Sunday, December 4, 2022

The Militant's Epic Militant CicLAvia Tour XLII!!

Interactive map! Click here for larger version.

We've reached the last of four CicLAvias to end the 2022 season, the 42nd open streets event since its inception in October 2010. According to author Douglas Adams, the answer to live, the universe and everything is "42." Is it no coincidence that this 7.3-mile route from Exposition Park to Watts crosses 42nd Street?

This Sunday's route may or may not be a new route, although it incorporates parts of four previous CicLAvia alignments. Parts of Central Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard were first explored in the December, 2014 CicLAvia, and the last quarter of this route into Watts was part of the four-legged Southeast Cities route from May, 2016. The Central Avenue/Watts section was part of the February, 2020 South L.A. route, and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard was part of the December, 2021 route a year ago.

Who knows what's in store for 2023?

It may or may not rain on CicLAvia today - and it has before - but somehow, some way, the sun always shines on CicLAvia. You know the drill - See you or not see you on the streets this Sunday!

1. George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art
Vermont and 39th St, Exposition Park

Taking shape on west side of Exposition Park like a Naboo Royal Starship is the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art (or, "The Luke," as The Militant would like to call it), a state-of-the-art visual, cinematic and interactive museum founded by 'Star Wars' creator and filmmaker George Lucas and his wife Mellody Hobson. The site, located in close proximity to Lucas' alma mater, USC, beat out other site proposals in San Francisco (home of Lucasfilm, Ltd) and Chicago (Lucas' birthplace) when it was announced in 2017. Originally intended to open in 2021, it was delayed to 2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. Los Angeles Swimming Stadium
Bill Robertson Drive & Park Lane, Exposition Park

The Coliseum's little brother, the Los Angeles Swimming Stadium was the 10,000-seat venue for the 1932 Olympic swimming, diving and water polo competitions, as well as the aquatic portions of the pentathlon event. Olympians such as Buster Crabbe swam in its waters. After the games, it became a public pool, and in the '50s, USC's swim team used it as their training and competing venue. After over a half century of wear, and damage from the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, the swim stadium was renovated in 2002 and operates today as the LA84 Foundation/John C. Argue Swim Stadium. Marco...Polo!

3. Community Services Unlimited Urban Garden
Bill Robertson Lane and Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Exposition Park

Did you know there's an urban garden along the CicLAvia route? Local nonprofit Community Services Unlimited (an organization that, interestingly enough, originated from the Black Panther Party's community outreach programs in the 1970s) grows their own organic fruits and vegetables in this Exposition Park urban garden that they sell and distribute in this predominantly food desert area to help local residents gain access to fresh, healthy produce. They sell this produce at a stand outside the LA84/John C. Argue Swim Stadium next door on Thursday afternoons from 3 to 6 p.m.

4. Historic Southern Pacific Palm Tree
Re-planted 1914
3901 S. Figueroa St, Exposition Park

Back in the late 1800s-early 1900s, the Southern Pacific Railroad operate out of a train station called the Arcade Station, on 5th and Alameda streets. A lone palm tree stood outside the station and functioned as a landmark for arriving passengers coming in from San Francisco or points east. In 1914 (dude, over a hundred years ago) the Arcade Station was demolished (no, it wasn't consumed by a fire) to make way for a more modern station, called Central Station, and the palm tree had to go. So sentimental was the palm tree, instead of being cut down, it was moved to Exposition Park, where it has stood ever since. Like its neighbor the Space Shuttle Endeavour, it was a popular icon back in its day, and it's probably safe to assume that its transport through town was an event in itself. A little-known historic market at the base of the tree tells the whole story. So if you want to see a palm tree that was planted there over 100 years ago, there you go.

5. Banc of California Stadium
3939 S. Figueroa St, Exposition Park

Home of the 2022 MLS Cup Champion Los Angeles Football Club soccer team, this $350 million, 22,000-seat venue is the first open-air stadium to be built in the City of Los Angeles since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962. It was built on the former site of the 16,000-seat Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena (1959-2016), which was the first Los Angeles home of the Lakers (1960-1967), the Clippers (1984-1999) and hosted the Boxing matches during the 1984 Olympics. Banc Stadium is also the home venue of the Angel City FC National Women's Soccer League team and will host the Men's and Women's Soccer tournaments during the 2028 Olympics.

6. Site of Wrigley Field
1925 (demolished 1969)
Avalon Blvd & 42nd Place

Just a few blocks south of the CicLAvia route is Gilbert W. Lindsay Park, named after Los Angeles' first African American city councilman. But years ago, this was the place where home runs, strikeouts and 7th Inning Stretches took place in the City of Angels. And yes it was a city of Angels, as the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League made the 22.000-capacity Wrigley Field (named after the chewing gum magnate, who had several stakes in Southern California, including Catalina Island) its home. And as any truly militant Angeleno knows, the ivy-and-brick Chi-town tourist trap, though 11 years older, was originally called Weeghman Park and wasn't dubbed Wrigley Field until 1927, which made Los Angeles' Wrigley Field the first Wrigley Field ever. The stadium also was popular with TV and movie shoots, such as Damn Yankees and The Twilight Zone. In 1961, it literally went Major League as the American League expansion team Los Angeles Angels of Los Angeles played its home games there before moving to Dodger Sta, er, Chavez Ravine for the next four seasons, and then finally moving down the 5 to Anaheim. Wrigley Field was also home of the Los Angeles White Sox, a club in the short-lived, 6-team West Coast Negro Baseball Association, a Black minor league co-founded by Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens which lasted but a single season in 1946. Yes, there's a baseball field in the park, but it's not the same location as the original diamond.

7. Masjid Bilal Islamic Center/Site of Elks Lodge
4016 S. Central Ave, South Los Angeles

This mainstay of the local Muslim community since 1973 also has a deep history in the local black community. The original building was originally built in 1929 as the home of the local Elks club. But it was no ordinary Elks Club (who discriminated against black membership). It was run by the Improved and Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World, an African American-run organization founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1898 that functioned as a fraternal order for people of color. Though obviously not directly affiliated with the white Elks club, it is run with the otherwise identical customs and traditions, and with nearly half a million members worldwide, is the largest black fraternal organization in the world. A new mosque building, fronting Central Avenue, has been under construction since 2019, which features the tallest minaret in California.

8. Ralph J. Bunche House
1221 E. 40th Place, South Los Angeles

The Central Avenue corridor was home to Los Angeles' black community, primarily due to the racial covenants that restricted them from owning homes elsewhere in the city. But great things can come from places of injustice. Ralph J. Bunche was a teenager arriving with his family from Detroit, by way of Ohio and New Mexico, who attended nearby Jefferson High School and went to UCLA, graduating as the valedictorian at both schools. He went on to Harvard, where he earned his Ph.D in Political Science (the first African American to receive a doctorate in PoliSci from a U.S. university), and later was one of the founders of the United Nations. In 1950, due to his diplomatic work in the negotiations that ended the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, he won the Nobel Peace Prize -- the first nonwhite person to ever win the esteemed award. And he once lived right here, just two blocks east of the CicLAvia route.

9. Site of Black Panther Headquarters

41st Street and Central Avenue, South Central Los Angeles

Nooo, this isn't where Wakanda is. The northwest corner of 41st Street and Central Avenue wasn't just the Los Angeles headquarters of the 1960s-era Black Panther Party (that's some real Militants right there), but in a time where the names Mike Brown and Eric Garner have been fresh on the minds of people, it was the site of a significant event in the tumultuous history of relations between the black community and the Los Angeles Police Department. On December 8, 1969 -- 45 years before the day after CicLAvia -- police officers arrested a number of people on that corner for loitering, which eventually escalated into a four-hour armed confrontation. The LAPD used a previously untested paramilitary unit during the raid, which was called the Special Weapons And Tactics unit, or SWAT. Four LAPD officers and four Black Panther members were seriously injured during the shootout, but miraculously no one died. The building that housed the headquarters was demolished in 1970.

10. Dunbar Hotel/Club Alabam
4225 S. Central Avenue, South Central Los Angeles

Built in 1928 (then known as the Hotel Somerville, the only hotel in Los Angeles at the time to welcome black people) as the primary accommodations venue for the 1928 NAACP national convention at the nearby Second Baptist Church, The Dunbar is one of the few remaining physical symbols of the Central Avenue of yesteryear, the hotspot of all that is jazz and blues. In the perspective of Los Angeles music history, Central Avenue in the 1920s-1950s was the Sunset Strip of the 1960s-1980s. And perhaps even more. A nightclub opened at the hotel just a few years after its opening, and legends such as Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Lena Horne and Billie Holliday. Next door was the Club Alabam, another one of the most popular jazz venues on Central Avenue. Known for its classy image and celebrity clientele (both black and white), legends such as Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis graced the stage. Today, the Dunbar Hotel building serves as an affordable housing complex for seniors.

11. South Los Angeles Wetlands Park/Site of Los Angeles Railway South Park Shops
5413 S. Avalon Boulevard, South Central Los Angeles

Head west on 54th Street for just a few blocks to Avalon Boulevard to visit this relatively new park space, which opened in 2012 and was covered by The Militant on his blog right after its grand opening. Previously the site of the sprawling South Park Shops, it was a major facility for storing, maintaining and repairing transit vehicles, used from 1906 to 2008 by the Los Angeles Railway, the original Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority, the Southern California Rapid Transit District and today's Metro. After the transit facility was retired, the brownfields were re-purposed as a nine-acre public open space that features native plant landscaping (yessss!), a lagoon that functions not only as a bird habitat, but as a natural stormwater cleaning facility. In addition, a LACMA satellite museum space will be opening at the park soon.

12. Los Angeles Railway U Line
Central and Slauson avenues to Vermont Avenue and Manchester Blvd via Downtown Los Angeles

Central Avenue hosted not one, but two Los Angeles Railway Yellow Car lines in different locations along the CicLAvia route. One of them was the U Line, which originated west of here, at two different branches on Vermont and Manchester and another at Western and 39th. They met near Exposition Park and ran through the USC campus (one of the reasons for the "U" in the line name) and northward onto Downtown Los Angeles before heading back south on Central Avenue and ending at Slauson. The line ran until 1947.

13. Augustus F. Hawkins Natural Park
5790 Compton Ave, South Los Angeles

A few blocks east of the CicLAvia route along Slauson lies another one of the best-kept secrets in South Los Angeles -- Augustus F. Hawkins Natural Park, an 8.5-acre surreal green oasis in the 'hood, featuring ponds, native plants, hiking trails, picnic areas and even wildlife. This former DWP pipe yard was converted into a re-created natural park (named after the late African American congressman who represented the area for 28 years) in 2000 by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which trucked in actual dirt from Malibu mudslides to the site to form the park's terrain. The park is popular with local residents seeking refuge from urban life, and the park is also popular with members of the local Audubon Society, who frequent the park to do bird sightings and bird counts.

14. Los Angeles Central Post Office/Site of Goodyear Tire Factory
7001 S. Central Ave, Florence-Firestone

In 2008, The Militant visited this ginormous USPS facility, with the numerical designation as the very place where the western ZIP codes begin. Most of Los Angeles' mail gets processed through here, which means letters or packages mailed through here will get sent out of town faster (since they have to come through here anyway). The post office facility opened relatively recently, in 1984, as part of a redevelopment project for the massive parcel, whose previous life was that of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. California factory, which existed from 1920 to 1979.

Automobile tires and other rubber products were manufactured here for nearly 60 years, and early versions of the iconic Goodyear blimp once had its own hangar at the southwestern corner of the lot. But wait -- there's even more history on this lot: nearly two decades before the tire plant opened, this was the home of Ascot Park racetrack, which opened in 1903. The ornate design of the early 20th-century hippodrome inspired the aesthetics of another So Cal racetrack - Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, which opened four years later and still exists today as a place where racehorses meet their untimely death.

15. Los Angeles Railway S Line
Santa Monica Blvd & Western Avenue to Central Avenue & Firestone Blvd via Downtown Los Angeles

Central Avenue's other Yellow Car line was the "S" line, which ran in many different configurations through the years, but most of its life it ran from Santa Monica & Western in East Hollywood through Downtown (like nearly all Los Angeles Railway lines did) and down to Central and Firestone. The picture to the left depicts a Yellow Car in 1963 (then painted green in the old Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority's colors) running by the old Goodyear Tire factory! The line was discontinued (along with many of the other surviving Yellow Car lines) on March 31, 1963 - the final day of rail transit in Los Angeles until the Metro Blue Line (now the Metro A Line) opened on July 14, 1990. BONUS: The Metro-owned parking lot with the single-story ivy-covered concrete building on the southeast corner of Central and 85th Street was once the Los Angeles Railway S Line's terminal loop!

16. Green Meadows Diagonal
Central Avenue between 92nd and 95th streets, Green Meadows

As you ride on the CicLAvia route along Central Avenue, the road makes a seemingly arbitrary diagonal jog between 92nd and 95th streets. Why is that? Well, if you know your Los Angeles history, many non-grid street alignments follow the boundaries of ranchos, properties/land parcels, and legacy cities/towns that were lost to annexation. The latter was the case here, as an unincorporated farm town called Green Meadows sprung up here circa 1887. True to its name, it was a rural settlement with artesian wells, alfalfa fields and apple orchards. The northeast corner of the town featured the diagonal notch, and when the town was finally annexed into the City of Los Angeles on March 18. 1926, the boundary was incorporated into the city street grid and Central Avenue was forced to follow suit. The name Green Meadows was re-claimed in the early 2000s and given to the portion of South Los Angeles where the old town once existed. So now you know!

17. Ted Watkins Memorial Park
Dedicated 1995
1335 E. 103rd Street, Watts

Originally built in the 1930s to memorialize Western actor Will Rogers, this 28-acre Los Angeles County park was re-named in 1995 after the late Ted Watkins, a local community activist and the founder of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee, which he started in 1965, just months before the Watts Riots. The aftermath of the rebellion heightened the purpose of his nonprofit agency, which dealt with social services, community development and empowerment for the Watts area. The park also features a youth baseball field built by the Los Angeles Dodgers, a newly-built community swimming pool and gym with basketball courts.

18. Pacific Electric Watts Depot
1686 E. 103rd Street, Watts

Adjacent to the Metro A Line's 103rd St/Watts Towers station is a mustard-colored building that was once the Pacific Electric's Watts depot. A popular stop along the old PE Long Beach Line, the building survived not only the PE's abandonment, but was the only wooden structure that was not set on fire during the 1965 Watts Riots. After a renovation project in the 1980s, the Watts Station has functioned since 1989 as a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customer service center.

19. Watts Towers
1727 E. 107th St, Watts

You all know the story by now: Italian immigrant Sabato "Simon" Rodia collects scrap reinforced steel bars (using the adjacent Pacific Electric Santa Ana Line tracks as a fulcrum to bend them) and other found scrap material from rocks to broken glass to bottle caps, and builds 17 structures on his property over a period of 33 years. Then in 1955, he up and left for Northern California and never came back. Now that you know the story, see them up close for yourself. You don't deserve to call yourself an Angeleno if you've never visited the Watts Towers before. Signore Rodia's creation is 101 years old now, and for the first time in years, the restoration scaffolding has been removed so you can finally see them in their full splendor.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

The Militant's Epic Militant CicLAvia Tour XLI!!!

Interactive Map! Click here for larger version.


It's October, which means we celebrate the 12th anniversary of CicLAvia with the classic Downtown-centric, "Heart of L.A." route. The 41st iteration of Los Angeles' Really Big Open Streets Thang (and third of four CicLAvias in 2022) takes us back to the "Heart of L.A." variant used in October 2014 and October 2017 which skipped Mac Arthur Park and went as west as Echo Park instead. But this time, there's a twist -- Instead of traversing the 4th Street Viaduct as usual to glance at an under-construction 6th Street Viaduct 2.0 in between your Downtown Skyline Selfies, the eastern leg of the route has been altered so you can do your CicLAvia thang on the 6th Street Bridge 2.0! Whuuuut? Instagram's servers are probably going to have serious data overload on Sunday...

If you've read those previous Epic CicLAvia Tour guides, you'll see some familiar sights, but The Militant, knowing a simple Cut-And-Paste job won't cut it, got to update the guide with new entries for 2022. Yes, many things have changed in the past five years.

 The Militant has been serving the CicLAvia-loving public with these handy Epic CicLAvia Tour guides since the 2nd CicLAvia in 2011! But these take a LOT of time to work on, even this updated version. It's almost like a job, except...he doesn't make a salary from it [nervous laughter].

So if you dig this guide and learned something new from it, or it helped you appreciate a place or a part of town you didn't appreciate before, show your own appreciation for The Militant's work by showing some love via PayPal! Thanks in advance! [More nervous laughter...he's still new at this fund-thingy]

Thanks to the following for their Militant Support over the last month:

Salomon G. Davila, Jr
Jimmy Recinos
Erika Isiordia-Alvarado
Margaret Wehbi
Daniel Pouliot
Jane Malich

So there it is folks, take it:

1. Simon Gless Farmhouse
131 S. Boyle Ave., Boyle Heights

Back in the totally radical '80s...That's the 1880s, Boyle Heights was an open, rural area and French Basque immigrant Simon Francois Gless built a Queen Anne style house on his sheepherding farm at this location. Today, the house is a City Historic Cultural Monument and is a home that's rented out to -- Mariachi musicians! Just a few blocks west of here is Gless Street, and you might have heard of Simon's great-granddaughter -- actress Sharon Gless, who starred in the series Cagney and Lacey, which aired a century after her arrière-grand-père first settled in Boyle Heights.

2. Boyle Hotel (Cummings Block)
103 N. Boyle Ave, Boyle Heights

This brick Queen Anne-style building, built in 1889 and designed by architect W.R. Norton was one of the first commercial buildings in Boyle Heights, and is one of the longest-standing commercial buildings in all of Los Angeles. The hotel was an important social and political center in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and in the 1960s, started to become a popular lodging spot for Mariachi musicians. It recently underwent a major renovation which created 51 low-income housing units and three street-level retail units, one of which is home of the Libros Schmibros bookstore/lending library.

3. Mariachi Plaza

1st St and Boyle Ave, Boyle Heights

This is the new town square for Boyle Heights, where Mariachi musicians have been hanging out to get picked up for since the 1930s. The Kiosko, or bandstand, that sits in the plaza is actually not that historic. It was given as a gift from the Mexican state of Jalisco, who literally shipped it over in 1998 where it was assembled in place. But it only gets used once a year for the Santa Cecilia Festival around every November 21. The plaza is also home of the Metro L Line station of the same name, which opened in 2009. This place could warrant a Militant blog post in itself -- no, an entire week of posts! Don't miss the Farmers Market events there every Friday and Sunday!

4. Eastside Luv
2006 (Built 1940)
1835 E. 1st St, Boyle Heights

One of The Militant's favorite hangouts in the Eastside, this bar, started by a bunch of friends who grew up in nearby City Terrace, took over the former Metropolitan bar eight years ago and updated it to a more contemporary Eastside-style flavor. Don't call it gentrification, call it gente-fication. In the decade and a half of the establishment's existence, it has already established its own traditions, namely the Thursday night themed karaoke nights, paying tribute to artists such as Latin superstars Juan Gabriel, Selena and Esteban Morrissey.

5. Hollenbeck Park
4th and St. Louis streets, Boyle Heights

John Edward Hollenbeck was a rich dude in the late 19th century who founded the First National Bank of Los Angeles (more on this later) and purchased parcels of land in Downtown, the San Gabriel Valley and the Eastside, where he made his home. Hollenbeck was also credited with the creation of what is now called Exposition Park. His sister married his friend, James George Bell, who founded...Yep, you guessed it! After Hollenbeck's death in 1885, his widow, Elizabeth, donated a 21-acre parcel of land, which was essentially their front yard, to the City. One of the Los Angeles’ oldest parks, it was established in 1892 and continues to function today.

6. Pioneer Chicken
904 S. Soto St, Boyle Heights

One of the two surviving locations of the once-revered Pioneer Chicken restaurant chain that boasted 270 stores. Originating in 1961 as an off-shoot business of the Pioneer Market local supermarket chain, the fried chicken franchise outgrew the size of its mother business exponentially. Though the old chain ceased to exist in 1993, this location, operating since 1981 (the other is in Bell Gardens) lives on as an indpendently-run vestige of a tasty, crunchy past. The colorful cardboard buckets may be gone, but the fried chicken (and gizzards) tastes as good as Back In The Day. Forget Popeyes, Jollibee, KFC or any of that trendy hot Nashville stuff, this is old school fried chicken right here, just a few blocks from the CicLAvia route!

7. 6th Street Viaduct (2.0)

6th Street over the Los Angeles River, Downtown Los Angeles & Boyle Heights

The 6th Street Viaduct is really a tale of two bridges: The first, built in 1932, crossing over the Los Angeles River and several railroad tracks, lived a decent life serving as a 24-hour mediator between Downtown Los Angeles and Boyle Heights, occasionally doing extra work in movies, television shows and music videos. But in the mid-2010s, it was diagnosed with Alkali-Silica Reaction, a very lethal disease it had since birth, where high alkaline content in the concrete would cause it to become brittle and collapse in an earthquake. So it had a farewell celebration in October 2015 and it was euthanized in February 2016.

But, after a 6-year re-animation process in July 2022, the 6th Street Viaduct 2.0 was reincarnated into a slick, cybernetic form. It had large curving arches (that people could easily climb on), bright, programmable LED floodlights (that made it Instagram-friendly) and a wider road where people could do donuts and...things got out of hand. The bridge was closed for a time, because of the behavior of 21st century people and their reactions with 6th Street Viaduct 2.0.

But things have calmed down and today you can ride, walk, jog, scoot or just chill on 6th Street Viaduct 2.0. It is the droid you are looking for.

8. Site of Southern Pacific Arcade Station
4th and Alameda streets, Downtown Los Angeles

Before there was a Union Station, there were various rail passenger terminals in Los Angeles, many of them just a short distance from the Los Angeles River. On what currently stands as a large shopping mall, this was the original site of the Southern Pacific Railroad’s Arcade Station which served passengers up until 100 years ago. A popular landmark of this station was a young palm tree, which was moved a century ago to Exposition Park where it stands today, much taller, in front of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Unfortunately for indie rock fans, the Arcade Station was not devastated by a Fire, but was dismantled and replaced by a new station, the Central Station, located one block south.

9. Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Shuttle Memorial
Astronaut Ellison S Onizuka and San Pedro streets, Little Tokyo

Nestled in Little Tokyo’s Weller Court shopping center, just behind Shinkichi Tajiri’s Friendship Knot sculpture, is a seemingly random model of a launch-position space shuttle and its booster rockets. But upon closer inspection it’s a memorial to Ellison S. Onizuka, the  Hawaii-born NASA astronaut who in 1985 became the first Japanese American in space. Later that year, he was the Grand Marshal of Little Tokyo’s Nisei Week Parade. But on January 28, 1986, Onizuka and six other astronauts were on that fateful final mission of the space shuttle Challenger, which exploded following its launch. The local Japanese American community created a memorial organization in Onizuka’s name that awards science scholarships to Japanese American youth, and in 1990, this 1/10th-size scale model of the shuttle, built by Isao Hirai of Hawthorne, was dedicated as a memorial monument to the astronaut.

10. Terasaki Budokan
249 S. Los Angeles Street, Little Tokyo

Known as "The Big Gym in Little Tokyo," this venue was a long-standing dream for the Japanese American community, going back over 40 years. This  budokan (Japanese for "martial arts hall") opened in 2020 and was officially dedicated in March 2022. The facility was named after the late Dr. Paul Terasaki, whose foundation kicked in $3.5 million of the project's cost. A percentage of the funding was also contributed by the LA84 Foundation, which came from the profit surplus from the 1984 Olympics. It's being used for community sports and athletic activities, as well as special events.

11. Site of Historic Broadway Station
2nd and Spring streets, Downtown Los Angeles

The CicLAvia route also follows part of the Metro Regional Connector route, with the second of the three new stops being here on Broadway and 2nd Street, which will serve the historic theater district, Gallery Row and parts of the Civic Center.


• If heading north to Chinatown, skip to #21.
If heading south to the Theatre District, skip to #16.

12. Pacific Electric Tunnel
Toluca Street south of 2nd Street, Downtown

For 30 years, Los Angeles' first subway tunnel allowed the Pacific Electric's Red Cars to bypass the traffic of Downtown's surface streets and sped up the travel times to places like Burbank, Santa Monica or the San Fernando Valley before it was abandoned in 1955. Soon after, the area surrounding the tunnel portal and adjacent electric power substation became blighted and a haven for the homeless and graffiti artists, while the tunnel itself became part garbage dump, part urban spelunking adventure (The Militant has been in the tunnel before). In 2007, a large apartment building designed for upscale, gentrifying types was built on the site of the Red Car yard, thus blocking the tunnel and dashing any hopes of it being revived as part of our modern rail system (it's been holding up well structurally for nearly 60 years without any maintenance whatsoever). But if you look at the back of the property, you can see the boarded-up tunnel with an artistic homage to its former purpose (and do browse the apartment building's lobby for some PE photos and diagrams).

13. Vista Hermosa Natural Park
100 N. Toluca Street, Echo Park

The Militant loves to poke fun at the failures of the Los Angeles Unified School District, but once in a while, those failures turn out to be wonderful things. Take for instance the Belmont Learning Center, at one time the LAUSD’s costliest boondoggle, which was stalled and scaled back due to environmental concerns (there used to be oil wells around here). The school district gave up a portion of its land to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, who in turn built a really beautiful oasis of California native plants and a killer view of the DTLA skyline. The Militant covered its opening back in 2008. It’s more than worth visiting during CicLAvia, or at any other time.

14. Historic Filipinotown Gateway
Beverly Boulevard between Belmont Avenue and Glendale Boulevard

October is recognized as "Filipino American History Month," so appropriately, the Filipino community, comprising of roughly half a million in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, is the largest Asian group in the City of Los Angeles. People of Philippine ancestry have been living in Los Angeles since the early 1900s, originally concentrated in an area once called "Little Manila," where Little Tokyo is today. The community migrated westward along the Temple corridor as it grew, and later spread into other communities like Eagle Rock, East Hollywood and parts of the San Fernando Valley (particularly Panorama City), especially after larger waves of immigration came starting in the mid-1960s. The Historic Filipinotown neighborhood still contains major institutions in the community such as businesses, nonprofit organizations and churches, which prompted its formal designation by the City in 2002. Twenty years later, a large $750,000 gateway arch over Beverly Boulevard, designed by artist Eliso Silva with Philippine cultural elements was dedicated in May 2022, and it looks even nicer when lit up at night.

15. Echo Park Recreation Center
c. Early 1900s
Glendale Boulevard at Temple Street

You might pass this tennis court and nearby swimming pool every day and wonder, "Who the hell would put a tennis court/swimming pool right next to a freeway?" Well, no one put them next to a freeway, but they put the freeway next to them. Before 1948, Echo Park wasn't just a pretty little lake with lotus flowers and paddle boats, but it was a park park, with recreation facilities and everything. It stretched as south as Temple Street. But it stood in the path of the almighty Cahuenga Parkway (now the Hollywood Freeway, or "The 101"), which cut the park in two. Hmm. That sounds familiar...Pictured is the park (with Temple Street in the foreground - notice the trolley and horses and buggies(!) in 1909.

• South Spur to Broadway Theatre District:

16. Bradbury Building
304 S. Broadway, Downtown

A building that's famously meh on the outside, but OMG from the inside, this building has been featured in movies from Chinatown to Blade Runner to 500 Days of Summer. Designed by Sumner Hunt and modified by George Wyman, this 5-story structure was designed to look like the 21st century from 19th century eyes. Despite the ahead-of-its-time design, this building has nothing to do with sci-fi author Ray Bradbury, but was named after developer and 1800s rich dude Lewis Bradbury.

17. Grand Central Market
317 S. Broadway, Downtown

Everyone knows this is Los Angeles' premier public marketplace, and the Militant probably doesn't need to include this since you may or may nor already be getting your Eggslut on (The Militant, on the other hand, prefers tacos and tortas from Roast To Go, and will incite a riot in the event that eatery is kicked out by gentrification). Over 100 years old and still going strong!

18. Biddy Mason Park
331 S. Spring St (entrance on Broadway), Downtown

Born as a slave in Georgia, Bridget "Biddy" Mason was a renaissance woman of her time. Having followed Mormon settlers west, she gained her freedom when California became a slavery-free Union state. As a nurse, she founded the first child care center in Los Angeles and later became a lucrative property owner and philanthropist, having founded the First AME Church, now a major institution in Los Angeles' African American community. She died in 1891 and was buried at Evergreen Cemetery. A century after her passing, this mini-park in DTLA, on the site of her house, was built and dedicated.

19. Broadway-Spring Arcade Building
541 S. Spring St (entrance on Broadway), Downtown

This unique building is actually three, opened in 1924 on the site of Mercantile Place, a 40-foot street cut between 4th and 5th streets connecting Broadway and Spring. Mercantile Place was a popular shopping and gathering locale in the early 1900s. Having fallen into decay by the 1970s, it was recently renovated and is now famous for, some of the newest, hottest eateries in town (Guisados DTLA is located here, BTW). It also becomes an artistic venue during the DTLA ArtWalk.

20. Clifton's Cafeteria 
648 S. Broadway, Downtown

The sole survivor of 10 kitschy and theatrical themed cafeterias founded by Clifford Clinton around Southern California (and now you know what inspired the Fry's Electronics stores), this location known as Brookdale, was the second in the chain and the most iconic. The current incarnation of the restaurant opened in 2015 after half a decade of renovation by new owner Andrew Meieran, who kinda made it quasi-hipsterfied, but at least preserved the decor even though the food costs like twice as much as it used to. But do go down to the basement level, near the restrooms, just to glance at the world's oldest continuously-lit neon light.

• North Spur to Chinatown:

21. U.S. Federal Courthouse
145 S. Broadway, Downtown

This big glass cube that is responsible for blocking your view of the Downtown Los Angeles skyline from Grand Park used to be a hole in the ground was once the site of the Junipero Serra State Office Building, which was damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and abandoned and demolished in 1998. This 10-story, 400-foot-tall U.S. Federal Courthouse building (don't we already have a few of those?), designed by Skidmore Owings and Merrill, opened in 2016. Do check out the embossed bald eagle situated over the main entrance on 1st Street.

22. Site of 1910 Los Angeles Times Bombing
Northeast corner of Broadway and 1st Street, Downtown

This longtime empty lot, previously identified in this CicLAvia tour as the foundation of a state office building condemned after the 1971 Sylmar Earthquake has some additional history. It was recently dissevered to be the location of the 1910 bombing of the (then) Los Angeles Times building, which happened 104 years ago this week. The dynamite bombing was discovered to have been the work of Ortie McManigal and brothers John and James McNamara, all affiliated with the Iron Workers Union,  in what was meant to protest the newspaper's staunchly anti-union practices. 21 people died when the 16 sticks of dynamite exploded just outside the building at 1:07 a.m. on October 1, 1910, the explosion was exacerbated by natural gas lines which blew up a large section of the building. The Times since built a new building in its place, and later relocated across 1st Street to its current location. The lot is being readied for an expansion of Grand Park.

23. Site of Court Flight
1904 (demolished 1943)
Broadway between Temple and Hill streets, Downtown

You all know Angels Flight, but it's time to pay tribute to the city's other funicular, its cousin to the northeast, Court Flight. Built in 1904, it went up the northern end of Bunker Hill and was next to a former road called Court Street, hence its name. Even shorter than its more famous cousin at 200 feet, it ran steeper at a height of 200 feet. It was burned by a fire in 1943 and never reconstructed. The hill was eventually chipped away. The north side of the stairways going up to the Court of Flags (wonder if that was intentional there) in today's Grand Park is the precise location of ol' Courty.

24. Hall Of Justice
Temple Street and Broadway, Downtown

No, you won't find Superman or any of the Super Friends here.  But this building, the oldest surviving government building in the Los Angeles Civic Center, was built in the mid-1920s as the original Los Angeles County Courthouse and Central Jail (which once housed the likes of Busy Siegel, Sirhan Sirhan and Charles Manson), as well as the headquarters for the Sheriff's Office, the District Attorney and the County Coroner. This Beaux Arts-style building was designed by Allied Architects Association, an all-star team of local architects put together to design publicly-funded buildings. The building is currently undergoing a major renovation project to modernize the facilities and repair damage from the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. It is now a LEED Gold Certified building (gotta be sustainable, y'all), following a 2015 restoration.

25. Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial
451 N. Hill St, Downtown

Way, way, waaaaay back before we had tall building and freeways, Downtown Los Angeles (well Los Angeles, period back then) had a bunch of hills, Bunker Hill being the most famed one. There was also Fort Hill, the site of a Mexican-American War encampment. On July 4, 1847 the facility was called Fort Moore (and the hill Fort Moore Hill), after Captain Benjamin D. Moore of the U.S. 1st Dragoons regiment, who was killed six months earlier in a battle near San Diego. The 1st Dragoons and the Mormon Batallion established the new fort and raised the U.S. flag during the first-ever observed Independence Day in Los Angeles. This event was immortalized in a bas-relief stone monument made in the 1950s. Speaking of forts, the very street you're riding (or walking, or skating, or scootering, or stand-up-paddling, or pogo-sticking) was once called "Fort Street," which inevitably led to directional problems some six blocks south of here. The monument also includes a fountain, which was shut off in 1977...due to the drought at the time, but revived in 2018 after a massive renovation. So where's the actual hill, you ask? It was bulldozed away in the late 1940s to make room for the 101 Freeway.

26. Chinatown Gateway Monument
Broadway and Cesar E. Chavez. Avenue, Chinatown

Designed to be the symbolic entrance to Los Angeles' Chinatown District, The Chinatown Gateway Monument, a.k.a. the Twin Dragon Towers Gateway, depicts two dragons grabbing at a central pearl, which symbolizes luck, prosperity, and longevity. The 25-foot-tall structure was put up in 2001 and occasionally emanates steam coming from the dragons' mouths. Unlike Anglo dragons, the creatures in Chinese folklore are the good guys, meant to scare away evil spirits.

27. Capitol Milling Company
1231 N. Spring St, Chinatown

One of the last visible vestiges of Los Angeles' agricultural industry, this family-owned flour mill operated from 1831 to 1997, before moving its operation to a much larger facility in Colton. The facility that still stands today was built in 1883. The mill supplied flour to clients such as Ralphs, Foix French Bakery and La Brea Bakery. In 1999, the family-owned operation was purchased by industry giant Con-Agra Co. The historic building - the oldest commercial building in Los Angeles, built even before the railroads arrived in Los Angeles, still has a horse-tethering ring, back to the days when grain was hauled by horse carriage from farms in the San Fernando Valley. The eight-building complex, now owned by the Rivoli family (who owns the San Antonio Winery across the river), underwent a massive renovation completed in 2020 so that the 19th century facility can live on in the 21st century as office, retail and restaurant spaces.

28. Old (New?) Chinatown Central Plaza
Gin Ling Way between Broadway and Hill, Chintown

The northern terminus of CicLAvia is no stranger to public events; it was made for them. In the Summer it hosted three very popular Chinatown Summer Nights events. But don't let the "Old Chinatown" neon sign fool you -- This is actually Los Angeles' new Chinatown, which dates back to the 1930s. The real Old Chinatown was several blocks south, where a thriving community of Cantonese-speaking immigrants lived near the river, north of Aliso Street. Of course, they were kicked out in the early '30s to make room for Union Station. So they moved a few blocks north, in the former Little Italy, and they've been there ever since. Well, not really, since some of them moved east to the San Gabriel Valley and were supplemented with Mandarin-speaking immigrants from Taiwan and Mainland China. But you get the idea.

Happy CicLAvia, Los Angeles! Enjoy stay safe, GO DODGERS and STAY MILITANT!

Friday, October 7, 2022

Hey, What's (K)ookin: The Militant's Epic Metro K Line Food Guide!

Interactive Map! Click here for larger version.

K, so you've ridden Metro's brand spanking new light rail line. And you've just learned about 19 points of interest along the route from some Militant guy on teh Interwebz. Now what?

Fortunately, the Metro K Line runs down a corridor full of wonderful eating options. From hot dogs to desserts to soul food to ice cream, and even a nice microbrew, there's lots of culinary discoveries to be found along the K.

All of the eateries listed are independently-owned/run eateries. No chains, unless it's of local origin or significance. All listings are within a half-mile (6-block) walk of a Metro K Line station (And although it wasn't a requirement for this list, all but two of these businesses just happen to be Black-owned).

The listings for the Leimert Park and Downtown Inglewood station areas just barely scratch the surface; those two areas (especially the latter) could warrant their own location-specific food guides of their own. And surely the K Line will bring in new eateries within the foreseeable future. This guide is by no means comprehensive - it's just a starting guide to the bevy of restaurants accessible along the Metro K Line.

Expo/Crenshaw Station:

This place is nuts!

NE Conway Peanuts
3818 Crenshaw Blvd, Crenshaw District
Open Mon-Sat, 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.; Closed Sun

There isn't too much in the way of street food along this stretch of Crenshaw, but this converted U-Haul truck parked near the Crenshaw Square shopping center sign sells hot roasted peanuts by the bag. Though unsalted, they're freshly roasted that day and taste like nothing else. Where else in Los Angeles can you find hot, roasted peanuts on the street? Steven Conway, the vendor who has been operating this business for nearly 20 years is here 6 afternoons a week (closed Sunday) and also sells pre-packaged peanut brittle, almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts and pistachios.

Earle's On Crenshaw - the place to be on a Saturday!

Earle's On Crenshaw
3864 Crenshaw Boulevard, Crenshaw District
Open Tue-Sat, 10:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Closed Sun

Brothers Cary and Duane Earle have been in the hot dog business since 1984, operating a street cart that became a brick-and-mortar presence on Crenshaw since 1992. Excellent hot dogs (standard, turkey and vegan options), chili dogs (standard and vegan) and chili fries.

Turkey Dog with onions, mustard and sauerkraut (L) and Vegan Chili Fries (R).

Extra props to the establishment who literally sacrificed themselves for the K Line (their previous location was demolished to build the Expo/Crenshaw K Line station up the street), so show them some love! Duane is a frequent presence who even serves and works the cash register. In the '90s he was also known as Don Jagwarr, the ragamuffin MC who guested on Ice Cube's 1992 track "Wicked." Don't come Sundays, since they're closed, but do come on Saturday afternoons - it's a literal party atmosphere with DJs and lowriders outside on the parking lot!

Martin Luther King Jr. Station:

Sweet cuppin' cakes! Southern Girl Desserts' Sweet Potato (L) and Red Velvet (R) cupcakes.

Southern Girl Desserts
3650 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Suite 100 (in Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, 1st Floor, near Sears)
Open Tue-Sun 12 p.m. - 6 p.m.; Closed Mon

Though the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza has a requisite shopping mall food court, it's best to skip it altogether and head towards the south side of the mall on the ground floor where you can find Southern Girl Desserts. Run by Florida natives Catarah Coleman and Shoneji Robison (who call themselves "The Dessert Divas"), they won Food Network's Cupcake Wars competition with their signature Chicken & Waffle Cupcake and used their experience in cupcake warfare to open Southern Girl Desserts. Other cupcake flavors of note are Hennessy & Coke, Pecan Pie and Peach Cobbler. They also have standard (and still really excellent) standard cupcake varieties like Red Velvet, Sweet Potato, Double Chocolate and Vanilla. Speaking of Sweet Potato Pie, they also serve up some of that as well as Pecan Pies in mini sizes, and for full-size pies, you have to order in advance. They also make excellent cakes and cookies.

Post & Beam
3767 Santa Rosalia Dr, Crenshaw District
Open Wed-Sat, 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.; Sun, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.

This acclaimed Californian-meets-Soul-Food-fusion spot located behind Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza is all the rage for Sunday brunch and evening Happy Hours.

Leimert Park Station:

All Chill Ice Cream
3415 W 43rd Place, Leimert Park
Open Sat-Sun 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.; Closed Mon-Fri

Located just steps from the K Line Leimert Park station entrance (turn left) is All Chill
, which bills themselves as a "Hip-Hop Ice Cream Shop." No, you won't find gimmicky-named flavors like "The Notorious F.I.G." or anything like that, but they do serve unique "craft"-style flavors (the Whiskey Praline is a MUST here) in a store setting that doubles as a hip-hop memorabilia museum, replete with concert posters, photographs and artwork adorning the walls. In business since 2020, they're open weekends only, so you might not see them during the K Line's opening day, but if you're here for the African Marketplace on Sundays (which has a collection of notable food stalls in itself), definitely check them out.

Ackee Bamboo
4305 Degnan Blvd. Suite 100, Leimert Park
Open Tue-Thu, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Sun 11:30 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Closed Mon

Open since 2004, this has been The Militant's go-to for Jamaican food in Leimert Park. The Jerk Chicken (and other variations) are excellent here, as with their Jamaican Patties appetizers. But their vegetarian dishes are worth trying as well, especially their Jackfruit and namesake Ackee (Jamaica's national fruit) selections.

Hyde Park Station:

The Jordan's power trio right here: Chiller Diller (L), Chili Cheese Fries (C), Chili Cheese Dog (R).

Jordan's Hot Dogs
5960 Crenshaw Blvd, Hyde Park
Open Mon-Sat, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.; Closed Sun

As you can see, hot dogs are a thing not just along Crenshaw but in this part of town. Just a couple miles southeast of here stood the legendary Art's Famous Chili Dogs on Florence and Normandie from 1939 until two years ago. Jordan's (which closed their doors during Art's closing day in March 2020 out of respect) carries the chili dog torch in this sector of South Los Angeles. With a far more robust menu than the specialty-based Earle's up the street, Jordan's also serves burgers, patty melts, BLTs and pastrami sandwiches. When in doubt, get the classic Harriet's Special, a chili dog and chili cheese fries combo. And if you're not already chili-cheese'd out, the Chilli Cheese Fritos are a must as well. And do try their Chiller Diller, a combination slush/ice cream shake fusion in various fruit flavors.

Woody's Bar-B-Q
3446 Slauson Ave, Hyde Park
Open Fri-Sun, 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Mon-Thu, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

It's pretty hard to beat this Southern-style pit BBQ institution that's more than worth the wait in line for. Serving up barbecue ribs, chicken, beef and links, along with the mandatory sides since 1975, every Angeleno needs to go to Woody's at least once in their life. If you're not here to pick up a massive platter for your party or gathering, then a sandwich or lunch special will still suffice, at least more than enough. 

Fairview Heights Station:

Your Bakery

6525 West Blvd, Inglewood
Open Mon-Sat, 9:30 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Closed Sun

Just five blocks up West Blvd from the Fairview Heights station is this no-frills neighborhood bakery that specializes in Bean, Cheese and various fruit (Pineapple, Blueberry, Lemon, Apple and Cherry) Pies. They also sell cakes, cookies and Monkey Bread.

Downtown Inglewood Station:

Red's Flavor Table

254 N. Market Street, Unit A, Inglewood
Open Wed-Sun, 7 a.m. - 3 p.m.; Closed Mon-Tue

For you early risers, this Louisiana/Southern breakfast establishment run by Creole chef Marilyn "Red" Wallace has got what you want and more just across Florence from the Downtown Inglewood station. There's no dine-in service; the food is take-out (you can call in your order or order online for pick-up), but there are outdoor tables for eating. Their Jambalaya Omelet is considerably-sized and can probably suffice as the only meal you'll have that day.

The Sammiche Shoppe
222 Regent St, Inglewood
Open Mon-Fri, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Closed Sat-Sun

Just two blocks south of the Metro K Line station, Downtown Inglewood has their very own sandwich deli and it's pretty awesome. Home of their signature  Lucy Mae Air Fried Chicken Sammiche, their soups, salads and smoothies are also well-regarded.

Note: Downtown Inglewood has a large number of restaurants within walking distance south of the K Line station, including Inglewood branches of Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen and Dulan's Soul Food Kitchen (the main Dulan's on Crenshaw is currently closed for rebuilding/remodeling), as well as a number of African and Carribbean restaurants worth checking out.
Westchester/Veterans Station:

Randy's Donuts
805 W. Manchester Blvd, Inglewood
Open 24 Hours

Needs no introduction.

Mr. Fries Man

1120 W. Florence Ave, Suite C, Inglewood
Open Mon-Thu, 10 a.m. - 1 a.m.; Fri-Sat, 10 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sun, 10 a.m. - 1 a.m.

Although it's rapidly grown to a national franchised chain of 34 locations, this eatery, which specializes in loaded french fry (and The Militant means loaded) dishes had its humble beginnings just 6 years ago in Gardena. Owned by spouses-entrepreneurs Craig and Dorothy Batiste, Mr. Fries Man began in 2016 as a food truck whose loaded fries gained viral popularity via the Instagram platform. With around eight locations in Southern California, this is only one of two that are Metro-accessible (the other is their USC location on Figueroa, just south of the Metro E Line Expo Park/USC station).

Three Weavers Brewing Company
1031 W. Manchester Blvd, A-B, Inglewood
Open Mon-Thu, 3 p.m. - 10 p.m.; Fri-Sun, 12 p.m. - 10 p.m.

So you've arrived at the end of the K Line. Now what? You can't visit the airport (yet), you can't tranfer to another Metro line (yet). So what's to do out here? Well, you cross Florence Avenue at Hindry, walk one block west to Isis Avenue and have some brews at this local craft brewery with over a dozen beers on tap and enjoy them in the outdoor dog-friendly beer garden. There's no food served here but food trucks are parked outside regularly.

Whatup! Did you enjoy this food guide? Are you excited to try out some of the eateries listed here? Kindly show The Militant some support via his PayPal donation page! A Militant's gotta eat, ya know (and your support will guarantee there will be more of these food guides to come)!