The People's Guide takes a page from Curbed SF and offers tours of LA's neighborhoods, led by loyal readers, favorite bloggers, and other luminaries of our choosing. We kick off Curbed LA's inaugural episode by welcoming a resident of the Curbed Cup's 2015 Neighborhood of the Year, West Adams—communications director (and former president) of the West Adams Heritage Association John Patterson. Patterson also runs the interior design firm Inspired Living Interiors, which does restoration and interiors in West Adams and beyond.
Do you need a car to get around?
Uhhhh…yes. We are desperately hoping our commercial corridors are going to improve with amenities such as more restaurants and retail. This area was created as a residential area and was well-served by the Red Lines and everything else—in fact, it was built based on rail. The fact that Metro is now in place with the Expo Line is helping in that regard, but that's at the southern edge of what we consider residential West Adams. This wonderful new restaurant at the end of our street I can walk to. I walk to the post office, and I can walk to Ralphs grocery store on Vermont. There are, of course, shops ... [but] for all intents and purposes, yes, one does want to have a car to get around.
Better for renters or buyers?
We have around a 50/50 split. Because of our being so close to USC, a great many of the homes are converted into student housing or sublet as student housing. But by the same token, the majority of the residences that I interact with are family-owned. People have been here, raising their children, and so it's both, but it's not driven by one. There is a very, very strong family and homeowner contingent here.
What are the boundaries of West Adams?
Well, this is one of the things that we want to make sure that we can get across with [Curbed LA] readers, because what Curbed was describing as West Adams is not the real West Adams. Historic West Adams stretches from Figueroa to Crenshaw. It's depicted on the Santa Monica Freeway with [signs that say] "Historic West Adams Next Six Exits." But amongst that area, each of those individual neighborhoods have different names also. There's University Park, but that's a part of West Adams. There's Harvard Heights, there are the West Adams Avenues, there's Arlington Heights, there's Jefferson Park, there's the Adams-Normadie district—all of these are parts of the West Adams district. They each maintain their own individuality of local block clubs and neighborhood associations, but it's all West Adams.
...[Each neighborhood] is also defined by the architecture. The Jefferson Park area, for example, there are almost exclusively single-story Craftsman bungalows, whereas the other neighborhoods take on different architectural characteristics, depending on the decades in which that area was settled. University Park close to Figueroa has not only the Victorians around USC and on Hoover Boulevard, but also the wonderful mansions of St. James Square and Chester Place— where the Doheny Mansion is— that now make up Mount Saint Mary's College.
Tell us something we don't know about your neighborhood.
[West Adams] has an incredible sense of community—probably the strongest sense of community I've experienced anywhere of all the places I've lived in the last 30 years ... Neighbors interacting with neighbors, socializing. Helping each other out. Part of the way the West Adams Heritage Association (WAHA) formed was very much along those lines, like "What electrician did you find that knows how to deal with knob-and-tube wiring and changing it?" and that has all evolved into a very integrated—we go to dinner parties at each others' houses and everyone interacts quite a bit with each other.
Our Arlington Heights neighborhood does a neighborhood house tour every holiday season, basically for each other—neighbors visiting neighbors in the form of that. WAHA has, for 30-plus years, done a series of architectural tours. The holiday tour took on the new scope of being a progressive dinner by putting a different spin on that architectural tour. We still visited six different houses, but in addition to checking out the architecture, we also get to have appetizers and champagne, then a soup and salad course, then dinner and then a dessert house.
... We also do a living history tour, which is very unique, at the Angelus Rosedale Cemetery at the corner of Normandie and Washington Boulevard. It's one of the oldest cemeteries in Los Angeles. Every September we do a living history tour whereby different actors portray the people buried there. In full costume and with sets, they tell their story—their part of Los Angeles history—and people come from all over Los Angeles to visit our cemetery and learn history that way.
What are some hidden gems of West Adams?
Almost every house is a hidden gem, even those that have been disregarded or stuccoed over. You're very much apt to find leaded glass in a built-in cabinet and wood beams, etc. In the way of architectural hidden gems, the surprise that lives in West Adams is a [Raphael] Soriano house, just south of Adams Boulelvard, built for Glen Lukens, the California ceramicist. This was his studio and home. It was very much abandoned and headed for the bulldozer, and it's been now taken over and restored and is in absolutely pristine condition once again. No one really looks to West Adams as a Mid-Century Modern neighborhood, and it's certainly not as a neighborhood, but [the Lukens house is] certainly a hidden gem amongst all these century-old houses.
What are the neighborhood hot spots or meeting places?
Right now we have a Sunday farmers market at Wellington Square, which is between Crenshaw and West Avenue—which is generally considered the furthest west boundary of West Adams, even though the West Adams neighborhood council goes further, all the way to La Brea/ Fairfax, etc. The library on Jefferson plays a very central role [in West Adams]. The South Seas house on Arlington plays a very central role to the neighborhood and the associated park that's right there at 24th Street. As far as a new restaurant, we were very very lucky to have Revolutionario Tacos open up on Jefferson just east of Normandie ... It's North African prepared flavors served inside a taco. They're incredible.
Most common sight in the 'hood?
Beautiful historic architecture.
No neighborhood is perfect; what's not so great about this one?
Our commercial corridors are pretty sad-looking ... Washington has too many restaurant supply stores. There's too many auto supply stores on all the boulevards. There's nothing unique about West Adams as far as crime or whatnot. There's gang activity in all parts of LA, but I won't pretend we don't have some element of that in our neighborhood also. Our home has have never been burglarized. I removed the grates from my windows when we did the restoration and I have not regretted that. Those all went up [in the area] a couple decades ago, and most of them are starting to come down now.
· The People's Guide [Curbed LA]