West Los Angeles (commonly referred to as West L.A.) is a district in Los Angeles, California, within a larger region known as the “Westside.”
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Geography and transportation
The district is bordered by Santa Monica on the west, Brentwood on the northwest, the unincorporated Sawtelle Veterans Administration grounds on the north, Westwood on the northeast, Rancho Park on the east and southeast, and Mar Vista on the south and southeast. Its generally accepted boundaries are the San Diego Freeway on the east, the Santa Monica Freeway on the south, the city limits of Santa Monica on the west, and Wilshire Boulevard on the north.
Its major thoroughfares are Olympic, Santa Monica, Pico, Wilshire, and Sawtelle Boulevards, Barrington and Bundy Drive.
Because the Big Blue Bus (Santa Monica’s municipal bus network) uses UCLA as one of its terminals, it provides good public transit within the region, especially along east-west routes, as does the LACMTA to a lesser extent. However, public transit from West Los Angeles to other, more distant districts within L.A. is poor.
This district contains an area of Japanese-American culture along Sawtelle Boulevard which is sometimes called Sawtelle.
After the area’s colonization by the Spanish, most of what is now West Los Angeles became part of the Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica. With the arrival of Anglo settlers after the Mexican-American War, the original Californio landowners sold out, or were forced from their holdings, and by the beginning of the 20th century the area was mostly bean and wheat fields. Many Japanese immigrants settled in the district, establishing orchards and nurseries in the process. Some of these nurseries are still in business today, along the stretch of Sawtelle Boulevard between Olympic and Santa Monica Boulevards.
The core of what is now West Los Angeles, including the West Los Angeles government center at Santa Monica and Purdue, was incorporated as the City of Sawtelle. In the 1920s, the area was annexed by the City of Los Angeles.
In 2009, the Los Angeles Times’s “Mapping L.A.” project supplied these “West Los Angeles” neighborhood statistics: population: 12,659; median household income: $86,403.
UPDATE: As of November 2009, the neighborhood designated by the Los Angeles Times Mapping L.A. project as “West Los Angeles” no longer conforms to any of the boundaries described in this article, so the demographic statistics listed above are no longer relevant to this article. The Mapping project uses the name “West Los Angeles” to refer to an entirely different area lying east of the San Diego Freeway that is commonly regarded as the southern part of the Westwood neighborhood. For the area described in this article, the Mapping project uses the name Sawtelle. The Mapping project does not provide an explanation of why it uses “West Los Angeles” in a way that conflicts both with the historical understanding of this name and with its current usage by organizations such as the West Los Angeles Neighborhood Council, which defines “West Los Angeles” with the same boundaries as indicated above in this article.
The neighborhood today
As with most parts of the Westside, West Los Angeles is an affluent neighborhood. Its central location has made it a locus of commercial development, with several high-rise office buildings along Olympic, Santa Monica, and Wilshire Boulevards. It also contains a large number of Japanese-owned businesses. A satellite congregation of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, one of the most prominent Reform Jewish congregations in Southern California, occupies the northeast corner of Olympic and Barrington.
Housing in West Los Angeles is a mixture of low-rise apartment buildings, mostly inhabited by young professionals and working-class families, and single-story tract house developments built between late 1920 and 1960. Two of Los Angeles’s tallest residential towers are at the neighborhood’s northern edge, at the intersection of Wilshire and Barrington. There is a trend toward greater density, as single-family houses get replaced by apartment buildings, or apartment buildings by taller ones, as building sites become available through demolition.
Schools in the area, such as Wildwood School, are well-respected and of generally high quality. University High School, a secondary school named for nearby UCLA, is in the district. “Uni” is one of very few older high schools in Los Angeles that have not had to be completely rebuilt following earthquakes over the years, and still has a traditional look to it featuring weathered brick walls and arched entries. As a result, it is a popular with film producers as a shooting location, even when school is in session, much to the chagrin of the students and faculty. The campus also contains within its bounds an artesian well (claimed by the Tongva people as their ancestral home) which has never failed, even in the driest years. Junipero Serra’s party is said to have camped there in the course of their journey up and down the state.
West Los Angeles is the home of a Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy (CMOP). It is part of an initiative by the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide mail order prescriptions to veterans using computerization at strategic locations throughout the United States.
The area is also the home of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, located in the federal building on Wilshire Boulevard next to the 405 Freeway.
West Los Angeles has a large Hispanic community evident by the authentic Mexican restaurants and a few Mexican shops. Among the area’s Latino residents are a large number of immigrants from Oaxaca.
Government and infrastructure
The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services SPA 5 West Area Health Office serves West Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Police Department operates the West Los Angeles Community Police Station at 1663 Butler Avenue, 90025, serving the neighborhood.
Primary and secondary schools
West Los Angeles is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Neighborhood elementary schools are Brockton Avenue, Nora Sterry Elementary School, and Warner Avenue. Middle schools are Emerson and Webster. High schools are University High School and Indian Springs Continuation, both on the same site.
St. Sebastian School, Notre Dame Academy, West Los Angeles Baptist School and First Lutheran School of Venice are nearby private schools. List of Undergraduate and graduate school is Pacific States University in Harvard Heights area.
The Los Angeles Public Library operates the West Los Angeles Regional Library.
Parks and recreation
The Stoner Recreation Center is located in West Los Angeles. The center includes barbecue pits, a lighted baseball diamond, lighted outdoor basketball courts, a children’s play area, a lighted American football field, an indoor gymnasium without weights and a capacity of 300 people, picnic tables, a lighted soccer (football) field, unlighted tennis courts, and lighted volleyball courts. The Annual Cherry Blossom Festival, co-sponsored by the West Los Angeles Japanese American Community Center, is held at the park.