L.A.’s 2022 Elections are the Most Important for Council District 13 Since the 1960s

The original version of this article was published on April 21st, 2022 for our new Making a Neighborhood Newsletter. Please consider becoming a paid subscriber today to get more stories like it, plus more work from our colleagues Samanta Helou Hernandez and Ali Rachel Pearl.

In a report on low voter turnouts in L.A. County when compared to our neighbors up north—which has consistently resulted in more success for political candidates from the latter—reporter Laurel Rosenhall noted that “Southern California is home to a greater share of Latinos than the Bay Area, and has many more people living in poverty—both characteristics correlated with low voting.”

Apartments in East Hollywood, of Council District 13, where as recently as 2018, Latinx residents accounted for at least 52% of the population (Wiki Commons).

These historic characteristics notwithstanding, things looked better for L.A.’s voter turnout in the general election of November 2018, when 58% of the county’s registered voters sealed Newson’s victory over Trump’s John Cox. The spike proved fleeting, however, as voter turnout dipped again for a primary less than two years later.

In March 2020—a day before California declared a state of emergency in response to the novel coronavirus—Bernie Sanders beat out Joe Biden for the democratic nomination in Los Angeles, but with only 39% of L.A.’s registered voters participating. It thus wouldn’t be until the general election of 2020 that precautionary measures for the coronavirus gave way to a simple yet powerful transformation in L.A.’s and CA’s voting systems: mail-in ballots to registered voters everywhere.

During November 2020, on the one hand was the prospect of four more years of MAGA hats; on the other, the largest marches in U.S. history over George Floyd’s documented murder. In response, more than 76% of registered voters in L.A. County submitted a ballot; of the 4.3 million of these collected, 3 out of 4 were sent by mail. It was the political equivalent of snow in L.A. County.

Before this, only the 1992 general elections—which took place less than seven months after the L.A. riots—held the record for the highest voter turnout in several decades when 61% of voters came out. L.A.’s strongest turnout for a local election took place in 1969, when 76% of the city’s registered voters came out for a match between Sam Yorty and City Councilman Thomas Bradley, a major drive for which was Yorty’s brutal response to the 1965 Watts rebellion.

Taken together, the 1969, 1992, and 2020 turnout rates suggest that L.A.’s voters show up in larger numbers when issues of race are clearly on the line. But there’s a caveat to keep in mind: with the exception of the 1969 election, which was a runoff, the higher turnout rates occurred during general and not primary contests, which we will return to shortly.

An additional outlier during 2020’s general elections was the success of Nythia Raman, who defeated incumbent David Ryu to represent East Hollywood and CD-13’s more resourced neighbors, including those in Los Feliz, Sherman Oaks, and the Miracle Mile, among other neighborhoods in “East Central” L.A. (That is, before L.A.’s redistricting commission remade Raman’s district in 2021 to represent more of the San Fernando Valley.)

In a conversation with the L.A. Times after the flip, decades-long former L.A. City Councilman and L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky predicted that: “a Raman victory would embolden the movement that rallied for her—younger, grassroots activists who favored Bernie Sanders and are frustrated with City Hall—to get even more involved in the 2022 election, when eight council seats and three citywide seats will be up for grabs.”

DSA-LA Candidate Endorsement, January 2022, provided by Democratic Socialists of America

Yaroslavsky—now in his 70s—was right. The post-boomers, millennials, and zoomers were just getting started with political campaigns in 2020—when only two city council districts were at stake—and are now in full swing as five times as many seats are up for grabs in addition to state and national congressional offices. As the Times’ David Zahniser recently noted , “[it’s] the most significant turnover in political leadership at City Hall since 2013.”

Most importantly, L.A.’s 2022 candidates for public office are far more reflective of the diversity embodied by the city’s first familias than what’s been the case in decades, and have likewise hit the ground running against the city’s more established political class. Four years ago, by 2018’s primary, candidates had raised up to $4.5 million for their contests by the start of the year. As of January of this year, candidates raised four times as much at nearly $18 million.

The question thereby facing more than a few L.A. City Council incumbents is if the diversity of these new challengers, combined with the larger funds they’re attracting—plus new access to voting from universally mailed ballots—are enough to get more L.A. voters to turn out than what’s historically been true for primaries. The recent upswing in political engagement—along with careful consideration of 1969, 1992, and 2020’s elections—suggests this should be the case. But let’s look even more closely at the two major primaries over the last decade to place this June’s into more perspective, starting with Council District 13, when Mitch O’Farrell took over for Eric Garcetti. 

In 2013, after 12 years of keeping the district open for business, Garcetti was finally ready to upstage dad, who was L.A.’s District Attorney during the 1990s, and move on to the mayor’s office. To usher in a subsequent wave of gentrification after him in the area was former staffer O’Farrell. So on to the primary they both went.

The primary election for March 2013 saw only 21% of L.A.’s 1.8 million registered voters—or less than 400,000 people—submit a ballot. For the mayor’s race, out of eight other candidates, Garcetti’s campaign managed to get just over 1/3 of the vote. 33% in the contest was nothing to write home about, but it still advanced Garcetti and second-place Wendy Greuel to a runoff in June of 2013. Garcetti then claimed victory when an additional two percent of L.A.’s voters cast their ballots. As the L.A. Times remarked about the number of ballots cast in that contest: it was “the lowest in any two-candidate runoff in the past 100 years.”

Back in “the Hollywood district,” as it was known to pundits at the time, less than 1/4th of CD-13’s voters chose between O’Farrell and 11 other candidates. O’Farrell eked out just 19% of these voters’ support, or less than 4,600 votes, but the rate still advanced him and second-place John Choi to their own runoff in June 2013. As a decades-long resident in CD-13, there was certainly a time when I wondered what would have been had Choi defeated O’Farrell in that close runoff. But the fact is that like his rival, Choi was also an “insider,” specifically a former Public Works Commissioner for the city. Similarly, though Greuel lost to Garcetti by just a couple of ten thousand votes, she was a City Controller for L.A. from 2009—2013, hardly a stray from the normal resemblances between high-profile names for public office.

Today, by contrast, the mayor’s office in June 2022’s ballots counts 12 different candidates, at least two of whom—Gina Viola and Alex Gruenenfelder Smith—are stated police abolitionists and supporters of Black Lives Matter, the first in the city’s nearly 172 years under U.S. jurisdiction. In CD-13, while one of the top three challengers to Mitch O’Farrell, Kate Pynoos, has previous experience in public office as a staffer for City Council representative Mike Bonin, her peers in fundraising and online presence, Hugo Soto-Martinez and Albert Corado, are both first-time candidates for an office at City Hall. Corado is also a police abolitionist, while Soto-Martinez is an organizer with Unite Here Local 11, which represents hospitality workers across Los Angeles; both are substantially distinguished from most of 2013 and 2017’s candidates for the district.

Albert Corado, who is running to unseat Mitch O’Farrell in Council District 13.

With this in mind, let’s zoom in on 2017’s primary one more time. Data provided by Tableau Public, an open-source data website, shows not just how many people were registered and voted in that election, but also considerable demographic info.

In 2017’s primary, when it came to registration, the group with the lowest registration rate was voters 18-24 years old at 9%. Voters aged 35-44, 45-54, and 55-64 had similar registration rates at 18%, 15%, and 15%, respectively, while voters aged 25-34 had the highest registration rate, taking up 24% of the rolls. Just after this group were voters 65+, taking up 20%.

In terms of ethnicity or race, white voters accounted for 52%, or over half of all registrations. Latinx voters accounted for 35%, and Asian-Americans and African-Americans accounted for 9% and 4%, respectively. Together, then, non-white voters took up 48% of voter registrations before election day.

Assuming most of these folks received a ballot well before election day, the potential for a diverse and multi-generational turnout was definitely there; instead, recall that just 17% of these registrations translated into votes by the time the primary was over. It’s when we look at data for the number of returned ballots, then, that we start to see how major “drop-off” or “disappearance” of ballots took place along categories of race, age, and class.

Data from Tableu Public by paulmitche11, 2017

First, returned ballots from voters by election day in 2017 showed that 18-24 year olds turned in an exceptionally low rate at 3%. The rate for voters aged 25-34, 35-44, and 45-54 year olds was similar at 14%, 13%, and 13% again, respectively. A significantly higher number of returned ballots came from voters aged 55-64 years old at 17%. But the highest number of returned ballots—40%—came from voters 65+. As such, the age group with the greatest drop-off or “disappearance” after registration was the 25-34 year old category, while the group with the largest boost were Seniors or baby boomers.

Secondly, when it came to racial data for ballots returned by or just after election day, white voters took up more than 3/5ths, or a super-majority of the category at 68%, which was also 16 percentage points more than their registration rates before election day (52%). Asian-American, Latinx, and African-Americans, on the other hand, accounted for 32% of returns, creating a drop-off of 16 percentage points less than their registration numbers prior to election day (48%). White voters not only accounted for more registrations prior to election day, then, but also saw more physical turnout for the vote than their non-white counterparts.

Asian-American voter turnout for returned ballots by election day increased by two points relative to their registration, while for Black voters, the rate of returned ballots fell slightly by 1%. But the group which saw the greatest “disappearance”of voters was Latinx, with a 17% “loss” of ballots, or half of their rate of registration prior to election day.

One of L.A.’s roughly 414,000/1.3 Million voters on March 7th, 2017 at First Baptist Church in Hollywood. (Photo by Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The final key data point provided by Tableau Public shows the rate of registrations versus ballots returned between renters and homeowners. During registration, or before election day, renters accounted for 42% of registrations, while homeowners took up 34% of the portion. The data is not clear on what the living situation of the remaining 24% of registrants was, but by election day, homeowners accounted for 49% of the ballots turned in, while ballots from renters, on the other hand, made for 40%. Renters lost a couple of points by the day of the election, then, while homeowners surged in double-digits.

With all of these data points combined, we can note with certainty that nearly seven out of ten mailed ballots for the 2017 primary were from white voters, and that four out of ten were from voters 65+. We can also note that nearly half came from those who owned a home in L.A. County, while three out of ten were from Latinx, Black, or Asian-American voters, with apartment renting likely concentrated among them.

In other words, the people who came out most were L.A.’s older, wealthier, and whiter voters at the same time that Latinx voters in particular—the city’s largest single ethnic group—saw a substantial loss of voting power by the day of the vote relative to their registrations prior to it, all key data-points for the current set of campaigns to keep in mind.

Questions facing not incumbents, then, but challengers, from Hugo Soto-Martinez, Kate Pynoos, and Albert Corado in CD-13, to Eunisses Hernandez in CD-1 and beyond, are clear and simple: Can their campaigns appeal to seasoned and consistent voters, including older white homeowners, as well as Black, Latinx, and Asian-American voters? And can they bring in “newer” participants, especially younger and Latinx voters, whose turnout hasn’t been as “reliable” in previous political campaigns?

If so, then coupled with the symbolic power of their fresh and diverse faces, June 2022’s primary turnout is poised to leave 2017’s in the dustbin. Turnout might not reach the all-time high for local primaries—also set in the 1960s at 66%—but should certainly be at least double, if not triple 2017’s rate, which may be all that’s needed to make the difference.

One last glance back at the election years of 1969, 1992, and 2020 is important. The first marked just four years after the Watts Rebellion; the second, just seven months after outrage over the Rodney King verdict; and the third, only five months after nationwide protest in the name of George Floyd; in each of these timelines, anti-Blackness was at the center of the question on justice in cities across the U.S.

Today, few injustices in these cities are more overt than that of homelessness. In L.A., it has translated for decades into Black people accounting for 34% of the unhoused population despite purportedly making up just 8% of the county’s 10 million residents, or four times their demographic share.

In late 2021, after an “L.A. County Homelessness Survey,” the L.A. Times’ David Lauter published words that in the U.S. should read as more than copy, but as indictments against municipal governments under the 14th amendment:

“Nearly half of Black voters in Los Angeles County have been homeless, have experienced housing insecurity in the past year or know someone who has — a significantly larger share than for other racial and ethnic groups, according to a new poll.

Homelessness—and the policing of Black bodies associated with it— has touched every neighborhood in the city since even before the 1960s and continues to do so, including in East Hollywood. As recently as 2017, Black residents made up just 2.4% of the neighborhood, but accounted for 13% of those arrested by police, or six times their demographic share. In 2019, former L.A. Homelessness Services Director Peter Lynn noted that “there is probably no more single significant factor than incarceration in terms of elevating somebody’s prospects of homelessness.”

Voters in neighborhoods across Los Angeles should make no mistake about it, then. Over these next six weeks, despite the repeated lousiness and seeming ineffectiveness of the voting process—particularly for workers and their families—there’s nothing less than an historic referendum on anti-racism on the ballot, or the most critical one since voters nearly elected L.A.’s first Black mayor in 1969.

Although flawed in several ways, after his successful election in 1973, Bradley went on to serve the office’s longest term of all time at 20 years, going on to champion and oversee construction of Metro’s Blue Line in 1990. The Blue Line ushered in a new era for public transit, including East Hollywood’s local Red Line in 1999, which has played a key role in connecting the area with the rest of the city. Both services, like Metro as a whole, remain lousy and constantly ineffective as well, but nonetheless continue expanding in opportunity, albeit incrementally, as more time passes.

There’s also no telling just what the city’s first non-male mayor in its nearly 241 years in existence could achieve for voters with a term or two onto 2030, and all the more so given L.A. city hall’s historically inequitable—and often compromised—structure in any case. But given Gina Viola’s strong position on divestment from incarceration for L.A.’s most vulnerable communities—especially Black Lives—which is also a policy that’s gained increasing momentum at the voting booths over the last decade, it sure is something different for the city and its neighborhoods in generations; in fact, with the data and ground-game in mind, it’s an unprecedented opportunity.


East Hollywood is L.A. at its Roots

This article was originally published on March 31st, 2022 for our new Making a Neighborhood Newsletter. Please consider becoming a paid subscriber today to get more stories like it, plus more work from our colleagues Samanta Helou Hernandez and Ali Rachel Pearl.

 Old Mission San Gabriel (Photo, the date of which is unknown, from L.A. Public Library’s Tessa Collections)

Los Angeles was founded in 1781—next to and on top of the Native Tongva/Gabrieleño village called Yaangna—by 11 familias and four soldiers of mixed African, Indigenous and European ancestry. In two separate groups, they came largely from the Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa, one crossing through Baja California, the other through the Sonoran and Mojave deserts; they were a total of 11 men, 11 women, and 22 children who trekked over 1,200 miles north before reaching La misión San Gabriel Arcángel, which was founded by the Spanish priest Junipero Serra only a decade earlier. Nine miles later, they raised the pueblo this storyteller names himself after.

Four years after this journey, Toypurina, a Tongva/Gabrieleño medicine woman born and raised on the land prior to la misión taking control of it, led an attempted revolt against its padres, etching her name into Los Angeles’ rebel archives ad infinitum. Sixteen years later in 1801, Pío Pico, of African and Indigenous roots, was born at the church. He would become the last governor of California under Mexican law.

La misión is now both a site of worship as well as a tourist destination; it’s also a smidgeon in the rearview mirror of a city whose “direction” seems more intent on building stadiums instead of housing for its most essential workers and families, to say nothing of relief for untold numbers of people living on its streets. As a pastor, Serra might be perplexed by such a humanitarian crisis so close to the walls of his and his brethren’s place of refuge, while Toypurina and Pico, both stripped of their original homes by forces larger than themselves, might not be as surprised.

Yet, that it was a band of familias who traced the first 28 square miles of L.A. (which are now 4,800 square miles) allows us to see a few things about the origins of a city which still appears committed to eluding a sense of history and place.

For starters, the journey of the familias—long and arduous, and during a time when no vaccine existed for some deadly, 3,000-year-old virus called smallpox—makes it clear that immigration and resilience—or resilient immigrants—are strengths Los Angeles and California never merely acquired, but which they’ve been made of since their humble beginnings.

After all, the pobladores of 1781 were not the first group to make a sojourn through the mysterious land of California in an effort to establish a town. According to historian William M. Mason: “An attempt to settle the southern tip of Baja California in the 1530s ended in failure, and there was to be no slow progression up the peninsula for nearly two centuries.”

Map from 1650. For hundreds of years cartographers from Europe thought California was an island after a cartographer went through Baja California and no further north (Photo from Library of Congress)

Secondly, it’s clear that the familias were heterogeneous, containing wide-ranging colors, languages, and histories between them. In a collage recreation of what they may have physically looked like, the L.A. Almanac notes: “Two are white and two are black. Eleven are indigenous to Mexico. The rest are multiracial combinations of white, black and indigenous. Half are of African descent. L.A.’s founders were perhaps the most ethnically diverse group of founders for any major city in America.”

Image Portrayal of the Founders of Los Angeles 1781 in 2020 (“Original Settlers of Los Angeles.” Los Angeles Almanac)

Yet the story of these familias is about even more than their shades of brown under the sun. Unlike the homogenous “founding fathers” to the east in Philadelphia who rebelled against the queen five years before L.A.’s establishment, the pueblo’s founding familias were largely workers, and made up of more women and youth than men.

Among the 22 youth, the average age was seven years old; the youngest were Cosme Damian, whose parents were both of “Indian” ancestry, and Maria Antonia, whose parents were also documented as “Indian.” Each of them was only a year old. The oldest of the youth was Maria Getrudis, 16, whose father was noted as Black and whose mother was considered a “mulatta.”

These were the first families of the city whose absorption by the U.S. nearly a century later in 1850 came to complete the dream of Manifest Destiny; of the same city which a century after that, between 1950 and 1970, erected a 527 mile-long “freeway” system that destroyed the homes and businesses of at least 250,000 of its residents—losses to which the families of the Yaangna villages from 1781 could relate.

But let us also make clear about the founders that they were contractors. They had no benefits. Together with their Black and Indigenous bloodlines, they were mostly there to do a job and perhaps get some land from Governor Felipe De Neve, who himself was under orders from King Carlos III to preempt encroachments by Russian and English navigators snooping around California at the time; L.A. was supposed to be both a potential military outpost as well as a pueblo, which required the pobladores to be the multi-skilled pioneering types (characteristics still required and typical of most immigrants today).

On reaching the trail of the future L.A. river, then, the founders did not just declare the future city. According to historian David Samuel Torress-Rouff: “They went to work fulfilling the obligations outlined in their documents: damming the river; drawing off an irrigation channel; dividing among themselves a series of house, garden, and agricultural lots; and establishing a central plaza. In doing so, they carved a town out of the arid yet fertile basin.” It was quite the achievement, Torress-Rouff goes on to note, for workers who as “Indians, Negros and Mulattos,” undoubtedly occupied the lower ranks of Spain’s casta or racial system.

Nearly 241 years later, a new, but not too dissimilar diversity of workers sustains Los Angeles against only more odds (like “the Big One,” for example), including in a little neighborhood known as East Hollywood, a brief history for which follows.

East Hollywood Lemon Groves circa 1905 (Photo from L.A. Public Library’s Tessa Collections)

In 1910, less than seven miles from the limits of the original pueblo, a vote by the residents of Hollywood added their little “Tinseltown,” including its eastern portion (plus 3,015 acres of the Rancho Los Feliz donated by Griffith Jenkins Griffith), to county lines. At the time, it had also been just three years since L.A.’s residents voted in support of William Mulholland’s then-new aqueduct in an election highly influenced by the L.A. Times. To this day, Mulholland’s aqueduct is credited as the biggest incentive for Hollywood’s residents opting to join the pueblo

“This photograph shows a sign advertising the terminus of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which had been completed in November, 1913…” (Photo from Water and Power Associates)

But the addition of Hollywood (including East Hollywood) to county limits also went into effect just one year after L.A. officials drafted their first ever zoning guidelines. You see, by 1910, L.A. had been on a fast-track of expansion over thirty years, starting in 1876 when the Southern Pacific Railroad out of San Francisco effectively connected the pueblo to cities as far east as Chicago. Los Angeles’ population had gone from less than 34,000 people in 1880, to just less than 102,000 by 1890, and up to 170,000 by 1900. Yet somehow—even pre-aqueduct—the city’s growth was set to erupt again.

By the time L.A. extended westward into Hollywood, the population had more than tripled from its size at the start of the 20th century to more than 504,000 people. It happened too fast, and living conditions became hemmed in and awkward. According to Los Angeles Walks, “Residential areas were rubbing up against both farms and burgeoning industrial areas. People complained about the smells and sights of slaughterhouses, saloons, laundries, brickyards, and a host of other perceived negative land uses.”

By 1920, then, L.A. officials published their first-ever zoning ordinances in response to these conditions, creating single-family, multi-family, business, light industry, and heavy industry zones. So today, when, as the New York Times points out, “[i]t is illegal on 75 percent of the residential land in many American cities to build anything other than a detached single-family home,” those cities can thank 1920s L.A. officials for setting the standard.

As importantly, across lands beyond Los Angeles and California, another set of ordinances and laws were also expanding in scale and scope. They were the U.S.’s Jim Crow laws, or legalized and enforced segregation dividing Black people from white people. These laws were most pronounced in the south, but their origins could be traced to white “northerners” on train cars who demanded to ride separately from Black passengers along growing U.S. railroad tracks.

Northern support for segregation could be traced to as early as 1841, as noted by this op-ed from Massachusetts titled “Rebuke of the Eastern Railroad Company, for their Treatment of Colored Passengers.” But Jim Crow didn’t truly proliferate until confederates and their sympathizers sabotaged earlier legislation for civil relations such as the 1875 Civil Rights Act; the Act’s purpose was to honor the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments created for freed Black men during Reconstruction. When the Supreme Court struck it down in 1883, then, “separate but equal” got its official shot. It would be established as law in Plessy versus Ferguson in 1896.

Illustration by Thomas Nast From: Harper’s Weekly, 18 March 1875

In effect, over the three decades that Los Angeles transformed from its sleepy rancho days to one of the 10 most populous cities by 1910, counties and states across the U.S., including in the north and south, were transforming the right to access within city limits to serve white supremacy. It was only a matter of time before these issues intersected with the city, and did they ever. As Mike Davis noted about East Hollywood’s neighbors one mile north towards Griffith Park: “The first Homeowner’s Associations in Los Angeles, beginning with the Los Feli[z] Improvement Association in 1916, were the children of deed restrictions in a new kind of planned subdivision…” By “subdivision,” Davis means divided plots of land which by and large belonged to white people, quite a few of whom had every intention to keep things as such.

The heirs of General Robert Lee’s confederate legacy had thus done more than win the south back from the union on legislation. They had spread the reach and instruments of white supremacy as far north and west as orange-grove rich L.A., where racism would take on new forms like racial deed restrictions, the KKKHomeowners Associationseminent domain, and more.

An op-ed reprinted by Charlotta Bass’ California Eagle on April 30, 1926

Yet, back in East Hollywood, where such deed restrictions and other confederate-inspired legacies had not yet shaped the surrounding area, a dream of Reconstruction quietly persisted. In 1892, as reported by Samanta Helou-Hernandez’s “J-Flats: Stories From a Redlined Neighborhood,” a formerly enslaved African American man named George Albright and his wife, Josephine Hardy, a white woman, arrived to the west coast by train and settled on a small lot south of Los Feliz, west of downtown, and east of Hollywood. Preceding any racist subdivisions to be found nearby in the ensuing decades, they started a family here: “At the time, the area was all farmland, full of fruit orchards and streams. The Albrights homesteaded the area, living off the land and the grist mill George ran.”

Eight years after the Albrights joined Los Angeles at this juncture, Anny Bakalian points out in Armenian Americans how, “the very first Armenian in Los Angeles was a student who came from the East Coast for health reasons around 1900.” While it’s unclear whether this student settled in East Hollywood—which today is home to Little Armenia—it’s safe to infer that only a generation later, at least a handful of fellow Armenians did just so. Says Bakalian of a scholar and researcher of Armenian migration in the early 1920s: “Yeretzian was a Protestant minister and social worker who had the opportunity to gather firsthand information on the Armenians in Los Angeles…He writes that there were between 2,500 to 3,000 Armenians at the time of his study.”

”Ann Lajigian (later Sarafian), right, and her sister, Madeline, at an unidentified location in Southern California [in 1946].” (Photo from L.A. Public Library’s Tessa Collections)

Obituaries of residents located in East Hollywood from the 1920s until before the second world war also show the area as housing a considerable number of “Turks,” which were erroneous references to Armenians displaced by the Ottoman Empire during the genocide of 1915. Nonetheless, like the Albrights near Virgil Avenue, Armenians were allowed to live in East Hollywood and not written out of inclusion as they would be elsewhere.

Not far along, Filipino and Japanese families also made their way to the vicinity in waves over the early 20th century after U.S. military engagements in the Pacific changed the balance of power in their countries; so did Mexican-American laborers after the Mexican revolution to pick oranges and citrus, so much so that by 1939, when appraisers for the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) stopped by what today is known as Historic Filipinotown (East Hollywood’s southeast neighboring community) they’d write: “Population is extremely heterogeneous, there being a concentration of Japanese south Temple St., and one of Negroes west of Alvarado between Bellevue and Beverly Blvd. In addition to these concentrations there is a sprinkling of Russians and Mexicans.” HOLC language used to describe the area within the boundary lines of what’s now known as East Hollywood was not much different.

Today in the vicinity, along Vermont Avenue, a Salvadoran pupuseria takes space next to an Armenian pizzeria, which resides next to a convenience mart run by a Chinese-American family; less than a block away, another, newer college mart owned by an Indian-American invites one and all. On the weekends, vendors from around the world, but especially Central America, earnestly take over the avenue with tarps and small goods to make business, friendships, and, if anything else, to uplift Los Angeles’ colorful and vibrant characters. At least 48% of L.A.’s residents can now also cite roots to some Spanish surname, and like the first familias, many of them have also crossed thousands of miles on their feet to reach the locus of new beginnings the land has harbored for ages.

It’s also evident that like the founders cast as “lowly” workers or part of some “undesirable” social class, they are far more talented than the empire might give them credit for, as shown by their counterparts in the vicinity’s more established sites of commerce, vast swaths of which remain family-owned: auto body and repair shops; bakeries and donut shops; haircut salons and spas; newsstands, print-shops, and more. Together each of these “slices” of the neighborhood maintain an explosively heterogeneous environment that remains as open as it was 100 years ago when the Albrights, Armenian Americans, Filipinos and others reached it. 

While some may doubt the strength of so much divergence for its lack of centrality or uniformity, it’s actually this same “absence of center” that makes East Hollywood a unique home to Russian, Ukrainian, and Latinx churches within blocks of each other. Many of the faithful followers who can be found in these centers of worship can also share experiences of displacement with each other, all unique in their own way, but ultimately similarly catalystic in their motivation towards a better way of life and living in Los Angeles; they are also living proof of the benefits fought for and won by Black strides against institutional racism, including the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, and the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, among others.

Perhaps most of all, however, the people of these neighborhoods—mothers, aunties, grannies, tios and tias, and their heirs—share with the original pobladores from 240 years ago a fierce unwillingness to simply conform to market, racist, or other forces larger than themselves; instead, their resilience creates a new city, one daily remaking “the old with the new” in ways that sustain life altogether. Together they are East Hollywood. And East Hollywood is Los Angeles. Each is still just getting started.



We publish the podcast’s first ever English & Spanish-translated episode, recorded live with David Kim (@DavidKimForCA) for his campaign’s monthly Livestream. Share it with the vecindario‘s mamas, tios and tias, primos, and more! And for the full version, check out David’s YouTube channel. Thanks also to Patricia Canton for translating on the subjects of gentrification, redlining, the Jim Crow South, and the Reconstruction era, among others.