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Curbed LA’s 13 best longreads of 2018

From Pepperdine’s evacuation plans to Los Angeles’s magnificent streetlights

It’s the end of the year, and for many, that’s an ideal time to catch up on some reading. With that in mind, here are a dozen longer pieces about Los Angeles that you might have missed in 2018.

From the history of the affluent black community of West Adams to the future of LA’s water supply, these stories cover a wide range of topics and provide perspective on the continuing evolution of the city.

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Los Angeles isn’t known for its streetlights. It should be by India Mandelkern

Designs were frequently named after LA streets: the Pico, the Beverley [sic], the Hollywood, the Western. Many neighborhoods commissioned their own lamp designs, known as “specials,” to mark their boundaries, providing a sense of history and character to communities built overnight.

Stephen Davis

Why Pepperdine stays put when wildfires rage by Alissa Walker

Fire is such a way of life at Pepperdine that students and faculty can measure their time at the school in the number of times they’ve participated in the shelter-in-place exercise.

A 2008 photo of the balls rolling into the reservoir. Irfan Khan/Getty Images

Cape Town is running out of water. Is Los Angeles next? by Marissa Clifford

Contrary to popular wisdom, LA is not a desert. Some may mourn the forever tainted words of Kim Gordon or Joan Didion, but this is good news. It means that it’s easier for LA to save water, because there’s more water falling in the surrounding mountains, more natural groundwater sources, and more chance that rainwater can be absorbed back into the water table when it does rain, in contrast to desert cities like Sana’a, the capital of Yemen.

Liz Kuball

The thrill of Sugar Hill by Hadley Meares

Ethel Waters lived across the street from Hattie McDaniel, who became the anchor of Sugar Hill. Besides her intimate salon nights, McDaniel was also known for her huge Hollywood soirees, which brought black and white celebrities to Sugar Hill. White actors including Agnes Moorehead, Esther Williams, and her beloved co-star Clark Gable attended the bashes, which were covered by attending gossip columnists like Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons.

Liz Kuball

The future of Historic Filipinotown by Jennifer Swann

Ailene Quizon Ignacio is certain gentrification is coming to Westlake. By that, she means the community where she has lived all her life—which she describes as low-income, working class, and immigrant—could become a destination for expensive apartments, high-rise condos, and luxury hotels. If it does, she says she’ll fight to stop it.


LA ‘sterilized’ its streets for the ’84 Olympics—how will it treat the homeless in 2028? by Jenna Chandler

“Whenever you have these big sporting events, there’s an attempt to make folks disappear,” says Jerry Jones, director of public policy at Inner City Law Center, a Los Angeles nonprofit that provides legal aid to Skid Row residents. “The lesson from ’84 is that we tried a punitive approach,” he said. “That certainly didn’t solve the problem.”

THUMS oil island, Long Beach Worachate Joe Khongthon/Shutterstock

Long Beach’s deceptive islands by Hadley Meares

Linesch and his firm were noted for their innovative theme parks and fantastical designs, having worked on the original Disneyland, Astroworld in Houston, the California Exposition, the Tahoe Keys in Nevada, and the Rancho California in Riverside County. Linesch had also concealed an oil derrick in Venice with a lighthouse-like structure, and another on Pico Boulevard, behind a faux-modern metal office building.

Liz Kuball

Why LA’s bungalow courts might go extinct by Elijah Chiland

“Everyone wants a nice place to live that has dignity,” says LA Conservancy director of advocacy Adrian Scott Fine. “And that’s really what bungalow courts were all about. You weren’t just put in a nameless apartment building; you had your own front door, you had your own back door.”

By Sterling Davis

Renaissance or urban travesty? 50 years of high-rise living on Bunker Hill by Lisa Napoli

The very words “Bunker Hill” and “Downtown” didn’t exactly conjure up visions of a harmonious landscape. The city had long before decreed what had been the most densely populated residential district in Los Angeles a crime, disease and hazard-riddled blight.

Getty Images/EyeEm

Who will save LA’s trees? by Alissa Walker

The shade that trees produce can cool surfaces like soil and pavement. But trees can also lower the surrounding daytime summer air temperature up to 10 degrees, thanks to water evaporating from their leaves. That’s why preserving mature trees that form a canopy should be LA’s priority, says Glynn Hulley, a scientist in the carbon cycle and ecosystems group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Cielo Bettmann Archive

The Manson murder house by Chris Eggertsen

Like so many “murder houses” before and since, 10050 Cielo Drive’s association with terror and death belies the fact that for every day of its existence but one, nothing that happened there would have set it apart from any other house on any other street.

Los Angeles Public Library photo collection

Off the coast of San Pedro, a Japanese community erased by Hadley Meares

The raids began immediately. The first people to be rounded up were prominent Japanese-born men who were involved in “Japanese” activities like martial arts. Toshiro Izumi recalled coming home from a football game in Hollywood to see his father being taken away. “I think this is going to be a long war, so take care and keep healthy,” he told Izumi.

Liz Kuball

My landlord offered me $35K to move out by Lisa Napoli

A few years ago, as the owners of this 50-year-old property embarked on a $76 million renovation, they counted on typical attrition to clear out the buildings. Residents died or just got tired of living in a construction zone, as apartments were gut-renovated and upgraded with open-plan living areas, better flooring, and nicer appliances. Rents on these places run upwards of a thousand dollars a month more.

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