation's largest grassroots mass transit advocacy group and has been a model for transit organizing work in other cities. The Labor/Community Strategy Center and the BRU are housed in the Wiltern Theatre, a beautiful art deco concert venue.

Personal reflection by Grace Summers, BRU member

Early in 1997 ... I read about a hearing that involved some [bus] lines I used. I didn't make it to the meeting, so I called the MTA headquarters. ... And after three phone calls netted no one who would speak to me, I [called] the Bus Riders Union.... I got ... a hearty greeting from Della Bonner, who told me that I had a right to good public transportation. She gave me a summary of the hearing in question, ... and [I] felt great goodwill for this Bus Riders Union.

Meetings were in two languages-three if you count the food-and we who spoke only English were properly humbled by the experience of listening through headsets to the simultaneous translations from Spanish.

My job at the time was as a substitute aide in the Burbank Schools. I could take a day off any time I wished. Counting standees on buses sounded constructive. I donated my Tuesdays to standing at the corner of San Fernando Road and Fletcher from 6 to 9 A.M. and 3 to 6 P.M. I knew this was a check on whether the MTA was meeting its agreement for the consent decree. I felt useful.

Nearby Sites of Interest

Petersen Automotive Museum

6060 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles 90036 (323) 930-2277 (

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles 90036 (323) 857-6000 (

Architecture and Design Museum

6032 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles 90036 (323) 932-9393 (

La Brea Tar Pits/Page Museum

5801 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles 90036 (323) 934-7243 (

Famous fossil collection preserved in tar.

Ambassador Hotel (former)

3400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles 90010

The Ambassador was a famous Los Angeles hotel and the site of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination. The Los Angeles Unified School District acquired the land and razed the hotel in 2006-despite the fierce opposition of preservationists. The Robert F. Kennedy Inspiration Park and Community Schools now occupy the space.

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurants

Papa Cristo's Taverna

2771 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles 90006 (323) 737-2970 (

Family-owned Greek restaurant and market. Try the roasted lamb-and-feta sandwich, or take some fresh-baked spanakopita and baba ghanoush to go. Their baklava is considered to be among the best in the city.

Ma Dang Gook Soo

869 S. Western Ave., Suite 1, Los Angeles 90005 (213) 487-6008

Korean restaurant specializing in noodles. Customer favorites include the chicken noodle soup with hand-cut noodles and mountain vegetable bibimbap. The chilled noodles in soybean broth is a refreshing meal on a hot day.

To Learn More

Drop in to the Labor/Community Strategy Center.

Check out the film Bus Rider's Union, directed by Haskell Wexler (1996).

Eric Mann, L.A.'s Lethal Air (Labor/Community Strategy Center, 1991).

1.4 Caballeros de Dimas-Alang and Philippines Review

126-128 Astronaut Onizuka St., Los Angeles 90012 (between E. 1st St. and E. 2nd St.)

(Downtown/Little Tokyo)

This address on Onizuka Street was once home to the offices of the Caballeros de Dimas-Alang, a Pilipino fraternal order, and the organization's newspaper, the Philippines Review. The building was a centerpiece of a thriving Pilipina/o immigrant community known as Little Manila during the 1920s and 1930s. The district, which housed restaurants, barbershops, tailors, and boardinghouses, was roughly bounded by San Pedro Street on the east, Sixth Street on the south, Figueroa Avenue on the west, and Sunset Boulevard on the north. These businesses catered to an almost exclusively male population of migratory Pilipino agricultural workers who traversed the Pacific Coast from Seattle to San Diego, as well as a much smaller population of urban Pilipina/o domestic workers and students.

Because the Philippines was a colony of the United States, Pilipina/o migrants were not subject to the immigration restrictions that excluded most other Asian immigrant groups during this period, and they could enter the United States freely. However, like other Asians, they were considered "aliens ineligible for citizenship" and so were unable to own property, apply for naturalized citizenship, or live outside the city's central districts. Although the neighborhood was formed largely through exclusion and restriction, Little Manila nonetheless thrived as a multiracial center of working-class recreation, political information, and social networking.

The Caballeros de Dimas-Alang was among the most prominent of Little Manila's 24 Pilipina/o organizations. The Caballeros was an international organization founded in the Philippines in 1906. One of its chief objectives was to promote Philippine liberation from the United States following the American seizure and colonization of the Philippines in the Spanish-American War. Dimasalang was a pseudonym of Jose Rizal, the Philippine national hero. In 1921, the Caballeros inaugurated its first U.S. branch in San Francisco, and by the mid-1930s it counted twenty-six lodges, including the one in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles branch of the Caballeros published the Philippines Review twice monthly. The newspaper featured information about political developments in the Philippines and frequently demonstrated a nationalist position that was intolerant of American colonial policies there, especially after the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934 promised Philippine liberation from the United States by 1945.

Virtually all of Little Manila was destroyed by urban renewal and the construction of the 110 freeway in the mid-1950s. This street was originally known as Weller Street; it survived redevelopment but was absorbed by the Weller Court Shopping Center and renamed Onizuka Street in 1986 in honor of the Japanese American astronaut Ellison Onizuka. In 2002, city officials designated a different Pilipina/o neighborhood, near the intersection of Temple and Beverly boulevards west of downtown, as "Historic Filipinotown." In the new neighborhood, a vibrant Pilipina/o labor movement, led by the Pilipino Workers Center, continues to link the conditions of Pilipina/o workers in the United States with those in the Philippines resisting U.S. domination. Simultaneously, however, the older Little Manila of the 1920s and 1930s has been all but forgotten as a historically Pilipina/o space.

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurants

Daikokuya Ramen

327 E. 1st St., Los Angeles 90012 (213) 626-1680 ( or

Best ramen in L.A., according to many who make up the perpetual queue in front of Daikokuya. Daikokuya makes ramen broth in the Kyushu tonkotsu style, with special kurobuta black pork bone stock. The shredded kurobuta pork bowl is another crowd pleaser.

Señor Fish

422 E. 1st St., Los Angeles 90012 (213) 625-0566 (

This popular Mexican restaurant and bar is part of a small local chain. Known for its fish tacos and burritos, it offers lunch specials, happy hour (4-9 P.M.), and happier hour (9 P.M.-midnight). Vegetarian options.

To Learn More

Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA) and Temple Gateway Youth and Community Center, 3200 W. Temple St., Los Angeles 90026. A community development organization.

Linda España-Maram, Creating Masculinity in Los Angeles's Little Manila: Working-Class Filipinos and Popular Culture, 1920s-1950s (Columbia University Press, 2006).

1.5 California Club

538 S. Flower St., Los Angeles 90071 (between W. 5th St. and W. 6th St.) (213) 622-1391 (


The California Club is one of the foremost exclusionary clubs in Southern California. Founded in 1887, the club offers dining, recreation, and meeting facilities to its members. While the club always excluded women, it was originally open to all men but became increasingly discriminatory in the 1920s-echoing the national trend of escalating xenophobia and racism at that time-and eventually excluded all people of color and Jews. In 1987, the Los Angeles City Council made it illegal for such clubs to discriminate. Not only is overt discrimination unethical and illegal, but such exclusionary practices continue to give white men an unfair professional and social advantage, as valuable contacts are made, networks established, and information exchanged in such venues. Amazingly, the California Club opposed the new ordinance, and in fact a segment of the membership waged a campaign to circumvent it, seeking to keep women and African Americans out of the club. Their opposition shows that, although the late 1980s is generally considered to be part of the "post-civil rights era," meaning that the demands of civil rights and feminist movements had supposedly been achieved, the Reagan presidency in fact inaugurated a rollback of civil rights. After a tense battle, the club eventually decided it would adhere to the new ordinance. Interestingly, when Laura Pulido went to the club in the summer of 2002 to inquire about its history, the people to whom she spoke denied that the club had ever been exclusionary. In fact, when asked about the exclusion of women, one of the workers replied that the practice was not really exclusionary, since women would naturally want to be in their own spaces, right?

Personal reflection by activist, planner, and scholar Gilda Haas, also known as Dr. Pop

I was working for Michael Woo when he was on the city council [1985-93]. I was his planning deputy. We had a breakfast date with some important people at the California Club. I was the first to arrive. I scanned the dining room and the maître d' said, "May I accompany you to the ladies' room?" I replied, "No, thank you." He insisted, "I really must accompany you to the ladies' room." I said, "Well, I really don't have to go to the ladies' room." He proceeded to tell me that unaccompanied women (as in without a man) needed to wait in the ladies' room. When Michael came I told him what happened, and we left and had breakfast at the Seventh Street Bistro [no longer open].

Nearby Site of Interest

Los Angeles Central Library

630 W. 5th St., Los Angeles 90071 (213) 228-7000 (

Great free tours. Check hours, which have been reduced due to budget cuts.

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant

Grand Central Market

317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles 90013 (213) 624-2378 (

Historic market, founded in 1917, with vendors selling produce, delicacies, and specialty items. A popular lunch spot for downtown workers.

1.6 Calle de los Negros

Nearest address: Garnier Building, 425 N. Los Angeles St., Los Angeles 90012 (at Arcadia St.)


Calle de los Negros was a street in early Los Angeles' historic downtown, known as El Pueblo de Los Angeles, which formed in the years soon after U.S. conquest. The street was populated by Chinese, Mexican, and indigenous people and was considered a vice district. It is remembered as the site of the Chinatown Massacre, arguably the city's first "race riot." The conflict began on October 24, 1871, when two rival tongs, Nin Yung Company and Hong Chow Company, disagreed over the possession of a young prostitute-slave, Ya Hit, who had run away. A well-respected Anglo, Robert Thompson, intervened in the conflict and was accidentally shot. Soon after, a white saloonkeeper began firing randomly at Chinese homes on Calle de los Negros. As news spread, Anglo and Mexican vigilantes poured into the area and began attacking Chinese residents and their property. Mob leaders included city councilman George Fall and city tax collector Marshal Francis Baker, who told participants to "shoot any Chinese who try to escape." All told, 18 to 22 Chinese people were killed in the violence. More than 500 Angelenos participated in the attack. Eventually, 37 rioters were indicted, but fewer than 10 were convicted. The California Supreme Court overturned those convictions a year later.

The Chinatown Massacre resulted from California's powerful anti-Chinese movement of the 1870s and 1880s. Although today Latina/o immigrants bear the brunt of anti-immigrant sentiment, the country's first restrictive immigration laws and anti-immigrant hostilities were actually aimed at Asians, who were despised because most were not Christians and because many people believed they undercut the wages of white workers. The Chinese were subjected to harassment, labor exploitation, and a vast array of exclusionary national and state measures, notably the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which severely limited their immigration to the United States until 1943, and the similar 1891 California exclusion act. They were also prevented from becoming naturalized citizens or owning property, in this way subjecting them to the constant threat of displacement, harassment, and violence.

Calle de los Negros was razed in 1887. The anti-Chinese movement proliferated for several more decades. The Garnier Building, which is immediately adjacent to where the street was situated, was a vital part of Los Angeles' earliest Chinatown and now houses the Chinese American Museum.

The 1891 California statute excluding Chinese immigration

Any person who shall knowingly bring into or cause to be brought into this State, by land or otherwise, or who shall aid or abet the same, or aid or abet the landing in this State, from any vessel or otherwise, of any Chinese person not lawfully entitled to enter this State, shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and shall on conviction thereof be fined in a sum of not exceeding one thousand dollars, and imprisoned in the State's Prison for a term not exceeding one year, and, if a Chinese person, shall be sentenced to deportation as in other cases. (Section 5, Chapter CXL, California Statutes, March 20, 1891)

Nearby Sites of Interest

Chinese American Museum

425 N. Los Angeles St., Los Angeles 90012 (213) 485-8567 (

The Chinese Historical Society

411 Bernard St., Los Angeles 90012 (323) 222-0856 (

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant

Phoenix Inn

301 Ord St., Los Angeles 90012 (213) 629-2812 (

Family-owned restaurant established in 1965. Popular dishes include fish and lettuce porridge (with a side order of Chinese donuts for dipping) and steamed chicken.

To Learn More

Jose Luis Benavides, "'Californios! Whom Do You Support?' El Clamor Publico's Contradictory Role in the Racial Formation Process in Early California," California History 84, no. 2 (2006): 54-73.

On the history of El Pueblo de los Angeles, see Las Angelitas del Pueblo,

For a series of downtown walking tours, see the USC geography site,

1.7 Chavez Ravine

Nearest address: San Conrado Mission, 1820 Bouett St., Los Angeles 90012 (at Amador St.)

(Elysian Park)

Chavez Ravine consisted of three semirural Mexican American communities established in the early 1900s: Palo Verde, La Loma, and Bishop. These neighborhoods were threatened and ultimately destroyed as a result of the Los Angeles Planning Commission's decision, first announced in 1946, to develop new housing in blighted areas to accommodate the county's extraordinary post-World War II population growth. The commission envisioned building 10,000 new housing units throughout the city with federal funds. It promised that rents would be based on a sliding scale, that the new housing would be racially inclusive, and that residents displaced by any land acquisition would have first chance at the new housing. Although beloved by its residents, Chavez Ravine was declared blighted on account of the area's rural land-use and poor infrastructure, as well as its juvenile delinquency and community health problems, and was slated for a new housing project. In July 1950, residents were notified of the project and told that the city would buy their land. In the cold-war climate, however, the idea of public housing was considered "creeping socialism," and conservatives across the country opposed it. For the next decade a legal and political battle ensued regarding the future of Chavez Ravine. Opponents of the housing project red-baited the housing official Frank Wilkinson, ultimately derailing his career.

Many Chavez Ravine residents sold their properties to the city, but others stayed, committed to preserving their homes and community. In May 1959, citing eminent domain, police and bulldozers evicted the remaining residents. Aurora Vargas, a 38-year-old widow and daughter of activists Manuel and Avrana Arechiga, was dragged out of her home by sheriff's deputies, kicking and screaming in front of the media. She was jailed for 30 days. Opponents of the housing development, buoyed by the strength of the Red Scare, ultimately won out and the public housing plans were abandoned. The city later sold the cleared land to Walter O'Malley, who built Dodger Stadium for the relocated Brooklyn Dodgers.

The story of Chavez Ravine has become part of Los Angeles lore and is emblematic of the city's corruption, cold war politics, and the persistent displacement of Mexicans. The story lives on in plays, music, and literature. Former Chavez Ravine residents and their descendants still get together. (Special thanks to Ron Lopez for his help in researching this entry.)

Nearby Site of Interest

Elysian Park

835 Academy Rd., Los Angeles 90012 (213) 485-5054 (

A vast park boasting hilly trails, picnic areas, and stunning views of downtown.

To Learn More

Chavez Ravine, play by Culture Clash.

Chavez Ravine, album by Ry Cooder (2005, Nonesuch Records).

Ronald Lopez, "The Battle for Chavez Ravine: Mexican Americans and Public Policy in Los Angeles, 1945-1962," PhD dissertation, UC Berkeley, 1999).

Don Normark, Chavez Ravine: 1949: A Los Angeles Story (Chronicle Books, 2003).

Don Parson, Making a Better World: Public Housing, the Red Scare, and the Direction of Modern Los Angeles (University of Minnesota Press, 2005).

Gary Phillips, Bad Night Is Falling (Penguin, 1998). A novel that explores how the history of Chavez Ravine reverberates in the present.

1.8 Chinatowns

New Chinatown Central Plaza: 727 N. Broadway, Los Angeles 90012 (between Ord St. and Alpine St.)


Old Chinatown: 800 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles 90012 (Union Station) (between E. Cesar Chavez Ave. and Arcadia St.)


Before the completion of Union Station in 1939, this area on Alameda Street was Los Angeles' first Chinatown. As early as 1857, Chinese residents of Los Angeles had settled along Calle de los Negros, adjacent to the plaza, but by 1900, as the population grew to 3,000 people, the settlement spread eastward across Alameda Street. Chinese residents of this area worked primarily in laundries and produce markets. However, because Chinese immigrants could not become citizens or own property, they were constantly vulnerable to displacement and relocation.

By the early 1910s, Old Chinatown was beginning to decline, and rumors of impending redevelopment led many landlords to neglect upkeep on their properties. In addition, the remaining opium dens (which often catered to "slumming" non-Chinese tourists), and tong warfare had prompted many outsiders to avoid the area. In 1913, a six-acre portion of Old Chinatown was sold to the Southern Pacific Railroad, and one year later the remainder of Old Chinatown lying east of Alameda was sold to L.F. Hanchett, a San Francisco capitalist who planned to turn the area into an industrial and warehouse district. For the next two decades, plans for the property were stalled, though the clear consensus among civic leaders was that a major railroad terminus should be built on that location. On May 19, 1931, the California Supreme Court approved a decision to condemn the land and construct the new Union Station on the site of Old Chinatown. The Plaza Development Association, a consortium of seventy corporations, was charged with the evacuation of the Chinese residents.

For the next two years, during Union Station's design and planning, civic leaders debated how and where to relocate the Chinese. One proposal was put forth by Christine Sterling, a wealthy socialite who had been instrumental in the development of Olvera Street as a tourist-oriented "Mexican village." Sterling wanted to create a "China City" at the plaza featuring stalls and booths on narrow, crowded streets, where Chinese people could make money by catering to tourists' exotic expectations. China City opened in 1937 between Spring and Main streets, but was damaged by two fires in the late 1930s and early 1940s and closed down in the early 1950s.

Meanwhile, native-born Chinese American Peter SooHoo, a USC graduate who would eventually be the first Chinese American to join the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, advocated a relocation plan that would be led, designed, and financed by the Chinese themselves. Acting on a tip from the chief engineer for Union Station, SooHoo approached Herbert Lapham, land agent for the Santa Fe Railroad, who owned a large storage yard on North Broadway. Chinese merchants organized the New Chinatown Association, and at a historic meeting in April 1937 at the old Tuey Far Low restaurant on Alameda and Marchessault streets, Lapham and the New Chinatown Association struck a deal. The association raised more than $100,000, without bank loans or financing, to purchase the land, and then led the design and development process, which was to feature modern and airy buildings, both commercial and residential, and wide streets that conformed to earthquake, fire, and safety regulations. New Chinatown's grand opening took place on June 25, 1938, at the new Chinatown Central Plaza and was attended by L.A. Mayor Frank Gerriam and other civic leaders. Although rooted in histories of displacement and eviction, the New Chinatown is notable as the first modern American Chinatown that was owned and planned from the ground up by Chinese people. Now, Chinatown is being transformed again as Southeast Asian immigrants from Vietnam and Cambodia diversify the area. In addition, markers of gentrification such as loft condominiums and trendy art galleries are replacing old family-run restaurants and souvenir shops.

Union Station itself is notable for its mission-style architecture as well as its role in Southern California transportation infrastructure. While it was pivotal in the early development of Los Angeles, the station largely fell out of use until the region developed a light rail commuter system, beginning in the late twentieth century. It is now, once again, a vital part of Los Angeles' transportation infrastructure. Recent excavations have uncovered a wealth of Chinese artifacts at Union Station-see, for example, the sculpture at the eastern edge of the station, close to Patsaouras Plaza.

Nearby Site of Interest

Los Angeles State Historic Park

1245 N. Spring St., Los Angeles 90012

An old industrial site that has gone through many incarnations, including a "living sculpture" as a cornfield.

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant

Kim Chuy

727 N. Broadway no. 103, Los Angeles 90012 (213) 687-7215 (

Specializes in the noodle dishes of the Chiu Chow people of eastern Guangdong province in China. Choose among ten different types of noodles, and try the leek cake.

To Learn More

Lisa See, On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family (Vintage, 1996).

For more information on both Chinatowns, including oral histories and photos, go to

1.9 ChoSun Galbee Restaurant

3330 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles 90019 (at S. Manhattan Pl.) (323) 734-3330 (


In 1997, ChoSun Galbee, an upscale restaurant and one of Koreatown's largest, became the site of a landmark dispute between immigrant workers and restaurant ownership. ChoSun Galbee fired Myung Jin Park, the head cook, when he refused to sign documents that illegally sought to make him responsible for paying the restaurant's payroll taxes. Such abuses are not uncommon among the thousands of mostly Korean and Latina/o immigrant workers in Koreatown, who typically work 10-14 hours a day for wages as low as $2.50 an hour. For assistance Park turned to the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA), which was then known as Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates, an independent worker center that combines worker and community organizing with legal advocacy to end such conditions. KIWA, which developed a strong presence after Los Angeles' 1992 civil unrest with the goal of overcoming ethnic tensions, organized daily community pickets in front of the restaurant, including a 10-day hunger strike, until ChoSun Galbee agreed to pay back wages, comply with basic labor laws, and reinstate Park. Today, according to KIWA, ChoSun Galbee remains one of the few restaurants in Koreatown that adheres to basic labor laws. The Restaurant Workers Association of Koreatown, an outgrowth of the struggle at ChoSun Galbee and campaigns at several other restaurants, continues to educate workers about their employment rights and to monitor standards in the industry.

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant

Kobawoo House

698 S. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles 90005 (213) 389-7300

This popular eatery specializes in bossam: thinly sliced pork wrapped in lettuce leaves, with sliced radishes, pickled cabbage, jalapeño, salty shrimp, and kimchi. The seafood pancake is another favorite.

To Learn More

Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA), 3465 W. 8th St., second floor, Los Angeles 90005 (213) 738-9050 (

1.10 Downey Block

312 N. Spring St., Los Angeles 90012 (at N. Main St.)


After the U.S. takeover of Alta California in 1848, the decline of the indigenous population accelerated, evidenced by a decrease in population; greater political, economic, and social marginalization; and the practice of Indian slavery. During the 1850s and 1860s, L.A.'s indigenous people were routinely incarcerated for loitering, drunkenness, and begging. Then, on most Mondays, a local administrator auctioned off imprisoned Indians for one week of servitude. The ironically named California Act for the Government and Protection of Indians of 1850 allowed any white person to post bail for convicted Indians, whom he could then require to pay off the fine by working for him-a new form of slave labor. According to George Harwood Phillips, in 1850 the Los Angeles Common Council declared, "When the city has no work in which to employ the chain gang, the Recorder shall, by means of notices conspicuously posted, notify the public that such a number of prisoners will be auctioned off to the highest bidder for private service." Most Indians were sold to local ranchers who used them to perform agricultural labor. Indians were sold for anywhere from one to three dollars, one-third of which was to be given to the worker at the end of the week, if he or she had performed satisfactorily. This "wage" was usually paid in the form of liquor, often leading to a repeated cycle of arrest and forced servitude. The rear of the Downey Block served as L.A.'s slave mart and is now a federal courthouse.

To Learn More

George Harwood Phillips, "Indians in Los Angeles, 1781-1875," in The American Indian Past and Present, ed. Roger Nichols (Alfred Knopf, 1986), p. 189.

Robert Heizer, The Destruction of the California Indians (Bison Books, 1993).

The Exiles, a film directed by Kent MacKenzie, 1961.

Robert Sundance Family Wellness Center, 1125 W. 6th St., Suite 103, Los Angeles 90017 (213) 202-3970 ( A community wellness center providing culturally appropriate services to American Indians and Alaska Natives. Named for Robert Sundance, an American Indian from the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota, whose "Sundance Court Case" reformed how the criminal justice system addresses alcoholism and public drunkenness.

1.11 El Congreso del Pueblo de Habla Española

233 S. Broadway, Los Angeles 90012 (between W. 2nd St. and W. 3rd St.)


El Congreso del Pueblo de Habla Española (the Congress of Spanish-speaking peoples) was one of the first national civil-rights organizations for Latinas/os. Established in 1938 by Luisa Moreno (1907-1992), a Guatemalan-born labor organizer with close ties to the Communist Party, El Congreso was part of a larger united front that developed during the 1930s. In organizational documents, El Congreso described itself as "an alliance between the Spanish speaking people and the progressive, all democratic forces among the Anglo-American and minority groups in the United States." Moreno traveled the country recruiting support for El Congreso. The organization was especially strong in Los Angeles. Its main office was located on the property that is now the parking lot at this address. The organization's founding conference was held in Los Angeles in 1938 and was attended by 73 organizations representing 70,000 mostly ethnic Mexican members. El Congreso supported workers' rights, unionization, Latina/o solidarity, immigrants, and the cultivation of Latina/o culture. The onset of World War II created tension between the need for national unity and El Congreso's oppositional politics, leading to heavy red-baiting. Ultimately, Moreno was forced to leave the United States and died in Mexico.

Many key Latina/o activists were involved in El Congreso, including Josefina Fierro de Bright, who solicited funds from Hollywood, Eduardo Quevado, and Bert Corona. Corona (1918-2001) is significant because his experience with El Congreso enabled him to serve as a vital bridge between the old Left of the 1930s and the new Left of the 1960s and {apos}70s. Corona came to Los Angeles as a young man and began working as an organizer with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Later, Corona, along with Chole Alatorre, cofounded El Centro de Acción Social y Autónomo (CASA), and served as the director of Hermandad Mexicana Nacional.

Nearby Site of Interest

Museum of Contemporary Art

250 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles 90012 (213) 626-6222 (

To Learn More

Mario Garcia, "The Popular Front: Josefina Fierro de Bright and the Spanish-Speaking Congress," in Mexican Americans: Leadership, Ideology, and Identity, 1930-1960 (Yale University Press, 1989), pp. 145-174.

Mario Garcia, Memories of Chicano History: The Life and Narrative of Bert Corona (University of California Press, 1995).

1.12 Embassy Hotel and Auditorium

851 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles 90017 (between W. 8th St. and W. 9th St.)


The Embassy Hotel and Auditorium was built in 1914 as a Beaux Arts-style concert hall and performance venue for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, but it is mostly known as a meeting ground for progressive causes from the 1920s to the 1950s. It was especially important to the vibrant labor movement of the 1930s, including the 1933 dressmaker strike. On September 27, 1933, under the leadership of Rose Pesotta, Los Angeles garment workers gathered here to draw up a list of demands to present to their employers. Working conditions were appalling, and in order to maintain extremely low wages, employers relied on a surplus of labor and high turnover rates. Forty percent of dressmakers earned less than five dollars a week-evidence that employers disregarded California's minimum wage laws requiring $16 for a 48-hour workweek. The employers ignored the workers' demands, and on October 12, the garment workers went on strike.

Initially, the strike included both the cloak makers, who were mostly Anglo and Jewish men, and the dressmakers, who were predominantly Mexican women. But on October 13, the workers gathered at the Embassy and the cloak makers announced that, after just one day, they had settled with the employers and would no longer participate in the strike. Consequently, the garment workers' strike turned into the dressmakers' strike. Approximately 2,000 women from 80 factories went on strike for 26 days. Seventy-five percent of them were ethnic Mexicans and the rest were Italian, Russian, and Jewish immigrants and native-born white women. An injunction was issued against picketing, but given the number of women picketing (more than 1,000 at one point), it was difficult to enforce. Nevertheless, 50 women were arrested, many were fired, and both the Los Angeles Police Department and the Merchants and Manufacturers Association worked to assist employers. On October 30, the workers and employers agreed to arbitration.

The final settlement did not result in major economic benefits for the workers, but the strike was nonetheless extremely significant in terms of regional labor, gender, and racial politics. First, it laid the groundwork for the formation of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union in Los Angeles. Second, the strike was one of the first instances when ethnic Mexican workers bargained under American unions rather than through independent unions or worker associations. Third, it provided Mexicanas in Los Angeles with their first taste of what it was like to participate in organized labor. Fourth, it proved to the world that Mexican women could and would organize (which many people had doubted), challenging stereotypes of Mexicanas as docile, nonconfrontational, and easily exploitable workers.

The University of Southern California bought the Embassy in 1987 and used it as a housing and educational annex for 400 students until 1998, at which time the university sold the complex to a New York-based development group called Chetrit. Originally, working with another developer, Chetrit planned to refurbish the building to create a performance space that drew on the theater's original architectural features. However, the deal fell through and the Embassy now sits empty in a state of disrepair. Riding the wave of redevelopment that is currently reworking downtown, Chetrit says it still plans on developing a hotel at the site.

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurants

Original Pantry Café

877 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles 90017 (213) 972-9279 (

The Pantry has been serving up pancakes, omelets, country fried steak, and assorted American comfort foods since 1924. An L.A. institution open 24/7.

Más Malo

515 W. 7th St., Los Angeles 90014 (213) 985-4332 (

A hip Mexican eatery known for its distinctive, house-made chips and featuring such L.A. innovations as vegan menudo.

To Learn More

Clementina Durón, "Mexican Women and Labor Conflict in Los Angeles: The ILGWU Dressmakers' Strike of 1933," Aztlán 15, no. 1 (1984): 145-161.

1.13 Fernando's Hideaway and Sisters of GABRIELA, Awaken!

519 S. Spring St., Los Angeles 90013 (between W. 5th St. and W. 6th St.) (213) 327-0699


Fernando's Hideaway is a print shop, Internet café, and art gallery. It frequently hosts exhibits and events related to political, economic, and social issues, especially those related to immigrants, workers, and Pilipinas/os and Pilipina/o Americans in the diaspora. For example, in 2010 it organized fund-raisers to raise money for travel to Phoenix, Arizona, in protest of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070, which, until its most controversial provisions were blocked by a federal judge, would have allowed police to engage in racial profiling by interrogating suspected unauthorized immigrants on their legal status, among other possible civil rights violations. Fernando's Hideaway has hosted lectures by international human rights leaders; screenings of independent films; book readings and signings; and parties where attendees create posters, banners, and other materials for direct action in support of immigrants' and workers' rights.

One organization that has held several events here is the Sisters of Gabriela, Awaken! (SiGAw), an organization that strives to build a mass movement among Pilipina women in Los Angeles. SiGAw is a member of GABRIELA-USA, the first overseas chapter of the Philippines-based organization GABRIELA, which is a coalition of 250 organizations and institutions that formed in 1984 to resist the political and economic conditions of the Marcos dictatorship. Members have worked against issues that adversely affect women, such as landlessness, militarization, the foreign debt crisis, International Monetary Fund and World Bank programs, antipeople development projects, the violation of women's health rights, violence against and trafficking in women and children, and prostitution. GABRIELA stands for General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Education, Leadership, and Action; the coalition is also named in honor of Gabriela Silang, the first Pilipina to lead a revolt against the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. Like the umbrella organizations to which SiGAw belongs, members of SiGAw connect the struggles of Pilipinas/os in the diaspora, including those in Los Angeles, to conditions in the Philippines. According to its members, the word SiGAw holds a deeper meaning beyond the acronym. In the Tagalog language, the word sigaw means "shout," and so the acronym is emblematic of the work that SiGAw strives to accomplish in speaking out against injustice.

On May 21, 2010, SiGAw sponsored Diwang Pinay (Spirit of the Pilipina), an annual performance featuring Pilipina and Pilipina American writers, performers, and artists, at Fernando's Hideaway. The event, titled "Pasanin Mo Pasanin Ko: Bridging the Struggle of Pilipinas," highlighted issues of immigration/migration, family, and the hardships and expectations of Pilipinas and Pilipina Americans, and also coincided with and commemorated the hundredth anniversary of International Women's Day.

Nearby Site of Interest

The Latino Museum of History, Art, and Culture

514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles 90013 (213) 626-7600

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurants

Angelique Café

840 S. Spring St., Los Angeles 90014 (213) 623-8698

Charming French restaurant serving hearty breakfasts and lunches. Expect a wait on weekend mornings.

Nickel Diner

524 S. Main St., Los Angeles 90012 (213) 623-8301 (

Comfort food for urbanites. Known for its delectable baked goods.

1.14 Gay Liberation Front (1969-1972)/Former Home of Morris Kight

1822 W. 4th Street, Los Angeles 90057 (between S. Bonnie Brae St. and S. Burlington St.)


Private residence

In December 1969, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) activists in Los Angeles launched a branch of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), which had recently been founded by New York activists in response to the Stonewall Riots there in late June. At Stonewall, police had stormed a bar catering to LGBT people in Greenwich Village, but patrons had fought back and occupied the streets for three days, demanding an end to police abuse. In the aftermath of these events, New York activists founded the GLF, naming their group explicitly after the National Liberation Fronts in Algeria and North Vietnam. While LGBT activism had been growing and becoming more radical throughout the late 1960s, Stonewall and the GLF helped to fundamentally transform the gay movement and connect it to the antiwar, Black liberation, feminist, and anti-imperialist movements of the time.

In Los Angeles, the GLF operated out of the Westlake home of Morris Kight, a gay antiwar activist. The group supported the struggles of other marginalized and radical groups (including, briefly, the Black Panthers) and fought homophobia. One of the more famous actions it took was a protest against the "no fags" sign at Barney's Beanery in West Hollywood. As an individual, Kight was also instrumental in establishing Christopher Street West, a march and parade commemorating the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that is now known as L.A. Pride. In 1971, Kight and other GLF leaders also helped to form the Gay Community Services Center, which continues to serve the city today as the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. Kight was a colorful and controversial figure and was criticized by many as a domineering and eccentric person whose leadership made the Los Angeles GLF more moderate than other chapters. Yet Kight is also celebrated for his role in developing LGBT social services and building alliances with other social justice causes. In the late 1970s, Kight helped win LGBT support for the Coors beer boycott (the Coors family funds right-wing causes), and he also supported organizing by Asian American gay men to address racism in the gay community. He remained active in his later years, fighting against the AIDS epidemic and hate crimes. He died in 2003 at the age of 83. (Courtesy of Emily Hobson)

Nearby Sites of Interest

MacArthur Park

2230 W. 6th St., Los Angeles 90057 (213) 368-0520 (

A Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument built in the 1880s, and the only site of legalized street vending in Los Angeles. Frequent site of political protests and marches, including the 2007 May Day march for immigrant rights that resulted in police abuse of journalists and protesters.

UCLA Downtown Labor Center

675 S. Park View St., Los Angeles 90057 (213) 480-4155 (

Links UCLA and L.A. labor activism through resources, programming, and meeting space.

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurants

Mama's Hot Tamales Café

2122 W. 7th St., Los Angeles 90057 (213) 487-7474 (

Mama's not only makes delicious tamales but also trains local residents in culinary skills, helping workers in the informal economy become formal food service employees and business owners. In addition to their international tamale offerings-about a dozen types that change daily, from a list of about fifty-Mama's also makes a rich and flavorful Oaxacan mole and a five-star tortilla soup.

Langer's Delicatessen

704 S. Alvarado St., Los Angeles 90057 (213) 483-8050 (

Al and Jean Langer opened this L.A. institution in 1947. According to regulars, it is home to the best pastrami sandwich in the world: thick, juicy slices of hot pastrami, coleslaw, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing layered between crispy-crusted slices of rye bread.

Paseo Chapín

2220 W. 7th St., Los Angeles 90057 (213) 385-7420

Guatemalan restaurant. Try the pepian Mayan stew.

To Learn More

ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, 909 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles 90007 (213) 741-0094 ( The ONE Archive is not in the immediate vicinity of the Gay Liberation Front, but it is a must for those seriously interested in studying LGBT history. Houses the world's largest library on LGBT heritage and concerns.

1.15 Gay Women's Service Center

1542 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles 90026 (at Berkeley Ave.)

(Echo Park)

In 1971, activists in Los Angeles founded the first lesbian social services center in the United States on this site. The Gay Women's Service Center (GWSC) was volunteer-run and it functioned as an all-purpose community center; its programs ranged from consciousness raising groups to health services. Among the center's key founders was Del Whan, one of the few women active in the Los Angeles Gay Liberation Front. The GWSC sought to establish a women's community that would be independent of male leadership and power, since most gay groups at the time were male-dominated and hierarchically run. Indeed, the Gay Community Services Center faced a women's strike in the 1970s and accepted women's leadership only in the 1980s amid the AIDS epidemic.

The Gay Women's Service Center boasted its name on the front window and helped to make Echo Park a hub of lesbian, feminist, and other social justice activism and community building. Though lesbian and feminist groups also worked on the Westside at that time, Echo Park and adjacent areas became home to several prominent groups, including the Alcoholism Center for Women (the first such program on the West Coast, located on Alvarado Street) and the Woman's Building (a women's arts center on Spring Street in Chinatown). Such sites shared neighborhood space with Latina/o, Filipina/o, and immigrant organizations and residents, making Echo Park a site of intersecting efforts to achieve social justice. (Courtesy of Emily Hobson)

Nearby Site of Interest

Carey McWilliams's former home

2041 N. Alvarado St., Los Angeles 90039

Private residence

Beloved journalist, lawyer, and activist Carey McWilliams lived here from the 1940s until he moved to New York in the 1970s.

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant

Taix French Country Cuisine

1911 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles 90026 (213) 484-1265 (

Another longtime L.A. institution, Taix specializes in French country comfort foods such as coq au vin, croque monsieur, ratatouille, and traditional French onion soup.

1.16 If Café and Open Door

If Café

810 S. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles 90005 (between W. 8th and W. 9th sts.)

Open Door

831 S. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles 90005 (between W. 8th and W. 9th sts.)


From the late 1940s through the mid-1960s, this block on Vermont Avenue was home to two working-class, racially mixed lesbian bars: the If Café (also known as the If Club) and the Open Door. "Crowd of butch girls, men in 40s, others from area," read the description for the If Café in 1966 in the Barfly gay bar guide; for the Open Door, the same guide noted simply, "Same type crowd as at If Café." The clientele of both bars was Black, white, and Latina, demonstrating that queer life in Los Angeles did not exist only in white and affluent areas but was also embedded in working-class communities of color. Women at these clubs developed a strong, oppositional community, with their own styles and slang; for example, butch Black women termed themselves "hard dressers." Women's experiences at the If Café and Open Door also remind us that homophobic and racist police practices overlapped in postwar Los Angeles. Police frequently raided the bars and arrested patrons, charging women either with "masquerading"-that is, wearing men's clothing-or prostitution. While some lesbians did work as prostitutes, many such charges were false and were used simply to harass and criminalize women who did not meet dominant gender and sexual norms. Black women, who were already more likely to be perceived as "loose" or "deviant" by the dominant culture, faced increased risk of arrest for lesbian behavior. The If Café and the Open Door stayed open for years and produced a vibrant culture that carried over into activism and community life among lesbians of color in subsequent decades. (Courtesy of Emily Hobson)

Nearby Site of Interest

Jewel's Catch One

4067 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles 90019 (323) 737-1159 (

Nearby, though not in the immediate vicinity. Established in 1972, Catch One is the oldest continually running Black-owned gay bar in the United States. The owner has developed a range of projects and initiatives that support the health of local residents.

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant

Beverly Soon Tofu Restaurant

2717 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite 108, Los Angeles 90006 (213) 380-1113 (

Steaming bowls of Korean tofu soup served with rice and high-quality banchan (vegetable side dishes).

1.17 Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California (IDEPSCA) and Villa Park

IDEPSCA offices-1565 W. 14th St., Los Angeles 90015 (between S. Union Ave. and Toberman St.) (213) 252-2952 (


Villa Park-363 E. Villa St., Pasadena 91101 (between N. Garfield Ave. and N. Los Robles Ave.)

During the 1980s, refugees from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua came to Los Angeles in large numbers, settling primarily in the Pico-Union, MacArthur Park, and Koreatown neighborhoods. They were fleeing civil wars and political violence that was partly caused by U.S. interventions in the political affairs of Central American governments and carried out by military officers who had been trained at the School of the Americas in Georgia. The building on Fourteenth Street, donated by a local church participating in the sanctuary movement, housed several refugee families. This building is now home to the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA).

IDEPSCA is the outgrowth of organizing efforts by students and parents who began meeting in Pasadena's Villa Park in 1984. Initially concerned with educational and housing discrimination, activists realized that many community members were illiterate in Spanish, which made their English language acquisition that much harder. As a result, they began offering literacy classes, initially in Pasadena and eventually in other communities throughout Southern California. The classes, in turn, evolved into several organizing projects. Since 1994, IDEPSCA has organized centers for day laborers in several communities throughout Los Angeles. It also runs a variety of programs that address worker health, education, and family literacy and promote economic development, including the highly successful Magic Cleaners, a home-cleaning business that uses eco-friendly practices. In all these programs, IDEPSCA uses popular education methods, influenced by the liberationist philosophy and pedagogy of Paulo Freire, to organize low-income immigrant workers in Los Angeles. IDEPSCA is committed to developing workers' leadership skills and believes in the power of immigrant workers to define and solve problems in their own communities.

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurants

El Parían

1528 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles 90015 (213) 386-7361

Located near IDEPSCA, this restaurant is well known for its birria, but we especially like the carne asada and the carnitas burrito.

Euro Pane Bakery

950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 91106 (626) 577-1828

Close to Villa Park, Euro Pane offers freshly baked bread and gourmet sandwiches. Expect a short wait.

Naga Naga Ramen

49 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 91105 (626) 585-8822 (

Located in Old Town Pasadena, Naga Naga offers an extensive Japanese menu that is very affordable.

To Learn More

Nora Hamilton and Norma Chinchilla, Seeking Community in a Global City: Guatemalans and Salvadorans in Los Angeles (Temple University Press, 2001).

Hector Tobar, The Tattooed Soldier (Penguin, 2000). A novel about a Guatemalan refugee and a death-squad veteran soldier, set in MacArthur Park.

1.18 Kyoto Grand Hotel

120 S. Los Angeles St., Los Angeles 90012 (at E. 2nd St) (213) 629-1200 (

(Downtown/Little Tokyo)

Kyoto Grand, formerly the New Otani Hotel, is a nonunion hotel that exemplifies three distinct power struggles: the gentrification of Little Tokyo, a prolonged unionization fight, and World War II war crimes. Little Tokyo has housed a Japanese and Japanese American population since the turn of the twentieth century, except for the period during World War II, when most West Coast Japanese were interned. In the 1970s, the City of Los Angeles' Community Redevelopment Agency was intent on redeveloping the area, as it saw great potential for attracting international investment and making Little Tokyo a hub of the transnational Pacific Rim economy. Consequently, the Kajima Corporation, a major Japanese construction company, proposed a luxury hotel in Little Tokyo. Local residents were concerned with maintaining affordable housing so that the nikkei residents, many of whom were elderly, could continue to live in the area. Asian American activists waged a fierce battle to maintain the community character of Little Tokyo, but the forces of international capital and the state were simply too strong. Kajima won, and built the New Otani Hotel-a move that greatly accelerated the decline of Little Tokyo as a residential community.

In 1993, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Union Local 11 began an organizing drive at the New Otani Hotel. The campaign was challenging because it required the ability to bring together workers who spoke Spanish, Tagalog, Japanese, and English. Led by newly elected Local 11 president Maria Elena Durazo, demonstrators became a fixture outside the New Otani. HERE wanted the hotel to allow workers to vote on unionization through a "card check" election, as opposed to a secret ballot election. Labor organizers favor card check elections because they allow a union to bargain for workers once 50 percent of employees sign a card authorizing external representation. Many believe that secret ballots aren't really secret, and that employers benefit from such an arrangement. The campaign was brutal: the New Otani hired a union-busting firm and retaliated against workers who supported the union. As an example, three Latina maids were fired despite having worked at the hotel for 16 years. The National Labor Relations Board declared the firings illegal, but its decision was later reversed.

The Los Angeles City Council eventually voted to boycott the hotel because of how it was treating its workers, and because of activists' success in publicizing Kajima's war crimes. Activists had learned that, during World War II, Kajima had profited from slave-labor camps in Manchuria. A global campaign called the Hanaoka Support Committee was created to bring Kajima to justice, and Los Angeles labor and community activists, particularly Asian Americans, were part of it. The New Otani marked a major development in international labor solidarity when, in 1996, Rengo Labor Federation, Japan's largest labor organization, agreed to support the city's boycott and Local 11's campaign. In 1997, John Sweeney, then president of the AFL-CIO, flew to Japan to pressure Kajima and to meet with Japanese labor leaders. Local 11 continued to organize, but it never succeeded in forming a union. In 2007, the Kajima Corporation sold the hotel to 3D Investments, who turned it into the Kyoto Grand.

Although the campaign to organize did not result in a union, there were some positive by-products: it helped renew the Los Angeles labor movement, it built bridges across multiple racial and ethnic lines, and it hinted at the possibilities for international solidarity. The good news is that a handful of Chinese survivors did receive some compensation from Kajima, who admitted to "moral" but not "legal" wrongdoing.

Nearby Site of Interest

Japanese American National Museum

369 E. 1st St., Los Angeles 90012 (213) 625-0414 (

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurants

San Antonio Winery

737 Lamar St., Los Angeles 90031 (323) 223-1401 (

One of L.A.'s oldest wineries, in operation since 1917, and the last producing winery in the city. Also the site of a restaurant featuring sandwiches, salads, steaks, and pastas, as well as a wine-tasting room.

Mitsuru Café

117 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles 90012 (213) 613-1028

This hole-in-the-wall in Little Tokyo's Japanese Village Plaza has been serving its famous imagawayaki (fluffy moist pastry resembling a pancake, filled with sweet red adzuki bean paste) for more than fifty years, preparing it fresh in the restaurant's front window. Also offers a selection of reasonably priced Japanese bento-style lunch specials.


333 S. Alameda St., Suite 310, Los Angeles 90013 (213) 617-0305 (

Located on the third floor of the semiabandoned Little Tokyo Shopping Center, Shojin offers a vegan menu inspired by Buddhist vegetarian cooking. Popular menu items include the pumpkin croquette, barbecued seitan, and seitan steak marinade with herb garlic butter.

To Learn More

Mike Davis, "Kajima's Throne of Blood,"The Nation (February 12, 1996): 18.

Ralph Frammolino, "The Bolshevik Who Beat Belmont," Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2001.

1.19 L.A. Live

800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles 90015 (at Figueroa St.) (866) 548-3452 or (213) 763-5483 (


L.A. Live is a major sports and entertainment center that first opened in 2007 and continues to expand. It is home to the Lakers, hosts frequent concerts, and includes hotels and condominiums, movie theaters, the Grammy Museum, bowling alleys, and many eateries. The original plan for L.A. Live paid little attention to the new project's social and environmental costs to the local neighborhood. It would have led to significant displacement, a major issue given Los Angeles' perpetual housing crisis, and the remaining residents would have been adversely affected by increased traffic, parking, and crime. But in response to organizing work by the Figueroa Corridor Coalition for Economic Justice (FCCEJ), L.A. Live's owners agreed to an unprecedented set of community benefits in 2001. Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) led the effort to create FCCEJ, which was formed to advocate on behalf of and with inner-city residents for an improved quality of life and economic development in the face of severe displacement and gentrification. More than 300 residents and 30 labor, community, and environmental justice organizations joined FCCEJ, which won a historic set of concessions in exchange for its support of the project. These concessions included a preferential-parking district for low-income tenants; guarantees that 20 percent of the new housing units would be reserved for low-income people; $1 million for parks; and a commitment to hiring local residents to fill half of the 5,500 permanent jobs. This community benefits agreement was the first of its kind in the United States and is considered a prototype for resistance to models of downtown development and gentrification that offer little to existing residents, or that threaten to force them out.

FCCEJ's lead organization, SAJE, is also a founding member of a national organization called the Right to the City Alliance. The alliance was created in 2007 "out of ... an idea of a new kind of urban politics that asserts that everyone, particularly the disenfranchised, not only has a right to the city, but as inhabitants, have [sic] a right to shape it, design it, and operationalize an urban human rights agenda." Five other organizations in Los Angeles are also members of the alliance: the East Los Angeles Community Corporation, Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, South Asian Network, and El Unión de Vecinos.

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant


3335 W. 8th St., Los Angeles 90005 (213) 784-0943

Mexican juice bar serving raspados, licuados, and ice cream.

To Learn More

Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, 152 W. 32nd St., Los Angeles 90007 (213) 745-9961 (

Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), 464 Lucas Ave., Suite 202, Los Angeles 90017 (213) 977-9400 (

Right to the City Alliance,

Neil Smith, The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City (Routledge, 1996).

1.20 La Placita and Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

La Placita-535 N. Main St., Los Angeles 90012 (at Arcadia St.) (213) 629-1951 (


Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels-555 W. Temple St., Los Angeles 90012 (between N. Hill St. and N. Grand St.) (213) 680-5200 (


Dedicated on December 8, 1822, La Placita is the oldest formal church in Los Angeles, and for many years it was the only Catholic church in the region. It is still a functioning church with a long history of serving Los Angeles' Latina/o population. In the 1980s, La Placita became a safe haven for refugees, specifically Central American immigrants, and a key site associated with the sanctuary movement led by Father Luis Olivares, a Mexican American priest. Olivares was branded a "communist" by Howard Ezell, then western regional commissioner for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Many believe that the Catholic leadership was opposed to Olivares's growing popularity and his overt politics, and that they planned to transfer him to a less visible post in Texas. However, Father Olivares was diagnosed with HIV-AIDS and never made the move. He died in 1993. In the early twenty-first century, as anti-immigrant sentiment reached new heights, La Placita, along with a small group of other churches, opened its doors to immigrant refugees once again as part of the New Sanctuary Movement.

La Placita's level of commitment to the poor and vulnerable stands in direct contrast to that of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The cathedral was completed in 2002 at a cost of $189.7 million. It was intended to replace St. Vibiana's (built in 1885), which had been damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The cathedral is a postmodern structure designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo. Although Cardinal Roger Mahony was a strong defender of immigrants and generally supportive of labor, many criticized him for spending an exorbitant sum to build such a lavish structure when the diocese (the largest in the United States) counts millions of impoverished among its faithful. Mahony's leadership was further criticized when he refused to take responsibility for the sexual abuse scandal among Catholic priests. He not only sought to protect sexual molesters but also resisted sharing their files with the county until he was forced to do so by the courts. These events greatly weakened the church's moral authority in Los Angeles and seriously damaged its coffers. In 2010, upon Mahony's retirement, Jose Gomez became his replacement. Gomez is the first Latino archbishop in the United States.

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant

Sushi Gen

422 E. 2nd St., Los Angeles 90012 (213) 617-0552 (

Very popular sushi restaurant known for its fresh sashimi. On the pricier side. Expect a wait.

1.21 League of Southern California Japanese Gardeners

1646 N. Hoover St., Los Angeles 90027 (between Clayton Ave. and Prospect Ave.)

(Los Feliz)

Private residence

Restricted from owning property by California's Alien Land Laws of 1913 and 1920, many Japanese immigrants in Los Angeles, even those with college degrees and skilled trades, turned to gardening. Gardening allowed immigrants to start their own businesses with relatively little capital, offered some autonomy, and paid well compared to the few other occupations open to Japanese workers at the time. During the Depression, gardeners could make between $150 and $200 per month, while those working in the produce market made only about $80 a month and worked much longer hours. By 1934, one-third of the Japanese labor force consisted of gardeners. They performed basic lawn care but also created more elaborate garden designs for wealthy white homeowners in some of the city's most elite neighborhoods.

Yet during the Great Depression Japanese gardeners increasingly faced hostility from their wealthy employers in places like Beverly Hills, where white women's groups launched a "Back to Manchuria" campaign. Many employers favored the European immigrants and rural whites migrating to Los Angeles amid the height of the nation's economic downturn. In 1933, under the leadership of issei Shoji Nagumo, Japanese gardeners formed three local associations, in Hollywood, West Los Angeles/Sawtelle, and Uptown (bordered by Vermont and Western avenues and Pico Boulevard and San Marino Street). The Hollywood association began as a racially mixed coalition when 62 white Americans and 13 Japanese immigrants met in 1933 to exchange ideas on how to stabilize gardening fees. By the end of the decade, however, all the white members had left gardening to join the more lucrative defense industry, from which Japanese people were largely excluded.

The League of Southern California Japanese Gardeners was established in 1937, with its offices at this address, to respond to persistent anti-Japanese hostility and to manage political and economic issues that could not be handled at the local-association level. By 1940, the league reported 900 members and began to publish a monthly newsletter, Gadena no Tomo (literally, "Gardener's Friend"), also known in English as The Gardener's Monthly. The newspaper featured political commentaries as well as information about tools and techniques. Less than two years later, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the FBI raided Nagumo's home and confiscated the league's membership list, minutes of meetings, and financial records. The league disbanded in 1942, although Japanese internees continued to create gardens and beautify the desert landscapes in which they were detained. After the war, many returning Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans reestablished their prewar gardening routes. In 1955, Japanese gardeners again became politicized in response to the Maloney Bill, which would have required maintenance gardeners to be licensed by the state, and formed the Southern California Gardeners Federation. The federation is active to this day and has joined with other ethnic groups, especially Latinas/os, to oppose ordinances such as leaf blower bans and to strengthen the gardening industry.

Nearby Site of Interest

Griffith Park

4730 Crystal Springs Dr., Los Angeles 90027 (323) 913-4688 (

As the largest urban park in the United States, Griffith Park has just about everything you can think of: an observatory, a zoo, golfing, hiking, swimming, tennis, picnicking, horseback riding, the Autry National Center (, the Greek Theatre (, and more. There are multiple access points and activities, so it's best to check the web site before visiting.

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant


2056 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles 90027 (323) 662-1214 (

This award-winning taco stand in Los Feliz has been delighting Angelenos since 1976. Be sure to try their signature cochinita pibil (pork wrapped in banana leaves and cooked for hours until tender, Yucatán style) in a burrito, taco, or torta. The restaurant is not recommended for vegetarians.