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Discover West Adams
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(Dan Carino
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LAist )
Episode 1
10:51
Discover West Adams
There's a lot you can learn by walking people's streets so How to L.A. will explore all the many neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Today, we start with West Adams, one of the oldest areas in LA. It also happens to be the neighborhood where HTLA host Brian De Los Santos grew up. Guests: Sandra Revolorio, West Adams thrift shop owner Mario Luna, father and West Adams resident

How to LA: Discover West Adams
 

Brian De Los Santos

We're at Highly Likely, it's a coffee shop/wine spot in West Adams. It's your typical trendy LA coffee shop. I grew up here in the 90's and 2000's. And something like this spot would never happen.

 

Okay, this is How to LA from LAist Studios. I'm your host, Brian De Los Santos. We've all struggled at some point living this city. What we really want to show you is that you can make your own, in your own way. Whether you live here a long time, or you just got here. We're going to talk to you about food, how to get outdoors, also complex issues like homelessness and gentrification. We're going to learn together what it means to be an Angeleno. And what better way to do that, than through exploring LA's neighborhoods. You can learn a lot walking someone's streets-so it'll be a regular thing we do on this podcast, and it's where we're starting off. Up first: the neighborhood I grew up.

 

Alright, let me tell you a little bit more about West Adams, my old neighborhood. It's a place just below the 10 freeway, in the middle of the city. You can get downtown from here in about 15 minutes or the beach in 20-obviously without traffic. There's also a lot of construction going on, cute new restaurants have moved in-Alta and MIAN, Tartine Bakery, even a boutique hotel. You can be confused, walking through the streets, and be like, what kind of neighborhood am I walking in, right? And the corner is like a bargain shop, faded paint, the marquee is not even holding up very well. There's a church that's probably built in the 20's or so. And then, you walk just a few steps away and there's like this new building being built. The aesthetic is so different from the other buildings, it's very square but also like-geometrical, like in a triangle way. Really long windows that to me screams luxury. I wonder what that business owners think about this?

 

 

Sandra (Community Business Owner)

Ellos están trayendo a gente acá. Pero, se les ha olvidado algo de esta gente.

 

 

Brian De Los Santos

We just met a local business owner here in West Adams. Her name is Sandra. She is the owner of a thrift store.

 

 

Sandra (Community Business Owner)

Tengo ocho años acá.

 

 

Brian De Los Santos 

She's been here for eight years. And one thing that hurts her-these developers, the people building the buildings-they forget about the people on the street.

 

Sandra (Community Business Owner)

Somos inmigrantes. ¿Quién nos escucha a nosotros? ¿Quién habla por nosotros?

 

 

Brian De Los Santos

She told me she doesn't benefit from all these changes, that the people who actually come and shop are people who are unhoused or people around the community. But, they're not the new folks moving into West Adams.

 

 

Sandra (Community Business Owner)

Qué punto tengan ellos en llenar lujosos edificios cuando mi gente está en la calle todavía.

 

 

Brian De Los Santos

Why are they filling up these luxury buildings when my people are still in the streets?

 

West Adams isn't a stranger to change, you know. Back in the early 1900's this was a wealthy white neighborhood until it wasn't. Upper middle class people of color started moving here in the late 1930's. And West Adams became a center of the Black community here in Los Angeles, mainly an area that came to be known as Sugar Hill. It was the place to be. There were salons and lavish Hollywood parties that attracted all sorts of folks. But, it couldn't just stay chill like that, right? A fight eventually started over who was allowed to live in these homes. Racist housing covenants stated Black people could not own these homes, so some of their white neighbors sued. But Black residents rallied together led in part by Oscar winning actress Hattie McDaniel. And, in a landmark decision, the judge presiding over that case sided with the defendants, but Daniel and her neighbors got to stay. But did you know, about 20 years later, many of the beautiful Black owned homes in Sugar Hill were torn down to make way for the 10 freeway. Still, West Adams remained a largely Black neighborhood into the 70's and 80's. We've got a lot more about that history in our newsletter, subscribe at laist.com/howtoLA

 

So we are at my childhood park in West Adams. My favorite playground in the world because that's where I grew up. There's a bunch of slides, there's swings, there is that little pull up monkey bar type thing. I would always come and try to you know, show off, but I always fell. And the basketball hoops. I sucked at basketball, by the way. "Who's on my team?" This park is in the middle of a residential area. I think that's why I love it so much because it's kind of like a hidden gem almost for me. When I was like five to maybe 11, I used to come here almost every weekend with my parents, my family, my neighbors, we'd get carne asada, get some ice cream or raspados from you know, the ice cream man.

 

 

Mario Luna (West Adam’s resident)

West Adams, HISTORIC West Adams has changed a lot.

 

 

Brian De Los Santos 

That's Mario Luna, a West Adams resident who might love this park even more than I do. He's 42 and he's been coming here since he was 15.

 

Mario Luna (West Adam’s resident)

The park itself, it used to have a lot of gang-bangers, now you see more kids, you see more people taking walks, more people walking dogs.

 

 

Brian De Los Santos 

How long have you lived here in West Adams? Sounds like you're an expert, you're a pro? I love it!

 

 

Mario Luna (West Adam’s resident)

Well, I was born and raised in LA. As a youth, I was into the gangs and into a lot of things that I shouldn't even be saying, but I used to come to this neighborhood for the same reason why it was bad. So now that it's good, I want to come do my part. Now, it's a place where I bring my kids.

 

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Whoa, all the feels. I want to do the same thing when I have kids. I mean, come on. But, what about those other changes Sandra was talking about earlier. She's worried that the new West Adams might not have enough room for people like her. This traditionally has been a Black community mixed with Latinos and Asians, we do see different populations moving in, and you can explain right now-changes or changes, there's comes the good and the bad. Is there anything bad that comes with gentrification?

 

 

Mario Luna (West Adam’s resident)

Yeah, unfortunately, entitlement comes with it. And you got to remember people like me that have been in the neighborhood for 10 years plus- we don't even feel entitled to it. You know, it's like this is a community park. But I don't feel like this is my park.

 

 

Brian De Los Santos 

But overall, Mario says he's hopeful about the changes happening in his community.

 

 

Mario Luna (West Adam’s resident)

Hopefully, in the future. When my kids grow up, they will be able to come and feel the same way they did when they were kids. The way that I see things happening, it's going to be positive change versus a negative change.

 

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Honestly, talking to Mario felt like talking to an old friend. We grew up basically just a few blocks from each other. We might have even been at the same park at the same time. And that's asking for one more story.

 

 

Mario Luna (West Adam’s resident)

So one time when we were at Johnny's Pastramis, there used to be a carwash right across the street where they used to sell drugs, and all the gangsters used to hang out. One day we wanted to go eat at Johnny's. Before we even showed up, they wanted to take our stuff-our jewelry, my brother-in-law at the time had a chain and they yanked it off his neck. Luckily, somebody was passing by it from another gang and started yelling out and while he got his attention, my brother-in-law yanked the chain back and we left. (laughter) Never went back to Johnny's, now that it's gentrified and has a bar, of course, we go back. (laughter)

 

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Johnny's, alright, let's go Johnny's Pastrami's.

 

We are visiting Johnny's Pastrami, which is on the corner of Adams and Bronson. I lived not too far away from here when I was a kid.

 

 

Johnny's Pastrami Employee

What can I get you?

 

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Can I get a crispy chicken sandwich and a ginger ale and a water.

 

 

Johnny's Pastrami Employee

Go ahead and do your thing, and I'm gonna grab your water and-

 

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Johnny's has served pastrami in this corner for 50 years. They've seen a lot of change over all this time. But it's still just as good as I remember it.

 

 

Johnny's Pastrami Employee

Here you go, sugar.

 

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Thank you.

 

 

Johnny's Pastrami Employee

Enjoy your meal.

 

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Have a good one.

 

Johnny's Pastrami Employee

You too!

 

Brian De Los Santos 

They stuck around you know, and I know that they've expanded since they opened back in the day, and they've added some furnishings that make it modern and make it enjoyable, but I still feel like it's a staple of the community.

 

 

Alright-facts, like it or not, West Adams is changing. It's a tough question, but I think it's like Mario said, there's good change and there's bad change. For my part ,for me. I hope there can be room for places like Johnny's Pastrami's and Sandra's Thrift Store in the new West Adams. Alright, y'all, I have a big ol sandwich in front of me, ready to eat. So I'll catch y'all next time.

 

 

This is How to LA from LAist studios. I'm your host Brian De Los Santos. Catch us Tuesdays and Thursdays wherever you get your podcasts, and don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter at LAist.com/HowtoLA. Aaricka Washington writes our newsletter. Our producers are Evan Jacoby and Caroline Champlin. Our summer intern is Armani Washington. Our spring intern was Anita Bella Rao, Hasmik Pohosyan and Parker McDaniels help engineer this show. Our theme music is by Donald Paz. Our social media producer is Chris Farias is Megan Larson is our Executive Producer. Shana Naomi Krochmal is the Vice President of LAist Studios. Our website is designed by Andy Cheatwood and the digital and marketing teams at LAist Studios. The marketing team also created our branding thanks to the team at LAist Studios, including Taylor Coffman, Sabir Brara, Kristen Hayford, Kristen Muller, Andy Orozco, Michael Cosentino and Leo G. Support for this podcast is made possible by Gordon and Dona Crawford, who believe that quality journalism makes Los Angeles a better place to live. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. See you mañana.