It’s a debate as old as time. Or at least as old as Intelligentsia. Some people insist upon calling a large swath of Los Angeles “the Eastside,” which other people don’t think is actually “the Eastside.” This debate has raged on websites, at events, in person, even here on this very blog. Some say “the Eastside” starts east of the Los Angeles River. Others claim it starts somewhere around Western Avenue (that would make sense, right?). Others ask, “East of what?”
But no one—to my knowledge—has ever tried to make an official and binding declaration for where the Eastside is. Until last night.
The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council (my neighborhood, y’all) spent a large part of their agenda last night deciding whether or not Silver Lake was considered “the Eastside.” Curbed LA liveblogged the meeting, quite hilariously I might add, and folks chimed in immediately on Twitter with their thoughts.
Personally, I think my neighborhood has other, larger issues to address (like the fact that everyone incorrectly spells it Silverlake… can we get a ruling on that???), but as someone who runs a nonprofit called design east of La Brea, I do have some thoughts on the matter.
First, a geography lesson, for those who have no idea what I’m talking about:
The issue at hand is that some neighborhoods, specifically Los Feliz, Silver Lake and Echo Park all have, in recent years, by various parties, been referred to as “the Eastside.” Many people think that calling that area “Eastside” (which I guess is a newer thing, like in the last 20 years or so) is insulting to the generations of Angelenos who established the culture traditionally known as “Eastside,” which originates more towards the actual area named East LA, but has come to encompass many neighborhoods like Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights and many other heights. These advocates would prefer that you equated “Eastside” with “East of the LA River” (although this logic doesn’t totally work because the LA River takes a sharp turn just north of this map and runs East-West. So you’d have to say, “East of the LA River below Griffith Park and above somewhere before Long Beach” or something—I don’t know).
I’ve marked some areas on the map for additional East/West context. Downtown is right there at the center, and in most cities, the downtown is used to define the “East” and “West” parts of the city. In fact, Broadway, which runs a Northeast/Southwest path through Downtown, is where the addresses change from W. to E. [Update: I was wrong, it's actually Main, two blocks away.] I also added two streets, Western and Eastern, which were actually named two centuries ago when they represented the city’s boundaries and don’t mean much now but boy is that fun to look at or what?
As you can see, on pretty much all these counts, there’s nothing really “east” about Silver Lake. Silver Lake is actually WEST of downtown, which I would say already disqualifies it from being Eastside. Some might say that Silver Lake deciding NOT to be “Eastside” is almost a move to make themselves seem more “Westside,” which should have people living in West LA preeeeetty outraged, if you ask me.
While I’m not sure the “ruling” will solve anything (people have their own definitions of neighborhoods and places and those are tough to change), over at LA Observed, Kevin Roderick brings up another important issue:
Calling Silver Lake and environs the Eastside certainly has its fans, and not just among urban enthusiasts who need a label to fill out the anti-Westside narrative and those other newbies whose grasp of Los Angeles’ construction and backstory is so thin they just see west, east and middle. Silver Lake, Los Feliz and Echo Park share enough distinction in common that, despite claiming barely a sliver of the city’s four million population, I’d lump them together as a mini-region if only there were an a useful and adequate name for the place. They don’t belong to downtown, Hollywood or the real Eastside — and the term many like, Faux Eastside, will never catch on. I’ve yet to hear a suggestion that feels real enough to work for both the newbies and for deeper-rooted Angelenos, but I’m still hopeful something will bubble up with more authenticity (and specificity) than Eastside.
It’s funny because when I tell people why I live here, I say something like that. I don’t just live in the walkable, small-town-ish Silver Lake neighborhood, I feel like I live in this three-neighborhood corridor, which pretty much offer all the services I need within a two-mile radius from my house. When people ask me where I live, I always just say Silver Lake, but it might be cool to tell them I consider myself a resident of this entire three-neighborhood region.
And, as we know, people love putting labels on things. So to appease the Eastside proponents, and to help everyone else understand a little more about Los Angeles, I’ve come up with some alternate names for This Area that is Not the Eastside.
New Names for the Los Feliz-Silver Lake-Echo Park Mini-Region
- The West Bank (all three neighborhoods border the west bank of the LA River)
- Three Lakes District (named for the area’s three lakes: Rowena Reservoir, Silver Lake, Echo Park Lake)
- Sunset Corridor (named for the street that links all three neighborhoods)
- East Sunset
- Sunset Heights
- Sunset Triangle (both named for the plaza at the center of the region, and for the triangle you make when you draw an area encompassing all three neighborhoods)
- 101 East
- The 2/4/704 (named for three buses you can take to get to all three neighborhoods)
- Red Line West (the neighborhoods in relation to the nearest subway line)
- Griffith-Elysian (named for the two large parks at either ends of the region)
- Stairway District (these neighborhoods have the highest concentration of public stairways in the city; would also bring tourism to the area)
- Coffee District (like the Bicycle District, this area could be known for coffee, or perhaps the Juice District)
- The Cut (this a very old name for a section of Sunset between Echo Park and Silver Lake where crews blasted away the rock to create a mini-canyon so the road could go through)
- Edendale (this is an older name for a part of Silver Lake where the film studios were once located, but I don’t think many people associate it with the actual place anymore so it could be reappropriated for all three neighborhoods, which all had film activity; again, would get attention from tourists and history buffs)
- West Eastside
- East of What
- Near Eastside (like Chicago’s Near North, by Pat Saperstein/@EatingLA)
- Eastside Lite (by Shawna Dawson)
- Trastevere (by Adam Baer/@glassshallot)
- Eastside Adjacent (by Jeff Miller)
- The Mideast Side (by Eric Brightwell, who even has a map, and a very good explanation)
- Tri-Hipster Area/Tri-Hip (by Seamus Garrity/@masterofleisure)
- LosSilverDale (by Ed Fuentes/@viewfromaloft)
- The Weastside (by Ed Fuentes/@viewfromaloft)
- Brooklyn West (by Avishay Artsy/@heyavishay)
- Silver Monica (by Dan Koeppel/@bigparadeLA)
- The Upper East Side (by Tom Marble)
- Silver Lake Alps (by Larry Gassan)
- Charneyville (by Mike Kessler/@mikekessler)
- Steampunk Row (by Mike Kessler/@mikekessler)
- Williamsburg West (by Mike Kessler/@mikekessler)
Let me know what you think and add yours in the comments or ping me on Twitter to add!
Top image: LA Eastside